I am still not back to posting regularly. I started celebrating my anniversary a little early this year. I will be back next week with all the features you've come to know (and love?): Ryan Ruins Requests, The Marathon, Bangla Word of the Day, and page after page of economic diatribe.

See you soon.


Put Politicians in Jail

That is my response to Arnold Kling's brilliant post on EconLog. There he writes:
I actually think that the best point at which to engage libertarians is over how, not why. In the real world, how can the potential harms of the institution of government be minimized? It is on the how questions that I see libertarians divided among ourselves, evading difficult issues with hand-waving, and engaging in wishful thinking.
For example, on the issue of financial bailouts, it is easy to say that we oppose bailouts. What is difficult to do, starting from where we are today, is to implement institutional mechanisms to prevent bailouts. Each bailout is like paying ransom for a kidnapping. No matter how much you promise never to pay ransom, in a real case involving someone you love, the incentive is to pay the ransom. Similarly, no matter how strongly we believe that bailouts are wrong, in a real case where a major financial institution is in trouble, politicians have an incentive to undertake a bailout.
So how do we ensure that our institutional mechanisms prevent bailouts and politicians' incentives to "cheat" on the American idea of limited government never become too tempting?

Jail them. Jail them all. Throw any politician in prison at their first attempt at overreach.

I'm serious. They would do the same to you. Hell, they do the same to you, all the time. We live our whole lives afraid of the lawman coming with his big stick to drag us to the clink. Most of us are good, innocent people simply living life the best we can. Lawman (my sister and I call him Gub) wants to take away your right to drink raw milk and use phosphorous in your dishwasher. Gub wants you to carry around a file cabinet of documents if you want to go travelling on vacation, or if you get pulled over by police in Arizona, just so that you can "prove" that you are who you say you are. (However, identity is a non-falsifiable claim, anyway.) Gub will break down your door if you download mp3s or if you play your guitar too loudly on a Sunday afternoon. Gub shakes his finger at you if your kids light firecrackers in a public park.

We live in a police state. The only way to prevent political overreach is to subject our politicians to the same standard they take pleasure in holding us to. Throw them all in jail, and behold how freedom reasserts itself.


The Marathon: Part XI - Treating Injuries Once They Happen

Despite our best efforts to mitigate against such things, we sometimes suffer running-related injury. Given all I have previously said about the importance of good running form and safe training habits, you may be reluctant to finally admit it if you experience a running injury.

But there is no need for that. Occasionally we type so much at work that our wrists and hands get tendonitis. Sometimes we burn or cut ourselves while cooking. Sometimes we trip and fall or skin our knuckles against something sharp. The bottom line is, you can't always avoid injury even if you do everything correctly. Injuries happen.

They happen, and they are no big deal, provided you take the appropriate course of action. Here are a few guidelines to keep you on track for Montreal, even if you injure yourself.

A Stitch In Time Saves Nine
Never was the adage truer than for running-related injuries. Generally speaking, pain means problems. Too often, runners accustom themselves to "running through the pain" and turn a small problem into a big one.

The impact of this is that what would have required a couple of days' treatment soon requires weeks. By "running through the pain," you end up costing yourself more valuable training time in the long run.

So, don't wait to treat your pain. As soon as you feel it, take the time to make an assessment and determine the best course of action. Do this in the middle of a run, if you have to. As soon as you feel the pain, assess it. Don't wait until later. Don't train through it. Figure it out and act. (If nothing else, you'll be more empowered.)

Shin Splints Don't Count
You can train through shin splints. Never worry about them. The pain subsides after a few strides. There is only one way to make the pain go away: toe taps. If you are doing toe taps regularly, you will not get shin splints. If you're not, start doing them. 200 toe taps per foot per day should suffice. Within a few days, your shin splints will be gone.

Tendonitis: A Quick-and-Dirty Treatment Guide
In general, the only cure for tendonitis is ice and rest. Your tendons are inflamed and you need to leave them alone for a while until they can heal.

When I was an NCAA athlete, my trainer suggested I take three regular-strength aspirin, three times per day, for no longer than a week. The aspirin reduces the swelling in your tendons. Such a recommendation is extremely hard on your liver and kidneys and should only be done under the watchful eye of a professional sports medicine practitioner. For what it's worth, I found this treatment to be highly effective.

As soon as you feel tendonitis coming on, stop running, walk home, and take a day off. If your legs still hurt the following day, take a week off. Trust me, you'll be better off if you put in the rest time and heal quickly. If you run through the pain, it won't be long before you will require 2-6 weeks of rest, rather than just one. Be smart about this.

Stress Fractures
While I've never had one myself, I can tell you that they are serious and require rest and inactivity to heal. There is nothing you can do. Get zen, get a good book, and bite the bullet. You're much better off letting your leg heal than subjecting yourself to an injury that could potentially ensure that you never run again.

Random Pains in Your Ankles, Calves, Knees, Etc.
Occasionally you may find minor pains that do not impact your performance much, but are highly annoying. Many of these can be traced to the fact that your shoes are worn out. If icing and aspirin (for a night) don't resolve the problem, consider whether it's time to buy a new pair of shoes.

Persistent Lower Back Pain
If you seldom do crunches or any kind of core exercises, you will discover that your lower back will start aching like a sprain. It will be a mild, persistent pain that improves with rest, but does not immediately subside when you stop running. It may seem counter-intuitive, but pain like this can be caused by weak abdominal muscles, and can be resolved by dedicating more time to doing crunches.

(Hunts)Man, EconoRomney, and the State

David Friedman remarks that prefers a hypothetical President Jon Huntsman to a hypothetical President Mitt Romney. Friedman points out, though, that he is not a conservative and really knows very little about Huntsman.

I grew up in Utah, so Huntsman is no stranger to me. In fact, Huntsman is my business school's namesake. The national media has yet to give him a close look. What they'll find is nothing particularly atrocious or Earth-shattering, in the same way that nothing about Mitt Romney is particularly atrocious or Earth-shattering.

That's because Huntsman and Romney are exactly the same: Rich mormons with good intentions who will invariably be asked to make policy decisions that may conflict with their religious convictions. In the end, they will always choose based on their religion. Partly this is because it is natural to make important judgements based on one's deepest convictions, and partly this is because - as any rich mormon knows - making nice with the mormon community is good for business.

Everyone knows where mormons stand on the issues. At the end of the day, mormons look a lot like classic Republican social conservatives, but their rich history of socialism and communism reveals them to be economically statist. This is unfamiliar territory in the United States, but in Canada and Europe it is actually quite common to be socially conservative and economically anti-market. I guess the closest we get here in the states is the old Huey Long / southern socialist mentality. 

The consistent uptick in mormons with pro-Obama belief systems is further evidence of this. Not saying it's bad. It is what it is.

Furthermore, anyone who has spent much time in Utah knows it to be the bloated credit-and-construction-based economy that it is. In many ways it is a model of the US economy itself, consisting primarily of large banks and insurance companies selling credit to fund a perpetual housing boom that lines the pockets of the government, the banks, and the local religion. That is pretty much a microcosm for US government if I've ever seen one.

I also happen to know a long list of mormons employed by the US federal bureaucracy; folks who either grew up in Utah or received their schooling at Brigham Young University. Utah State University's connections to NASA are well-known by all, and even your humble correspondent was once selected for employment with the Council of Economic Advisers until they ran out of funding for an extra intern.

The point is that Utah and its mormons are "government insiders" if ever there were any. Huntsman and Romney are establishment Republicans. If you're looking for liberty, look elsewhere.


Today's Track Workout

Just so I don't leave you in the lurch, here is today's track workout:

Track Workout - June 21, 2011
  • 5km warm up run at easy pace
  • 8 x 600m repeats with a 200m recovery jog in between each
  • 5km cool down at easy pace
Nothing too Earth-shattering. We'll ease into this a bit. Things are going to start getting tough. If you still have some energy at the end of the workout, feel free to do another 4 repeats.

The Marathon: Part X - Speed Training and Track Work

Speed training is classic. Speed training is what makes the difference between a casual jogger and one who is aiming for a specific goal. There is a lot to be said about speed training and track work, so I will get right down to it.

