Monthly Archives: May 2014

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag


For distance runners, finding the right kind of backpack for long runs can be difficult. There are many factors to consider. After my cheap Jansport fell apart last month I started looking for a replacement. I need something that I can run/joggle with that doesn’t shake too much, or stick out too much. It’s also very important that the shoulder strap feels comfortable, almost like it’s not there. And, obviously, allows full freedom of movement for my arms. After a lot of searching, I decided to get the Black Diamond Bullet, which is great for day-trips, hiking, and based on my experience, running/joggling. I tried it out at the store first before ordering it online. It was cheaper buying it online, though I still think it costs a little more than it should. Hopefully it will prove it’s worth. If it lasts me many years then I will consider the price justified.

I rarely need to run with a backpack. I only bring one with me for long runs that require energy bars, water, and sometimes lunch. However, I always bring a backpack with my on hikes. Though I just got it, the Black Diamond Bullet seems to be near perfect for long runs. It’s pretty compact, low-profile(doesn’t stick out too much) and besides the main, roomy compartment, has only one outside pocket. I don’t need so many small pockets like you see on other backpacks. This backpack is great for carrying a change of clothes, along with shoes, juice, and energy bars. The product dimensions are 6 x 16 x 9 inches ; 13 ounces. It’s volume is 16 litters, and it is made of “Tough” 420d nylon and 1260d Ballistic nylon. It has both a chest and waist strap to improve stability while running or rock-scrambling. So far, I’ve only had to use the chest strap.

Although I’ve already used it for short hikes and runs, I finally decided to test it out on a moderately long run. Yesterday, I ran 13.1 miles(a half-marathon) with it through Central Park, one of the busiest parks in New York City. I had a half full water bottle and 3 Cliff Bars in the backpack while running, and I used the chest strap. It was a pleasant day, with temperatures going from the upper 60s to low 70s while I ran. It was mostly cloudy, but dry.

As I am sure most of you know, I am a joggler, so I am even more particular when it comes to choosing the right kind of backpack for running. I need to be able to move my arms without any interference from the shoulder or chest straps.

I am happy to report that this backpack allowed total freedom of movement of my arms. So much so, that I joggled the entire 13.1 miles without dropping the balls even once(and I didn’t get mugged either!). I admit I did stop juggling a few times, like when I had to cross some busy paths, or when it got very crowded, but these stops were very brief. I still do drop often enough that this surprised even me. Sometimes it felt like the backpack wasn’t even there.

It is very more surprising that I didn’t drop considering all the tricks I was doing, like high throws, “tennis”, spins, and even backwards joggling, without any problems. Though I mostly stayed on the main running path, I sometimes did run on some dirt trails and up and down hills. This bag has many straps, which I thought might interfere with my joggling, but I tucked the longish waist straps which I didn’t use into my running belt.

I will definitely use this if I do any ultra-runs(it is hydration compatible, but I don’t think I’ll be using this feature). I am mindful that just because something feels comfortable at 13 miles doesn’t mean it will still feel comfortable by mile 40 or 50. I realize there are backpacks specifically for ultra-runners, but they are either too expensive, or they have some features I don’t care for. Besides this, I don’t think they are really necessary.

I will let everyone know how it goes if I should do an ultra-run. Be aware that this backpack has no padding for your back, so be careful what you put in it so it doesn’t nudge you. Even though I had a water bottle in the pack, my back didn’t feel it. I hope it lasts a lot longer than the Jansport. The more I think about it, the more joggling seems like an ideal way to test out backpacks and how much freedom of movement they allow.

Overall, it was a lot of fun testing this backpack out in Central Park, the heart of Manhattan. I even had my vegan T-shirt on; some people were intrigued by the fact that the man joggling around the park is a vegan. It’s great that what I do gets people thinking! Overall, the people in the park loved my joggling, especially the tourists and children. I was hoping to run into some fellow jogglers down there, but I didn’t see any unfortunately. However, there are always a lot of street acrobats and other amazing performers in Central Park who are very entertaining. Be sure to check them out if you’re ever in the city.

