Unhealthy Lifestyles Are Not A Matter Of Education

I recently read a click-baity article about the "top X number" healthiest vegetables. The main surprise about this list, other than the fact that I clicked on a such a time-waster in the first place, was that all of the vegetables listed were pretty much what everyone already buys at the grocery store. This wasn't a list comprised of kohlrabi and cactus pears. It was a list of carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and so on.

This raises the question of why we need an article that tells us to keep eating what we already eat. The cynical answer is, of course, "Har har, Ryan, the article wasn't meant to inform you about vegetables, but to keep you on the page long enough to increase the probability of generating ad revenue." Touche.

The less cynical answer is that most people - meaning, most Americans who eat food - already know how to eat a healthy diet, but fail to do it anyway. For a long time, we've been told by health educators that education is the key to getting Americans to improve their diets and their lifestyle. Articles like the one I read, paired with mere observation of Americans in their natural habitat, would seem to suggest otherwise. The so-called "fitness industry," too, is big on education. Read my free e-book, subscribe to my newsletter, watch my YouTube channel, see my tips for a healthier diet, etc., etc.

No, I don't think like of knowledge is the real problem here. Really, what we're talking about is a lack of self-control. Eventually, we all reach adulthood, obtain a disposable income, and come face-to-face with a doughnut shop. A few of us can ward-off temptation by eating a nutritious breakfast before we head out the door, but the majority of us - a statistical majority of Americans are obese - are simply left to wonder, "Why not?" Why shouldn't they spend their money on a doughnut? Why should they deprive themselves of something they genuinely enjoy, if they can afford to buy it, it tastes good, it makes them happy, and so on.

Only after confronting the reality of their own reflection  in the mirror, after years of not saying no, does anyone realize that there is a very good answer to the question of "why not." The answer is that years of acquiescence yields obesity, premature aging, and with them, a variety of other health problems.

I know many people, friends of mine, who are my age and who express envy of my position as a fit and healthy guy pushing forty. I'm a normal weight. My bio-markers are normal (well, except for the type 1 diabetes thing, but that's not a lifestyle choice). My energy levels are generally high. I look about ten years younger than I am, and I perform athletically much the same as my friends performed twenty years ago.

I'm not boasting, this is the physiological truth. And the best part is that it feels great being fit and healthy. All those who once boasted of the importance of living life to the fullest in their twenties, complete with all the boozing and drug use that entails, are now a little jealous that they feel so old. They take stock of their joint pains, their muscle aches, their sluggishness, the lack of "spring" in their steps, and they credit old age. But old age didn't get them here; poor diet and lifestyle choices did.

At forty, there is still plenty of time to reverse most of the negatives. With strict and deliberate diet and lifestyle changes, most people can recapture their energy levels and their good biomarkers, and many can also regain their youthful figures. A good diet can improve your complexion and the strength and sheen in your hair. Spending more time being active in the sunshine can give your hair great highlights, make your skin look better (but do use sunscreen), and give your body a much-needed boost of Vitamin D. Some people can even work themselves up to a level of athletic performance that far exceeds my own. All it takes is diet and exercise.

I'm not saying anything anyone doesn't already know, though. Everyone knows that skipping the burger, staying home and grilling some fish, eschewing the doughnuts, getting out for an hour or two of exercise ever single day, and so on, can drastically improve their lives for the better. But still, they don't do it. Just like they know eating broccoli will make them better off and they don't do it.

Ultimately, it all comes down to self-control, to the willingness to forego instant gratification for the sake of a better future. I have called this temperance across an extended cognitive time-horizon. You have to be the kind of person who is willing to get by with less. That's less doughnuts, less treats, less alcohol, less partying, less lying around, less TV. You have to be the kind of person who knows that less today means more tomorrow.

And it's interesting to me that this is a lesson that extends into so many different areas of life. As with health, so with financial gain. To be a millionaire in today's world really just means living well below your means and saving consistently. One doesn't really even have to save aggressively. Being a great musician means putting in 30 minutes of deliberate practice per day. Having a great yard really just means setting aside an hour a week to pull weeds and move a garden hose around. Having a great marriage means taking the time to make interactions with your partner positive rather than negative. Writing a book or two per year means writing a page or two per day. Think about it, that's nothing!

Ultimately, it's rather stunning what most people fail to accomplish in their lives when we consider that all any accomplishment really requires is small but consistent daily effort. So, no, it's not that we don't know how to accomplish any of this. It's that we know, and we still don't do it.


Nothing Is Stopping You

Not too long ago, Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution shared a link to an article about how shade has been reduced in modern American cities, possibly as the result of zoning regulations. I do not know enough about zoning or history to comment intelligently about the veracity of that article's claims, so I won't.

As a result of reading that article, however, I did take notice of how little shade there is in my local neighborhood, and in similar neighborhoods across North Texas. Even in the city parks, the most typical layout features large, expansive green grass fields surrounded by patches of trees and vegetation. It's nice being in a park like this during the winter months, when the added sun keeps you warm, but it's oppressive during the summertime. And considering how long and how hot Texas summers are, this strikes me as being a design flaw.

A better design can be seen in some of the area's older parks, such as Burnett Park in downtown Fort Worth, or some of the oldest parks in Dallas. There, grass fields are interspersed with enormous oak and cypress trees that cast shade over everything. Often, these parks are built where there is some elevation change (rare in a prairie state like Texas), so that trees on hills cast even more shade than they otherwise would.

Intelligently designed landscapes can offer a tremendous respite from the burning summer sun. With a little forethought, a space can be made into an inviting and worthwhile place to spend hours even during the hottest parts of July and August. I notice this immediately when I'm passing through older, wealthier neighborhoods in the area. Mansions are beautiful places to begin with, but even a small, modest home looks luxurious when the owners take design cues from the rich. Wealthy home owners make ample use of large, thick trees that cast shade over their entire yard. I strongly suspect a major reason mansion owners like these trees is because they are large and provide a great deal of privacy to anyone on the property; but my interest isn't in more privacy, but in more shade, and these large trees provide shade in spades.