How Traditional Speed Training Differs from Fartlek TrainingIf this is your first exposure to serious training, then you have not yet encountered speed training, only fartlek training.As I mentioned in Part VIII, fartlek training is somewhat subjective, focusing primarily on how a pace feels to you personally, rather than aiming for a specific distance within a specific time frame. The goal of fartlek training is to improve pacing and increase your VO2-max (i.e. to improve your body's efficiency in terms of aerobic cellular respiration).

In contrast, the goal of speed training is to develop your muscles. If you've ever seen a world-class sprinter, for example, (the fastest human beings on the planet), their leg muscles are enormous. That's because it requires a lot of fast-twitch muscle fiber to go that fast. We're training for a marathon, so we won't be developing that level of muscle mass, nor that level of speed.

What we want to do is bring our abilities in line with our goals. Which brings me to my next point.

The Idea in Principle
We don't just want to run a marathon at our current level of ability. (Especially if you've never run a marathon before, right? You don't yet have the ability.) Instead, we want to aim for a goal. I ran my last marathon in 2:47, which corresponds to about a 6:22/mile pace. Suppose this time I'd like to run closer to 6:00/mile pace. Then, 6:00 per mile becomes my goal pace. This is the pace by which I plan my speed training.

When we engage in track workouts, what we are trying to do is accustom our bodies to that sort of speed, understanding all the while that we cannot currently run that speed (or at least, not for 26.2 miles). We do this by engaging in two techniques to build speed and speed tolerance: (1) Running faster than goal pace and (2) Running goal pace for longer than you can.

Let's start with (1).

Running Faster Than Goal PaceTrack workouts of this variety typically involve short or very-short distances at high speeds. One classic example from my high school track coach was running 20 x 200m repeats (that is, twenty iterations of running half way around the track). Generally speaking, you can run 200 meters at a much faster pace than you can run 26.2 miles. Because we're training for long-distance running, though, just running a few 200-meter repeats won't suffice. Twenty 200m sprints corresponds to ten times around the track, or 2.5 miles. Not bad for a high schooler, but not great for an adult marathoner.

A better way to go might be to tackle your race distance. For example, if you're training for a 5K, you'll want to go for something more like 12 laps. This would correspond to 24 x 200m repeats. That can be a lot of sprints all at once, so to accommodate for the workload, we might break it up into three pieces, as follows:
  1. 8 x 200m repeats with 60 seconds rest in between each;
  2. Three minutes' rest;
  3. 8 x 200m repeats with 60 seconds rest in between each;
  4. Three minutes rest;
  5. 8 x 200m repeats with 60 seconds rest in between each.
This ensures a rigorous track workout with plenty of recovery time to keep you going all the way to the end.

Running Goal Pace for Longer Than You Currently Can
Another series of track workouts operates under the assumption that your goal pace is perfectly reasonable - or even easy - for a shorter distances, but very difficult for the distance you're training for. For example, I might be able to run a 5K quite comfortably in 19:00, but to keep that pace for an entire marathon - more than 8 times that distance - would prove a formidable goal.

So my track workout might consist of one-mile repeats (four laps) at 6:00/mile pace, or 1:30 per lap. Each one of these one-mile repeats individually might not be a big deal. But if I do enough of them - say, six - then I'll get a very good workout.

Setting Your Baseline
If you have never done any track workouts before, set aside your first track workout day as an experiment. Run a one-mile repeat at tempo pace. Then run a 1200m repeat at tempo pace. Then 800m, 600m, 400m, and 200m. Write down how fast you ran all of them, and use that as your "starting point." Next week, when you tackle your track workout, use the corresponding time as your pacing guideline.

Okay, now we're ready for a track workout!

The Marathon: Part IX - Goals and Pacing

I started my Speed Training write-up this morning and realized that the discussion requires some additional context. The goal of speed training is to increase your speed so that you can achieve your goal. But what if you don't yet have a goal? What if you don't even know how to set one?

Specific Goals Versus Intangible Moving TargetsNo matter what you choose to pursue in life, it is incredibly important to have a specific goal. Your goal wraps a blanket of context around the things you do daily in pursuit of it.

Some of you are inclined to express your goals something like this:
  • "I want to do my best."
  • "I want to lose some weight."
  • "I want to look and feel better."
  • "I want to run faster."
  • "I just want to try something new and have fun."
I need to tell you something very important about these statements. Read carefully, or you might misunderstand. All of these statements express good and valid desires; but as goals they are completely worthless. Please don't scoff -- simply consider the following.
  • It is important to do your best, but that goes without saying. If you try at all, you are trying to do your best. Aiming simply at effort does not present you with any opportunity to succeed, for how will you know when you've reached "your best?"
  • Losing weight is a good undertaking if you have some weight to lose. The goal as stated, however, expresses no understanding of measurable success. Many people who simply want to "lose some weight" get caught in a situation in which no amount of weight loss is ever satisfying to them. It becomes a moving target. They are always focused on "those 10 lbs.," no matter what weight loss they achieve. They may also be losing muscle and/or bone mass, which is not a good thing.
  • Looking and feeling "better" is also a good thing. What is better? How do you know when you're there? Exercising offers us small changes over a lengthy period of time. How will you know what "better" is or even if you can get there? This, too, is a moving target.
  • Running "faster" is something we all want to do. But faster than what? Does "one second" count as faster? It might, if you're a 100m sprinter. What about for a marathoner? When and how do you wish to achieve this speed? Is it possible to reach a definable point where you are "faster?"
  • If you are only interested in novelty, you are finished before you ever got started. Training involves weeks and months of commitment. It tests your tolerance for discomfort and requires a lot of work. If you're only in it to pursue something new, you will stop the minute it becomes difficult because you will lose interest. Then, you will have accomplished nothing.
What these "goals" all have in common is that they set a person up for failure. No matter how genuine your desire for these kinds of things, if you do not provide yourself with a "deliverable" or a milestone of some kind, then you will never really be satisfied.

And let's be clear: it's important to be satisfied with past performance because it inspires future success.Even if you never run again after these 18 weeks, your achieving a tangible milestone will make you want to succeed at something else, too. Perhaps your next goal will be career-oriented, or artistic, or deeply personal.

Goals help us build self-esteem and motivation. With a few well-placed goals, we can turn our whole lives around. Moving targets and more nebulous statements are useful tools to help us set our goals, but they should never be used as goals themselves, because they undermine the psychology of success.

Therefore, always make sure you set specific goals and then set out to achieve them. Even if you don't shave the full three minutes off your 10K time, you might shave off two minutes, which is still a fantastic - and tangible - achievement. Even "failure" becomes success when you set out to achieve something specific.

Finding Your GoalEverything I've mentioned so far holds as true for life in general as it does for running. Setting and achieving realistic goals is an important part of life. But how do you know what running goal is appropriate for you?

If you're an experienced runner, you probably already have a good idea. If you new to the game, though, you will need a little bit of experience before you can determine an appropriate time-for-distance goal. (How do you know what 5K time to aim for if you've never run a 5K before?) There are a couple of options here.

First, you can extrapolate from your current daily runs. If you run about 2 miles in 15 minutes, then you can expect to run 5K in about 24 minutes. Knowing that, you can set a goal of "anything better than 24 minutes," or in the vernacular of competitive running, you want to break twenty-four minutes.

Another approach might be to set aside a day during which you actually run a 5K informally, by yourself. Time yourself and see how well you do. Once you've established a baseline, you can make it a goal to beat your baseline. However, this approach becomes impractical once we start talking about marathon distances.

If all else fails, just talk to other runners you know and get a feel for what you can expect for your first race. We runners love to talk about this kind of stuff, and you can use our propensity talk about it to your own advantage. ;)

Finding Your Pace
Once you have a goal set in your mind, pacing becomes a bit of an arithmetical exercise. Divide your goal time by the total number of miles or kilometers, and voila - you have your pace.

The funny thing about a goal pace, though, is that you can surprise yourself. Often when we set goals we discover either that we've set the bar too low or too high. Setting the bar too low results in some confusion mid-way through your training regimen when you discover that you've already met your goal and now have to re-think. A lot of your previous training time will have been sub-optimally utilized. Setting the bar too high, on the other hand, will quickly wear your body out.