Map of my run

Map of my run

Why running is better than cycling


Paavo Nurmi at the 1920 Olympics

I could go on and on and on about running, and why it is such a great exercise, if not the best. To further illustrate how great it is, I thought I’d compare it to another endurance cardio exercise, cycling. According to
Participation in road cycling vs running is associated with lower bone mineral density in men:

Cyclists were 7 times more likely to have osteopenia of the spine than runners, controlling for age, body weight, and bone-loading history. There were no group differences in serum markers of bone turnover. Based on the results of this study, current bone loading is an important determinant of whole-body and lumbar spine BMD. Therefore, bone-loading activity should be sustained during adulthood to maintain bone mass.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that cycling is “bad” for you, it just means that running is better for maintaining bone density, which can help prevent fractures. This is because running is a weight-bearing exercise, and cycling isn’t. All that pounding into the ground stimulates bone mineralization and muscle strength. In experienced runners, their legs have adapted to all this pounding.

If you can’t run due to injuries, jumping rope or T’ai Chi can have similar benefits. If you’re a cyclist, there’s no reason to give it up, just occasionally cross-train with running or other weight-bearing exercises.


How fast were runners a few centuries ago?


It’s an understatement to say that I am obsessed with running. As a I runner, I want to know everything there is to know about running. Being a history buff also makes me curious about the history of running. I’m curious to know how fast runners were centuries ago, and how they trained. It’s fascinating thinking about what they knew, and what they didn’t know, when there was so little science to help guide them.

Centuries ago, runners may have vaguely understood carb-loading, even if they didn’t exactly know what a “carbohydrate” was. It is possible that they knew about interval training and the benefits of hill running. Those runners who ran very long distances must have known about “hitting the wall”, even if they couldn’t explain exactly why it happened, and didn’t have a word or phrase for it. Undoubtedly, runners back then experienced “runner’s high”, though, again, they probably didn’t have a phrase for describing it, nor did they understand why it happened. They obviously didn’t know anything about VO2 Max, lactate thresholds, or fast twitch or slow twitch muscle fibers, beyond maybe a very crude understanding of things associated with them, at best.

Sadly, little survives concerning training methods or running records at various distances before the late 19th century. What little we do have though is revealing. For instance, according to British running performances in the eighteenth century, in 1740, a runner set a record for running 21 miles in 2 hours! That is remarkable! That is a lot faster than me. This is probably one of the fastest speeds recorded for this distance during this time period, which is why it has survived. Most runners back then must have been a lot slower than this.

Besides science being primitive back then, most people in Europe were generally sicklier, and smaller compared to people in the developed world today. Most people lived in poverty. Life expectancy was much shorter, and it was common for people to have suffered from various contagious diseases we now vaccinate for. In 18th century Europe, most people bathed only a few times a year, and hardly anyone brushed their teeth(though they may have picked their teeth or washed their mouths). Very few people had running water, and almost no one had toilets. Indoor air was often extremely polluted due to the use of coal or wood for cooking and heating.

Droughts or a bad growing season often lead to widespread famine, and it wasn’t uncommon for many people to go hungry even during better times. During harsh winters, fresh fruits and vegetables were hard to come by(refrigeration didn’t exist), which could lead to nutritional deficiencies. Even when food was plentiful, it was often contaminated with dangerous pathogens that sometimes killed people. The same was often true of water. Practically all medicine was quackery in that era. One positive back then was that most people were very “athletic”, since the farm work or heavy labor nearly everyone did every day was very physically demanding. Obviously, obesity was almost non-existent, except among the very rich.