You can spot other helpful tricks in the old parks, botanical gardens, and wealthy mansions. One is ground cover: low-lying shrubbery for use in landscape beds in lieu of traditional coverage such as mulch or gravel. Obviously gravel, being made of stone, conducts far more heat than mulch, which in turn conducts more heat than foliage. So if one wanted to create a cool and inviting yard, one would prefer mulch to gravel and foliage to mulch. It's so simple. Another important trick is to cast shade across all the windows of the home, either with awnings and pergolas, or with small, decorative trees like myrtles.

The reason I bring all this up is not to enthuse about landscaping, but to draw a contrast between the article I read and the situation in front of me. One can become very frustrated reading articles like the one mentioned above, but at the end of the day, how likely is it that we'll ever be able to make a widespread impact on the city's zoning laws? Perhaps a vote, petition, or city council meeting here and there is an important civic duty, but that's not a very efficient use of your time.

What's a more efficient use of your time? If you want more shade, plant more trees. Make some changes to your yard, and enjoy the benefits of your work almost immediately. Surround yourself and your home with pleasant things that make your life tangibly better. There might be some screwed up laws and regulations out there, but generally speaking there's nothing stopping you from making your own home a marginally better place. So do it.


Home Economics

I wouldn't say that my wife is a "couponer," but she does love to maximize her savings when she buys things. By contrast, I have spent most of my life loathing coupons and considering time spent collecting coupons essentially time wasted. I'd use any coupon that fell into my lap, but I'd never do as my mother did, spending Sunday mornings going through all the mailers, clipping good coupons, and putting them in a box for use at the grocery store later. All that work to save 25 cents on a can of soup? That's not a good investment of my time...

The advent of coupon apps changes the economics of the situation quite a bit. I might hate investing time in the pursuit of coupon savings, but I have absolutely no problem outsourcing that work to app developers. For that matter, considering how much my wife enjoys saving money on regular purchases, I also don't mind outsourcing that work to her. It's not labor for her, anyway, it's leisure.

This is a somewhat trivial but no less powerful expression of the whole purpose of marriage: division of labor, specialization of task, and an increasing production possibilities curve. And if you're lucky enough to have married an extremely attractive person, as I did, well that's a benefit, too. And then there's our child!

Ordinarily, I do the family's grocery shopping on the weekends. It's part of our division of labor at home, and interestingly enough, it's a task I enjoy, so not much of a burden. Still, it's always much more fun when my wife tags along, and this past weekend, she did. Not only that, she was inspired to hunt down a few great money-saving apps for us, and we not only lowered our grocery bill by 10%, she also found some way to earn 10% of the value of our bill in "points." (What we get to spend the points on later, I have no idea, but there they are.)

Life can be quite seamless when it all comes together. I think the way to have a happy home life is for everyone in the family to embrace their strengths, and divide labor accordingly. Even my daughter got in on the action, providing me with a much-needed extra pair of hands while I was cooking dinner later. With everything running smoothly, everyone has the most time to do what they want, everyone gets to contribute to how happy the others are, even at minimal cost (since, again, we're all focused on tasks that that we generally enjoy).

Part of the success of this involves shouldering your responsibilities. We were not as happy a family, for example, when my wife and I split the cooking 50-50. She dreaded having to cook, and consequently the meals weren't as satisfying as they could have been. (You try cooking a delicious-tasting meal when you don't want to cook!) One day, I decided to let her off the hook. I could see how much it was bothering her, and even on days when I don't want to cook very much, it doesn't bother me all that much. I can throw something tasty together in 30 minutes if I'm not feeling particularly culinary; and if I get ambitious, we all really enjoy what I come up with. But in order to enjoy our current routine, I had to recognize that taking on more of the responsibility in this one area was something I needed to do for the whole team.

And if you're managing things correctly in your own home, all this becomes a rhythm or a pattern, and before you know it, everyone's happier.


Keep It Positive

The Gottman Institute put together some famous research that demonstrates that successful marriages have a so-called "magic ratio" of five positive interactions for every negative interaction. It makes perfect sense that people in successful relationships would have more positive interactions than negative ones. The Gottmans' research simply quantifies that.

If you're in a long-term romantic relationship, or you want to be, then keeping in mind the "magic ratio" is a good idea. Go out of your way to interact positively with your partner, and not only will you improve your odds of relationship success, you'll also give yourself an important emotional buffer of sorts for whatever inevitable negative interaction that may occur in the future.

Like so many other things to come out of relationship research, however, this one is a lesson that can be applied to all of your relationships, not just your marriage. If you want to be popular and well-regarded at work, make an effort to ensure that most of your interactions with your colleagues are positive ones. If you want to maintain strong friendships, make sure you're interacting positively with your friends. If you want to get along with your roommates, keep interactions mostly positive. It's just good human advice.

Recently I had to remove a couple of people from my life because their reactions to me were consistently negative. I know that deep down, both of them are good people, but it was becoming difficult to keep reminding myself of that fact when they spent so much time insulting me. Good people sometimes do bad things, and sometimes they do bad things persistently and for a long period of time. In a short while, I will have forgiven them. In the meantime, though, there is no reason to keep exposing myself to insults, irritants, and downers. I have to live my life, after all. I interact with more people over the course of a day than just these two. If I allowed them to bring me down so often, it would eventually spill over into my other relationships and ruin my life. I can't allow that.

It's a twin lesson to learn. On the one hand, it's important to keep negative influences at bay. On the other hand, it's important to remember that if you're the negative influence, people will begin to keep you at bay, too. As aforementioned, if you want to maintain good relationships, you have to manage your interactions ratio.

Remember, too, that negative interaction is inevitable in any long-term relationship of any kind. If you spend enough time with anyone, you will eventually have some kind of conflict. But these conflicts can be more easily managed and recovered from if you're generally accustomed to interacting well with one another.