Therefore, I always suggest that people take their pace to the track. This is a great experience, especially if you've never done track work before.

Suppose you want to run six minutes per mile. At the track, this corresponds to 1:30 per lap. A great way to get a feel for whether your goal pace is too low or too high is to do speed work at that pace and see how much or how little it tires you out. If you run every lap at 1:30 or under, chances are you're not challenging yourself enough. If you struggle to run more than the first couple of laps at your goal pace, you may want to consider slowing down.

But at this point, we're getting into Speed Training territory, and I've saved that for another article.

Up Next: Speed Training


Sporadic Access Next Few Days

Believe it or not, I have two huge posts and one smaller post in the works. Unfortunately, I am swamped by other obligations, to the point where I will have to say: I may not post as much for the next 4-5 days or so. My apologies. Sometimes life is more important than a blog. :) Talk soon.

Week 4 Recap and a Look Ahead

I'm finally getting a chance to write the post I've been attempting since Saturday afternoon. Some days, I just get busy!

Where I Am After 28 Days:
  • Weight: 149.5 lbs.
  • Estimated Body Fat: 15.5%
  • Estimated Water Mass: 61.7%
  • Estimated Bone Mass: 7.9%
  • Average of all Blood Glucose Readings, Last 7 Days: 9.04 mmol/L
It looks like I have, in fact, lost a couple of pounds over the month. I'm not thrilled about that, but I won't worry about it until I hit 145 lbs. or so. My blood sugar is stabilizing quite a bit (see graph below), so the weight loss is almost certainly not related to diabetes, but rather the increased overall activity level. Furthermore, I do not lift weights as much as I did prior to initiating my marathon training, so some loss of upper body muscle mass is likely.

In fact, the real story this week is how much I've physically improved in just four weeks. I blogged about my tangible results a bit last week, but the best of Week #4 was yet to come. My long run consisted of twelve miles in eighty minutes. Then, during yesterday's "run," I ran eight miles in less than fifty minutes. That is, I ran four miles in twenty-five minutes, and then ran a negative split on the way home. I might add that on this particular out-and-back course, the way home is entirely uphill.

So things are off to a strong start.

Where Do We Go From Here?
Week #5 marks a new phase in the training regimen. Where the first four weeks were about routinizing, acclimating, and strength training, this week is when the real fun begins!

In particular, we start by phasing in regularly scheduled morning cardio workouts. This week, we'll jump rope on Wednesday and Friday mornings; but of course we are simply setting the stage for morning runs, beginning on Week #6. 

We will also tackle our first track workout of the season this week. I know you're excited about that! I sure am. I'll have all the details you need written down tomorrow, so that you'll have plenty of time to take a look before you hit the track. 

We also maintain our morning plyometric workouts. I know I haven't been very good about elaborating on those, so I will endeavor to correct my shortcoming this week.

More broadly, though, we are finally initiating the "serious training" segment of the show. Until now, especially if you've been training at Level 1 or Level 2, what we've been doing has more or less been evening runs with a bit of structure. If you've never experienced real, serious training before, you are about to. I think you'll really enjoy how it feels. There is a certain trepidation going into one's first track workout of the season, but don't worry! I know you can do it. When you do, you'll fell such an incredible sense of accomplishment, like you can do anything. That much, at least, is true: you can do anything you put your mind to.

I guarantee: by the end of Week #6, you'll feel like a whole new person, physically speaking. And you'll have no one to thank but yourself. 

Up Next: I'll provide you with tomorrow morning's plyometric workout, and tomorrow afternoon's track workout, including the next in my 'The Marathon' series.


Be Your Own Session Player

After two straight weeks of Ryan Ruins Requests, I am starting to feel a groove coming on. No pun intended. The more of this sort of thing I do (and I have done this sort of thing prior to the advent of Ryan Ruins Requests, in more private venues), the better at it I get. Case in point, I managed to record yesterday's ruined request in about five hours total. That consisted of about two hours' MIDI programming for the drums, bass, tars, and sitar, plus another three hours writing and recording the remaining guitar and vocal tracks.

In fact, I greatly simplified the multi-tracking for "Big Star" for the express purpose of finishing the song as quickly as possible. It is possible to achieve good results by putting oneself under the gun a little bit. (Har har har, yes, smart guy, yesterday's video is "good results" by current RRR standards.)

I shouldn't be surprised, but nonetheless I am please to discover that the more I do this, the easier it is. Much of what you hear on that track is the first available take. That fact is probably the happiest bit of news to report in all of this, because it means my technique is improving. I was relatively pleased by how easy the vocals were to perform. It's not a challenging song, but singing slowly is difficult for all but extremely good vocalists, and I was pleased by what I managed to pull off. (No, really -- If you listen to most vocalists singing very slow songs, you find that they often compensate for their vocal discomfort by throwing in vocal runs. This is so that they don't have to spend too much time on any one note. It's more difficult in terms of musicality* to sing one, long note -- especially a quieter or lower note -- than it is to sing a million faster notes.)

I have also started to discover a bit more about my particular musical niche. To be clear, covers in general are far outside my comfort zone. Nevertheless, I am obviously more at home doing a punk-rock-ish "Teenage Dream" than I am trying to cop Bollywood licks and feel during a slowed-down country song. That won't stop me from continuing to experiment with your requests. I'm on a quest to ruin them all, after all. But it's more than that -- if we don't push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, then we never acquire any new skills. We become one-trick ponies.

And frankly, that's the major reason I'm doing RRR in the first place. Well, that and to generate more blog traffic. I'm sure you'll forgive me for both motives, however.

* "Musicality" refers to the emotive aspects of musical performance, as opposed to technicality, which refers to the strict mechanics of the thing. The easiest way to think about the difference is like this: It takes a high level of technique to play every note of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on a guitar at 200bpm seven consecutive times. But it takes a high level of musicality to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" at any speed without sounding like a six-year-old.

I Have to Stop Doing This

Once again, what started as a brief comment on an interesting thought from Arnold Kling turned into a blog posting in its own right. Therefore, I am re-posting it here.
In my book, the real problem is that people on "Main Street" are constantly inundated by people saying that the entire recession was caused by people on "Wall Street." 
The idea that these kinds of things can be avoided by correcting the behavior of people in a single sector of the economy is childish bordering on pathetic. 
I mean, it would be great if we could make recessions illegal and if Santa Claus were real and God helped me out a little when I go golfing. But this is wishful thinking.  
Regulations are really good at making things "stable." The problem with "stable" is that it is incompatible with making things "improve dramatically." Markets are really good at making things "improve dramatically." 
The sooner people realize that there will always be a trade-off between profit and volatility, the better for all of us. The market approach doesn't suggest that things will magically be better for everyone; it simply suggests that profit is inherently risky, but that if we let the chips fall where they may, then we end up with much better conditions in the long run.
UPDATE: Hilariously, cross-posting your comments on your own private blogs is against the rules at EconLog. I very nearly had my posting privileges revoked. I have to stop doing this, indeed...


Ruin Ruins Requests: Episode II - The Revenge!

This week's ruined request comes from SG in Illinois, who wanted to hear me butcher a Kenny Chesney song. Apparently, Kenny himself does not fully butcher his own material. (This was news to me.)

Well, SG, here you go. Without further ado, here's a Bollywood-inflected send-up of the best Kenny Chesney has to offer:

Don't forget, you can request as many songs as you like. Plus, I have your old requests, too! Wicked!

Fatherhood and/or Manhood

In predictable CNN style, on the eve of Father's Day, we find this article by Jeff Perlman, skewering bad fathers and touting Perlman's own fathering expertise.

The face-value of an article like this is what it is: the guy wants fathers to be good fathers, maaaaan...! The problem is, this article isn't face-value. There is far too much subtext here. The article doesn't mean what it really means. I'd like to take a moment to explore this.

As more than one reader noted in the comments section of the article, it is somewhat "typical" of CNN to publish an article like this on Father's Day, the one day a year we're supposed to be praising our fathers rather than shaming them into improving their act. Typical, because CNN tends to align itself with a stream of ideology that is more mother than father. I've lost all most all of you in saying so, so I had better prove my case by supplying some quotes:

In case you are wondering, I am that dad. The one who works out of the house. The one who drives his kids to school, packs lunches and pushes swings and arranges play dates and attends teacher conferences and -- generally speaking -- frequently finds himself alone in brightly colored rooms filled with women and tykes.

