Monthly Archives: November 2012

Lactic acid is not your enemy

The idea that lactic acid causes muscle fatigue and stiffness during exercise is a stubborn one. It has been discredited by scientific research, but many fitness enthusiasts still see lactic acid as an enemy that interferes with performance.

Not only does lactic acid(which in the body is in the form called “lactate”) not cause muscle fatigue, it is actually used as an important fuel during vigorous exercise.

This myth goes back to the early 20th century, but it was fully discredited only recently.

All this begs the question: What is causing the fatigue and stiffness that was once blamed on lactate? According to researchers at Columbia University, it may be caused by overworked muscles leaking calcium, among many other factors. And acidity in general in fatigued muscles may play a role in stiffness and fatigue, it’s just not the lactate causing most of it.

So what’s the solution? The idea of calcium leakage partially causing muscle fatigue doesn’t mean most people should consume less calcium, as this is a vital mineral(it is possible to get too much, and it can cause problems but this is rare). However, and I am just speculating here, maybe ensuring adequate vitamin K consumption can help prevent this a little, since it helps with calcium metabolism, along with making sure you get enough magnesium. Calcium helps muscles contract, magnesium helps them contract as well as relax; if you have too much calcium in your body relative to the amount of magnesium, this can be problematic(in fact, not getting enough magnesium may be detrimental to your heart).

It is relatively east to get enough magnesium if you eat like a rabbit – lots of leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains. Fermented vegetables are an especially good source of vitamin K. If you are taking calcium supplements, it may be a good idea to take supplements that combine magnesium with the calcium, to counteract the potentially negative effects of calcium. Try discussing this with your doctor or pharmacist.

Proper hydration and making sure you are getting the right amount of electrolytes helps too. I don’t think stretching would help, since just because a muscle is stiff doesn’t mean it needs to be stretched. Increasingly, science is showing that stretching is practically useless for most people.


I could have used these the last time I ran in the snow.

All Seasons Cyclist

If you run or ride a bike outside in cold weather you’ve probably heard that you should wear a second pair of socks to keep your feet warm. Under some circumstances this might be a good idea, but for most people it is horrible advice. Unless your shoes are too big to begin with, a second pair of socks will impede the circulation in your feet—which will make your feet feel colder than they would with just a single pair of socks. Instead of a second pair of socks I would suggest you try sock liners, such as the RedHead ThermoLite Liner Socks.

Many years ago, when I took up cross-country skiing, I used to wear polypropylene sock liners. Polypropylene is a plastic polymer that does an excellent job of wicking water away from the skin, but doesn’t add a lot of warmth. RedHead liner socks are made…

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Pretty impressive, even if he wasn’t juggling while doing it…

Voices from Russia


On Thursday, Georgian record-holding strongman Lasha Pataraya set a new record by pulling an 8.28-ton truck attached to his left ear by a cord. Pataraya pulled the truck a total of 71 feet (21.5 metres) at Rustavi International Motorpark near the country’s capital, Tbilisi. A special commission verified the record. He said, “It took me two months to prepare for this record. I expected [to pull the truck] to a distance of 10 metres, but the result surpassed my expectations”. Pataraya added that he didn’t expect to carry out such an achievement. Gvandzhi Mania, head of the Georgian Union of Sporting Achievements and Records, noted that this was Pataraya’s seventh record. After he set the record, Pataraya’s friends threw him into the air several times. A special medical team then checked his medical condition. Free-style wrestler Pataraya set his first record for dragging heavy weights with strings attached to…

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What goes through the mind of a joggler?

Besides how cool and awesome it is to joggle?

Contrary to what many might think, it doesn’t require deep concentration. The experience is somewhat meditative, but not really all that different from what goes through the mind of a runner. The juggling is almost totally automatic, although I may have to correct myself every now and then if my mind wanders or becomes distracted. Or if I am changing speed or doing tricks.

