Archive for September, 2012

Springtime ride in Sweden (May 2002)

The days are finally getting to be long, warm and sunny here in Stockholm. Yesterday was a holiday (Ascension Day – don’t ask me why they take it so seriously here) so I spent 3 hours in our new garden ripping out lilac roots and planting potatos under the watchful eye of my loving garden master. After finishing up with that I finally got to install the new stem that I paid way too much for on my Hakkalugi (Thomson 120 x 5). The wheels finally hit the pavement at 5:15.

With Keith Bontrager’s rant about spinning (http://www.compint.com/stinkingweasels/BontragerRants/spinning.htm) fresh in mind I set course for a set of islands that are in the lake that lies just west of Stockholm. A quick spin over the turntable bridge at Nockeby, past the area on Kårsön where hundreds of motorcyclists of every stripe gather every week during the summer for their Wednesday night cruises and over another bridge to Drottningholm Palace – a mini-Versailles with beautiful gardens that is on the Unesco world heritage list. Wave to the Royal Family and continue out on the smooth, wide, recently swept bike path.

The road swings right, then left around the castle grounds and soon passes a golf course. If you turn right you can ride along a tree-lined road over a little hill and down to Lövö kyrka – a church built in the 1300’s with a nice collection of runestones that are about 300 years older than that. I continued straight along the bike path, spinning in the middle ring and trying to keep my heart rate between 150 and 160. First ride with the monitor this season and I noticed that the drop bars on my new ride require me to lift my hand to read the watch – I’ll need to get a foam donut so I can mount it on the flats instead (next to the bell). Noticed about this point that I should have brought a vest along. Was a bit too optimistic regarding the temperature – shorts and a short sleeved jersey proved to be a bit too chilly.

Had just about caught up with a guy on a celeste Bianchi MTB when he took a turn up a hiking trail. Followed him and caught up to him on the first little rise, when he stopped to check a trailside map. Turned out that he had no idea where he was, so I showed him and told him about some of the other nice trails on that island. He asked me how it was to ride trails on a cross bike and I told him that it was kind of a rough ride and that line selection was critical, but I think it is fun and it is much faster on asphalt.

Remembering KB’s words about tuning the motor I returned to the paved path and spun on out towards the setting sun, dipping under the road and around the tunnel, then swooping back under to where the bike path is actually the old road to Ekerö. At this point the asphalt is very smooth and is bordered on both sides by a tunnel of Linden tress for a couple of miles as it makes big lazy turns across the rolling, fertile landscape. As I approached the bridge at Tappströmmen and Ekerö Centrum I could see the little ski hill that is just East of town.

I turned left and rode through town, following the signs indicating the preferred bike route. The bike path turned right, up the hill and into what the locals claim is the northermost stand of beech forest in Sweden. I know for a fact that that is not the case, having walked through another beech forest neer Wik castle, which is at least a 45 minute drive north of here, but I decided not to make an issue of it because this one is really nice. Nice until I reach the point where the dirt path has been roped off for some horseback riding trials that are based at the local manor house grounds. Didn’t want to spook any of the animals (or spectators for that matter) so I found some singletrack and bypassed the competition area.

As I approached the little ski hill (300 feet of vertical, maximum) I searched for an suitable path up to the top. Found a line up that looked fine from a distance, but when I got there it turned out to be a sandy/loose gravel horse path. Not much fun to climb, especially when sporting high-pressure 700 x 30C SpeedMax Cross tires. Bailed out about halfway up when I found another trail down the shoulder of the hill.

It was now 6:05, so I turned towards home, riding through the town instead of the beech forest until I came back to the main bike path back to Stockholm. Had a bit of a headwind at this point, but with my shadow projected out on the path before me I could analyze my pedal stroke for 20 minutes or so while dutifully returning to my spinning ways. Noticed that my right knee seems to wave around laterally as the RPM’s rise into the triple digits. Don’t know whether to blame a lack of mileage or the Time Aliums. Never had that happen with Frogs, despite their lack of spring-loaded centering.

Passed quite a few people on inlines, some with poles, but most without. Remembered when I brought a pair over in ’91 – caused quite a stir back then. Now everybody has ’em. Had to smile when I saw a poor lady walking back towards the car in her stocking feet, carrying her skates. She did not look like she wanted to talk about it!

Caught another rider on a MTB just as I was passing Drottningholm on my way back. He had tights and a jacket on, which I would have appreciated at the moment, but he was also saddled with fenders, a rack, platform pedals and tennies, none of which I was interested in hauling up the long, gradual bridge incline. Decided to pretend to be Lance, helicopter-spinning my way up the hill at about 120 RPM and 173 BPM for maybe 5 minutes. Noticed that the guy who was steering the small boat that was passing under the bridge just as I was going over it also had short sleeves on and I wondered if he was as chilly as I was.