Here Perlman establishes himself as a guy who does all the "typical mother" things. No, not just "a" guy who does those things, but "that guy." In other words, he fancies himself as emblematic of the "kind of guy" who regularly and unabashedly engages in mothering behavior. Not that driving your kids to school is womanly, but what exactly does he mean by "frequently finds himself alone in brightly colored rooms filled with women and tykes?" Wait, there's more. Here he is, claiming to speak on behalf of mothers:

Hence, I have been sent here today, on behalf of the stay-at-home mothers of the world, to convey to my fellow pops a message of love and hope in this lead-up to Father's Day: Wake the hell up.

Offering up ten "commandments," Perlman goes even further. Here's "commandment" number four:

Play with dolls and paint your toenails: How many fathers do I know who refuse to get girlish with their girls? Dozens. Dude, put aside the machismo, break out Barbie and slather on some pink polish. You'll make a friend for life -- and nobody else is watching.
That's right, dads. If you don't "get girlish" with your girls, you're being a bad father! By now, it should be crystal clear that Jeff Perlman has no idea what it really means to be a father. To his credit, he seems to be really good at being a mother - but his fathering skills appear nowhere in his Father's Day article. Suspicious?

Perlman's manhood suffers its final death throes with this one-two punch: first "commandment" number one, then number six (emphasis mine):
1. No golf on weekends: Seriously, it's ludicrous. Your spouse is home with the kids all the time, and you think it's OK to take five hours on a weekend day to pursue your own pastime? Selfishness, thy name is Father.
6. Order the wife to bug off: I recently met a mother who told me her husband hadn't been alone with their 9-year-old daughter for more than two hours ... ever. Inexcusable. Let your wife do her own thing: relax, take a run, whatever.  
What is Perlman doing?! What we have here is a bad case of a self-hating father. He knows nothing about fatherhood or manhood. His knee-jerk response is to behave as a mother instead. He calls fathers "selfish" for pursuing their own pastimes, and then openly encourages mothers to do the same. This blatant contradiction exposes the whole article as precisely the sick, sad ruse that it is.

Now, don't get me wrong - there are positive messages to be had here. It's important for fathers to be engaged. But Perlman doesn't make the case for that. Perlman makes the case for fathers' being more like mothers. This is preposterous.

Preposterous, because it is vitally important that children gain exposure to both roles. Children need heavy doses of testosterone and estrogen, in the right blend, depending on the particular situation. Encouraging the testosterone to behave more like the estrogen should never be misconstrued as good parenting

What Do You Know, Ryan? You're Not a Dad
True, but I just so happen to have a fantastic dad. This guy was a lot of the things Jeff Perlman hates. He works all day, and when he comes home, he tends to watch TV. He spends a lot of time pursuing his own pastimes, and guess what: one of them is golf. When I was growing up, he used to golf nearly every weekend, sometimes two or even three times a weekend. When he wasn't doing that, he was tirelessly engaged in yard work or fixing things around the house. Perlman, if you're reading this, you may go grab a cup of milk and wipe your nose now. It'll be okay...

Because there is another side to fathers who behave as fathers. While mine was golfing and working outside, he was also telling jokes. He was turning everything into either a game or a song, or occasionally both. He taught me the value of hard work, but more importantly, he taught me that you don't have to dread every second of your life just because you have to work. He taught me how to play any sport I ever wanted to play (and several sports I had no interest in). He helped me with math and science problems. He gave me spy novels to read. He bought me toy guns and toy knives and real knives - and probably would have bought me a real gun, had I wanted one - even in an age when those things were already becoming politically incorrect. He helped contribute to my overall sense of values and my overall sense of self-worth.

And he never painted his toenails pink.

What's the Point?
The point is that society is rapidly losing its understanding of what a man's role is. Men like Jeff Perlman have adopted the perspective of women, because they think it is "feminist" of them to do so. It's not. (Think about it: do you really think men becoming women is a pro-woman stance?) Now our media is filled with images and words reprimanding men from doing all those uncouth masculine things like shooting guns and watching sports, and encouraging men to share the burden of motherhood...

What we gain is a lot more motherhood. What we lose is far more than just "shooting guns and watching sports." We're losing our sense of fatherhood. We're losing the image of that fearless, confident, strong man who encourages us to grit our teeth and smile through the pain of a broken bone. We're losing the image of the man who simply never tires of the physical labor involved in maintaining the house. (Do most men even know how to conduct plumbing repairs anymore? Thank god for my father...) We're losing the image of the man who doesn't let his emotions get the better of him, who powerfully weathers all adversity without a complaint and barely the blink of an eye - and certainly never, ever a tear!

Fathers tell dirty jokes when mothers aren't looking. Fathers sometimes swear - a lot. Fathers scare the crap out of you when you've done something wrong - because they're the tough ones, and you don't want to piss off someone who is tougher and bigger than you, even if he'd never lay a hand on you. 

Friends, we're losing our fathers. They're getting old. Perlman notes that in a blink of an eye, your children have grown up and flown away. In that same blink of an eye, something happened to your father, too. Did you pay any attention?

Sure, he can be gruff and you can't really pour your heart out to him. But he was there for you, and if you're lucky, he still is. Don't ruin his legacy by becoming your mother. You carry his name, now carry his virtues. Show him you know what it means to be a man. Show him you know what it means to be a father. 

Don't spit in his face by scorning the whole concept of fatherhood like a catty old hag. Man up. Be a father.


Two-a-Day Workouts for Type 1 Diabetics: Lessons Learned

Having undertaken two-a-day workouts for nearly four consecutive weeks now, I would like to share some of what I've learned, in hopes that others can gain from my self-experimentation. While everyone's body and schedule are a little different, I do believe two-a-day workouts are a viable option for any athletically inclined type 1 diabetic.

Because I have been asked the question before, I should clarify: What I mean by "two-a-day workouts" is literally working out twice in the same day - once in the morning, and once in the evening.

Lesson #1: Benefit -- Significant Disruptions are Preferable to Massive Disruptions
Prior to beginning my two-a-day regimen, I was working out once in the late afternoon, for between one to two hours. The rest of my day is spent working in an office, and therefore I am quite sedentary for the majority of my waking hours. This once-a-day explosion of physical activity - typically involving both strength training and cardiovascular exercise - was incredibly hard on my body.

I enjoyed the physical exercise and the condition of my body from the exercise itself. Nonetheless, my blood sugar would typically skyrocket during and shortly after the workout, and then suddenly plummet in the late evening, often subjecting me to a potential overnight low.

Working out twice a day for less total time per workout offers me the benefit of never experiencing an activity surge quite that high. At the same time, my body feels more active throughout the day. That is, rather than only being active in the evenings, I am now active in the morning and the evening. This is a lot closer to "always being active." So, not only is each session less disruptive, but it also feels like more consistent daily activity. This seems to have really smoothed out my blood glucose levels during the day.

Lesson #2: Benefit -- A Tighter Schedule
While some may consider this a bad thing, time is much tighter these days, in a good way. The fact that I must now absolutely rouse myself from sleep between 5:00 AM sharp and 5:15 AM means that I now resist the urge to sleep in a bit. This means my mealtimes are more regular. It also means that my workouts must occur with razor-sharp scheduling precision.

As we all know, but are reluctant to admit, routine is the key to successful diabetes management. Two-a-days really seem to encourage the daily routine.

Lesson #3: Challenge -- Missing a Workout
On the other hand, I am finding that when I miss a workout (either in the morning or the afternoon) it is a bit more disruptive than I expected. My body has become so used to the demands of a two-a-day schedule that when it has to become a one-a-day schedule, my blood glucose levels start to climb high within a couple of hours of the missed workout.

Moreover, this is obviously also true on days that are scheduled to be one-a-days on purpose, such as long run days and rest days.

Granted, this challenge can be easily overcome by managing my diet. Which brings me to Lesson #4...

