Heartgeek Training With Moose!

moose swim

I hit the beach last weekend for a little training with a couple of longtime friends and fellow triathlon participants.  The wife and kids were away at Grandmas, so I was flying solo.  Early Saturday morning, I went for a four mile run, showered, and strapped the bike on the car.

Salt Water Nemesis

I arrived a little before lunch, had something to eat, and hit the beach.  The number one goal of this trip was to get in some ocean swim time.  Something I had failed to do during a week at the beach in late July.

With my ocean swim goal in mind, I decided a nap was in order.  Thankfully, my two buddies shamed me out of that plan.  Time to hit the water.  Lots of witty banter ensued about how much this was going to suck.

We set out with a goal of a quarter mile.  What would be a warmup in the pool.  Within a few minutes, I was already sucking wind.  Unlike a pool, it’s impossible to see where you are going.  And even with only three of us, I was about to collide with one of my buddies.

Swimming turned into basic survival.  Two of us hit the quarter mile goal in a very ugly fashion.  The third in our group mockingly completed a full half mile.  It was rough, but the obstacle and associated fear was finally removed.  I might, just might be able to do a half mile in the ocean.

The next day, we set out to conquer the bike course we will be riding on race day.  Eight miles out with the wind in our face and eight miles back with the wind in our face. The downside of riding near the ocean.

Later that day I commented that I still thought the swim was the worst leg of the triathlon.  My buddy replied back:

Let’s face it, they all suck!

Survey Says

So why are we, or for that matter, why does anyone put themselves through this misery.  Several years ago, fitness writer Ben Greenfield asked his readers why they did triathlons.   Scroll down to the comments to find some interesting responses.  Below are a number of those reasons:

  • To prove I can do anything
  • For balanced fitness
  • Personal challenge
  • Bragging rights
  • To be a bad ass!

There you have it.  Prove to yourself and everyone else that you are a BAD ASS!

Training Summary

For those keeping track,  here is the suggested training plan for the week (per trinewbie.com)

Triathlon Weekly Training

Monday was my off day.  I added a weight workout to Tuesday’s run.  I bumped the Wednesday swim up from a 400 to a 1600 (swimming is my Achilles).  Due to an early morning flight to Northern Minnesota on Thursday, I substituted a weight workout for the brick.

After arriving in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I had to make some major adjustments to the training plan.  I didn’t bring the bike, so here is the plan:

  • Friday – Find one of those 10,000 lakes
  • Saturday – Run
  • Sunday – Off
  • Monday – Run

Since this is a vacation, there will also be a lot of Dairy Queen and Pizza involved.  Good time to double down on the cardio.  Three weeks to race day!

Why Does the Ocean Make Me Feel Better?

ocean

I am on vacation in the Outer Banks (NC) with a dozen or so members of the Maher clan.  Sitting here watching the sun rise and listening to the break of the ocean waves is not a bad way to start the day.  I like being near the ocean for a number of reasons: I like the sun, I like the water, and I like the salt air.  I exercise more, I relax more, and I just feel better.  Is it all in my head, or does being or living by the ocean actually have health benefits?  Let’s find out.

Bathing Hospitals

According to a study last year by epidemiologist Lora Fleming of the University of Exeter (England), the benefits are real.  An article highlighting her research points out that doctors have been prescribing visits to the shore or “bathing hospitals” since the 18th century.

It seems they were on to something.  The study goes on to provide examples of people relaxing, feeling better, and being more active.  The study used an interesting combination of census data, surveys and social experiments to arrive at their conclusions.  Bottom-line, being by the ocean makes people feel better.

The Elements

Sun

The sun get’s a bad rap these days.  The amount of sunscreen slathered on people makes a day at the shore look like a zombie beach party.  I am not saying burn your kids and yourself to a crisp.  I am sayIng exposure to the sun does not translate to immediate skin cancer.  In fact, there are a number of well documented benefits of sun exposure:

  • Helps promote healthy bones and teeth
  • Helps prevent some diseases, including heart disease
  • Helps reduce cramping due to prolonged use of statins

Drinking on the beach all day and passing out in the sun for several hours is not recommended.  A little exposure is all that is needed to feel the benefits of the sun.