Rhythm is everything in joggling. The running is what sets the rhythm and the juggling follows it. It is almost like making music; I often have glorious music playing in my head(I never listen to recorded music while running), music which roughly fits the rhythm of my joggling. Sometimes I even hum or sing a little to give a melody to the rhythm. I rarely focus on the rhythm as closely as I used to. It’s there, but I only have to pay attention to it when I need to make adjustments. Beginners need to pay much closer attention.

Being one of the few people in the country who regularly joggles(there are none in my immediate area) adds a certain mystique to the activity, both for me and onlookers. Like I am just that much closer to unlocking the secrets of the universe. It is running meets esoterica, the next stage in evolution for running and fitness. Above all, it’s hard to not feel special while doing it.

But at the same time, I often feel it is rather mundane – it is just a type of exercise, that’s all. I’m just running with a little something added, it’s not like I am saving the world. It’s just that I am better coordinated than most, although to what degree this is genetic rather than due to training is difficult to figure out.

Joggling seems to makes life’s problems much smaller, much more so than mere running. It shrinks an angry elephant to the size of a mite. I believe it is the “joggler’s high” which accomplishes this. It adds magic to running, and beauty and stimulates parts of the mind that I didn’t know exist.

All this, from running with a little something added.

Old Man Winter versus the Joggler part II

Old Man Winter did not want me or anyone out there yesterday in his snowstorm. As time went by, the wind he threw at me became angrier, and my hands became colder and wetter, as if joggling in the snow was the ultimate act of defiance. In spite of all this I refused to concede defeat, and managed to joggle straight for an hour, even making good time, as if it was a sunny 50 F(10 C) degree day. I even managed to do my usual route along the Bronx river.

This is unlike the last time I joggled in a snowstorm for around 20 minutes(and ran and power-walked for another 30 minutes) running into stores to take shelter every now and then. Yesterday was the real thing.

Due to my feet and hands becoming very cold and wet, I definitely need better winter clothing. I dropped the balls many times due to the wind and my cold hands feeling like they were going to fall off, even though I had gloves on. There was almost no other soul out there. Luckily there was little snow accumulation, since it was about 35 F(1.6 C). I almost slipped a few times, but always managed to quickly correct my footing. If the temperature had been below freezing, I probably wouldn’t have been out there for an hour.

This was one of my most humbling joggling experiences. It felt fantastic upon completion; it was such a relief to get home, to finally warm up and dry off. I do not recommend joggling in snowstorms, unless you have a lot of experience hiking or playing sports in the snow. Just because I can sort of do it, doesn’t mean you should. 


Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit

I believe this is a very useful tool for evaluating all the various health claims you encounter:

Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit

The health world is currently plagued by misinformation and pseudoscience. But with the Baloney Detection Kit, it should be easier to separate fact from fiction. 

Are you a Tofi?

Many people who look fit may be anything but. There is a growing phenomenon of “Tofis”, people who are “Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside”. It’s like a more insidious form of obesity, since even the sufferer may be under the illusion that they are healthy when they are actually very fat on the inside. This outwardly hidden excess fat is stored in and around many vital organs which can clog the arteries and lead to heart disease, besides causing many other serious health problems associated with obesity.

This underscores the reason everyone needs to exercise, which is by far the best way to ensure our metabolism doesn’t go awry(besides eating healthy). It still amazes me how often I encounter people who believe “skinny people shouldn’t exercise”, which is usually aimed at me due to how slim I am. 

Above all, and it deserves repetition, fitness should be a lifestyle, not an activity. 


Which juggling balls are best?

I am often asked which juggling balls are best. I will review various types of balls to answer as thoroughly as possible:

1) MMX balls – Rubber balls filled with birdseed and closed with a small plug. Comes in 3 sizes. These are like a compromise between rubber balls and beanbags, and are very popular with jugglers. While not my favorite, these are generally good to juggle with and have virtually no bounce. A few times while juggling with them, the plug almost came out of one of the balls. Luckily, pushing the plug back in deeper than before has resolved this. Very durable and pretty squeezable.

