Hydration Salvation

I had no idea getting water into my body was so complicated.

Yesterday morning I was on the Pinckney area trails with other runners training for the Run Woodstock ultramarathons in two weeks. While I will be volunteering this year and not running an ultra, I’ll accept any excuse for a run with fellow trail enthusiasts.

The morning was warm and humid, and as is standard with trail runners, we carried water bottles. When we felt like we needed a drink, we took one. And when our bottles got low, we refilled them from gallon jugs that the wonderful RF Events staff put out for us at various points along the trail. After finishing, I wrung out my shirt and went for coffee.

Regular bottles filled with regular water? Oh, the tragedy of ignorance!

Regular bottles filled with regular water? Oh the humanity!

Little did I know how behind the times we were. We’re highly trained athletes and depend on keeping our bodies in peak condition. Can you believe I ran for three hours and AT NO TIME did I know if I was optimally hydrated, or what exactly was in those gallon jugs. Ignorance is bliss!

So imagine my shock when I came across this latest entry in the Stuff I Didn’t Know I Needed department.

Pryme Vessyl hydration tracker

More than just a water bottle, the Pryme Vessyl Hydration Tracker hooks up with your Fitbit or other fitness tracker to monitor your hydration level. The idea is that you can be optimally hydrated throughout the day, as least as long as you’re carrying the bottle around. Here’s what the Product Description on Amazon says:

Pryme is your personal hydration metric. It takes into account your height, weight, age, and biological sex, as well as ever-changing factors such as your activity level and hours of sleep. Whether you bike, lift weights, or simply walk to work each day, Pryme Vessyl also connects with Fitbit, Jawbone Up, and Apple Health to let you know how close you are to your Pryme.

The blue light means you’re Prymed for your moments of greatness. Optimal hydration can lead to mental balance, physical endurance, more energy, healthier skin and much more. In concert with the app, Pryme provides real-time personalized insights and notifications to help you get to and stay at your best.

Just think of what I’ve been missing. When I’m out on the trail, I could get a to-the-second alert on when to take a drink, and not rely on such a crude indicator as thirst. And if I’m at Body Specs heaving and groaning my way through a tough set? BEEP BEEP! “Sorry, Skip, need a moment! I’m losing my optimal hydration!”

Drink of water here, boss?

Drink of water here, boss?

Now such hydration perfection doesn’t come cheap. The Pryme Vessyl is $120.00 on Amazon. I suppose it’s not really that much compared to an investment in a fitness tracker and smartphone. But since I don’t have those either, I’ll have to rely on other people to tell me if the PV is worth it. (Your comments are welcome.)

So that’s all well and good, but even with perfect timing, your personal hydration is only as good as the water you’re drinking. And thanks to modern technology, you don’t need to settle for ordinary tap water or regular old bottled water. No sir, why bother with that when you can have – wait for it – Zero Water!

Zero Water pitcher

Tested and certified by the Water Quality Association and NSF International for removal of several minerals, ZeroWater is the only filtration system that fits the FDA definition of purified bottled water. The ZeroWater pitcher not only improves the taste of your tap water, it also helps to improve the environment. When you use the ZeroWater Pitcher, you’ll reduce your use of plastic water bottles that clog up landfills and harm ecosystems. You’ll also contribute to water conservation, because unlike reverse-osmosis systems, ZeroWater is gravity operated and doesn’t waste electricity or water.

Now I’m big on improving the environment. After all, I’m heading up the RF Events Zero Waste team this year. So Zero Water sounds like a perfect fit for my lifestyle, doesn’t it?

Well, Bohemian that I am, I wouldn’t have bothered with this innovation either. Fortunately (?), my wife found out about this and made the investment for me. So we have a large Zero Water filter pitcher sitting in our refrigerator.

And how is the water? Actually, it’s pretty good, compared to our home’s tap water and especially the tap water at work, where I admit to running it through a Brita before making coffee. As for why the Zero Water tastes good, perhaps it’s the magic filter, or perhaps just because it’s pre-chilled. I guess I don’t really care. She’s happy with it and is drinking more water, so life is good.

Come to think of it, she also has a Fitbit and a smartphone, which means she could also use the Pryme Vessyl hydration tracker. I hope she’s not reading this post.

Recovery Rewards, and the Spartan Penalty

“Jeff, you look five years younger,” Skip said to me as I walked onto the mat at Body Specs. “Your vacation must have agreed with you.”

