Category Archives: exercise

How dangerous is BASE jumping?

If you’re an adrenaline “junkie”, you’re always looking for new adventures to get that rush. Maybe you started out as a runner, and did a fair number of races, but then it just became boring after a while. Or maybe you like to go skiing during the winter, and then you adapted to it and that became boring too.

One of the ultimate “highs” is to jump from an airplane. I haven’t done it yet, but I hear its an amazing feeling.

Arguably even more extreme than sky diving is BASE jumping, which involves jumping off of tall buildings, antennas, spans, and earth. If the BASE jumper starts from a high enough altitude, they may even use a wing-suit to fly their way down toward earth before parachuting. Some sky-divers do this too.

As incredibly fun as these activities are, how dangerous are they?

According to Stavanger University Hospital, Norway, in How dangerous is BASE jumping?

RESULTS:

During an 11-year period, a total of 20,850 jumps (median, 1,959; range, 400-3,000) resulted in 9 fatal (0.04% of all jumps; 1 in every 2,317 jumps) and 82 nonfatal accidents (0.4% of all jumps; 1 in every 254 jumps). Accidents increased with the number of jumps (r=0.66; p=0.007), but fatalities did not increase, nor did activation of helicopter or climbers in rescue (p>0.05). Helicopter activation (in one-third of accidents) in rescue correlated with number of accidents (r=0.76, p=0.007), but not climbers. Postmortem examination (n=7) of fatalities revealed multiple, severe injuries (Abbreviated Injury Scale score>or=3) sustained in several body regions (median, Injury Severity Score 75; range, 23-75). Most nonfatal accidents were related to ankle sprains/fracture, minor head concussion, or a bruised knee.

CONCLUSION:

BASE jumping appears to hold a five- to eightfold increased risk of injury or death compared with that of skydiving. The number of accidents and helicopter activation increases with the annual number of jumps. Further analysis into the injury severity spectrum and associated hospital burden is required.

This seems extremely dangerous. Far more dangerous than anything I do. I wonder to what degree does the death-defying aspect make this “fun”. If somehow the danger was removed from BASE jumping would it make the sport less fun for some people?

If anyone reading this has tried BASE jumping or sky-diving, please tell us about your experiences.

Optimal fuel for endurance runnning

jumpIt should go without saying that optimal nutrition is an absolute requirement for endurance running. The most important thing an athlete must do to prepare for long runs(besides hydration) is to maximize their muscle glycogen, which is the body’s main fuel source(and the more vigorously you run, the more your body will rely on glycogen) during long bouts of vigorous exercise. Unfortunately, once glycogen is depleted, a runner “hits the wall”, and will slow down, or even stop due to fatigue. Hence, the “Holy Grail” for endurance athletes is something that spares glycogen for as long as possible by using another fuel source or other methods.

Carb-loading, which is something practically all endurance athletes are already doing doesn’t necessarily “spare” glycogen – it merely maximizes the supply so you don’t run out too soon. Even with optimal carb-loading, trained runners can still “hit the wall” somewhere between 15 – 20 miles.

If you’re running a marathon, this isn’t good enough. Assuming the athlete has already carb-loaded to the max in the days and hours before the run, especially with their last meal, can carb-rich snacks immediately before the run help prevent glycogen depletion, and improve performance?

I have long wondered about this. Obviously, you can’t eat too heavily immediately before running long distances, this can cause digestive problems that will interfere with your run. Some trainers even advise athletes to not consume carbs before runs. Fortunately, I found a study that attempts to find the best approach. According to the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, in The myths surrounding pre-exercise carbohydrate feeding:

Abstract

BACKGROUND/AIMS:

Carbohydrate ingested 30-60 min before exercise may result in hypoglycaemia during exercise, a phenomenon often called rebound or reactive hypoglycaemia. There is considerable confusion regarding pre-exercise carbohydrate feeding with advice that ranges from ‘consume carbohydrate in the hour before exercise’ to ‘avoid carbohydrate in the 60 min prior to exercise’.

CONCLUSION:

It can be concluded that advice to avoid carbohydrate feeding in the hour before exercise is unfounded. Nevertheless athletes may develop symptoms similar to those of hypoglycaemia, even though they are rarely linked to actual low glucose concentrations. An individual approach may therefore be necessary to minimize these symptoms even though they do not appear to be related to exercise performance.