2) Sil-X balls – Rubber balls injected with liquid silicon, and has a plug similar to the MMX balls. Popular with many jugglers, these are fine but sometimes feel a bit awkward in my hands. They seem to have a little bit of bounce to them. They wobble a little bit. Durable, and my preferred joggling ball when weather conditions are very wet. The plugs on these things has never come lose. Mine have taken a real beating while joggling outside and seem very durable. They are moderately squeezable.

3) Beanbags – By far the best. This is what I joggle with the most. Often made from leather or imitation leather, sewn together and stuffed with birdseed. They have no bounce and feel perfect in my hands and their weight is just right. Unfortunately, not as durable as the other types of balls and not good to joggle with in wet weather. Very squeezable.

4) Lacrosse balls – Used by some jugglers and jogglers, they have a lot of bounce and are slightly heavy. I don’t recommend them for juggling or joggling. Due to their bounciness some bounce jugglers will use them as cheaper alternatives to more expensive silicon balls. Not squeezable.

5) Hockey balls – Too light to be used for juggling or joggling. Made from very firm plastic and not squeezable at all.

6) Tennis balls – Though they are the right size for most adults, they are too light and bouncy for most forms of juggling. However, you can make a slit in one and stuff it with pennies or birdseed to add some weight to it.  Doing this to tennis balls can make them excellent for juggling.(To the right is a photo of a tennis ball stuffed with pennies and covered in duct tape. It weights about 1 lb and is used to help build arm endurance during indoor juggling exercise rather that outside joggling).

I have no connection to any of the manufacturers or sellers of these balls. I didn’t receive any of them for free, I paid for them with my own money.

Juggling linked to improved academic skills

This isn’t surprising to many jugglers. While there isn’t strong scientific evidence to back this, many teachers believe teaching children to juggle also makes them better students – “Teachers Link Juggling to Improved Academic Skills”

“We started a juggling program in 1994-1995 to help prepare the kids for reading,” Jan Tipton, Alimacani’s physical education teacher tells Education World. Some teachers observed, moreover, that children who had trouble learning to juggle also had trouble learning to read. “We find that if we give kids extra practice juggling, their reading improves as well. It’s my way of helping in an academic area,” Tipton notes.

This looks promising. Even if it doesn’t boost academic ability, in the very least, juggling is a great way to exercise(it can burn 272 calories per hour, assuming the person is 150 lbs or 68 kg), and joggling an even better way. This may be a good example of “positive transfer”, in which skill in one area is transfered to learning a skill in another area. All the focus and discipline required to track balls while juggling, to throw them the right way is, in theory, transfered to improve focus in math and reading.

Learning to play an instrument and even chess are thought to provide similar benefits, but they are not exercises like juggling. And we all know that many children these days need a lot more exercise. At the risk of overstating the benefits of juggling, it would be terrific if more schools taught children to juggle during phys-ed class. 

Fantastic time joggling along Croton Trail and Lyndhurst

I had a great time joggling along the Croton Aqueduct trail to Lyndhurst. It was perfect joggling weather. This trail follows the path of a now defunct aqueduct that once provided water to New York City. It zigzags through much of western Westchester county, through several historic villages. Some stretches of it are densely wooded, and many houses along the trail are quite grand and architecturally significant. In some spots, you can get spectacular views of the Hudson. It is often crowded with lots of runners, cyclists, walkers and bird-watchers in calm weather. You may encounter deer along some parts of the trail.

Luckily, hurricane Sandy didn’t destroy a lot trees along the trail. The trail mostly runs on top of the old aqueduct, and so you can almost never see it. You can even go under the aqueduct it in a few places, but be careful.

It’s large alright, but it’s not Downtown Abbey(Highclere Castle)

It runs through Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, villages made famous by Washington Irving’s novels(it also runs through Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-On-Hudson and Yonkers). The Lyndhurst castle is the most important historical mansion along the trail.