Or, on the flip-side, if you've been going through some stuff lately, and you know you've been a pill, take some time to foster positive interactions with the people around you. Maybe you can't undo what you did, but you can send people a reminder that you're not a pill.

The "magic ratio" is such a powerful idea that it extends to everything. I've written before about how I don't use Twitter because I consider the social environment on that medium to be hostile and unpleasant. Instead, I use Instagram and follow a bunch of outdoorsmen, pro athletes, and models. When I open up Instagram, all I see are photos of beautiful, smiling people in beautiful landscapes. I see models hitting the famous landmarks of major European cities. I see mountaineers summiting gorgeous, remote mountains in pristine ranges. I see professional marathoners training in the African high plains, or in Mallorca, or in Flagstaff. I see local runners logging miles on some of my favorite local routes. No matter whose photo I see next, it's a consistently positive experience for me. Whatever I'm doing and whatever the world is like for me, out there, in athlete-celebrity-model world, there are beautiful people having lots of fun in beautiful places, and so will I be soon.

It's the perfect demonstration of how surrounding yourself with positivity can improve your life, but it's also a reminder to keep your own social media posts positive. Reconsider sharing that angry political meme, and instead share a photo of you and your family doing something fun. Think twice about posting yet another selfie and instead turn the camera around; show the world the beauty of wherever you happen to be standing at that moment. No matter who you are, there is someone out there who could see your post and think, "That looks like an interesting place!"

If you see a social media post about exercise, give that person some kudos! Let them know that you admire their work. And if you're in the gym or out on the trails and you happen to see someone trying to take an exercise selfie, offer to snap that photo for them instead. When you see someone wearing a cool hat, tell them how cool you think it is.

Spread the positivity around. It feeds on itself and helps make the lives around you a lot better. You'll feel better doing it! Let's keep this world a positive place to be.


Rhythmic Breathing For Better Running

All Summer long, I've been struggling to hit decent pace times. The way this most typically unfolds is that I'll go out for, say, a six-mile run, start out at about 7:30 per mile pace, hit the wall at mile three, overheat, and gasp my way back to my starting point, cutting as much mileage as possible to just get out of the heat.

This is simply unlike me. As someone who was born in a hot-weather desert climate, I've always somewhat taken to hot weather. And as someone with thirty years of pretty fast running experience, 7:30 per mile pace and slower is a big step down for me, personally. How could this happen?

Part of the story involves the heart-rate-zone-based training I did during the first part of the year. In order to keep my heart rate in the correct zones, I found more often than not that I had to slow my pace down considerably. Eventually I realized that this was a pretty bad idea. Not only is getting accustomed to slower paces a counterproductive training strategy, when I finally started training at my more usual paces, I found that my heart rate was mostly unaffected, anyway. In other words, with proper running form and an attention to correct pacing, heart rate zones fall into place without having to be "managed" to the exclusion of pace. Lesson learned.

But the other part of the story is that something about Texas weather has been bothering me for years. I've been a tad slower ever since I moved here, much slower than can be accounted for by age or training style. Is the heat really that bad, or is something else going on?

Recently, I stumbled upon a technique that has greatly improved my capacity to run faster speeds, and longer distances, despite the heat and humidity. I say "stumbled upon," but maybe what I should be saying is rediscovered. Learning how to coordinate my breathing and my running stride was one of the first things I discovered when I started running more than three decades ago. It was the "secret" that turned me into a runner, the thing that made me go from running around like every other kid to being able to sustain fast speeds over long distances while maintaining composure. Basically, it's the thing that makes distance running possible in the first place.

I can't believe I forgot it! This is such a fundamental, elementary lesson of running. I feel a little silly or ashamed at having temporarily "lost it," but this is a good example of why screwing with your pacing via heart rate zone or cadence training is such a bad idea. You don't just change the little things, you change the fundamental things.

Now, for the past few days, I've been focusing really hard on my breathing, and to my delight I find that I am able to run closer to my usual pace and much closer to my usual mileage. The lesson for novice runners here is that, if you want to move up to a faster pace, sooner or later you have to focus on your breathing pattern. The lesson for veterans is that if you find your pace and energy levels dwindling, try focusing on your breathing pattern. ;)

The next logical question here is, okay how do I fix my breathing? Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question that will work for every runner. Breathing and running cadence are both highly individual things. My rhythm may not be your rhythm, so matching what I do might be a mistake for you. But that doesn't mean that it's hopelessly subjective.

I recommend running at a brisk but comfortable pace along a long, straight section of sidewalk. Get comfortable in your pace and watch how your stride interacts with the sections of sidewalk. Are you taking one step per section of sidewalk? Two steps? One step per section-and-a-half of sidewalk? Whatever it is, as long as it's comfortable, that's your stride and your stride length. The rate at which you're running at that particular stride will determine your cadence. That's your cadence. Embrace it.

Breathing is the final step in the process. You have to find a breathing pattern that is sustainable. That is, your breathing should match that pattern for mile after mile, without your having to think about it at all. You shouldn't have to take any "make up breaths" or occasionally gasp for extra air. You also shouldn't get a side cramp, which can sometimes happen if you're drawing in more air than you're exhaling.

The trick is to match your breathing to your stride rhythmically. Perhaps a good starting point is to inhale over the course of two strides (one per foot), and then exhale over two strides. This creates a "one-two, one-two, one-two, one-two" rhythm that is easy to stick with. But if this doesn't quite fit what your body wants to do, adjust accordingly. Lately, I've found the most success with a pattern that consists of inhaling over two strides, exhaling over one stride, and resting for a fourth stride. Like this: "one-two ONE (rest), one-two, ONE (rest)" and so on.