Water

Salt water also seems to have medicinal properties.  I found an article on Boomer Living + that highlights the benefits of the minerals contained in the ocean’s water.  Benefits include help with:

  • Arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Skin diseases (rosaeca, eczems, etc.)
  • Depression

It seems that the iodine found in ocean water boosts thyroid function and even improves the immune system.  An important benefit for those of us with cardiovascular disease is improved blood circulations. So go ahead, enjoy a little salt.

Air

The article also cites the benefits of the ocean air.  The theory goes, as waves break on shores, ions are released into the atmosphere.  Rumor has it, these are negatively charged ions.  This is important to those of us addicted to computer screens since they produce positive ions (also known as free radicals).  The claimed benefits of increased negative ions are:

  • Enhanced immune system
  • Increased alertness
  • Improved concentration

I am not sure how much of this “research” I actually buy into.  I just know that I feel better when I am near the ocean.  It could be time for a permanent stay at the bathing hospital.

 

Photo credit: PamLink / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

My Heart Attack Anniversary – 7 Years Later

Me at the Beach

I missed a very important anniversary last week.  July 1st marked 7 years since my cardiac arrest, heart attack and bypass. As the author of a heart attack blog, it’s a little odd that I missed my own anniversary.  On the other hand, I was at the beach enjoying time with my family.  Celebration enough.

Se7en

No, I won’t be writing about the seven deadly sins – maybe what led to my heart attack.  Instead,  a quick post to highlight the 7 things I am most grateful for on this lucky anniversary:

  1. Being alive
  2. Having a wonderful family
  3. Having great friends
  4. Having a healthy lifestyle
  5. Having the ability to relax
  6. Having a job that provides for my family and I
  7. Having the experience of death

I didn’t put a lot of thought into this list and number 7 may seem a little strange.  I am sure it will evolve and grow over time – at least to 8 by this time next year. That’s it for now – Paul

What is Your Child’s Risk of a Heart Attack?

obesity by age and year

Pretty high if you are a Gen-X or Y parent. My last post may have depressed you or even made you a little mad (I think I called you fat).  If so, this post is going to really piss you off.

It looks like Gen-X and Y are passing down the “sit on your ass and eat crap” gene to our kids – the “Net Generation”.  As a result, children today are experiencing high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and elevated cholesterol – previously adult conditions.  Unfortunately, the perfect storm for early-onset cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

NetGen’s Fate

I am not trying to piss anyone off.  As a father, I am very concerned about the declining health of our NetGen children. The American Heart Association (AHA) found that nearly one third of today’s children are overweight or obese – one third!

Although the moniker “NetGen” sounds kind of cool, it does not conjure images of a very active lifestyle.  My kids are in the 6-11 age group in the chart above and my wife and I are in a constant battle to reduce their screen time and get them outside.

I don’t think we are alone in this battle.  This quote from former Surgeon General Richard Carmona puts it in perspective:

Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

I am not sure if that quote is about Gen-X, Y, or the NetGen, but you get the point.

There is Hope

I provide a lot of information on this site about self-improvement.  Hopefully some of that has sunk in and is incorporated into your new healthy lifestyle. Why – because you have a generation to save!

One of the first things you can do for your children is make them aware of heart disease in their family history (if there is any).  My kids are already aware of the crappy hand Dad dealt them.  It’s hard to ignore the big zipper running down the middle of Daddy’s chest.

Smoking has already been established as evil with my children.  My wife and I also frequently speak with our kids about eating healthy and exercising.  Talking is great, but kids learn by watching.  So set a good example – eat your vegetables and exercise (I am assuming you no longer smoke at the dinner table).

Need more help getting your kids to eat their veggies?  Here is an outstanding post on the Fooducate blog that finally unlocks the mystery.  Guess which one of the following three strategies works best to get your kids to eat healthy foods?

  1. Eat it, it’s good for you
  2. Eat it, it’s tasty
  3. Eat it

You guessed it, number three.  We are parents, we can tell our kids what to do.  Eating healthy is not an option.   Now with that mystery finally solved, on to exercise.  Get up off the couch and get active with your kids.  Play with them!  Watching sports on TV with your kids does not count as active playtime.

Let’s Move

I am far from an expert in motivating children.  Just ask the kids and parents on the kindergartener soccer team I coached this year.   What a cluster….I mean challenge.  Fear not, there are a lot of great resources out there to help us parents.  Check out the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative.