Lesson #4: Diet is the Great Flex-Factor
The master slack variable in all of this seems to be what I eat. If I miss a workout and eat the same way as though I still had worked out, then obviously my blood sugar will increase. If I eat modestly despite a tough workout, I have a low. I finally seem to be in the same place most diabetics are in general, meaning that both my diet and my insulin intake need to be adjusted based on my needs for the particular day.

Lesson #5: Keep a Broad View
In other words, the more I fixate on whatever happens to be different, the more I throw myself off track. I need to adjust all factors in response to every change, not just make one change and hope for the best.

This is a bit of a paradigm shift for me, because we economists are used to thinking about things "ceteris parabus." The funny thing about diabetes is that it isn't really a ceteris parabus kind of disease. Change something at one stage of the chain, and you impact the entire system.

Therefore, any small change requires a variety of corresponding changes. It's not one thing, it's five things...

Lesson #6: It's Worth It
The most important lesson learned thus far is that the challenges are easily accommodated for, and the benefits are many. I highly recommend two-a-days to active type 1 diabetics. I think it is an excellent strategy for diabetes management.

Hurting in a Good Way, Hurting in a Bad Way

Speaking of tangible results, I was out last night with PR, a loyal Stationary Waves reader, and our conversation inevitably found its way to running. PR remarked that the training regimen must be doing its job, since his legs "hurt in ways they've never hurt before." But, to be clear, it was a good pain. He said, "Well, they don't hurt in a bad way."

PR is in a good position because he has done lots of exercise over the years, and is very familiar with reading the signs his body gives him. I cannot emphasize enough the importance learning to understand your own body. As I previously noted,

Third, you have to understand your own body. You have to know in the middle of your run whether your muscles, joints, and bones are ready for an extra ten minutes. Chances are, they'll be fine. There is a chance, though, that they're just not ready for it yet. Don't feel bad, and don't worry too much about it. Undertake a more modest distance and then try again next week. We're still only on Week #2 -- there is plenty of time to get to 26.2 miles yet.

I also recently gave some tips on how to recognize when to draw the line. But descriptions only serve to be effective warnings if the writer is reasonably capable and the reader has some experience with the sensation. All the blog posts in the world -- even good ones -- will never replace good, old-fashioned personal experience.

Runners with less firsthand experience testing their bodies' limits will inevitably have a more difficult time recognizing what is "good pain" and what is "bad pain." People with almost no real experience doing any exercise at all will even recoil upon hearing the phrase "good pain." (Go ahead and test this out on your own. Next time you're out with friends, mention something about how you're feeling "good pain" from your workout, and observe the reactions of those who never exercise.)

There is nothing wrong with being inexperienced. It takes time to develop a good working relationship with your body. My point this morning is to underscore the importance of gaining this experience.  This is one reason why runners run. Knowing your body and understanding its messages is the absolute best defense against injury and over-exertion. We are on Week #4; by now, you certainly should have experienced some good pain at some point.

By the Way, It's Not Too Late to Start From Week #1
Just because I'm wrapping up Week #4 this week doesn't mean that you missed the boat if you didn't start with me in May. You can begin your training any time you please! You don't really even have to set a marathon as your goal. You could undertake this project simply as a stand-alone challenge to yourself. You can recruit some friends and challenge each other! There are no rules here! Join in the fun any time you like!


Business Idea of the Day

If minimum wage causes unemployment, then there are people willing to supply low-skilled labor at below-minimum wage. Start a company that functions as an umbrella organization willing to sell said labor in bundles, at a flat rate, set by the laborer. For example, rather than hiring 20 migrant farm workers at $4/hour, a landowner would pay $80 flat rate for their field to be plowed, or sprayed, or whatever.

Laborers in this firm function as private contractors who sell bundles of labor for flat rates on a case-by-case basis. The labor itself, then, is bundled and commoditized and profits go directly to the sellers of labor. The business itself charges a finders' fee - probably charged to the buyers of labor, not the sellers, as in the standard temp staffing firm model; but also functions more like an auction market such as Ebay, where the business delivers a service that matches up buyers and sellers.

In this way, we overcome minimum wage laws and deliver profits directly to laborers. We also stimulate entrepreneurship and contract negotiation, rather than forcing people to rely on labor legislation to dictate the terms of every employment contract.

Yes or no? What do you think?


Postal Workers on Strike and a Reminder

Don't miss my commentary on the ongoing CUPW strike, posted today at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada.

Speaking of which, don't forget the LvMI Canada's Ottawa-area meet-up tomorrow at 7pm, at the Royal Oak Downtown. More details at Mises.ca.

Knowing Where to Draw the Line

In a previous post, I described how you know when you're ready to increase your mileage.

But if you're anything like me (and if you're running a marathon, how could you not be?), then knowing when to do more is definitely not your problem. No, if you're like me, then the trick is knowing when you're doing too much. This seems comedic, but it's a real problem, and I'd like to spend some time discussing it today.

There are two kinds of "doing too much." There is carrying too heavy a burden, and then there is doing too much, too soon. Let's take a look at each one of these.

Too Much, Too Soon
Other than bad form, I think doing too much, too soon is the primary means by which runners injure themselves. This is a tricky issue, because in most cases "too much, too soon" consists of doing workouts that the runner is already comfortable with. Think about it - how can activities that you know you're capable of cause injury? Shouldn't they be inherently safe by virtue of the fact that you are already capable of them? So it can be a little counter-intuitive. Think of it this way: I have already run a marathon before, so I know I'm capable of doing it -- does that mean I don't need to train for one?

The principle holds true for strength training, speed training, overall mileage, or even the intensity of your daily workout. If you start out on Week 1 training at an intensity level more appropriate to Week 9, it stands to reason that you risk injury. In this case, the injury will often be of a sudden-onset: tendonitis out of nowhere, shin splints, pulled muscles, or next-day aches and pains.

You should always exercise some restraint during the first few weeks of training until you are so comfortable with the routine and the types of workouts you're doing that you can get some serious work done in the middle of the training plan. In fact, a great runner I know recently said to me that, in her opinion, the first week of training should feel too easy. This is a great example of an experienced runner practicing some restraint in the initial phases of a workout plan, building on her foundations, acquainting her muscles with the kinds of activities for which they are in store, and just making sure she doesn't do too much too soon.

Even if a runner is only doing a little too much too soon, it can have a cumulative effect. After two or three weeks, one finds oneself breaking down too far after difficult workouts and not rebuilding quickly enough during recovery. This is very similar to just doing too much, and provides us with a useful segue...

Just Doing Too Much
While injuries associated with "too much, too soon" tend to involve a sudden onset, just doing too much in general results in more gradual injuries: tendonitis that appears first as a light pain and then worsens over the course of a week; muscles that get sore, but the soreness doesn't really subside even after days; stress fractures. Even when no real injury occurs, runners that have taken on too much will often have a constant burning sensation in their muscles, will be a bit unsteady on their feet, will have incredibly tight joints when they wake up in the morning, will feel sluggish during virtually every workout, and can't seem to loosen up their muscles no matter how much they stretch.

Training is a process of breaking down one's muscles, rebuilding them, breaking them down again, rebuilding them, and so on, ad infinitum. When a runner does too much exercising all the time, the runner breaks down his or her muscles every day and never allows them the chance to rebuild again. That's where the fatigue comes in. This fatigue can iimpact the runner's form and cause injury, or the constant impact of heavy training can just break down the bones and ligaments to the point of serious injury. Therefore, doing too much is a far more serious concern than just doing too much, too soon.

You'll know you're doing too much mostly by the telltale fatigue and persistent muscle burning. We are now at Week #4 of our training schedule. If you feel fatigue and muscle burning every day, or for, say, three consecutive days, then I suggest it's time to take an unscheduled rest day, at least. If it happens again, take another rest day. If it happens a third time, then it's time to reduce your overall level of training.


Design Changes

As aforementioned, I have made some changes to the layout of my blog. In general, I just felt like it was time for a change. The old layout felt like a dusty old book. Hopefully the new layout grabs the eye a bit more...

I have also eliminated the AdSense gadgets/widgets from the blog entirely, in part as a courtesy to my readers. I find the ads clunky and distracting. My goal with this blog is not to generate massive amounts of revenue (although, gee, that would be nice), but rather to deliver outstanding content on a few subjects close to my heart. My readers should not have to be accosted with product advertisements. It is furthermore my belief that if I continue to deliver good blog content I will not need silly gimmicks like AdSense to reap the rewards of a regular following.

