Tag Archives: health

This is Not About Pickles


They started years ago when I began regular fitness training, and especially once I started running races. They are what get me out of bed and onto the road on a winter morning, into the gym on a hot afternoon, or on the bike for a “quick 25 miles” at the end of a long day. Anyone into fitness activities can relate, I think.

Yet as beneficial for my body and my mental discipline as these urges are, sometimes they can be a real pain in the ass.

This past weekend I was on my feet a lot, managing the Zero Waste program for two morning races; Running Between the Vines on Saturday, then Swim to the Moon on Sunday. Both days I was at the venue by 5:30 a.m. and in more or less constant motion well into the afternoon checking stations, hauling collected compost and recyclables, and performing emergency sorting on unlabeled bins that well-meaning people had set out without my knowledge. (I’m not bitter about that. Really, I’m not.)

There are some advantages to working events like this!

But I survived, and all went well. This is what I train for, right? Running long races, and working long races. And sometimes both, as with last April when I ran the Trail Marathon and then worked the waste stations.

So what had me feeling oddly guilty on Sunday evening, when the work was done and I could put my feet up for a bit?

I didn’t get a run in.

And that had me feeling inadequate.

I get it, okay? I know it’s silly to feel this way. And it’s not like I slacked off. This morning my body felt just as fatigued as if I’d done a long run the day before. I actually looked forward to today’s afternoon workout, cuz I knew the heat and humidity would get my sore and creaky body warm and loose again.

Oh yeah, that hits the spot!

And so it proved; those thirty minutes of brutality worked out the kinks and soreness, and I’m back to feeling pretty good again. So I’ll plan on getting in a good run tomorrow.

Yet the drive to stick to my regular training schedule, and not miss a run or workout for any reason, is hard to turn off. Perhaps it’s fear that drives it. Not a fear that I’ll lose fitness, but that I’ll lose the desire to remain fit.

And that would suck.

See? Even potatoes can get off the couch!

I know life comes with no guarantees about lifespan or health. But I can give myself the best shot at a long, healthy life by eating right, getting enough sleep, and by staying active and fit. I want to have a high quality of life for as long as possible.

Plus, for whatever reason, I enjoy the activity; the ultramarathons, the long bike rides, and the ability to work all day keeping stuff out of landfills. This, too, contributes to my quality of life. And I have some goals yet to achieve too, like a six-minute mile, a half marathon in under 90 minutes, and plenty of races of all kinds that look intriguing.

And so I’ll put up with the urges.

Because they’re for my own good.


And since you’ve read this far, you deserve this link to one of the classic jokes about urges: The Pickle Factory. Enjoy!

Stand Up to Work, But Sit Down to – What??

I hope you’re NOT sitting down when you read this.

In yet another wave in the media tide that says we’re f***ed no matter what we do comes the news that extended sitting is bad for your health. Not only that, it can apparently undo any good work you’ve done when you’re not sitting, such as walking, running, or engaging in other exercises that are supposed to keep you healthy.

Fine, I give up. Screw the run, pass the donuts.

Fine, I give up. Screw the run, pass the donuts.

The eye-catching, sensationalist headlines trumpet stuff like, “Sitting is the New Smoking,” “Sitting will kill you, even if you exercise,” and “Sitting All Day Is Really, Really Bad For You.” And even that famous medical expert and Apple CEO Tim Cook was quoted recently as saying that, “[S]moking is the new cancer.” I could not find a comment from him as to why he leads a company making devices that encourage people to be seated for extended periods.

Anyone who knows me knows my interest in maintaining and improving my health and fitness, and how seriously I take my training. And yet, in order to afford my fitness activities and the rest of my life, I have a job – one that requires me to spend considerable time in my office reading, typing, or meeting with people. Which, most of the time, is done while seated. As is eating most meals, driving, watching TV, and writing blog posts like this one.

No sitting means no laps! Bad idea! says Gabby.

No sitting means no laps! Bad idea! says Gabby.

Yikes! What ever am I to do?

You can see this, and other examples, at Amazon.com.

You can see this, and other examples, at Amazon.com.

Fortunately, brilliant minds have come up with solutions. Two recent innovations include the stand-up desk, and for those who want even more help exercising, the treadmill desk (although its benefits have come into question). These wonderful inventions come at a price, naturally, starting at around $300 and going up to whatever your fantasies and your wallet can stand.

The thought that while I’m sitting at my desk I’m undoing much of the good I do myself while exercising has been bugging me for some time now. So I decided to experiment with working at my desk while standing. But heck if I was going to drop $300 or more to get a desk unit to try out. Besides, once I’ve made a decision, I get impatient about carrying it out. So here was my solution.

