Tag Archives: winter

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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The winter reds, and blues

2208147575_dc5f255bdfI hope everyone is having a splendid winter so far. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to engage in outdoor or even indoor exercise this time of year due to the winter blues. Some people may even experience major depression caused by the shorter days, and may find it difficult to crawl out of their warm, cozy bed. If it is very cold outside, some folks won’t even venture outside.

In part, genetics may play a role. Indeed, slowing down and feeling depressed during the winter may be related to the hibernation response in other animals- Metabolic depression in hibernation and major depression: an explanatory theory and an animal model of depression.

This is fascinating research. It’s not necessarily easy to “prove” anything either way with this kind of speculation; even if it were “proven” that depression is related to hibernation, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to “hibernate” if you feel depressed, unless you are a bear. Understanding that there is a connection between the two could lead to a better understanding of depression and more effective ways to overcome it.

What we know already may already be helpful for some. In many animals, the hibernation response is turned on by light deprivation due to shorter winter days and/or lower temperatures. SAD(seasonal affective disorder) is a form of depression that tends to affect people more during the winter. Lack of light may play a role, and so logically, “light therapy” by using a light box in the morning may be beneficial for those affected – Seasonal affective disorder: an overview.

If you have eye problems though, using a light box may not be a good idea. It doesn’t work for everyone since the brain is very complex and we all have our own unique biochemistry. Some people are more sensitive to light than others. Whatever you do, keep on exercising, and try to expose yourself to extra light in the morning if you have SAD. If you think you have serious depression, seek professional help.

I must admit that I sometimes feel a little blue in the morning this time of year, but a quick juggle or some exercises and turning on all the lights seems to help me quickly overcome it. It is nothing serious luckily. I never drink coffee or caffeinated beverages, so I have to rely on intense exercise, and sometimes eating or drinking something very spicy to help wake up my system.

I don’t joggle early in the morning usually(though I often juggle a little), since I tend to drop the balls too much if I joggle soon after waking(the darkness doesn’t help) and I often don’t have the time anyway. I just do it later in the day. On the rare occasion I do a long, very early morning joggle(I mean around 5:30 AM to 7:00 AM), I notice I am slowly improving. Ideally, I’d like to do more joggling at this time of day, and so I continue to study various approaches to quickly overcoming early morning grogginess without caffeine. I’m open to any new suggestions.

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.

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 is officially here

Now that winter is officially here with all its challenges and positives, I keep thinking of the how different it was when I joggled during the summer and its own unique challenges.

I joggled many times around this lake during the summer. This photo was taken in the Rockefeller Preserve, Pocantico Hills, NY.

In a strange kind of way, I miss it, especially as the weather gets colder. It’s like I have forgotten the profuse sweating, the heat-induced muscle fatigue causing me to slow down or drop the balls, the countless insects biting me or flying into my face, and the sunscreen I had to rub over much of my body to prevent sunburn. Okay, maybe I haven’t forgotten, but I still achieved bliss on a good run. I remember joggling in the summer wishing it was the heaven that is winter.

And now sometimes I wish it was summer, or spring. How ironic. The middle of the winter means heavy clothing, shorter days, a running nose, the risk of frost-bite, kids throwing snow balls, and sometimes stiffer muscles. If there is snow or ice, winter joggling can be especially problematic – be not afraid of new challenges. And the local kids should know they can’t win in a snow ball fight with a joggler!

“When you long for a life without difficulties, remind yourself that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure” – Uknown

Although I have to adapt to the weather, all the rules for joggling are the same. For beginners, this is very important: Maintaining the proper rhythm and posture is everything. It is like music, making beautiful music, becoming one with the rhythm and one with the balls. You may hear the music, you may not. If a melody develops, literally run with it. Hum along if you want.

With all this emphasis on rhythm, and music perhaps it would be better for jogglers to forget about running and to think of themselves as dancers. Running simply takes you from point A to point B. But juggling adds a new magical dimension to the running; going from point A to point B^3.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of dancer-joggler you think of yourself as. If you prefer the grace of a ballerina, go with that. Or if you prefer hip-hop dance, go ahead. You don’t even necessarily have to do the 3 ball cascade pattern, although that is most efficient and easiest for beginners. Above all, be creative. You may surprise yourself and learn all sorts of new things about yourself through joggling. If it really does make us smarter, that isn’t such a surprise.

In the new year, whatever your fitness goals are, it helps to be as creative as possible, to think outside-the-box, to make it as fun as possible and to not care what anyone else thinks.

And for the record, I’ve decided to stop eating eggs, which makes me vegan yet again.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I hope everyone has a happy Turkey day. For me it is “Sweet Potato Day”, since I’m a vegetarian.

I may try to squeeze in some joggling and/or juggling today, even with everything I have to do. There’s nothing like a wild joggle this time of year to help put my mind at ease. The autumn colors in my area are spectacular.

If the winter or being busy during the holidays starts eating away at your fitness routine, remember these wise words from Aristotle:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Always think of creative ways of incorporating exercise into what you do. See if you can teach a family member how to juggle. Go for a walk with your family after Thanksgiving dinner if possible, but above all, have a good time. Be thankful for what you have. Happy Thanksgiving again, and Happy Holidays!