At any rate, I may re-monetize my blog if my following continues to grow, but for now I think we can all benefit from a small ad-free oasis of sorts.

I may tinker with the colors a bit as I continue to get acquainted with the new layout. I may even enlist the help of some of my artistic friends and family to help choose a great color scheme. But the basic layout will remain like this for... oh, maybe another eighteen months or however long it takes me to get tired of it.

Tangible Results

The system seems to be working. 

Today, during my fartlek workout, I managed to run a mile further than two weeks ago, in the same amount of time. Two weeks ago, during my first fartlek workout of the season, I managed to run a six-mile speed-play workout in 45 minutes. Today, I ran the same out-and-back course, but made it half a mile (0.8 kilometers) further at the 22:30 turnaround point, for a grand total of about 7.1 miles in 45 minutes. That's about 6:20/mile pace, and keep in mind that this was not a tempo run, but a fartlek workout. That means that I spent a lot of those 45 minutes running at a recovery pace.

Suffice it to say that I'm very happy with today's run. This, too, after a tough morning of plyometric strength training (see: The Matrix). I expected my muscles to be really sluggish this afternoon. In fact, I was afraid that I'd be so tired that I'd be reluctant to run at all. On the contrary, from my perspective, I killed it.

I can't help but think the extra unit of Lantus is at work here. I am now even less inclined to go back to 12 IU. That said, you can bet I'll be eating a snack tomorrow morning. If I can have some yogurt at work, I will try, but more likely it will be some fresh fruit. I just picked up some nice, fresh Asian pears at Wal-Mart today. Perhaps I'll pack one of those along with some cheese slices and make a snack of it. Diabetics should always include both protein and carbohydrates when having a snack -- and that's a good practice for non-diabetics, too.

Results this good are certainly worth celebrating, but what I find really encouraging is the fact that I still have fourteen and a half weeks before the race! If I'm feeling this good and showing these kinds of results at week four, I have a bright future ahead of me yet.

Please, share your success stories here. How do you find the training? Have you improved? How is it going? 

Okay, No.

This makes two days in a row now that I've gone mildly hypoglycemic before lunch. Same time of day, too: about 10 o'clock in the morning.

Either 13 IU of basal insulin is too much for me, or my morning workouts are driving my BG down a few hours later.

This sort of decision is emblematic of the choices diabetics are faced with on a regular basis. It might be worth it to reduce my breakfast bolus or eat a morning snack, if it means that I can keep my blood sugar in good control the rest of the day on 13 units of Lantus. Or, I should consider reducing my basal dose back to 12 IU and making due with the higher blood sugar the rest of the day.

I think I am going to try to manage this with a reduced breakfast bolus or potentially a morning snack. I feel much better when my blood glucose is under 7.0 mmol/L, and of course it is much healthier. Rather than "resorting to an insulin adjustment" to fix every problem, perhaps I should just plan my food a little better.

...The inevitable update will of course appear on my blog in the coming days. ;)

Pharmaceuticals Shortages

You may have been reading headlines recently about widespread shortages of pharmaceutical products across America. (If you haven't, you can read all about it here, and here, and here, and here, and so on.) The question is why are the world's wealthiest and most developed nations experiencing shortages of products produced by some of the largest and most lucrative corporations in the world?

The answer is neither complex nor surprising, however it does involve a full understanding of the pharmaceutical market in general. Unfortunately, a small blog like this is no place to gain such an understanding. I'm not sure I have the time to provide enough background information. I can, however, point to a few major issues facing the industry that would result in drug shortages.

What is a Safe Pharmaceutical Product, Anyway?
We all want drug products that meet the tightest possible safety standards. Unfortunately, though, this is an extremely childish view of what pharmaceutical products actually are.

When we're talking about foodstuffs, we're talking about edible materials that either are or are not contaminated by hazardous bacteria. Controlling for this kind of food safety is an easy thing to do. One simply sterilizes the production machinery, pasteurizes the ingredients, possibly adds preservative agents (even simple things like salt), properly packages the food, and away we go. It's easy because food is safe by virtue of the fact that it is edible. If it weren't safe to consume, we wouldn't be eating it. So all anyone really needs to do is control against contaminants.

Pharmaceutical products are completely different. The concept of a safe medication is an entirely relative one.

For example, consider the nature of chemotherapy. Here the objective is to literally poison the body, bring it as close to death as necessary, in hopes that a person's tumors will die before the person dies. These products are inherently poisonous - but that is precisely the point. If they were safe to consume, they wouldn't kill cancer. The only thing that makes chemotherapy agents safe is the medical supervision under which they are administered.

So, when a product is inherently poisonous, how can a manufacturer adhere to safety standards?

The other important issue here is that "safe" medications are really "safe, if" medications. Botox might be the perfect example. Injected locally into the joints, it can be an effective relief of certain kinds of arthritis. And yet, Botox is really nothing more than the bacteria that we call botulism, the same stuff that will kill you if it starts growing in your mayonnaise.

The bottom line is that every pharmaceutical product must be assessed in terms of treatment benefits versus side-effect costs. It's not a "yes/no" decision. In some sense, every pharmaceutical product is both safe and dangerous.

This is important because FDA safety standards and regulations are extremely costly for drug manufacturers. These costs have a real impact on manufacturers' ability to produce drugs in a cost effective way. There is a long list of good, useful, "safe" drugs that are no longer produced because the manufacturing costs are too high. These are medications that could make our lives better, but they can't come to market because no one wants to make them. They're too expensive!

Cutting back on regulations would reduce the cost burden on manufacturers, which would allow them to produce more medications. Expensive regulatory hurdles also act as a barrier to entry for small drug start-ups who could compete with "Big Pharma" to help drive prices down for all of us.

"Comparative Effectiveness" Run Wild
The current regulatory trend in the pharmaceutical industry is something called "comparative effectiveness research." The goal of this research is to determine which product or course of therapy produces the greatest number of positive health outcomes at the lowest cost. At face value, this is an admirable goal. But the devil is in the details, and in this case, there are lots of devils involved here.

One huge devil is the concept of what a "good deal" might be when comparing two drugs. Looking again at the cancer market, we must keep in mind that sometimes it is not a question of curing a disease, but merely preserving a few good years (or months) of life. So, if I told you that one drug costs $20,000 per year and adds 18 months of life with a 5% chance of total remission, but another drug costs $100,000 per year and adds 24 months of life with a 30% chance of total remission, which would you take?

Obviously, such decisions are highly personal. There is no "one right answer" that a government agency can uncover. Different decisions will be appropriate for different patients, and patients need to make these decisions for themselves, regardless of how much money Medicare will save if they take the cheaper drug.

How does this play into drug shortages? Pharmaceutical companies' products often don't receive regulatory approval unless they meet the baseline requirements set by comparative effectiveness research - research which, as you can see, is totally subjective. There are long lists of drugs that many of us could choose to take, but are denied the opportunity to even think about.

Generic Producers Are Also Not Safe
Generic companies, too, are subjected to regulatory burden. In many cases, they must sell to government agencies at government-dictated prices or not at all. This prevents generic manufacturers from having the kind of production flexibilities that are inherent to the nature of their business. Rather than being able to quickly meet demands, they have to sell off stocks and below-favorable prices or lose everything. In many cases, this simply results in generic manufacturers' choosing not to produce the medication in question, again, because it isn't cost-effective to do so. Suppliers would like to meet market demands, but regulations are preventing them from being able to make any money doing it. So who would do it?

Furthermore, in many countries, generic prices are regulated as a dictated percentage of the brand drug's price. That means that when brand drugs' prices are forced downward by price regulations, the generic companies also suffer. Again, who wants to manufacture products if there isn't any money to be made in the market? Supply decreases.

Inflation Affecting Ingredient Costs
It goes without saying that as currencies continue to devalue through inflation, ingredient costs expressed in those currencies will continue to increase. Raw chemicals are not more valuable than ever, and this presents real cost challenges to drug manufacturers. Ending the central banks' silly fixation on Quantitative Easing immediately means literally saving lives.

The Elephant in the Room
I plan on blogging more about the following issue, but here I am just going to introduce the concept...

