Expert, or at least, intermediate plus 51%

via Daily Prompt: Expert

“Expert” happens to be the term for the third level of exercise at the fitness course I use. The signs at the stations give three numbers for how many repetitions to do: Beginner, Intermediate, Expert. I do “expert” rep-counts at some of the stations. I haven’t even reached “beginner” on the one where you swing along a horizontal ladder. On most, my rep counts are 51% between “intermediate” and “expert”. My muscle strength and stamina continue to improve. I increase by a rep or two here and there every few weeks. On the way to “Expert”!

Along with rep-counts, the instructions on the sign say whether to walk, jog, or run to the next station. On this question, I am pretty well stuck at intermediate. It isn’t the legs, it’s the breath. I wonder how much aerobic conditioning can improve at an advanced age.


Amazing News Beyond Today’s Medical Science

My wife has scored a zero. That’s the best possible score on the blood test which looks for C-Reactive Protein (“CRP”). CRP is present when a person has inflammation. People with rheumatoid arthritis (“RA”), like my wife, always have inflammation. She has had inflammation for about twenty years. It is inflammation that damages the joints of RA sufferers and causes so much pain.

During those years she has used various powerful medicines with bad side effects. Some can cause blindness. Some can cause baldness. Some are immuno-suppressants that can, and did, lead to infections. Some are anti-inflammatories that can, and did, cause ulcers.

She also has tried a wide range of other therapies. A few examples: Chinese herbs, the “elimination diet”, more exercise, acupuncture, cupping, physical therapy, hot yoga, and my personal favorite for its weirdness, bee stings. Yes, since the Romans, physicians have had occasional success with bee venom in patients with auto-immune diseases such as RA. No such luck for her though.

So what was the miracle treatment that relieved the pain? Was it another genetically engineered, half-mouse-half-human medical marvel? Was it a new molecule discovered in a giant laboratory of a giant pharma company?

No and no. What led to this remarkable result was a twelve-day fast. Twelve days with nothing but water!

Please see my earlier post “Fast!” for warnings and disclaimers (IANAD, talk to your doctor, fasting is very dangerous for some people,  etc.)

During the fast she was tired. Serious exercise was out of the question, but she did take walks. All medications were stopped during the fast, and for a while before it.

She lost muscle tone (and lots of fat). She lost muscle tissue, because the heart must have glucose, and there are only three sources: food, the liver’s glycogen (a day or two’s supply at most), and the breakdown of muscle tissue.

Other than the heart, the rest of the body’s cells can get energy from ketones, which  the body will make from fat. In fact, the nerve cells probably benefit from the switch to ketone energy.

As the fat cells are emptied, toxins dissolved in the fat are released into the bloodstream. This probably is part of why a dieter feels bad.

The fast was not a pleasant experience for her. Actual hunger pains went away after the first two days, as the digestive system shut down. But the yearning for food increased over time. It took a lot of willpower.  a

I was skeptical, but apparently, it worked.

Now she is on a strict vegan diet, as recommended by many of the same doctors who recommend fasting. She feels much better. Even on a vegan diet, she is regaining weight. A week later she is exercising vigorously again, and feeling much much better. It is practically a miracle!



Danner Boots for Hikers

Over thirty-five years ago, the awesome Jim S convinced me to splurge on my Danner brand boots . To this day they remain a sturdy companion for hard hikes. I don’t say “comfy” because my model is designed for support and safety first, as befits Jim S., a guy who likes to climb rocks and camp in ice-filled valleys. (I know two people who like ice-camping. I also know other crazy people who do not.) (Jim’s girlfriend Maria really really loved him; she even went ice-camping with him.) I also like the occasional rock scramble, and I am sure these saved my ankles more than once.

Recently, I finally managed to do some slight damage to the boots. I emailed Danner about possible solutions, expecting to receive a sales pitch in response. Instead I received a sensible answer the same day! They pointed out that a fix at home would probably not last; a good local cobbler could fix the boots; and Danner’s own repair department also is available.

Great boots, great customer service.

Update – Where the Efforts Stand

Levels of Exercise

I am plateauing between the second and third levels on the exercise course. Until last week, it had been about four months since I increased the amount of exercise. This week I made some slight increases.

My LSW has been increasing her level on the course gradually. Some of the stations remain very difficult for her, due to inflammation of some of her joints, due to her autoimmune disorder. Over time, the sore joints have led to muscle weakness from disuse.
Frequency of Exercise

I go regularly, every other day. The regularity of it is very beneficial: enough rest, little soreness, less mental effort in choosing what to do & when to do it. Net effect, I would skip more times if it were less regular.

My LSW does the exercise course most times. She also plays tennis and tries a variety of other exercise. The most recent was “hot yoga”, which would probably be a great blog entry, but I didn’t try it.

Of course, keeping frequency high is important. As they say, “Seven days without exercise makes one weak.”

Weather sometimes interferes with the exercise course. Overall our luck using the park has been extraordinarily good. Today we finished, and entered the car, just as a few drops fell, at the start of a heavy downpour.

Vacations take one away from the park. Courses like ours do exist in many places, and the internet may help one find them. But on a recent four day trip, I didn’t do that. I did get in a good swim in a pool at the Watergate Complex. Shout out to Aunt Tenny!

My LSW and I continue to strive for good nutrition, meaning, a diet of mainly vegetable foods and “good” fish. She has grown interested in probiotics, and has been making kefir at home. She also started making pickles, which are great!

The big downfall for nutrition is our endless round of social events. They always feature lots of excellent, delicious, bad food, especially pork, noodles, and desserts. As if that weren’t enough temptation, everyone brings home the leftovers too.

My lifelong habit is to never throw out food, due to childhood training, which was due to a family history of poverty. I always feel a thrill when I manage to throw out some undesirable food.

We were surprised to learn that the nuts we eat contain traces of endosulfan, DDT, and other man-made organochlorines. In general, we are learning that there are real differences between the products of organic and industrial farming, and buying more organic produce than before. But also,  poisons can remain for years in the soil after a farm converts to organic methods.


Supplemental Chemicals

I take, every day:

  • ginseng,  as a tonic
  • naproxen to prevent muscle soreness
  • vitamin D-3 to treat chronic low levels in my blood
  • vitamin E for its known benefits for heart health
  • a time-released B-complex for energy
  • a multi-vitamin-and-mineral pill for no particular reason

I found that modafinil was effective for concentration, but interfered with sleep. I rarely use it, although perhaps I will take some before my next certification exam or chess tournament.

Results After a Year

We both look better, lost some weight, and gained some muscle.

My sciatica has not recurred. Nor have my toe cramps, stiff necks, or kidney stones. My cholesterol levels are pretty good, without any medications. My energy levels are okay, but still far from the levels of youth. I still do the “old man grunt” when I stand up. I haven’t been depressed for a while.
The Outlook

My plan is to continue to do the exercise course every two days, with increased number of reps at the stations. My LSW has just begun another extended fast, again hoping to treat her autoimmune disorder.