I very often eat or drink something 10 to 30 minutes before an endurance run( 90+ minutes) and based on my experiences it seems to help. However, a few times when I went overboard by drinking too much juice, I did experience that nasty “reactive hypoglycemia”. This is different from regular hypoglycemia and usually isn’t a serious condition. The trick is to figure out how to just consume enough carbohydrate without causing an insulin response that leads to reactive hypoglycemia and reduced performance, if this is a problem for you. Diluted cherry or beat juice is my favorite, and sometimes raisins. Don’t eat anything immediately before a long run with too much fiber, protein, or fat since this can slow down digestion and cause upset stomach(the same goes for eating or drinking during an endurance run).

So it looks like consuming carbs immediately before a long run isn’t a serious problem for most people. This may help delay glycogen depletion.

Another possible strategy to help delay glycogen depletion and/or fatigue is to train your body to use more fat for energy. This can be tricky, even though our fat reserves(even in skinny runners) contain thousands upon thousands of calories.

Just training on a regular basis can likely train your body to use more fat for energy. The body also just becomes increasingly efficient at using energy from all sources the more you exercise(you eventually plateau after several months), which can make it harder for the overweight to lose most of their excess weight.

Can fat intake influence how well we perform at endurance exercise? According to the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Buffalo, New York, in A perspective on fat intake in athletes:

Data from recent studies in trained athletes, who were fed iso-caloric high-fat diets (42% to 55%) that maintained adequate CHO levels, have shown an increase in endurance in both men and women when compared to diets composed of low fat intake (10% to 15%). The magnitude of the effect on endurance was significant at high percentages of maximal aerobic power and increased as the percentage of maximal aerobic power decreased. Based on this review, a baseline diet comprising 20% protein, 30% CHO and 30% fat, with the remaining 20% of the calories distributed between CHO and fat based on the intensity and duration of the sport, is recommended for discussion and future research.

Unless I am misreading this, it is suggesting that increasing fat intake improves endurance in athletes. However, this may not be such a good idea if you are trying to lose weight.

See what works best for you, experiment.

Video games and surgical training

DA-ST-91-01841

“Don’t worry, I was an advanced World of Warcraft player, so I can handle this”. Source: Public domain.

Video games and surgical training? You may be asking what could they possibly have in common.

Not a lot, but it looks like there is a link between playing video games and surgical skill: The impact of video games on training surgeons in the 21st century.

CONCLUSIONS:

Video game skill correlates with laparoscopic surgical skills. Training curricula that include video games may help thin the technical interface between surgeons and screen-mediated applications, such as laparoscopic surgery. Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons.

Wow that’s extraordinary! Maybe video games aren’t such big time wasters after all. Whatever is going on here, this may be due to video games improving hand-eye coordination(which makes me wonder if juggling could improve surgical ability too).

This leads to the question: Which is the best video game console? Comparison of Nintendo Wii and PlayStation2 for enhancing laparoscopic skills.

CONCLUSIONS:

Both Wii and PlayStation2 significantly improved laparoscopic skills in bead transfer. These video games may be inexpensive alternatives to laparoscopy training simulators.

It’s all in the hand-eye coordination. The word “surgery” itself comes from the Greek “χειρουργική”(cheirourgikē), which literally translates as “hand work”.

This isn’t the only way to improve hand-eye coordination, or surgical skill, and some people become addicted to video games: Video Game Genre as a Predictor of Problem Use

Moon Joggers

Here is an inspiring story about a group of runners from around the world who decided to run the distance from the Earth to the moon(238,857 miles/384,403 km) by combining their miles – A simple fitness goal shoots to the moon: The inspiring story of the Moon Joggers

They wondered, could they enlist the help of others and run the distance to the moon — 238,857 miles?

“We thought if we could get 237 other people to run 1,000 miles, we’d get there by the end of the year,” says Angie, 31, who works with special-needs children in Frisco while working on her MBA. “We put it on Facebook, and it exploded.”

That was Dec. 1. Within the month, “we had hundreds of people all over the world,” she says.

On May 23, seven months and eight days earlier than scheduled, the runners had accumulated enough miles to reach the moon. When Angie posted the big news on Facebook, Moon Joggers in Finland, Turkey, Egypt and New Zealand as well as the United States posted giddy congratulations.