Turned left to follow the shoreline home, but despite my resolve to make it a spinning day I was drawn into the nature reserve to follow a new trail home. Mostly evergreen forest here, with a beautiful little lake bordered by glacial moraines on two sides – elongated piles of dark stone, seemingly arranged by huge prehistoric beings who had no idea how to line them up straight. Rode for about 15 minutes without seeing another soul. Thought that was kind of strange being as it was a holiday, but decided to just enjoy it.

As I was picking my way up one particularly rough granny gear stretch of trail I was startled to hear labored breathing behind me. Had to laugh as I clipped out and stepped aside to let the runner pass me – at least he looked to be very fit! Passed him back after the trail flattened out and he muttered something about it having been too good to last. We both got a good smile out of that.

Came out of the forest at Åkeshovs castle, and passed under the subway line at the station there. Rode towards home along a residential street bordered with trees that had reddish-orange leaves. They looked almost like ash leaves, but I don’t recall them being that color in the spring. Chose a road that leads to a path that runs through the garden area where I had been planting earlier in the day. Noticed along the way that the aroma of the honeysuckle bushes seemed to be gaining in strength as the day was drawing to a close. I wasn’t feeling too bad myself.

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Filtering gnats but inhaling camels

Filtering gnats but inhaling camels?*

(see Matthew 23:24)

CrossFit claims that health and fitness can be concisely and precisely defined as increased work capacity across broad time, modal and age domains. The prescription for achieving this fitness is constantly varied high intensity functional movements. Coach Glassman recognized many years ago that training is only one of the important factors involved in increasing work capacity, so the CrossFit mandate very logically expanded beyond the realm of training to encompass a nutritional component as well.

The commitment to evidence-based fitness and the open-source nature of CrossFit support the aims of building a broad, general and inclusive fitness program. If increased work capacity (sustainable over the entire span of life) truly is the holy grail of performance improvement, we as CrossFit trainers should open-mindedly embrace all measures that have been shown to effectively, efficiently and safely improve our capacities.

With that in mind, is it time to look beyond training and nutrition? Are there other areas of our lifestyles that can be tweaked to better help us reach our health and fitness goals?

Studies indicate that getting less than the ideal amount of sleep on a consistent basis can be detrimental to cognitive and physiological functions. Further studies show that the amount of REM sleep that we get is a more accurate factor than simply measuring the total amount of time spent sleeping. Additional studies indicate that it is possible to increase the proportion of REM sleep time to total sleep time by controlling the timing and duration of naps taken on a daily basis. Is it time to evaluate whether the use of a “Siesta Model” can be shown to support increases in work capacity? How much of a difference would it need to make before it would become part of the general CrossFit doctrine?

If training, nutrition and sleep patterns might all conceivably play roles in improving work capacity across broad time, modal and age domains, are there other as-yet unaddressed patterns of human activity that might also be optimized to achieve even better results?

What about the consumption of alcohol? What about the use of tobacco? Does it make sense for a person to adhere to strict dietary principles while smoking a pack a day? Can we justify the emphasis placed upon controlling macronutrient ratios while turning a blind eye to a potential alcohol problem, just because the person in question is not burdened by excess body fat?

Many of us have come to grips with the application of the Pareto (80-20) Principle when it comes to training and nutrition. We accept that the last fractions of potential improvement in any specific area are often not necessarily worth pursuing because the time and effort spent doing so would be detrimental to the overall picture.

We skip workouts to take care of sick friends or family members. We schedule cheat days around important holidays. Doing so might potentially make us miss out on some measureable benefit in work capacity, but we accept that because as important as work capacity is, it is not the only meaningful measure of the quality of human existence. Perhaps these principles can also be applied to the use of alcohol and/or tobacco, but shouldn’t we at least try to look into how much of an effect these might have in order to help people make informed choices? Our humanity may indeed lie in our imperfections, but it might be instructive to attempt to list and rank-order some of the potential gains that can be reasonably expected from a gluten-free or sugar-free lifestyle as compared to those that can be reasonably expected from giving up alcohol or tobacco.

When it comes to the best way for CrossFit to address these issues I have more questions than answers. What I do know is that a wise person observed that we fail at the margins of our experience. We as a community cannot continue to ignore areas of human activity that have obvious impacts on human performance while remaining true to our charter. We will need to explore this unfamiliar terrain in order to expand our ability to improve work capacity over broad time, modal and age domains. It need not become a moral or ethical issue. We should strive to focus on the objective and measurable aspects of the issues rather than the subjective and emotional baggage that we all bring to the discussion. The road forward won’t be easy and it won’t be fun, but it cannot remain untaken without exposing us collectively as hypocrites.