The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake. – Michelle Obama

The American Heart Association also has a program called Voices for Heathy Kids.  Both offer similar strategies for reversing the declining health of our children.  Eat healthy and get active!  It’s pretty simple, but definitely a challenge for today’s “over committed” families.

Time for the guilt.  Disregarding our own health is irresponsible enough.  We can’t encourage the same behavior in our children.  A healthy lifestyle is a family commitment.  Just start small, make it fun, and make it a habit.

References:

“Overweight in Children.”  The American Heart Association, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 June 2014.

“Statistics Fact Sheet – Youth and Cardiovascular Diseases” Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Blaha MJ, Dai S, Ford ES, Fox CS, Franco S, Fullerton HJ, Gillespie C, Hailpern SM, Heit JA, Howard VJ, Huffman MD, Judd SE, Kissela BM, Kittner SJ, Lackland DT, Lichtman JH, Lisabeth LD, Mackey RH, Magid DJ, Marcus GM, Marelli A, Matchar DB, McGuire DK, Mohler ER 3rd, Moy CS, Mussolino ME, Neumar RW, Nichol G, Pandey DK, Paynter NP, Reeves MJ, Sorlie PD, Stein J, Towfighi A, Turan TN, Virani SS, Wong ND, Woo D, Turner MB; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2014;129:e28–e292.

Generation XL – From MTV to Obesity

genxperspectives_nirvana-lrgrGeneration X, the MTV generation, my generation, the fattest generation ever! There is an alarming increase in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks in Gen-Xer’s.  And from the looks of things, it’s only going to get worse for Millennials.  Now that I have completely bummed out two entire generations, let’s see what’s behind all of this unhealthiness.

Enter the Aussies

A study done by researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia has confirmed that if current trends continue, Generation X will overtake Baby Boomers for poor health, including rates of obesity and diabetes. I wouldn’t dismiss this as an Australian problem. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 70% of American adults are either overweight or obese.

Hold on, I thought this was a heart blog, not an obesity blog.  It is, but being obese puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Guess what happens to people with heart disease and high blood pressure?  Their left arm starts to hurt.

The researchers found that Gen-X is more than twice as likely to be overweight or obese at 25-44 years of age, compared to Baby Boomers at the same age.  One of the coauthors of the study, Ms. Rhiannon Pilkington, suggests there is growing evidence the the trend is happening world wide.

So what is fueling the rise in obesity for Gen Xer’s when compared to Baby Boomers?  According to Ms. Pilkington, it’s because we sit on our ass and eat junk food.  Ok, she actually stated it this way:

Although the two groups in our study did not seem to have any difference in levels of physical activity, our lifestyles and food environments have changed dramatically over recent decades.

So both generations are equally active, what gives Ms. Pilkington?

Transport options and workplaces encourage sedentary behaviour, and food high in fat and sugar is often more readily available than a healthier alternative. This may account for why the younger generation is developing unhealthy weight levels at an earlier age.

See, I told you it’s because we sit on our ass and eat junk food.  If you haven’t seen it before, check out my series on cardiac recovery for tips on exercising and eating healthy.

All This Obesity is Stressing Me Out!

As a Gen-Xer, I am supposed to be indifferent about the Millennial generation (Gen-Y).  But it’s hard not to feel bad for them.  The Millennials may be the first generation to see rising rates of early-onset obesity related diseases such as high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and elevated cholesterol.  To put things in perspective, the number of young adults (18-29) who are obese has more than tripled in the last 40 years.

Millennials are overachievers.  In addition to being obese, they are completely stressed out.  Unfortunately, a lethal cardiac combo. According to a report by the American Psychological Association, with the exception of Millennials (those 18-33 years of age), all other age groups reported decreasing levels of stress.  So why are the Millennials so stressed?  Here is what the survey found:

  • 76 percent were stressed out about work;
  • 73 percent fretted over money;
  • 59 percent obsessed over relationships’
  • 56 percent were faced with intense family responsibilities;
  • 55 percent were freaked out over the current state of the economy.
  • Money for nothing and chicks for free sounded sensible when I was younger.

Don’t worry Gen-Y, in addition to offering tips for healthy eating and exercising, my series on cardiac recovery also offers tips on simplifying your life and relaxing.