It was my first day back from up north, and while I’d done some running and cycling, I’d also made myself get plenty of rest. Sleep does sometimes get shortchanged at home; there’s so damn much to DO!

Skip’s sentiment was echoed later by someone who visits our office about once a month. “You look good,” he said. “Your color is healthy.”

I knew I’d resumed my training routine too soon after Kettle Moraine, but hadn’t noticed any difference in the mirror. Sort of like watching kids grow up; it’s when you haven’t seen them for a while that you realize how much they’ve changed.

But I have noticed a difference in how I’m feeling. This month my energy and stamina are much improved. It really became evident last Wednesday. I started the day with a 6 a.m. 10K run, followed by a sweaty and reasonably brutal noon workout at Body Specs, then spent the afternoon and evening working Zero Waste at the T-Rex Triathlon. I left the park at 10:00 p.m. And I felt great.

Recycle! Or I'll EAT you!!

Recycle! Or I’ll EAT you!!

Saturday morning I ran 16 miles with PR Fitness. As it was my longest run in two months, I decided to go aerobic, with a target heart rate of 135-140. I should do most long runs this way, but it’s easy to get sucked into a faster group. This time I swallowed my ego and let the pack go on ahead. (It was hard. Really hard.)

Pace too fast 2

All went well until around mile 12, when my heart rate climbed to 145-150 and stubbornly remained there despite slowing my pace. May have been fatigue, dehydration, low blood sugar, or all three. But still a successful run. And man, did my post-race reward (a latte float with chocolate ice cream) taste good.

The energy rebound is coming just in time. For one thing, I’ll be starting Aikido again in September. And this month, I took up the #22 Kill Pushup Challenge, which is 22 pushups a day for 22 days. Any kind of pushups count, so I’ve been varying them. Skip helped me out on Day 1 by assigning me extension pushups. The photo below shows me in the middle of one. Trust me, behind that extended arm is a face full of pain.

Body Specs - extension push-up - cropped

I’ve also done decline pushups, five-finger (fingers extended, tent-style), and hands on wobble board. And yesterday I forgot to do them, so today I assigned myself the Spartan Race failure penalty:

Burpees 2These are called burpees. The penalty for failing an obstacle at a Spartan Race is 30 of them. Every time you fail an obstacle. Ooof.

Am I running Spartan Races, then? Not yet, but I was recently provided with an advance reading copy of Joe De Sena’s new book, Spartan Fit! in exchange for reviewing it and spreading the word about it.

Spartan Fit cover

Review to follow, but I will say you would benefit from this book if you’re interested in improving your ability to face life’s obstacles of any kind. Stay tuned!

Why a Helmet is Worth a Bad Hair Day

THIS COULD HAVE BEEN A MUCH DIFFERENT STORY.

Last week we camped with some good friends in the Empire area. One day we decided to take a group ride along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The ten miles between Empire and Glen Arbor are pretty and not terribly difficult. But for one friend, it was a milestone. For the last couple of years he’s struggled with knee issues. Thanks to PT and regular workouts he’s much improved, but this was his first ride of any real distance in a long time.

Seven miles in, we stopped for a water break. As my friend dismounted, his foot caught on the bike frame and he went down.

His head smacked the pavement.

Hard.

This-is-not-good

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that of all cycling-related deaths, 74 percent involved a head injury. And 97 percent of the riders who died were not wearing helmets. You might think, therefore, that if a First Rule of Cycling existed, it would be this:

WEAR A F***ING HELMET.

Hitting the trail! (Yes, I know, but he put the helmet on before we started.)

Hitting the trail! (Yes, I know, but he put the helmet on before we started.)

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. He was wearing a helmet, and it absorbed the impact instead of his skull. He was dizzy for a few minutes, but after some rest he was able to continue, and we completed the ride. He suffered a bruise to his ego, but his body is intact to ride another day.

Our group wears helmets on every ride, and when our kids were growing up, we insisted they wear them too. To me, it’s a no-brainer, so to speak. And yet there are those out there who argue against their use. Among the claims this article makes are:

  • the accident rate goes up when people wear helmets
  • when cars pass cyclists, they give helmeted riders less room than non-helmeted ones
  • requiring helmets discourages more people from riding bikes at all.