Your preferred breathing rhythm might be similar to mine, or might be very different. Perhaps your rhythm is best expressed in a three count. Perhaps you prefer a one-beat inhale and two-beat exhale, or perhaps something else entirely. So, do some experimentation until you find the most comfortable and intuitive breathing pattern for yourself. Once you have it, you'll only need to focus on it for a short time before it becomes second-nature. At that point, you'll be ready to apply your breathing pattern to faster speeds, longer distances, or both; racing or training; you might even find yourself using your rhythm in other sports, like cycling or soccer. 


What Makes Someone A Runner?

I've been working my way through the book 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career by Eritrean-American running legend Meb Keflezighi. It is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.

In one of the early chapters, Keflezighi recounts the story of how, as the American record-holder in the 10,000 meters and an Olympic silver medalist in the marathon, with a personal best marathon time of 2:10, he mentions to someone he meets that he is a marathon runner. The other person asks him if he's ever run the Boston Marathon, and if so, what was his time? At that point, however, Keflezighi had never run the Boston Marathon, and had to answer accordingly.

He says that this experience taught him that people measure a runner's ability by how well they ran the Boston Marathon, and not much else. This section of the book should resonate with most runners, and certainly resonated with me. Nobody cares much about how fast a runner runs, or what races they've won. They don't even care what records they hold.

All the general public knows about distance running is the Boston Marathon. For that reason, some people (not Meb Keflezighi, of course) treat the Boston Marathon less like a race and more like a declaration of identity. Anybody can run, but only special people run the Boston Marathon. If you run the Boston Marathon, you can be special, too. The Boston Marathon is a "thing."

It's a foreign concept to me, because I grew up at a time when running was still very much a competitive sport. "What is your best marathon time?" was always a more relevant question to me than "Have you done the Boston Marathon?" All my friends were running the Salt Lake City Marathon and the Top of Utah Marathon, both of which take place at elevations exceeding 4,000 feet. If you can post a sub-three-hour marathon time in a marathon like that, does it really matter what happens in Boston?

*        *        *

At age 23, I entered a very difficult race. Held in the middle of summer, the course ran across the unique topography of the Canadian prairies. There, "coulees" are essentially what those of us raised near mountains would call "foothills," except where foothills go up, coulees go down. Other than that, it's quite similar: single-track trails over rolling hills, surrounded by bushes and short trees, inhabited by rabbits and coyotes.

Having run 20 to 30 miles quite frequently for several years, the 20-mile distance of this race didn't bother me at all. I was looking forward to a strong finish. When I started the race, however, I discovered a few unfortunate things. First of all, the hot weather was insufferable. I had no idea that Canadian summers could be so hot. Second, I had a breakfast misstep when I ate a vegetable omelet featuring a large portion of peas. Peas and distance running are a poor combination. Owing mainly to these two factors, I ran poorly that day.

I also discovered a third thing, however: "Adventure races" suck.

I didn't quite realize that I had made this discovery at the time, however. It took me another couple of years, when I participated in the relay category of an event called The Canadian Death Race. In the Canadian Death Race, individual competitors must run 125 kilometers through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I joined up with a relay team featuring relative running novices. As the expert runner of the group, I took on the second-longest, but most physically strenuous leg of the race. I don't quite remember how long my leg was, but it started at the valley floor and went straight up the side of a 10,000 foot mountain to the summit, then back down the other side.

To my great surprise, my leg of the race did not follow along the usual hiking trail up the mountain. Normal hiking trails use "switchbacks." Basically you hike diagonally upward for a while, and then "switch back," meaning you walk back the other direction, but still upward. Like this:
This helps relieve the physical exertion required to travel straight uphill for miles at a time. It's also more eco-friendly, helping to avoid soil erosion and to prevent avalanches. In the Canadian Death Race, however, the course bypassed the switchbacks and instead cut a course straight up the side.

I get it. It's more difficult to run up a mountain that way. But it's also damaging to the eco-system, and it's also not very fun. Running up switchbacks is one of the most exciting things a trail runner can do. It's exhilarating to zig-zag up a large mountain, every twist and turn revealing more of the summit as you get closer. The athlete gets a beautiful view of the valley below on one side of the trail, and the summit on the other side. There are fun trees, rocks, and streams to jump over. It's the kind of trail that people get into trail running for in the first place.

What surprised me even more than the race course, however, was learning that none of the other race participants ran the uphill sections of the course. Only me! Everyone else walked the uphills and ran on the flat or downhill sections of the course.

That was when I realized that ultramarathon "running" was not really about running at all. You don't brag about your finish time when you run the Canadian Death Race. You brag about making it to the finish line along with everyone else. Even though "finishing" means walking up every hill and stopping to eat pizza at the rest stations (yes, I literally saw people eating pizza as they competed in the Death Race), no one is keeping track of whether you ran fast or stayed healthy all day. You're there to just finish, and everyone who crosses the finish line is exactly the same, no matter how fast or slow they did it.

*        *        *

In hindsight, this period in time was really the dawn of the adventure racing world. There were no "Spartan Races," and there was no such thing as "Obstacle Course Racing." Hell, crossfit hadn't even been invented yet. With the internet's help, people gained exposure to adventure races and ultramarathons, and it soon became a "thing," just like the Boston Marathon is a "thing." Before I knew it, people were asking me whether I'd ever done a Spartan Race. No, I'd said, What's that? Then they'd send me links of people rolling around in the mud and climbing ropes and carrying around bags of sand. None of the websites listed winners and finishing times. Silly Ryan, that wasn't the point.

In social situations, people would learn I was a runner. "Really!? Me, too!" I'd prepare myself for the kind of conversation I was used to having with my fellow runners: a conversation about nutrition, or effective training, or weekly mileage, or maybe personal records. Over time, these conversations disappeared from the running community and were replaced by eager questions about whether I'd done any Spartan Races.

I didn't feel left out, I felt frustrated. How do you tell somebody that you like to run 30-mile mountain summit trails carrying only a water bottle and a sandwich baggie full of peanuts, and that you do this weekly, when they want to talk to you about burpees? I do burpees, too, of course, but not as part of a race.