Money for Nothing

Who knew that money for nothing and chicks for free would lead to obesity and heart attacks?  Both of our most recent generations are facing serious health issues.  It’s time we clean up our act.  Not only can we save our lives, but we can start providing a good example for the next generation, our children.

References:

The University of Adelaide. Gen X Obesity a Major Problem for Healthcare, Workforce. The University of Adelaide News and Events. N.p., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 June 2014.

Pilkington, Rhiannon, Anne W. Taylor, Graeme Hugo, and Gary Wittert. Are Baby Boomers Healthier than Generation X? A Profile of Australia’s Working Generations Using National Health Survey Data. PLOS One. University of Adelaide, 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 June 2014.

Pew Research Center. (2010). Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next. Retrieved from http://pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf

Watson, Elwood. “Millennial Stress College Years and Beyond.” Diverseeducation. N.p., 6 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 June 2014.

How to Stay Motivated After a Heart Attack

army motivation

Was I motivated to stay healthy after my heart attack?  Of course I was – for awhile.  I changed my diet, joined a gym, and started running.  Then, the same lack of self-control and discipline that fueled my first heart attack started to creep back into my life.  I began binging on junk food, became too busy to go to the gym and became too bored with running.  I was not spiraling out of control (yet), but I had lost the motivation to “move”, to be healthy.

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” – Carol Welch

What is Motivation?

In layman’s terms, it’s the desire to do something.  I want to be healthy, therefore I eat right and exercise.  It’s pretty simple on the surface, but there are many theories and models devoted to understanding motivation.  For our purposes, let’s focus on just two – intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is based on the enjoyment of a task or a belief that it is the right thing to do.  For example, I really enjoy eating vegetables and running.   I also believe eating right and exercising is the right thing to do.  Based upon my enjoyment and beliefs associated with these tasks, I stay motivated to do them because they are a part of who I am.

If eating right and exercising were part of who I am, I would not have had a heart attack at 41.

Extrinsic Motivation

As the name implies, extrinsic motivation is based on external factors – primarily rewards or punishment.  Rewards are awesome, and punishment (or guilt) has fueled my personal development since childhood.

In the green vegetable/running example above, extrinsic motivators or rewards might be improved appearance and health.  The punishment for not eating right and exercising is another heart attack (or death).

Which is more Effective?

Based on my examples, you might say extrinsic motivation is superior.  However, research indicates that intrinsic motivation is more effective long-term.  So we focus on intrinsic motivation, right?  Not entirely.  As with anything in life, there needs to be a balance.

An article on HealthCentral discusses the need for a balanced approach.  Intrinsic motivators keep you going in the long run, but extrinsic motivators get you started and keep you moving in the short-term.  Check out the article for more detail.

Enough Psychobabble, How Do I Motivate Myself?

You form habits.  Early on, rewards are going to help.  Exercise and eating right improve physical appearance.  Who doesn’t want to look better?  But let’s face it, even if you had a heart attack at a “younger” age, you are still probably past your physical prime.  Looking good will only take you so far.

In order to stay motivated long-term, you need to make the mental shift.  You need to envision yourself as a healthy person.  Healthy people do healthy things.  Before you know it, you enjoy doing healthy things.  Congratulations, you are intrinsically motivated.

To put the plan into action, try the following:

  1. Set goals – Goals need to be measurable and obtainable.  I will lose 2 pounds a month.  Not I will have six pack abs.
  2. Schedule activities – I put my morning workouts on my Google calendar.  I also build exercise into activities I am already doing (riding my bike to work).
  3. Measure performance – Take before and after pictures.  They are very motivating!  There is also a lot of cool wearable technology out there to track fitness goals.
  4. Provide rewards – Recognize when you achieve goals.  If all goes as planned, you may need some new clothes.  Or, a Fitbit may be in order.
  5. Enjoy – Make sure you are doing something you enjoy.  Running sucks, try biking or swimming.

Most people can’t understand how surviving a heart attack isn’t motivation enough to be healthy.  I get that, but I also know how difficult it can be to break old habits and form new ones.  Start with a decision, take action, repeat.  If that doesn’t work, get the dude in the picture above to start yelling at you.

References:

Nelson, Lisa. “Getting Heart Healthy: Motivation to Change Your Habits.” N.p., n.d. Web.

Photo credit: United States Marine Corps Official Page / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)