This is really neat and inspiring. Very often, the right kind of motivation makes all the difference. There are so many different approaches that can keep runners motivated. This is one of the most unique ones I’ve heard of in a while. It’s like I always say, be creative when it comes to fitness, use your imagination.

I gotta admit of course that I immediately thought of “moon joggling”. This can involve the same goal of running 238,857 miles to the moon, while juggling balls that look like moons. If this distance isn’t challenging enough for you, then maybe you should consider jogging or joggling to Mars, which is 140 million miles(225.3 km) away from Earth, on average(this distance constantly changes due to the Earth and Mars having different orbits and because they move around the sun at different speeds).

238,857 miles or 140 million miles may sound like a lot to some of you, but compared to the size of the universe, this is nothing. The observable universe is a sphere with a radius of 46 billion light years – and it is expanding as I write this. One light year = 5.87849981 × 1012 miles(9.4605284 × 1012 kilometers). I think a saw an apartment in Manhattan the other day that went for around this much. It’s something of a brain exercise trying to imagine something so extremely vast, nevertheless, see if you can run that!

Exercise can even benefit smokers

Cancerous_lung

Cancerous lung. Picture is in the public domain

Think smokers are doomed to a shorter life span due to lung cancer, emphysema, or heart disease? Well, you are right, generally speaking.

Nevertheless, even smokers can lower their disease risk if they exercise. It appears to lower the lung cancer risk of smokers according to our friends at the American Association for Cancer Research:

PHILADELPHIA – In a study of more than 36,000 women, researchers observed that smokers can reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by being physically active. However, they strongly caution that any relative benefit is dwarfed by the benefits gained from quitting smoking.

(Emphasis mine)

This is good news, though the researchers behind this study can’t emphasize enough(and I can’t emphasize enough) that smokers should make every effort to quit smoking. That is vastly more beneficial than exercising while continuing to smoke. So if you do smoke, exercise more, exercise as much as possible, but do this while also trying to quit. Who knows, the exercise may even help you quit by helping you to rewire your brain. In my personal experience, smokers who were the most physically active were more likely to quit than sedentary smokers.

If your last effort to quit failed, try something new. Try juggling, try swimming, try aversion therapy, try yoga(but not “Smoga”, look it up on Youtube, it’s sick and ridiculous).

Good luck to you if you’re a smoker or are close to someone who is.

Wild Juggling has just reached 500 followers!

Screenshot from 2013-07-09 08:46:53We have reached a milestone. Thank you to all my 500 followers!

Thank you for wasting your precious time on my blog, reading about my crazy fitness antics, my health and fitness advice, my travels, and my vegan lifestyle. Above all, I thank you all for tolerating my bad jokes. You help make Wild Juggling possible.

I appreciate all the comments and feedback. Even the angry feedback. It’s great to have followers from so many different countries, from so many different cultures. Juggling, in a way, is like a universal language similar to music. It can break down barriers(and occasionally break a few windows and vases), whether fitness barriers or cultural barriers. The same could be said for sports and fitness.

I learn a lot from your informative blogs and your feedback. I steal from them whenever I can, to help make Wild Juggling a better place. I love the enthusiasm from all the fitness fanatics who regularly visit. I hope we can continue to inspire each other. Wild Juggling isn’t just about me, it is about everyone who is carving out their own unique path to be fit. I hope my blog has made a difference, even if only an extremely tiny practically non-existent difference. I hope you continue to follow my vegan joggling adventures.

Thank you for following and for coming by.

Keep on juggling!

Chris P the Wild Juggler

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Asthma and running

I remember being in gym class or running around a lot in my early teens with friends when all of a sudden one of them would just collapse to the ground with an asthma attack. It was a very scary, though rare occurrence, and luckily no one died. Quick use of an inhaler and rest was usually all that was needed to help them. I felt lucky that I didn’t have asthma since I loved riding my bike and running whenever I could.

It was pretty obvious to us kids back then that asthmatics shouldn’t exercise(or so we thought). And yet, some of my first “long” runs(3 to 4 miles) were with a friend of mine who had asthma. I often worried he would suffer an attack on these runs(especially when he ran faster than me!), but they didn’t happen, though they did happen at other times when he wasn’t exercising. So asthma was, and in some ways still is a very perplexing disease to me.

The relationship between exercise and asthma is very complicated. There are many different types of asthma, some of which are induced by vigorous exercise like running. Exercise for asthmatics can be particularly problematic in very cold or polluted air. It is even possible that intense training can cause asthma in some individuals.

