So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Miss Sun? What Can I Say?

It was easy to notice as I stared into the mirror after the Sunday morning run,   At least, that's what Suzanne said.

Thankfully, I didn't have the "reverse-raccoon look," probably because of the amber lens sunglasses on my face during the daylight hours of walking and bicycling.  But from the chin up, and to a lesser degree from my biceps to the distal end of my arms, and from the "typical" hem of my running shorts to my ankle there was no doubt I had definitely "got some sun."

The folks who know enough about Suzanne and me know we're often 180 degrees of separation from each other when it comes to snacking, training feedback, medicine and -- most especially -- sun exposure.  She's a complete heliophobe, the result of too many tanning booth sessions in her youth; I'm more selective in what I want protected from the rays.

Training in the Florida Keys permitted the two of us to see the entire spectrum of visitors to (and residents of) a tropical climate, from the pasty white ("pre-lobsterized") of the first-day visitor to the leathery visage of the long-term denizen, and every state of tan in between.  Not every local in the Keys is leather-skinned, as we quickly noticed from our guesthouse hosts, Steve and Kayla Kessler.

Steve, every time we saw him out of doors during the daylight hours, looked like -- in his words -- a Mexican gardener, wearing a large, floppy hat and a balaclava-like neck covering.  Steve uses three types of protection in his ongoing battle against overexposure to UV radiation and subsequent risk of (another) skin cancer.  Steve spends a good amount of time on his fishing boat, so it's a no-brainer that he's bombarded from all possible angles out on the water.  Other than textile protection he also uses a chemical, followed by a mineral sunblock.

I asked myself the question, 'what about the need for Vitamin D?'  I know we can get it from milk and other products that have been exposed to ultraviolet radiation (Vitamin D is not a true vitamin, but the product of a chemical reaction when a cholesterol-related substance is exposed to UV rays.), but can you get enough from food sources if you're not getting sufficient sun?'

Other than bone health, and a decreased mortality in older women, it appears that a lack of "Vitamin D" isn't going to drastically affect ones' quality of life.  The US government recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D can be synthesized by our bodies (as long as we have cholesterol present) by as little as three minutes of sun exposure.  Persons who use a sunblock agent with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 would need to stay out in the sun for 40-to-60 minutes to synthesize the 600 international units each day.  I don't regularly use sunscreen, but I don't think I've seen anything less than SPF 16 on the market; which would require a person to spend two and a half hours to compensate for the protection from skin cancer.

I guess that would mean taking in Vitamin D some other way...you could revert back to your childhood days and endure the daily tablespoon of fish liver oil.  Not too tasty, huh?  How about 30 whole eggs?  I like omelets as much as the next guy, but I think I'll pass on the "ten-omelet-a-day" training plan to someone like Michael Phelps.  Beef liver.  Nope.  Not only too many bad memories of growing up (my rationale for not eating onions), but you'd have to eat four pounds each day.  The only reasonable alternative to me seems to be an eight ounce serving of one of what they the call "fatty" fish species, like cod.  Some of the mushrooms, like portabello, when exposed to UV and cooked are a decent source, too.

So to me it seems like the best alternative when getting out into the sunlight would be a modicum of clothing items to at least minimize the solar beat-down.  A hat with a brim is great, not only for sun protection on the head, face and nose (especially if you or your family is nasally blessed), but a dark interior over the eyes eases eye strain while outdoors.

Remember how I mentioned my selective heliophobia?  I believe the only person with more pairs of sunglasses than I might be Sir Elton John.  Three decades of working in dimly lit or windowless buildings and office spaces will drive a guy to near-vampirical fear of sunlight.  Even the least-expensive pairs of sunglasses are an improvement over no eyewear, and will increase your comfort level on the run.

Moving forward in the comfort category, a lightweight breathable running top cannot be beat.  Some folks like the material to be up close and personal to their torso, but a looser fit provides a layer of air moistened by your own perspiration to help maintain some semblance of cooling.  Sleeves or no sleeves, that's a personal taste issue.