And CNET reports here that a brain surgeon says if you’re hit hard enough by a car to kill you, a helmet won’t do you much good. Perhaps so – but last week’s situation didn’t involve a speeding car, or any speed at all. He fell from a standing position. Without a helmet, we have no doubt he’d have been in the emergency room, with potential long-term consequences.

Every year I see many helmetless riders on the Heritage Trail, or the Betsie Valley Trailway, including entire families with small children. I can guess at their mindset. They’re on vacation, released from stress, riding slowly on a smooth, flat trail with no motor vehicles allowed. What could happen? Well, one young guy panicked and slid right off the trail when I announced my presence behind him. He was okay, fortunately, but elsewhere on the trail he could have struck a fallen log and taken a nasty spill.

And people fall off bikes for less reason than that. I’ve fallen many times, usually when I can’t get my foot out of the clips during a stop. I’ve managed to avoid banging my head (thanks, Aikido) but I have that foam and plastic insurance policy up there just in case.

And if you want to participate in one of our local triathlons? Experienced riders and no drafting allowed. What could be safer? Yet you’re not leaving the transition area to start the bike portion without a fastened helmet.

Yep, we check!

Yep, we check!

Yes, one reason is liability, but if a helmet is so useless, what’s the point? Other than all the evidence (like here) that wearing a helmet reduces the severity of injuries. Guess I forgot.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t tell you what to do. And I can’t make you wear the f***ing helmet. Why should I even care what you do?

Because if you’re reading this post, you’re one of my readers, which makes you special to me. And I want you to stay alive and healthy so you can keep reading my posts.

So go out for that ride, and wear the f***ing helmet, okay?

Those Four Little Words

Being a man can be tough.

Now this is not some chauvinist rant about how women under-appreciate all that men do, or get mad when we don’t share our innermost feelings, or fail to understand our need for fire, football, and grilling dead animals. While all that may be true, this is more a case about what we men do to ourselves.

Last week I was at Body Specs for a regular workout. As part of my warmup exercises, I was assigned reverse incline crunches. This involved lying on my back on an inclined ramp, knees higher than the head, then raising the upper body to about a 45 degree angle, while holding a medicine ball. I then spiked the ball to one side, retrieved it, and laid back down. Repeated for three sets of 10 crunches each.

The proper starting position for the crunches.

The proper position for holding the ball during the raise.

I’ve done these before with a ten-pound weighted ball. But this time it was twenty pounds. After just a couple of crunches I knew it was going to be a struggle. But I found that if I began the crunch by pushing the ball outward a bit, I could gain some momentum and ease the load on my abs. I asked my trainer if it was all right to do this. Her reply was deadly.

“If you have to,” she said. “But it’s best if you keep the ball tight the whole time.”

Oh, the damage those four little words can do to a man’s ego.

If. You. Have. To.

She wasn’t going to stop me from doing it the easier way. But I wouldn’t be following the proper form. And I would be admitting to her – and myself – that I wasn’t capable of doing it the correct way. Well, we all know what that translates into for a typical guy:

Female bullfighter

So I gutted through the three sets of ten crunches, doing them the correct way. Then it was off to the “real work” of the session.

My abs yelled at me the rest of the week.

This is the kind of situation men face every day. You’re given a challenge, and if you turn it down, you feel less than a man. Doesn’t matter if the situation is risky, even reckless. Alcohol only amplifies this, which is why so many “famous last words” stories begin with, “Hold my beer and watch this!”

Hans and Franz meme

The Body Specs incident was my own fault, of course. I asked about the right form and was quite properly corrected. And I was there of my own free will; heck, I pay these people to do this to me. I want to keep a high level of fitness, to continue the activities I enjoy and for overall quality of life. And improvement, by definition, involves pushing beyond what one is currently capable of. In other words, no pain, no gain.

But is it really “a man thing”? Probably not. Based on who else I see at the gym, and the people I see out running and cycling, women are just as interested in becoming and remaining physically fit. And yet, I think men more then women suffer from being perceived as less than up to the task. Admit to needing a lighter weight? Nope, not here!

Take that! I laugh at your puny twenty pounds!

Take that! I laugh at your puny twenty pounds!

The story has a happy ending. The head trainer came up to me at the end of the session.

“Good work, Jeff,” he said. “You brought it today. But you always bring it.” It made me feel, well, manly. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.