This doesn’t mean that asthmatics shouldn’t exercise, just that they should use more caution. If you have asthma consult your doctor before embarking on an intense training regimen.

With the right amount of treatment and/or training, asthmatic athletes are capable of some amazing athletic achievements. Belgian runner Stefaan Engels holds the world record for most marathons run in a year, in spite of being diagnosed with asthma as a child:

A Belgian runner has set a new world record after completing an astonishing 365 marathons in as many days.

Stefaan Engels, 49, crossed the finish line on his final race in Barcelona, Spain, after pounding the roads in several countries across Europe and North America in the last year.

Dubbed the ‘Marathon Man’, Mr Engels was diagnosed with asthma as a child and told not to sports.

The ultimate marathon man: Belgian runner breaks record with 365 in a single year.

There are also many asthmatic Olympic athletes, and apparently they are more likely to win than their non-asthmatic counterparts for some reason.

Increasingly, some medical researchers advocate using exercise as part of the treatment for asthma:

A prescription for exercise has been endorsed for all asthmatic subjects by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Thoracic Society. The allergy community has placed emphasis on medical therapy and allergen avoidance; in addition, exercise [correction] has not been formally incorporated into the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program guidelines. It is our belief that an exercise prescription should be part of the treatment for all cases of asthma. The real question is whether prolonged physical activity and, in particular, outdoor play of children plays a role in prophylaxis against persistent wheezing. If so, the decrease in physical activity might have played a major role in recent increases in asthma prevalence and severity.

Physical activity and exercise in asthma: relevance to etiology and treatment.  Lucas SR, Platts-Mills TA.

Source

University of Virginia Asthma and Allergic Diseases Center, Charlottesville, VA 22908-1355, USA.

Although I don’t have asthma, I sometimes suffer from shortness of breath when I run in polluted or cold air. Nothing serious though.

If you have asthma and you exercise, tell us about your experiences.

Exercise and multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis(MS) is a degenerative inflammatory disease of the brain and spinal cord. It’s many symptoms, which include weakness, numbness, confusion, stiffness, and blurred vision, are due to the breakdown(demylination) of the myelin sheath, which is the important layer of insulation that surrounds part of our nerve cells. Our nervous system can’t function properly without this insulation. Similarly, an electronic device can’t function properly without plastic insulation around its wires. This insulation can also, in theory, help protect a person working with the wires, unless the person happens to be me(I still have tiny burn marks all over my fingers from years of tinkering).

The ultimate cause of this disease is unknown. What we do know is that the immune system is attacking the nervous system of MS patients(or the cells fail to produce myelin). It’s like your immune system consists of nothing but traitors, if you have MS. What causes the immune system to attack the nervous system is the big mystery. For reasons not yet understood, it is more common in women. Everything from viruses to toxins to lawyers are suspected of causing this disease, but so far research hasn’t discovered anything definitive.

While there is no cure for MS, there are a variety of drugs for controlling the symptoms. They may not work for everyone, but they can help many MS sufferers be more functional.

Which brings us to the question: Can exercise help treat or prevent MS? According to Sports Medicine(2008), Exercise and brain health–implications for multiple sclerosis: Part 1–neuronal growth factors:

Abstract

The benefits of regular exercise to promote general health and reduce the risk of hypokinetic diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles are well recognized. Recent studies suggest that exercise may enhance neurobiological processes that promote brain health in aging and disease. A current frontier in the neurodegenerative disorder multiple sclerosis (MS) concerns the role of physical activity for promoting brain health through protective, regenerative and adaptive neural processes. Research on neuromodulation, raises the possibility that regular physical activity may mediate favourable changes in disease factors and symptoms associated with MS, in part through changes in neuroactive proteins. Insulin-like growth factor-I appears to act as a neuroprotective agent and studies indicate that exercise could promote this factor in MS. Neurotrophins, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor likely play roles in neuronal survival and activity-dependent plasticity. Physical activity has also been shown to up-regulate hippocampal BDNF, which may play a role in mood states, learning and memory to lessen the decline in cognitive function associated with MS. In addition, exercise may promote anti-oxidant defences and neurotrophic support that could attenuate CNS vulnerability to neuronal degeneration. Exercise exposure (preconditioning) may serve as a mechanism to enhance stress resistance and thereby may support neuronal survival under heightened stress conditions. Considering that axonal loss and cerebral atrophy occur early in the disease, exercise prescription in the acute stage could promote neuroprotection, neuroregeneration and neuroplasticity and reduce long-term disability. This review concludes with a proposed conceptual model to connect these promising links between exercise and brain health.