The more you think about it, the more amazing it seems that anyone could actually live in conditions like this, never mind how anyone could be healthy enough to run long distances while living in such difficult, unsanitary conditions. In spite of everything, some people ran, and some ran very fast. Try thinking about 18th century runners and all they had to go through next time you run. The demanding work most runners were doing when not running meant they were doing an awful lot of “cross-training”. Sure there were runners in B.C times, but records are even more sketchy from that period.

Still, if I had a time-machine, I would love to go back in time to watch some races, or even participate in some, if they would let me. I wonder what they would think about my joggling! If I could go back in time and talk with these 18th century runners, I’m sure I would learn a lot from them.

Alas, I don’t have a time-machine(yet), but these Age of Enlightenment runners can still inspire us, as well as future generations of runners and other athletes.

Let’s Get Vegan on the Tonight Show!

With the help of Stephanie and Celeste, they won’t be laughing at us vegans ever again.

Honk If You're Vegan

I’ve seen veganism negatively stereotyped on TV many times. The latest hit was on the Tonight Show when Jimmy Fallon joked about feeling sorry for the spouses of vegetarians because they’d have to eat yam-burgers. It was about vegetarians, not vegans, but I think the public lumps us all together.

I couldn’t find Fallon’s statement online, but I did find this:


No wonder people assume that vegan food is crappy – that’s what the media is selling! Vegans know differently, but it’s hard to compete with Hollywood.

Or maybe we can…

Celeb plant-based chef known for The Great Food Truck Race and owner of Seabirds Kitchen, Stephanie Morgan, and I want to get on the Tonight Show and blow Fallon’s socks off with amazing vegan food.

Here’s a photo of the lovely Stephanie.

9355228_orig Celeb chef and owner of Seabirds Kitchen, Stephanie Morgan

But we need your help!

We need BUZZ to for this to fly. So let’s make some…

View original post 48 more words

Integrating nonsense and birds adapting to radiation

Today, I thought I would share two interesting articles I recently read. The first, “Integrating Nonsense” by Timothy Caulfield takes a critical look at the growing popularity of integrative health clinics and programs. I find myself in full agreement with what he says, and in the last two paragraphs he uses some humorous analogies to help demonstrate what integrative health really is:

If I am wrong and science is not the standard by which universities should judge their science-based programs, why should universities stop at integrative health? Why not develop an integrative physics program that has renowned physicists working closely with astrologers and experts in the ways of ancient Chinese astronomy? There could also be an integrative engineering program that teaches students how to build bridges and fix passenger jets using the healing powers of nature.

We should punt the concept of integrative medicine from Canadian universities. We must accept that science sets the standard, and science is not about uncritical integration. It is about the rigorous and dispassionate search for the truth.

The second article is about how birds near Chernobyl have adapted to low-level radiation, “Birds near Chernobyl have adapted to low-level radiation“:

At high doses, radiation can have terrible and lethal effects on humans and nonhuman animals alike. But what if organisms could adapt to low-levels of radiation? This is what an international group of researchers are suggesting in a bird study published recently in Functional Ecologyreports The Economist.

This is incredible. I didn’t realize it was possible for such complex lifeforms to adapt to something so hazardous. The birds have adapted by producing extra glutathione, which has powerful antioxidant effects, and even seems to protect them from low-level radiation. Humans also produce glutathione. This doesn’t mean we could adapt to nuclear radiation though, at least not in the short-term; I don’t think nuclear power is worth the risks.

Sex differences in athletics

I seldom if ever talk about sex differences in athletic performance on this blog. In large part this is because I know little about them, besides the obvious things, but aside from this, I have long assumed the differences are minimal. Also, since I’m a man, and to the best of my knowledge, have always been a man, I speak from the perspective of a male athlete. Still, I think about 99% of what I post on this blog is relevant to both sexes.