Do-it-Myself Stand-up DeskWho needs IKEA? I’m an engineer!

I spent most of this afternoon (about 4 hours) working like this. I even conducted a meeting with someone while standing up. (He was seated, but hey, it’s his body to wreck.)

The results were mixed. The first 3 hours or so were comfortable. After that my back got stiff and I took some “sit breaks.” Many of the stand-up units can be raised and lowered for just such occasions. A few more trials may be needed before I spring for one, though. I’ll keep you all posted (pun intended, of course).

Meine Herren, Please Sitz Yourselves

Taking the opposite position, as it were, there is apparently a long-running debate in Germany about whether men should sit down when doing “Number 1” or if they should continue to relieve themselves standing up. There are even terms for the two sides: sitzpinklers (those who sit down) and stehpinklers (those who do it standing up). Being a sitzpinkler is seen as “non-masculine” by some men, while others see it as progressive and a way to help out toiler cleaners, who are mainly women.

The issue came to a head (*) recently when an apartment renter in Duesseldorf sued his landlord for this right (standing up for standing up?). The landlord claimed the renter’s urine had damaged the marble bathroom floor due to his, shall we say, poor aim, and had withheld part of the security deposit. The case was decided by a judge in favor of the renter. The moral of the story: He who installs marble flooring near a toilet is a dummkopf.

For my part, I remain strongly in favor of a man’s right to pee standing. If nature gives one the ability, one should use it, I say. Besides, what would we do with all the urinals?

You know, the men's room is SO much more aesthetically pleasing these days!

You know, the men’s room is SO much more aesthetically pleasing these days!

Check out some highly entertaining (and somewhat shocking) unusual real urinals at this site here. One more example below.

Go ahead, sitzpinkler! I dare you!

Go ahead, sitzpinkler! I dare you!

See you next time, if I survive all my sitting. You know, even in doctor’s offices and waiting rooms, what are we asked to do? Sit! Quick, have Tim Cook set them straight!


(*) Jeez, I’m full of puns today. Is it okay if I release them sitting down?

Between the Deep Blue Sea and the Devil

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you’re healthy today, take a moment to be actively grateful.

Hey, this lake has no lines painted on the bottom!

Okay, Kent Lake isn’t exactly deep and salty, but I needed a headline. Work with me here.

I’m nearing the end of one of my longer periods between races – in this case, my recently completed first triathlon and the upcoming Dances with Dirt 50K at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin.

In one sense, it turned out to be fortuitous timing. My wife contracted a nasty bug that knocked her flat and put her in the hospital for a week with intravenous antibiotics. The good news is that she responded well to treatment and will be discharged on Tuesday.

Sign on Wall - Healing in ProgressThis hospital works hard to put the focus on healing rather than suffering. They use warm colors and lots of wall decorations, visiting hours are not restricted, the food is good, and the doctors and nurses are friendly and polite. But even so, when I walk through those doors and to her room, it doesn’t take long for me to actively appreciate being healthy and fit. There isn’t much in this life that’s more important.


And of course an on-site coffee shop is essential.

And of course an on-site coffee shop is essential.

Some other random bits from this interlude…

On Sunday I swam for the first time since the triathlon. The time off didn’t make me any faster. (I can dream.) But I completed an 1,800 meter workout, including an 800, without much trouble, even after the 12/20 run & bike “brick” I did on Saturday. Given that the Pterodactyl Triathlon is only four days after Devil’s Lake, this was very encouraging.

B2B trail - St Joseph Mercy Hospital areaWith perfect weather all weekend, I was itching to get out on the bike, so I rode to the Saturday morning run, and from there to visit my wife. Along the way I discovered another part of Washtenaw County’s Border-to-Border Trail, which includes its own car-free bridge across the US 23 freeway. It’s so nice not to have to worry about entrance and exit ramps!

My run included two sets of 3-mile progressions: one mile at a 7:30 pace, the next at 7:15, and the third at 7:00. Our route wound through Barton Hills, where let’s just say Grand Canyon burros would feel right at home. So after setting my initial pace on the lone stretch of level ground, I ignored the watch and ran by feel.

“This will be hard!” my coach warned in her email. She was right – but it was entirely my fault. I’d come across an Active.com article on improving half marathon performance, and forwarded it to her. “What do you think about these workouts?” I’d asked.

“These are great, Jeff,” she wrote back, and promptly began assigning them to me. Apparently just reading about the workouts doesn’t improve performance nearly as much as actually doing them.

Next up: DWD Devil’s Lake! Given the elevation changes I see on the route map, Barton Hills will likely be a fond memory. I think the pre-race meal is mountain goat parmigiana.

DWD Devils Lake-50K elevation profile