Tag Archives: winter sports

Joggling through the snow and the mind

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Snow is endlessly tricky for joggling. Every few feet its texture changes. It occasionally conceals ice or puddles underneath. How many times my feet have gotten wet and cold as a result!

How the snow cloaks the earth, how it masterfully conceals. You try to master it, yet in the end it always wins, balls get dropped, feet get wet, or a body part is injured. As tricky as a snowy forest is, it still pales in comparison to the cloaks all humans wear. As tricky as joggling in the snow is, figuring out humans is far more challenging. Snowy terrain is easy. Navigating the icy terrain of the human mind is something else entirely.

What is real and what is illusion? Our senses aren’t always reliable. We are so easy to fool, and we fool ourselves better than anyone else can. Who can we trust, when we sometimes can’t even trust ourselves?

Wait, so that is a small tree ahead and not a person? I thought that was a shrub in the distance, and not a dog. How was I to know this snow concealed a small pond? If only it were always so easy.

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Joggling after the blizzard

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Adventures in the blizzard

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The people in the suburbs just north of New York City who witness the strange spectacle of a man joggling probably think he is either crazy or just very serious about fitness. Of course, being crazy and being very serious about fitness aren’t mutually exclusive. Running in a blizzard is crazy, but joggling in one is even crazier. Still, you do need to be a serious athlete to do something crazy like this.

Joggling in the early stages of a blizzard isn’t easy, although you may have an uncle or cousin who thinks otherwise. My State Street boots may help keep my feet dry and warm, but they are difficult to run in. My feet and knees start hurting if I try running at my usual pace in them for more than a few yards, so I’m forced to do intervals between running very slowly, and a fast power-walk while juggling.

Luckily it wasn’t too cold(35 F or 1.6 C) yesterday, but the snow, which sometimes turned to sleet, kept blowing in my face. My sunglasses came in handy to protect my sensitive eyes, though they would sometimes get blurry. I did my usual route along the Bronx river, but only covered about 3.5 miles.

I also tried joggling with snowballs a few times. Juggling with them wasn’t especially difficult since I had heavy gloves on, but they would fall apart very quickly. I also got caught in the crossfire a few times between groups of kids throwing snowballs, but I managed to dodge all of them.

All in all, a wonderful time joggling in the blizzard.

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It’s never too cold for outdoor exercise

IMG_0645I’m loving this cold weather! Bring it on! It was about 16 Farenheit(-8.8 C) when I joggled for an hour this morning. I sure did sweat a lot under all those layers, but I really had no choice. It was great seeing many other people out there running or power-walking. It seems they also adhere to the “No Excuses” approach to fitness, just like I do. It is the only approach that works.

I think my respiratory system is adapting to the cold, since I hardly cough anymore and I don’t suffer from shortness of breath like before. I think being in good health makes it easier to adapt to extreme weather and circumstances, so I am thankful for my health. It’s still flu season, so be careful and get a flu shot if you haven’t already.

Old Cottage in the Woods

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Old stone cottage in the Saxon Woods of Westchester county, New York. The Saxon Woods are a great place to run, hike or observe wildlife all year round, just a little north of New York City and close to the town of Mamaroneck. No, it’s not my summer home.

I don’t know its history, but I can’t remember it ever having a roof.

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The benefits of upper body cardio

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for many years, or secretly invented a drug that provides the benefits of exercise without actually exercising, we all know we have to exercise. The real question when it comes to exercise is “how?”.

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When most people think of cardio, they think of exercises that primarily use the legs: walking, running, and cycling. Even many otherwise fit people often neglect to do endurance work on their arms if their favorite cardio exercise is a leg exercise.

A cardio workout that includes both the arms and legs may be more beneficial than a workout that exercises either alone – Aerobic exercise training programs for the upper body. In fact, arm cardio all by itself has some interesting benefits: Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1988 Apr;20(2):136-41 – “Effect of arm training on central and peripheral circulatory function.”

The data suggest that endurance arm training as prescribed in this study elicits significant circulorespiratory function adaptations to support improved performance in both arm and leg work. Further, the findings suggest both a specific and general training effect, with the more dominant effect specific to arm work

This is pretty remarkable. So doing arm cardio can benefit the entire body, including the legs, not just the arms.