It is no surprise that some of the world's largest drug manufacturers are American companies, and that the world's largest pharmaceutical market is the United States. For years, the lower regulatory standards of the United States has allowed the drug manufacturing industry to flourish. This has been great for Americans, but it has been even better for other countries.

Why? Because if a manufacturer can get their product into the U.S. marketplace, then that provides enough revenue for that company to then attempt to enter the tighter regulatory environments of foreign countries, where they sell fewer pills at lower prices and great costs. (!!!)

In essence, relatively freer U.S. markets have been subsidizing the world's pharmaceutical regulations for years.

But now all of that is changing. Regulations are getting stricter in the United States and Obamacare is only beginning to take root. Costs are increasing, and that doesn't just mean that the United States will suffer some drug product shortages. It also means that the entire world's drug production is at risk. You can't simply sever an apple tree from its roots and expect it to go on producing apples. Something has to give.


The Running Mind

It has been brought to my attention that my blog is long on technical information and short on what I will describe as motivational theory. Yet a large part of running - some might even argue the great majority of running - involves feelings of motivation, accomplishment, self-determination, self-reflection, and the simple joy of motion.

One of the best aspects of Sean Burch's Hyperfitness program is that it's more than a workout schedule and a set of workouts. That aspect of the program is what he calles "Hyperstrength." The other components of Hyperfitness, are "Hyperfare" (healthy food, done the Burch way) and - more importantly - "Hypermind." Never in any other fitness regimen have I ever seen this concept addressed as completely as Burch addresses it in his book. The concept of Hypermind sets Hyperfitness apart from its competitors, because it presents the whole concept of elite fitness as a holistic life change, starting wtih an attitude change.

It has always been my intention to include the psychological and motivational aspects of running on this blog. In the spirit of that endeavor, I thought I'd take some time today to cover this in greater specificity. Unlike Sean Burch, I don't have a gimmick or an underlying framework with which to present the idea of the Running Mind, but it is such an important part of running, that I need to at least try.

Psychiatric Benefits of Running
I won't spend too much time on this, because it's almost beside the point. But it does come into play on motivational issues, so it's worth mentioning briefly.

Like any activity the human body enjoys, running causes a release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. In very loose terms, dopamine is the brain's primary "reward" chemical, and serotonin is one of the brain's "satisfaction" chemicals. Knowing that running stimulates the release of both chemicals, it is not difficult to understand why running tends to induce feelings of:
  • Achievement
  • Pride or self-esteem
  • Relaxation
  • The desire to repeat the behavior
Many, many people have reported both clinically and anecdotally that running has helped them overcome feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, boredom, apathy, and so forth. Understanding the impact exercise has on brain chemistry, it's easy to see why people feel this way.

To be clear, I'm not referring to a "runner's high" here. This runs much deeper, and longer-term than a temporary endorphin rush. Running creates a self-perpetuating cycle of positive anticipation, reward, self-esteem, and mental relaxation. Some people may experience an endorphin rush immediately following a run, but that is actually a separate phenomenon than the major psychiatric benefits of running (and all exercise, really).

Opportunity to Meditate
One of the best aspects of running is that it gets you outside, by yourself, for a significant amount of time, often in a regularly scheduled context. Due to the gradual decline of organized religion in modern society and the poor quality of philosophy education in modern schools, very few people these days actually set aside time to reflect on their lives, their problems, and their day in general.

I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me, "What do you think about when you're out there running for so long?" The answer is literally everything. All runners are the same in this regard. The simple fact is, when you're out running for 30+ minutes every day, your mind will wander. If you do this regularly, it will start to wander in predictable ways.

Runners, therefore, find themselves drawn to their run not just for the physical and psychiatric benefits, but also because it is a form of soothing meditation. Whether you subscribe to the kind of active, logical meditative analysis that I do, or practice the less computative meditation that Buddhists do, running offers you a chance to get your fill.

So, as you can see, running is much more than technique and physical accomplishment. It is a much-needed psychological reprieve from the day's hassles, with proven brain-chemistry benefits.

Austrian School Economics in Ottawa

If you're in the Ottawa area this Thursday at 7:00 PM, why not join some of the gang from the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada. I'll be hosting the meet-up and giving a light, non-technical, and very casual speech on the recession and "quantitative easing."

You may find more details here. See you there.

Week 3 Recap: A Day Or Two Late

I missed this over the weekend, because I was a little too busy with other stupid stuff. I know you're all waiting with baited breath, so here it is...

Where I Am, Week 21:
  • Weight: 150.0 lbs.
  • Estimated Body Fat: 15.7%
  • Estimated Bone Mass: 7.9%
  • Estimated Water Mass: 61.5%
  • Average of All BG Readings (Last 7 Days): 8.7 mmol/L
Clearly, the big news this week is my plummeting blood glucose readings. BG variability (standard deviation) is also down significantly this week. One reason for this is that there were no bizarre outliers (~18 or 19 mmol/L) at all this week. Another reason is that I increased my daily Lantus intake from 12 to 13 International Units (IU). That decision came after I consulted with my diabetes nurse and dietician. They were considering splitting my basal dose because I seem to have no insulin in my system by the late afternoon. Taking a split dose of basal insulin, though, would greatly complicate my workouts, and my dietician (also an avid runner) didn't want to see that happen. 

Well, I'm pleased with the results, and I think I'll stay on 13 units for a while. 

Workout-wise, I'm getting back into the groove of heavy training again. I need to take my speed days a little more seriously, because I feel as though my legs are getting a little sluggish. Plyometrics will also be important here. 

All in all, not a bad place to be a Week #3!


#@%*!!! Quasi-Monetarist Economics

I was going to single out a very specific "quasi-monetarist" economist active in the blogosphere, but in the interest of remaining civil while still getting my rage on, I'm going to opt out of it.

What I will say is this: "Quasi-monetarist" economics has to be the stupidest, most pathetic "theory" I've ever heard of. The reason it took so long to catch on is because it is a complete wasteland of irrelevant BS.

Its success is owing to the fact that, by definition, "quasi-monetarists" are always parsing things into "nominal expenditures" and "real expenditures." These economists are so good at throwing these terms around and asking seemingly innocent questions that they can easily befuddle an unsuspecting onlooker. The minute one economist tries to make a point, the "quasi-monetarist" will quickly interject a question: Are you talking about real income or nominal income? That's a valid question at times, but this is just a foot in the door. Next comes the wasteland.

The wasteland is the concept of a "nominal expenditure" versus a "real expenditure." Folks, this kind of crap only sounds interesting. In reality, it is not. It is made-up boloney. Mumbo-jumbo. B.S.

To understand why, simply think back to the last time you spent money. Was that a nominal expenditure for you, or a real one?

What? You mean you have no idea how in the hell you would ever manage to only spend money nominally? Welcome to the club. At the individual level, there is no such thing as a "nominal expenditure."

Now, keep in mind that the concept of inflation is a very important one. Inflation has a real impact on our daily lives, and we should think about it more regularly. That's why we already talk about inflation using existing terminology.

The whole idea of "nominal expenditures" is cheap smoke-and-mirrors crap. It's economics for people who are only interested in knowing how to use jargon to sound intelligent. Mark my words, one day "quasi-monetarism" will go the way of the dodo and its participants will be as embarrassed by what they said as they would be of a particularly bad high school yearbook photo.

There is no such thing as a nominal expenditure. People only spend the money that they have. Their behavior cannot be parsed into real vs. nominal. At the individual level, all behavior is real. Quasi-monetarism is a scourge.

A Pointer

I'd like to call your attention to this post over at The Big Picture. In typical Big Picture fashion, the post is comprehensive and well-documented. It is impossible for a "normal person" (average, every-day Joe) to really know how much of this is true, and how much is fringe extremism.

I guess you can only hear so many stories like this before they start to sink in. We know that the US government has done some slimy things in the past in the name of "protecting freedom." There are many well-documented cases that the US government has come clean on (always many decades after the fact, of course). This is what I call "Whore Culture," which is typically a label I apply to the behavior of society at large.