The problem is that the whole concept of running excellence transformed. It went from being about fast times, long distances, freedom, and solitude, to being about a cultish community of people who walked all the uphills and only ran in order to transport themselves from Challenge A, a giant mud puddle, to Challenge B, the monkey bars.

I used to run through rivers on my long runs all the time. It wasn't a thing. Monkey bars definitely weren't a thing. But now they are.

*        *        *

The benefit of a thing, however, is that it is testament to your identity. If you run a Spartan Race, you get to take your photo on that podium thing, with the Spartan Race logo behind you. Same with the Boston Marathon. Same, for that matter, with climbing Mount Everest.

At about the same time these mud-and-monkey-bar races were getting started, Kilian Jornet was winning every European trail race that mattered, and setting records along the way. by his early twenties, he had achieved everything he ever wanted to achieve with running. He experienced a brief depression as a result of having lived his dreams so young and still having so much life ahead of him. Then, he turned to mountaineering.

He tells this story in the movie Kilian Jornet: Path to Everest. Jornet began his running career as a competitive athlete, and eventually transitioned to trail racing. Once he was the undisputed champion, though, he needed something more than mere competition to drive him. So, he thought about it and decided on a list of mountains he wanted to summit.

He didn't just want to summit them, however. He wanted to summit them using his style, running up the mountain with minimal equipment, and then quite often skiing back down. Like an alpinist. There was no one else out there doing this at the time, so there was not much competition involved. Sure, he set some records in terms of how fast a person can reach a summit and come back down, but over the course of Jornet's movie and his "Summits of My Life" project, he learns that competition and speed isn't really the point.

Admirably, Jornet moved to Norway, to a relatively rural part of the country, where he could spend his days climbing mountains, skiing, and enjoying the outdoors. He mentions in the movie that in Norway the mountains don't have names, so he doesn't know which peak he's climbing, except that he's climbing it, and he's enjoying himself.

Other than the occasional social media post and Strava upload, no one is really keeping track of which peaks he climbs and how fast he's doing it. Again, it's not a competitive thing. He's doing it for himself, for fun, and to enrich his soul.

While Kilian Jornet shares a lot in common with the average runner at the Canadian Death Race, the difference is unmistakable. The Death-Racers are driven by a desire to say they are Death-Racers. It's about identity. It's about the photos, and the medal at the finish line. People who finish the Boston Marathon want mostly to be able to say that they ran and finished the Boston Marathon, and are thus "marathoners." Kilian Jornet just wants to spend some time in the mountains. If not for his sponsorships, he might not even care that anyone knew what he was doing. It's not a thing for him.

*        *        *

There is an important distinction to be made here. I'm sure if you asked Kilian Jornet why he does what he does, he'd give you an answer similar to the one you'd get from Meb Keflezighi, which is an answer similar to the one I give people when they ask me why I run so much. Why do it? Why get up at 4 A.M. and run around the neighborhood? What am I training for? Have I run the Boston Marathon? Have I ever done a Spartan Race? Why did I bike 37 miles on a single-speed bicycle in the dark, before breakfast, even though I was tired? 

Jornet, Keflezighi, and people like them will likely tell you that they do what they do because it's just what they do. It's a part of them. It's who they are. Running is certainly a major part of who I am. I am compelled to run; there isn't much choice in the matter. I do what I do because I'm me, and this is what the person who is me does. If I didn't do it, I wouldn't be me any longer.

So, if my identity is so wrapped up in running, how is this any different than a person who runs the Boston Marathon for reasons of identity? 

It comes down to the direction of causality. Running is an element of being who I am. I am who I am, and therefore I run. It's no different than the fact that, when my daughter comes home from school, I know she will flash me a mischievous grin and say or do something silly to make me laugh. This is inevitable, there is little doubt that it will happen, because it's an indelible part of who she is, like right- or left-handedness. Running does not cause me to be me. Being me causes me to run. 

Compare that to the runner who does not even know how to talk to other runners, except about the Boston Marathon. If these folks don't run the Boston Marathon, or at least try to, then they scarcely consider themselves to be runners at all. If the Boston Marathon were cancelled indefinitely, these folks would have no other reason to run, at least until some other running event took Boston's place as The Thing That Runners Do. And all that matters is doing it, not doing it fast or doing it twice or anything else. The causality here goes the other way: Running causes them to be who they are.

In the same way, a running the Canadian Death Race causes someone to be a Death-Racer, and running a Spartan Race causes someone to be an Obstacle Course Racer. There is no identity without the event; the event causes the identity. Running up a mountain doesn't make a person an "ultramarathoner," even if they do it many times and up many mountains. You have to bypass the switchbacks and run through the mud pit. There must be photos and a finisher's medal. Only then are you who you say you are.

*        *        *

So much of what we do today is geared toward external recognition. The marketing teams behind the things we value have every incentive to make us think that way, too. Certainly more people will pay to run a Spartan Race if it is understood to be the only way to claim that they're true Spartans. The Boston Marathon is more financially lucrative than the Top of Utah Marathon precisely because it serves as the external validation of a runner's ability to run. 

Aside from the marketing teams, however, it's not clear to me who benefits from this mentality. Maybe there are people out there who truly aren't satisfied by their running ability until they qualify and run the Boston Marathon. But how much happier would they be if they didn't feel obligated to cross an experience off of a list in order to enjoy running? 

A person ought not have to fight in order to be who they are. Nobody who loves chocolate has to fight for the title of "chocolate lover." All you have to do to be a chocolate lover is love the chocolate that you eat. Wouldn't it be interesting if that's how we defined runner's, too? You're a runner if you run. You run? Great, you're a runner.

I've actually had that conversation many times. I discover that someone I know likes to run, I strike up a conversation with them about it, and they quickly try to temper my expectations. "I don't run like you, Ryan. I'm not fast. I only run at 10:00 per mile pace. I've never done a marathon. I just like to go out for a run after work every other day."