This raises an important question, and this is especially important for jogglers – Are the arms and legs in competition for cardiac output? Luckily, some scientists at the The Copenhagen Muscle Research Center, have already tried to answer this:

Oxygen transport to working skeletal muscles is challenged during whole-body exercise. In general, arm-cranking exercise elicits a maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) corresponding to approximately 70% of the value reached during leg exercise. However, in arm-trained subjects such as rowers, cross-country skiers, and swimmers, the arm VO2max approaches or surpasses the leg value. Despite this similarity between arm and leg VO2max, when arm exercise is added to leg exercise, VO2max is not markedly elevated, which suggests a central or cardiac limitation. In fact, when intense arm exercise is added to leg exercise, leg blood flow at a given work rate is approximately 10% less than during leg exercise alone. Similarly, when intense leg exercise is added to arm exercise, arm blood flow and muscle oxygenation are reduced by approximately 10%. Such reductions in regional blood flow are mainly attributed to peripheral vasoconstriction induced by the arterial baroreflex to support the prevailing blood pressure. This putative mechanism is also demonstrated when the ability to increase cardiac output is compromised; during exercise, the prevailing blood pressure is established primarily by an increase in cardiac output, but if the contribution of the cardiac output is not sufficient to maintain the preset blood pressure, the arterial baroreflex increases peripheral resistance by augmenting sympathetic activity and restricting blood flow to working skeletal muscles.

(Emphasis is mine)

Leg blood flow 10% less during arm/leg exercise, than leg exercise alone? This is significant, and I must admit that when I joggle it certainly feels like this sometimes. But then at the same time, don’t forget the general fitness benefit from arm cardio suggested by the first study. So it may be 10% less than a higher blood output rate than if I were only running. In other words, a higher fitness level that is the result of leg/arm combination cardio is being compromised than a lower fitness level that is the result of mostly leg cardio. And don’t forget that unless you’re joggling with 3 heavy balls(or 4 or more light balls), juggling isn’t as intense as rowing, so it may be a lot less than 10%.

So if for whatever reason you can’t run or walk long distances, juggling by itself can also provide aerobic benefits. Also, if you joggle, or you are considering joggling, your leg speed may be slightly compromised, but it’s not really a big deal and the juggling may be making you fitter than if you were just a runner.

Joggling is a winter sport

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Some people said it couldn’t be done, but everyone must know that joggling can be done during the winter, even with snow on the ground. Happy Thursday everyone!

How juggling is very different from other forms of exercise

I hope everyone is having a good year so far. I am slowly improving my juggling technique and want to share my impressions of the road to getting to advanced juggling and the benefits of juggling.

One of the worst things about juggling is it is very unforgiving of poor technique and effort. But this is also one of the best things about juggling. Not giving it your all means you are much more likely to drop the balls. You can’t fool yourself into thinking you are putting in more effort than you really are.

It is often too easy to fool yourself with other forms of exercise, while walking or even running, on certain exercises machines, or doing martial arts or dance aerobics, etc. In this way, jumping rope is similar to juggling in that you can’t get away with poor technique – the rope will eventually catch your leg if you do it wrong. This is one of the reasons I sometimes recommend jumping rope as a prerequisite to fitness juggling. The rope won’t lie to you. In juggling, the balls won’t lie to you either. A good juggling form is a thing of beauty, and in beauty there is truth.

This makes juggling balls one of the best, most accurate feedback mechanisms when it comes to fitness. They are an excellent teacher for so many different exercisers, even if juggling or joggling isn’t their main form of exercise. This would probably make joggling one of the best forms of cross-training for running – since joggling is less forgiving of bad posture than running, it would be a good idea to use your joggler’s posture while running, to ensure good form. Screenshot-MVI_0579.AVI-2

Good form and coordination requires you to pay attention, to use your brain. Juggling is one of the very few exercises outside of playing some sports that targets your brain. Studies even show brain growth in parts of the brain that control movement. Think of the brain like a muscle – use it or lose it. It would require a whole series of posts or even a dissertation to explain why juggling is so neglected in the fitness world, and how to overcome this.