At any rate, it makes far more sense to my crazy brain to believe that the governments of the world pit us against each other than it does to assume that a bunch of bearded hermits over there (wherever there is on any given day) can blow us up, bankrupt our nation, and send us into a tailspin. No, in my weird world, only governments have that kind of power.

And only people have the power to stop them.

I am toying with the idea of updating my blog template. This one is nice, but boring, and can be difficult to read. I'll look into it a little more. Typically when I do this, I don't tend to find anything that I like better than this stiff template. I guess that's one reason why it's so popular.

But it feels too much like a textbook. If I had more money to spend, I'd pay the best web designer in the world to give me a make-over. Instead, I'm at the mercy of what I can do with HTML internet research, haha...


New Feature - Ryan Ruins Requests!

Ladies and gentlemen, I now present...

Ryan Ruins Requests (and Dedications)!!!

Ryan takes your requests... and promptly ruins them!

The rules are as follows:
  1. Any genre is fair game.
  2. Only request songs you anticipate will be ruined.
  3. No Prince songs - I don't want to get sued.
  4. I don't mind pushing myself to the edge of my ability, but we should steer clear of songs that involve so much virtuosity that it would be any fun to even try.
  5. You may request a song for the next week, even if I played your request this week.
  6. You may only request one song per week.
  7. You may may your request in person, on the blog, on my Facebook page, or via email.
  8. Dedications are acceptable. Be prepared to be quoted!
  9. Uh, I think that's it.
Today's episode of Ryan Ruins Requests is a send up of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."



Totally Fried

I have several projects in the works for the short-term. It's an entirely manageable workload, but I think the process of thinking about all of them simultaneously as finally taken its toll on my brain. I don't mind saying it: I may have over-exerted my thoughts here. I'm on my second draft of an upcoming speech (details pending) and halfway through a new blog post about the psychology of running. On top of that I'm working and planning a weekend away.

It doesn't seem like much, but those of you who know me know I have a tendency to think hard about virtually everything. So I'm not surprised that I feel over-expended now.

Funny Story About That
At my recent appointment with my diabetes nurse/educator, I was trying to explain why I believe working out twice a day has a better impact on my blood glucose control than simply working out once a day. During my explanation, I said to her, "I work out pretty intensely--"

She interrupted me, saying, "You do a lot of things pretty intensely, don't you?"

So apparently I am not the only one who has noticed this. At any rate, I think it's a good sign. If people take notice of how involved you are with the things you do, and you do more than one thing, then it might mean you're on the right track.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself as my brain falters at the end of a long work week.

See you on the trails...


Caught in the Rain

Yesterday was my first experience of year being caught in a surprise rain storm while running. The storm blew in fiercely and suddenly. I was wearing my absolute lightest running clothes: compression shorts and a dry-fit sleeveless shirt. When the rain came down, this material proved to be ideal for wet weather conditions. The shirt was light enough that, even though it was soaked and saturated with rain water, it didn't pull down on my body as I ran.

The compression shorts, though, were the real winners here. I have mentioned them before as part of the tools. They certainly aren't necessary tools, but they provide some important advantages over other shorts you might choose.

First, as mentioned, they are impervious to rain. Even if they become fully saturated, they are skin-tight and therefore do not weigh you down as you run. Second, they are a bit longer than traditional running shorts, which means you can avoid the usual distance running cat-calls. This is not a huge factor for me, but it does come into play from time to time. Third, you can use them as a base-layer when it's cold outside. Fourth, chicks dig 'em! (Well... at least chicks who are into runners...)

Now, when it started to rain, I was about ten minutes into a forty-minute easy run. Especially on an easy day like yesterday, I could have easily made the choice to turn around and hurry home. Instead, I laughed, shrugged, and carried forward. This is kind of important if you plan on entering a road race of any kind.

Part of the fun of road racing is that you can't predict the weather eighteen weeks in advance. September 25th might be an incredibly hot day, or an incredibly cold one. It might be windy, or rainy, or snowy. We cannot know this for sure, beyond a few days in advance. By that time, you will have spent your registration money, booked a hotel, made plans, established a comprehensive blood-glucose-management strategy (or maybe that's just me...), and mentally committed to not merely running in the marathon, but trying your level best to run a great one....

You can't let a little rain get in your way. You have to be prepared to run in any conditions Mother Nature will throw at you - and she could throw some pretty terrible conditions at you. Prepare yourself for this eventuality by embracing all the weather conditions you face this summer. If it's rainy and windy, get out there anyway. If it snows, put a sweatshirt on and laugh. Humans have survived much worse conditions than 2-4 hours in bad weather. We are resilient. Our forefathers subjected themselves to all kinds of hell to provide for their families - and that means us!

Let's make our ancestors proud.


Responding to Alex Tabarrok

I'm going to re-post my comment to Alex Tabarrok's recently posted "mystery" regarding the fact that male per capita incomes have not been rising with GDP since the 1970s, whereas females' incomes have been...
The explanation that immediately came to mind is the increase in female labor participation rate since the 1970s. It didn’t take me long to confirm this at http://www.bls.gov. Male participation has steadily declined over the past 60 years, whereas female participation only started to decline as female Baby Boomers started retiring a few years ago. 
The seasonally unadjusted numbers also give a clue: males far more often engage in seasonal labor, which tends to be trades. This means that, in general, men are more inclined to work in trades and other such work that does not require a college education. Great Moderation notwithstanding, these jobs are less sensitive to the “perpetual” increase in GDP we’ve been experiencing since the advent of fiat money. 
That is, women – if they choose to work – tend to choose service industries, business, health care, etc. If they aren’t well-educated and the best they can hope for is Wal-Mart, they will be far more sensitive to what Mises called “the disutility of labor” than men will be. This is a legacy of traditional gender roles, I guess, but not necessarily in a bad way.
Special bonus content! I'll include screen shots from my BLS data queries:


Speed Training Twice Per Week

This week is our first experience of the season engaging in two different kinds of speed workouts in the same week. Previously, we have done two tempo runs, or one fartlek run; but we have not yet done one tempo run and one fartlek run. In the future, we'll be adding a track workout to the mix, too (and I will discuss the ins-and-outs of track workouts when we get a little closer to the date).

The difference between how to approach these workouts may not be immediately intuitive, particularly if you have less running experience. That's why today I'd like to briefly discuss how to approach multiple speed training workouts in the same week.

Tuesday: Tempo Run Day
I mentioned before that tempo runs are an opportunity to work on your speed, your pace, your endurance, and your mental grit. This week, because you have a fartlek workout coming up on Thursday, I'd like you to focus on the speed, endurance, and mental grit components of this workout.

Again, the idea with a tempo run is to push yourself up to the point of being slightly physically uncomfortable with the pace you're making, and hold yourself there for the duration of the run. As you continue to train, that point of discomfort should gradually become a faster and faster pace, wherever it is.

So, during a tempo run, you should not really be thinking about comparative pacing. You should not be worrying about whether or not you can finish the run at your current pace. You should simply push yourself into discomfort and hold. To that end, you might even consider leaving your watch home during your tempo run, or at least resisting the urge to look at it. You shouldn't get caught up on what pace you're running and whether it is "fast" or "slow." What you should focus on is the way your body is reacting to what you're doing.

Learn to read your body's signals, then get comfortable with an uncomfortable pace.

Thursday: Fartlek Day
In contrast to the tempo run, this week's fartlek workout should be more pace-centric. Specifically, you need to learn to identify the difference between a faster pace and a slower pace.

In the beginning phases of your development as a runner (or if you're just rusty), you will likely only have two speeds: "go" and "go slow." But marathons are long and involve a wide spectrum of pacing needs and strategies. Especially for competitive runners, it becomes necessary to "attack" (or "defend!") at some race stages, and recover during others. Part of the goal of fartlek training is to get used to the idea of multiple attacks and multiple recoveries in a single outing.

More to the point, you should be able to vary your speed at will without it costing you the whole race. Going faster during some segments of your run shouldn't kill the rest of it.

Therefore, while your tempo run is a good opportunity to see how long to you can continue at a fast pace, and how fast that pace can be, your fartlek run is a good opportunity to find out at what pace you begin to use up your anaerobic fuel sources, and to try to keep that from happening.

In a Word
This week, Tuesday is "go fast" day, and Thursday is "pace well" day. Let's do it!