When I hear this kind of thing, I say to people, "You run three to four times per week? That sounds like you're a runner to me!" In reality, such people deserve the title of "runner" far more than someone who plasters their social media accounts with race photos. They do it because they want to. That makes them runners.


Hole In The Data

Over the years, I've really come to love cycling. As any cyclist will tell you, there is something magical about pedaling rapidly down a long, scenic road or path with the wind in your face and the sounds of the world around you. It is a thrilling way to travel, and a wonderful way to get some exercise.

In that spirit, I recently decided to incorporate a long bike ride into my weekly workout regimen, on Sundays, in lieu of a "rest day." Cycling is far less aerobically intensive than running, at least when you cycle like I do, and so it has the overall feel of an active rest day.

As longtime readers of this blog know, my bicycle is a single-speed Windsor Clockwork. Riding a single-speed bike means that my average and maximum speeds are limited on the upper end. While people riding multi-gear bicycles can easily achieve speeds above 30 miles per hour on flat ground, such speeds seem virtually impossible to me. That was an intentional choice, by the way; when I first started shopping for bicycles, I was so uncomfortable on thin-tired road racers that I wanted to cap my top speed as an added safety measure. It's hard to smash your face if you're never going fast enough to cause real damage in the first place. Another consequence of all this is that I tend to expend more physical effort at the same level of speed than riders with fancier bikes. Again, I knew this going into my initial purchase of a single-speed bicycle; having a more difficult time pedaling the bicycle means that I'll get a better workout than others. No "cheating" by down-shifting on the uphills, and 30 miles of riding is a good, hard ride for me. And, of course, the frame itself is made of steel; comfortable, durable, and inexpensive, yes, but certainly not light or fast.

In light of my bicycle's inherent challenges, I've set sane goals for my weekly ride. At some point in the future, I'd like to build up to a 50-mile ride,  A.K.A a "half-century." That would say something about my endurance on the bike. At another point (almost certainly not on a 50-mile ride!), I'd like to log a ride for which my average speed is 17 miles per hour. For me, these are do-able goals, and since I have no time constraints getting in my way, they're fun things to shoot for, good ways to add some focus to my cycling when otherwise I'd just be out riding for kicks.

Yesterday, I got up before dawn, at four o'clock in the morning, to be exact. I wanted to start riding before the heat kicked in, and I also wanted to be back in time for breakfast. I hit the road while it was still dark outside, attracting moths and gnats and bats. I rode through the industrial part of town, where roads are wide and sparsely trafficked on Sundays, then along the river here in the city to a few cultural landmarks before circling back through some of the nicer neighborhoods until I reached home.

I rolled up to my garage and my GPS had me at over 37 miles of cycling - my longest ride yet. I still had plenty of aerobic energy; the data from my ride shows that I spent almost all of the ride at or below heart rate zone 1. But, after 37 miles of single-speed work, my legs were exhausted. My quadriceps burned with lactic acid and they had long since lost their "bounce." I burned over 1,300 calories while riding and gave my leg muscles a good, hard workout. It felt great, and I'm already looking forward to next week's ride.

Reviewing my statistics on Strava and Garmin Connect, however, I was a little disappointed to find that my 37-mile ride, my longest ride ever, my great Sunday morning excursion, was basically scored as "no activity" in my health and fitness statistics. The reason is entirely a data classification issue.

That is, at both Strava and Garmin Connect, my primary activity type is set to "running." This is as it should be, of course, but the problem with that is that my fitness and training load statistics are thus calculated only from running activities, i.e. activities tagged explicitly as "running." I could do thirteen hours of intense bicycle intervals across 300 miles of tough terrain, and it wouldn't impact my "training load" or "fitness curve" at all. In fact, both my load and my fitness curve would decrease that day, since I would have failed to log a "running" activity.

Since I've grown accustomed to monitoring my training load using my Strava and Garmin accounts, I was chagrined to put in an awesome ride yesterday morning and not get a little numerical "boost" for my good, hard work. In some ways, this is a problem with the way these companies calculate their statistics.

In other ways, though, it is a purely epistemic problem. I don't need to log on to the internet to know that I had a great workout yesterday. I don't need to see my "fatigue curve" climb in order to know that my muscles are tired. I don't need to see a little trophy graphic to know that it was my longest ride ever and that I climbed more vertical feet than on any previous road ride. I don't need to see a "Relative Effort Score" of over 100 to know that my two-and-a-half-hour ride was more exhausting than last week's tempo run. But the brain sees numbers and processes them as cardinal values, anyway.

The truth is that I know how hard my ride was, what a great workout it was, how much good it did me as an athlete, and how much fun I had doing it. Internet algorithms might not know it, and internet kudos values might not reflect the intrinsic value of the ride to me. But this is one problem technology cannot solve. In at least this regard, we may have been better off in the days before GPS watches, when all we really had to go on was time, distance on the (paper, hard-copy) map, and the subjective fatigue we felt after the fact. We never felt bad about not showing a numerical improvement, because there were no numbers staring back at us. We had memories, instead.

Well, it's an epistemic problem, but not an insurmountable one. Just as the brain can be trained to think carefully about its cognitive biases and deliberately work against them, so can we train the brain to accept that internet fitness data is just there as a fun thing to track. It doesn't make or break your workouts, nor even a year's worth of workouts. We have more tangible means of assessing our progress. Sometimes the absence of an uptick in the data merely serves as a reminder to us that we should pay more attention to the physical sensation of exercise, and perhaps less attention to quantitative, algorithmically calculated benchmarks.


Tiny Steps Forward, Huge Steps Back?

For some people, I think there is value in completely eschewing alcohol. For most people, I think alcohol generally contributes positively to a person's quality of life. Social atmospheres and celebrations that involve alcohol consumption with food tend to bring people closer together, in my experience. It's not merely that alcohol is a "social lubricant." It's a social lubricant that tastes good and can enhance the sensory quality of a meal. Physiologically, alcohol can improve digestion and reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer when it is consumed with meat, especially red meat. So it's natural that alcohol would enjoy its special place in the human social experience.