So just recently I stumbled upon this study from January of this year – Female recreational athletes demonstrate different knee biomechanics from male counterparts during jumping rope and turning activities:

Peak knee anterior force was greater in female recreational athletes than in their male counterparts during jumping rope, side-to-forward running, inside turning, and outside turning. Female subjects displayed greater peak knee abduction angles and greater peak knee flexion moments while jumping rope compared to their male counterparts. There were no significant differences between the sexes in knee kinematics and kinetics in the frontal and transverse planes during running and turning motions.
Female recreational athletes exhibited significantly different knee biomechanics compared with male counterparts during jumping rope and turning motions.

This is intriguing. I wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that women generally have wider hips? The above study lead to this –
Gender differences in lower extremity mechanics during running:

Female recreational runners exhibit significantly different lower extremity mechanics in the frontal and transverse planes at the hip and knee during running compared to male recreational runners.
Understanding the differences in running mechanics between male and female runners may lend insight into the etiology of different injury patterns seen between genders. In addition, these results suggest that care should be taken to account for gender when studying groups of male and female recreational runners.

Again differences were found, and they may explain different injury patterns between the sexes. I really have no insights or information to offer here since I have no qualifications in this area. These studies may be garbage for all I know, though I doubt there is some kind of sexist intent. Besides this, I find some parts of these studies difficult to understand, but still, I am fascinated. It makes me wonder though, assuming these differences are for real, how many personal trainers, coaches, and athletes are aware of these differences?

Cinnamon and diabetes


Cinnamon is by far the spice I love the most. Its sweet, strong, complex taste is almost magical to me. In part, this is why I’ve closely followed the news about it for so long, especially about its potential as a type II diabetes treatment(not type I). Early studies on cinnamon suggested it could lower both glucose and cholesterol levels.

A lot more research has been done, and a recent meta-analysis,
Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.
on cinnamon concluded:

The consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL-C levels; however, no significant effect on hemoglobin A1c was found. The high degree of heterogeneity may limit the ability to apply these results to patient care, because the preferred dose and duration of therapy are unclear.

It looks like there is still some promise here, though if you have type II diabetes or suspect you have it, go see a doctor as soon as possible, don’t try treating it with cinnamon. While this meta-analysis indicates some positive effects, it also notes the inconsistency of some of the evidence. In large part this is because of how the amount of biologically active chemicals in cinnamon are highly variable. Besides this, some of the other hundreds of chemicals in cinnamon may interfere with the glucose-lowering chemicals effects. This isn’t unique to cinnamon though; this is a limitation of just about all other herbs or spices people use for their supposedly therapeutic effects.

To further complicate matters, I believe most scientific studies that have been done on cinnamon used Ceylon cinnamon, often called true cinnamon(cinnamomum verum), rather than cassia, which is also known as cassia cinnamon(Cinnamomum cassia), or colloquially as “Chinese cinnamon”. In North America, cassia or Chinese cinnamon is much more common, and cheaper, than Ceylon(true) cinnamon, and may have somewhat different medicinal properties, besides tasting sweeter than cassia.

In the U.S, what we call “cinnamon” is almost always cassia, and it is what is generally sold in most stores and supermarkets(in Europe, Ceylon cinnamon is much more common). While true cinnamon and cassia are closely related, cassia has a lot more coumarin, which has powerful anticoagulent effects, besides being toxic for the liver. Consuming very large amounts of cassia on a regular basis may be dangerous for some people. This is why Ceylon cinnamon, which has little to no coumarin, is probably safer to use in large quantities.

If you want to purchase true Ceylon cinnamon, you may need to go to a specialty market to find it. Make sure the container clearly says it is “Ceylon cinnamon”. It will almost certainly come from Sri Lanka(Ceylon), which produces about 80 – 90% of the world’s supply.

On a related note, marjoram in the U.S is often labeled as “oregano“. Though they are closely related, oregano is more peppery and zestier than marjoram. Next time you think you’re adding oregano to your pizza or pasta, there’s a good chance it is actually marjoram.

Regardless of its medicinal potential, I love sprinkling cinnamon on oatmeal or pancakes. I love the sweet fire that is cinnamon.