The bottom line has to be this:  Just because you live in a very warm or tropical climate does not require spending six months of the year on the treadmill or living in fear of leathery skin and melanoma or other cancers.  A balance of chemical sunblock and proper clothing can help you to remain on the roads for years to come.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Not Too Far To Walk Back

It's great to be able to link up with many of my fellow run enthusiasts and classmates by way of social media.  Every once in a while I hear a doozy:

"u know what the trouble with jogging is...by the time you realize you're not in shape for it, it's too far to walk back."  I'm not that shocked to hear a statement like this coming from a fellow Baby Boomer.  Most of my high school companions, including the sporty ones, would consider themselves to be - unlike Sir Paul McCartney - more than the man they used to be.  Even though, if asked to judge our health on a 1-to-100 scale, we would most likely give ourselves a score in the 70 range, I'm starting to see some around my age "leave" in ones and twos.  An insurance company-sponsored survey of 1,800 persons, ranging in age from 25-to-64, found folks my age more likely to define "healthy" as visiting the doctor and filling the necessary check in the block on the questionnaire each year...and the requisite bodily fluid work-up, etc.
Only one in five of us would say we're doing something to "look good in our underwear," such as a regular exercise routine.  And when it happens, it's more likely to be because we've got a goal staring us in the face; men usually tie it to an endurance event, such as a marathon...women to a wedding or reunion.

Like any 12-step program, the first step to working through the problem is admitting the problem exists.  Lots of Boomers invested the lion's share of their time and effort on raising families and developing careers.  Now that we've begun to have more time to do other stuff we receive the sudden and frightening message that we're not as fit as we were when we were in high school or university.  How do we get back to where we once belonged?  First of all, like our generation is more likely to inform the Gen-Xers and Millennials, we need to not sweat the small stuff. 

If I were going to go back and develop a running habit from the outset I would start with finding a loop course, just big enough to traverse that I felt like there was a level of accomplishment, but not so large that I couldn't do it in five minutes or so...so we're talking probably something in the range of 600 or 700 meters; no bigger than half a mile around.  Grass and packed dirt would be fantastic, but an asphalt bike path will do in a pinch.  Start by doing one minute of running, followed by walking until you're ready to run one minute again.  Do this for at least 30 minutes, every other day for three weeks. 

Test yourself at the three-week point:  Run for as long as you can without stopping.  Divide that time by three; make that the new "run" time.  Once you get to the point where you can run comfortably for thirty minutes you can start to add on time here and there as your body tolerates it.  Have fun with it; alternate hard running with easy running, easy running with brisk walks.  There are many benefits of running for time rather than for distance.  Unless you're in the surveying (or course measurement) business, a second is a second everywhere in the world (great for those persons who do a lot of traveling), and your heart and lungs will gain the same benefits whether you're doing three or five miles in a thirty minute span. 

And if the heat and/or humidity happens to be an obstacle, treadmills can be the best alternative.  I know people who despise treadmills with a passion, but I like the ability to control almost all of the potential variables which can affect exercise performance, namely air temperature, surface hardness/softness, elevation and speed (I'll include the ability to immediately stop the run, live to fight another day,should something begin to hurt badly.).  And if you're at a gym facility where there's lots of traffic, often the scenery isn't only limited to what's on the television screen.  To make certain you're not going at too quickly a pace during the run pieces, I would running the "talk test" during the first bout on the belt - start at five miles per hour.  Can you talk to yourself, or a person next to you, in complete sentences?  Bump up the speed a notch.  check yourself after a minute.  When you find the sentences are shorter, or you can't finish it without taking a deep breath you've probably found the right pace.  The walk recovery pace is not a problem; set it for anywhere between three and four miles per hour and you'll be fine.

Some persons say that treadmill running is not the same as running on the roads or trails, and they are correct, but in very small ways.  Other than wind resistance, there's not much difference between how our body reacts to running on a moving belt and how it reacts on a gravel road, or dirt trail, or rubber track.  Purists can kick the elevation on the treadmill up one notch just to make it feel more like you're working into a self-made breeze.

So don't fret if you're a boomer who's started to worry if they'll ever be able to regain lost fitness, or wants to drop weight, lower the risk of obesity-related diseases.  As long as you remain patient at the start, consistent through the process, and progressive in adding intensity once your body begins to tolerate the new (or renewed) stressors, it's never too far a walk back to a fit lifestyle.