Source

Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA. ljwhite@uga.edu

This sounds promising. It is already known that exercise can help release nerve growth factors that can benefit the brain and nervous system, so it makes sense that it could help prevent or treat a degenerative disease of the nervous system.

It’s amazing all the different chemicals released due to exercise – it is important to note that it also helps us maximize our own antioxidant defenses. Yes, that is correct, our bodies make their own antioxidants to deal with the effects of free radicals, so you don’t need to megadose with antioxidant pills after exercise. However, it’s still a good idea to eat food rich in antioxidants, since the phytochemicals and vitamins that have these antioxidant effects may have other beneficial effects.

Now the above study doesn’t mention anything about which exercises in particular are most beneficial for MS patients. I think it is safe to assume that walking or tai chi would be beneficial.

Is there any exercise that specifically targets the brain? Why juggling of course!

According to BBC News in their article, Juggling Increases Brain Power:

Complex tasks such as juggling produce significant changes to the structure of the brain, according to scientists at Oxford University.

In the journal, Nature Neuroscience, the scientists say they saw a 5% increase in white matter – the cabling network of the brain.

The people who took part in the study were trained for six weeks and had brain scans before and after.

Long term it could aid treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Toward the end of the article:

Clinical Applications

Dr Johansen-Berg said there were clinical applications for this work but there were a long way off.

She said: “Knowing that pathways in the brain can be enhanced may be significant in the long run in coming up with new treatments for neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, where these pathways become degraded.”

Professor Cathy Price, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, said: “It’s extremely exciting to see evidence that training changes human white matter connections.

“This complements other work showing grey matter changes with training and motivates further work to understand the cellular mechanisms underlying these effects.”

As I understand it, an important component of the “white matter” in the brain is myelin, the nerve covering that slowly degenerates in MS sufferers.

It is early, but this is showing promise. Even if juggling can’t prevent this or other serious neurological diseases, I’ll still do it just because its such a fun exercise.

Embrace new challenges

IMG_1225I  have always loved this quote:

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine

 

New record: 20.5 miles joggling

Screenshot from 2013-06-12 20:45:03This is a new record for me, joggling 20.5 miles. It took me 3 hours and 42 minutes to complete this journey yesterday. The magenta line on the map above was my path, starting in the south in northern Mount Vernon then following the South County trail(A former rail line) all the way up almost to Elmsford and back to Mount Vernon. The weather was dry and mostly sunny, with the temperature rising from just below 75 F(23.8 C) to almost 80 F(26.6 C) toward the end of the run in the early afternoon. I brought juice with me and had a very short break from juggling(but not running) to drink it on the return trip.

Even though I went further than my 18 mile adventure to White Plains, my overall pace has improved: 10 minutes, 50 seconds per mile this time, versus 11 minutes, 40 seconds per mile on the White Plains run. To improve my speed, I did no tricks except for “tennis” occasionally, and I dropped the balls only once during the entire run. This is yet another record, since I went 2 hours and 35 minutes(about 15 miles) before my first drop.

The South County trail is great for running and cycling. The entire trail is paved and smooth, unlike most of the Croton Aqueduct trail, so a lot of cyclists go at maximum speed. It stretches 14.1 miles from the Bronx all the way up to Elmsford in the north. It runs parallel and very close to the Saw Mill Parkway much of the time and at times highway 87. From Yonkers to about Hastings, it runs through some light industrial areas, but becomes more forested as you go further north. The trail does occasionally cross some streets, and there are few steep hills. Overall, it is less picturesque than the Croton Aqueduct trail which overlooks the Hudson river in some areas and is to the west.

The North County trail(which I am less familiar with), and South County trail, which is the one I ran on, are really the same trail, separated by a gap in the village of Elmsford. I believe they are currently working on connecting them, since the entire trail is built on an abandoned rail line. Once they are connected, this means a bike trail connecting the Bronx to Putnam county!

I’ll be drinking a lot of cherry juice, and eating a lot of nuts to help me heal from this very long run. As usual, my legs feel a more sore than my arms.