Friday, December 1, 2023

Is this universal? (Zero sum-ality of energy for activities)

 I started an intensive language course last month, and my gym attendance really took a big hit.  I describe myself as "chaotically" curious, and am perpetually signing up for (and usually completing) various forms of structured auto-didacticism on sites like Coursera and EDx.

I believe the definition of the term "opportunity cost" is this sense that to do one thing well, comes at the sacrifice of doing another thing.  Picking 'a', means that you no longer have the opportunity to do 'b' well.

There is a real sense of loss when I eventually realize I just can't do all the things that I am curious about.  There is also a need to balance ego-driven pursuits like advanced certification in fields I don't intend to work in, versus outcome-driven pursuits like improving my fitness.  It might feel great and pumped up to walk around with a pro-level Amazon computing certification, but it would be at the expense of my physical and mental-health, and also at the expense of other things I have decided I want to study like languages.

Not to get woo-woo about it, but I have to force myself to believe that being a balanced human being rather than an obsessive, midnight-cramming-session, hunchback computer denizen -- well, is important, and beyond that it's better for the world.  I have written before about how if you look around the room in a group, and all you see is horribly unhealthy bodies and souls, then you should be deeply critical of the work product of said community.

Intermittent fasting as a way to moderate 'boredom eating'...

 One idea I came across somewhere in my travels, is using intermittent fasting as a way to put the kibosh on eating out of boredom at night.   I'm not sure I wholly subscribe to a Jason Fung-ian, or Satchin Panda-ian concept of circadian eating, although what Panda says in particular about "shutting down the highway so the body can make repairs to the road" makes a certain amount of sense. (He is talking about how eating blocks autophagy.)

However, I do recognize that I have a tendency to eat for entertainment, particularly after dinner.  There may be some cases where I am legitimately hungry, especially if I have delayed eating until after noon, or worked out especially hard.  I do think though, that putting a cap in place, closing the kitchen around 8pm, might shave off some otherwise unnecessary calories.  If I get a health boost out of it from a circadian perspective, all the better.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Recovering from Covid, thinking about 2024

 Chicken noodle soup, and mint chip ice cream where critical to my Covid treatment plan. 🥸.   I was planning to re-commit to a stricter version of low-carb than I have been doing in the past couple of months anyway.  Planning to start that in a couple of days when I'm no longer nursing a sore throat.

I bought myself an early Hanukah present in a Polar heart rate watch.  I have to look back over my records, but my memory is that when I did the initial weight loss last year, I wasn't really working out at all.  I'd like to do things a bit differently in round 2, and make cardiovascular fitness a priority.

Morphologically (or aesthetically), I'm still not where I want to be. I haven't quite crossed the Class-3 obesity threshold.  I'd like to lose another 30-40 pounds in 2024.  The way to do that is to re-commit to low-carb.

While I feel at once pretty shitty because of the Covid, I also feel pretty confident that I can lose some more weight and improve my aerobic fitness.  The little break from the diet, backed by a good rationale for doing it, might actually turn out to be a net positive.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Mindfulness meditation at the bottom.

 Let's be honest, we all reach the end of our rope at times.  Options like nihilism ("I just don't care"), or alcoholism ("all I need is a drink"), or binge eating, or even, perish the thought, suicidality -- all of these can creep into our lives if pushed hard enough.

One of the ways that I think about mindfulness meditation comes from the term "zero cultures". Sam Harris uses it to describe cultures that, unlike our American puritanism, are cultures where nothing, as manifest by mediation practice, in and of itself is an achievement.

As an alternative to any of the above behaviors, having a practice that allows you to get closer to cessation that is also positive, healthy, forward moving, not to mention addictive, pleasurable -- being able to say to yourself, "rather than doing something I would regret later (if I lived to tell the tale), let me do something in the present that is both positive but also offers some sense of relief." That is a useful tool to have in the toolkit.

The one caveat I have to say here though is that just meditating in times of crisis hasn't worked for me in the past.  It's not enough to just sit when I really need to.  For me it requires an actual, regular, meditation practice for it to be deployable as a technique in crisis.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

What actually is V̇O2max, and why is it an indicator of fitness?

V̇O2max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption that the body's cardiovascular system can maintain.  Let's break that down:

When a muscle contracts, oxygen is required in the reaction that provides the energy.  If we jump on a treadmill, and increase the speed or incline every couple of minutes, we will see the rate of oxygen uptake also increase -- to a point.  

Oxygen is provided by the "cardiovascular" system, meaning the heart and blood vessels.  There is an upper limit to what the heart can provide.  At V̇O2max, we might increase the speed or incline of that treadmill, but the heart and blood vessels can no longer provide any more oxygen.

Why does this provide a measure of fitness?  

The point of exercise (or one of the points including mental health...etc) is to stress the body in such a way that in the process of trying to maintain homeostasis (I will get to that in a second), the system adapts in such a way that it can provide more capacity in the future.  Think muscles getting bigger due to weight lifting, or brisk walks / runs getting easier over time.

A key to understanding adaptation is the idea that the body has systems that keep its systems 'in working parameters' for safety, like the systems in a Tesla that keep the battery from dangerously overheating.  For example when the muscles demand more oxygen due to increased effort, the body works to maintain the level of oxygen in the blood by increasing heart and respiratory rate (probably chiefly in order to protect the brain if I had to guess.). This puts a stress on the heart, to which it adapts over time.

Locally, Rutgers will test V̇O2max in a lab for less than $200.  Fitness watches also have a test that uses heart rate variability, a subject for a future discussion, once I understand it, as a proxy for maximum oxygen uptake.

--edit: One potentially useful note is that V̇O2max occurs at max heart rate, so if something is calling for exercise (as in a stepped test) at 85% of V̇O2, this is the same as 85% MHR.

-- Note to self: The dot above the V in V̇O2max reflects the fact that it is a rate, and is typed by using the extended US keyboard on a mac and the key combination opt-shift-w after the letter.