In terms of overall human health, however, alcohol does vastly more harm than good. Even as the aforementioned digestive aid, alcohol can be replaced by a vinegar-based marinade, and all of the benefits can be had without alcohol itself. As for resveratrol, the supposed miracle compound in red wine, the best research indicates that it is basically a placebo pill. Meanwhile, alcohol increases the risk of all sorts of cancers, most notably mouth and stomach cancers; it kills brain cells, dehydrates the drinker, promotes obesity, and increases triglycerides in the bloodstream, which then go on to further promote high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

In short, alcohol is a slow poison whose only real benefits are social, not physical. And if I really wanted to make the case against alcohol, I'd dedicate this paragraph to discussing all the social detriments caused by alcohol, including death and maiming on the roadways, workplace accidents, rapes, assaults, addictions, domestic abuse, and so on.

The simple fact of the matter is, in light of objective cost-benefit analysis, the case against alcohol consumption is much stronger than the case for alcohol consumption.

Of course, one could easily say the same thing about french fries. Well, aside from the physical impairment alcohol causes, anyway, french fries do just as much physical damage, and their only redeeming qualities involve the decadent pleasure of consuming food that tastes good despite universally understood health detriments.

I bring up french fries here because I don't want the reader to make the mistake of believing that I'm against alcohol consumption. I'm not, nor am I against the consumption of french fries. Hilariously enough, I grew up in conservative Utah, where the consumption of alcohol was considered verboten and sinful, and yet giving oneself organ failure via frosting and bacon was not frowned upon at all. It's very interesting, the social mores that surround what is "acceptable" poison and what is "unacceptable poison."

As for most sane people with a modicum of self-regulation, there is no harm in drinking alcohol or eating french fries occasionally.

Yet, once again, I repeat: whether or not we're religious teetotallers, the case for drinking alcohol is extremely weak, objectively speaking.

So, if you're a person like me, always making micro-adjustments to your personal health regimen, experimenting with supplements and fine-tuning the fitness process in an effort to optimize your physical health to the greatest extent possible, eventually you have to ask yourself a question. If you're willing to spend $40 per month on nicotinamide riboside supplements because they might improve cellular health, if you're willing to subscribe to Strava Summit in order to gain access to deeper analytics on your athletic performance, if you're willing to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy shoes and workout clothes, subscribe to Beachbody On Demand, wake up early to cook a highly nutritious breakfast garnished with seeds and spices curated to optimize dietary health, if you're willing to switch from inexpensive turkey sausage to gourmet smoked salmon for breakfast because it's healthier, if you almost religiously consume fruits and vegetables at every meal, count calories to determine the ideal daily distribution, monitor your blood sugar virtually in real time, take brisk walks on your coffee breaks at work, time your water consumption, and so on, and so forth, et cetera, ad infinitum...

...If you're willing to do all of that, and yet still persist in drinking alcohol regularly, counteracting many of the benefits that drive all of your other health and fitness decisions, then that's a contradiction. It's an untenable contradiction. Alcohol is much more harmful than the marginal benefits of each of the other decisions I make about my own health every minute of every day.

And for that reason, I've reduced my alcohol consumption to a decided minimum. Why would I make a point to live so clean and so healthy, and then reverse all those positive decisions with beer?

For me, it makes little sense. Your life may be a little different, and so you might come to a different conclusion.


Is Welfare Socialism?

An interesting idea has been allowed to take hold in the libertarian community. The idea is that the word "socialism" should not be used interchangeably with the phrase "social welfare spending." On that narrow and somewhat semantic point, I agree.

However, on the broader point that welfare spending isn't really socialism, I can only ask, "What the hell are you talking about?" Of course social welfare spending is socialism. What else would it be?

Now, don't get me wrong. I do understand the purpose of trying to make the case that social welfare spending isn't socialism. It's sort of a two-pronged attack.

The one prong involves libertarians' collective self-awareness about the fact that no one in the 21st Century appears to be prepared to relinquish the welfare state. It is now too entrenched in modern society to simply swipe it away. Savvy libertarians, then, have moved on to spreading more popular notions of liberty, such as marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, and small business deregulation. This enables libertarians to present ourselves as being less quixotic than the reputation that precedes us. We can say, "No, no, I'm not coming after your food stamps. I simply want to prevent crony capitalism." That's a much more appealing message than, "Trust us, the poor will be richer if we stop giving them free food stamps and health care. No, I mean it, trust us."

The second prong is a little more elegant and requires a long-run vision, but the idea basically comes down to this: If social welfare spending is inevitable no matter what libertarians say, then we may as well do the least-disruptive form of social welfare spending, i.e. transfer payments. Ergo, various "libertarian cases" for the Universal Basic Income, welfare reform, and so on. First, the proponents say, we implement a negative income tax; then, we gradually phase-out other forms of social welfare spending and rely entirely on the UBI. I question the wisdom of this from both strategic and practical sides, but that's the argument in a nutshell.

Of course, all of this really dodges the question: Is social welfare spending "socialism" or not?

Those who claim that it is not, reason like so: Socialism is defined to be "government ownership of the means of production." Since it is entirely possible for private parties to own "the" means of production, and then just tax their money away and redistribute it, welfare is thus not incompatible with capitalism. And so it can't  be socialism.

I raise two important objections here. The first is, what do we suppose the communists meant when they said, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"? Was that the rhetoric of a capitalist who just happened to recognize that social insurance was not necessarily incompatible with free market economics? No, of course not. Wealth redistribution is, was, and always will be the calling card of socialism. Actually, that is why socialism exists. The whole point of socialism is to redistribute wealth from the privileged class to the lower classes. It strikes me as odd to suddenly suggest that wealth redistribution is no longer socialism, provided the means of production in the nation's economy are still owned by the private sector.