Old Man Winter versus the joggler part III

Old Man Winter is now really really here. Not a brief cameo. Not a brief, uneventful visit. He is actually here, and He is here to stay with us for a little while, and I am having a fantastic time joggling in it. My earlier experiences about joggling in winter weather wasn’t about the real winter but only a foretaste of it. Now it is the real thing, with snow and ice blanketing the ground, below freezing temperatures and harsh, angry winds that present a unique set of challenges to outdoor exercise. These challenges are very far from insurmountable, so this kind of weather is not a good excuse to stay indoors. He may have a bad temper at times, but make your peace with Old Man Winter to stay fit.

A hat, a few good layers and sweat pants are all you need to stay warm if you are active and the weather is dry. However, when it comes to joggling, finding the right glove can be tricky. They need to be dexterous, and keep you warm at the same time. So they can’t be too big and fluffy. It also helps if they can quantum-teleport themselves to your location if you forget them at home, but they don’t make gloves like this yet(unlike my winter hat).

They also need to be moisture-resistant, for when/if you drop balls in the snow or if you joggle when its snowing(I know none of the jogglers reading this ever drop balls, but just in case). My old work/hiking gloves are all but useless in this weather, which I found out a few days ago while joggling in the evening through a wooded area in the snow. So I bought some new gloves from the local sporting goods store for $16.00.
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The new gloves I got are Wells Lamont and are partially made from Thinsulate. The palm is 60% nylon, 40% polyurethane, while the back is 96% polyester and 4% spandex. gloves2The lining is 100% polyester and the insulation is 100% Thinsulate(100% polyester). Although they will take some getting used to, I have no major issues with them since I didn’t drop the balls very often when I joggled today. The biggest problem is that the middle palm area is a little baggy which may be responsible for the occasional awkward throw and some of the drops. The ice was also responsible for a few drops. They are comfortable, they fit nice and snug, and they are dexterous. They kept my hands warm and dry, even after joggling in them for an hour and after picking up balls from the snow. It was in the upper 20s while I joggled and I didn’t feel it. I think joggling keeps me warmer than regular running. I believe these gloves would be good for a variety of outdoor activities in the winter, but I wouldn’t use them for polar bear wrestling.

It goes without saying that the cold, dry air is also no friend to our lungs, though not as devilish as tobacco smoke. It is the dryness that is more of a problem than the coldness, since cold air won’t freeze our lungs, not even at some of the coldest temperatures on the earth. Our lungs function better when there is some moisture in the air, so dry air can be irritating and inflammatory – even warm, dry air. People with asthma or other respiratory problems may be better off taking it easy in this kind of weather. But don’t avoid cold air if you think it will cause the common cold; I’m sure all my readers know this, but spread the word.

I never run or joggle with a scarf or mask on, since I think it would interfere with my breathing and too much moisture will collect on it from my breathing and runny nose. I think it is only a matter of getting used to the cold, dry air.

I won’t let this cold weather keep me inside, and neither should you.

Winter squash for dinner

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With Old Man Winter roaring into my neck of the woods, coming home to a hot meal after joggling in the snow and doing errands is a necessity.

It’s hard to compete with acorn squash during the cold winter months. It is arguably one of the most perfect foods since besides providing a lot of carbohydrate, it also provides a significant amount of protein and healthy fat if you count the squash seeds, close cousin of the pumpkin seed(pepita). The seeds are loaded with zinc, magnesium, protein, and healthy fats. The flesh of squash is a good source of carotinoids, phytochemicals that are good for the eyes and may have other benefits. Some of these carotinoids are converted into vitamin A by the liver. They can’t be converted to Christianity or Islam though(the liver can do a lot of amazing things, but not everything).

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This acorn squash came out perfectly. I really wish you all could have tasted it. I cut it in half(or rather, into 2/3 and 1/3 due to my clumsiness). I baked it for 40 minutes in the oven. It was wonderfully sweet and filling, it kind of reminded me of sweet potatoes, but a lot more stringy. I had some creamy peanut butter on the side. I’ll eat the seeds some other time – they just need to be lightly toasted.

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This was a New World crop kind of meal, since I ate only food native to the Americas, similar to what Native Americans would have eaten before Columbus showed up. Squash was a very important crop for the Natives and still is in much of Latin America.

I highly recommend squash. I must note that this may be one of those crops you are better off getting organic since their roots absorb a lot of toxic chemicals from the soil.

The role of carotenoids in human health

Nutrition information for pumpkin seeds and squash seeds

Nutrition information for winter squash