But that brings me to my second objection: Who do we suppose owns the means of the social welfare spending production? To whom are our taxes paid, and from whom are these welfare payments doled? Why, the government, of course. Private wealth distribution means the non-government not-for-profit sector, organizations like Catholic Social Services, the Red Cross, and your local soup kitchen or food bank. But these are precisely not what anyone has in mind when they say "social welfare spending."

So, let the argument rest. Because social welfare spending is owned and operated by the government, and because wealth distribution is an explicit objective - if not the primary objective - of socialist economic organization, then therefore social welfare spending is socialism. Period.

Now, this doesn't mean that it's a sin to favor social welfare spending or that libertarians are wrong to focus their energies on more popular policies than depriving the poor of social security checks. Nor does it mean that any nation that has a social welfare system "is a socialist country." Socialism is not a single policy, after all, but rather a consistent pattern of economic organization.

Even so, let's not go coo-coo here. Social welfare spending, regardless of its relative merits, is socialism. It is incorrect to say otherwise.


See What I Mean?

I unfortunately must follow-up on yesterday's post with some incredibly sad news. Frank Meza appears to have taken his own life yesterday.

These insatiable internet mobs are absolutely poisonous. Just because a person cheats in a game or a road race, that does not make him a despicable person. I reiterate that by all accounts, Frank Meza was a beloved member of his community. There was much more to his 70 years of life than his road racing career as a senior citizen.

The lesson to be learned from this is: Be gentle and merciful when you choose to criticize others. Don't gloat. Don't revel in someone else's disgrace. Don't partake in schadenfreude. Don't participate in a mob.

When you see a crowd turn against someone, exercise extreme caution. The power of mobs, mob mentality, and groupthink is awesome and terrifying. In those situations, go out of your way to look for reasons to doubt the crowd. When there can be no doubt, go out of your way to look for reasons to be kind, forgiving, understanding, and merciful.

Wrongdoing is unavoidable in life. The best thing that can happen to wrongdoers is that they find a way back to ethical behavior with dignity and humility. As onlookers, we owe it to people like Dr. Meza to offer an ideological path back to society's good graces. We ought not seek to condemn, revile, and exile people. We ought to look for ways to bring people together, even people who do the wrong thing at road races.

Because if we don't, then terrible things happen. How many of the gloaters will invest more than 30 seconds of their lives in hindsight, considering what they may have contributed to Dr. Meza's end? Too few. It's sad.

Remember this.


Frank Meza And Ideal States

In April, I blogged about the website MarathonInvestigation.com.

It seemed so strange to me that ordinary people would cheat in road races, even with nothing on the line. For example, some people cheat just to be able to say they finished a race; they're not good runners, and they're not earning a top place, not even in their age group. Others cheat just so that they can "qualify" for the Boston Marathon, as though running the Boston Marathon itself is the accomplishment, not qualifying for it in the first place. Others cheat for no other reason than to collect their finisher's medal and have their photo taken at the finish line. Such small stakes, and yet people will cheat.

It also seemed strange to me that so many people would become emotionally invested in the fact that other people cheat for meaningless accomplishments. Don't get me wrong, I'm against cheaters, but I cannot fathom the mindset of a person whose hobby it is to pore over GPX files and race photography in search of evidence of cheating. In my spare time, I like to actually run, rather than prove that someone else didn't run. Or, I like to play music, or kiss my wife, or play with my daughter, or go on a bike ride, or do literally anything other than trying to figure out if some Instagram poster actually finished the race she claims to have run.What an odd hobby.

Well, the latest scandal in the world of cheating at road races is the strange case of Dr. Frank Meza, or Mezza, a retired physician and boys track coach, who was recently disqualified from the Los Angeles Marathon. Here's an LA Times article that neatly summarizes things. I won't rehash the whole thing here, but the basic synopsis of it is that Meza has spent the last ten years posting increasingly better marathon times while running one marathon about every three months! That's astounding in its own right, and his most recent time - the time for which he was disqualified - was an age division world record. No 70-year-old had ever run as fast as that before. Of course, the best evidence suggests that Meza cheated, not only in the most recent LA Marathon, but also in many previous marathons over the years.

People will naturally have a wide variety of reactions to this. In my reading of internet comments, I have found the overwhelming majority of people seem to be either outraged that a man would cheat at all - and the more you cheat, the more terrible a person you are - and smug gloating over the fact that Meza was finally caught.

To be perfectly honest, I cannot understand either of these reactions. I think cheating is wrong, and I think low-level cheating of the sort that Frank Meza is alleged to have done is pitiful. To waste anger on such a pitiful thing is, to me, equally pitiful. How pitiful must a person be to squander time and emotional energy on being angry at some loser for cheating his way to the top of 70-year-olds? And to gloat over something so pitiful is... really nasty. It's pathetic to revel in someone else's shame; and the more pitiful that person is, the more we debase ourselves by reveling in their downfall.

Have these people no dignity? It's understandable to want a cheater to be caught and to be passionate about doing the right thing, but when you see someone like Frank Meza - who is by all accounts an upstanding member of his community and a good mentor to young Latino boys - hit rock-bottom in such a pitiful way, the time for gloating is over. In the end, Meza's downfall is sad, not satisfying. What kind of person would be satisfied by that at all?

Although I can't locate the link now, one of the stories I read about Meza included some quotes from the current world marathon record holder for Meza's age group. He said it would be too bad if Meza cheated, because he was looking forward to racing against him. That's a healthy perspective. It's disappointing that Meza cheated, if that's what happened, and it's sad that it all came to this. Sad and disappointing, not outrageous or satisfying.

During times like these, it's elucidating to ask oneself, "What would the ideal resolution of this look like?" Many commentators on the Meza case hope that Meza is banned, panned, reviled, and that he just goes away. But I don't think that's an ideal resolution.

In my ideal world, Frank Meza would train hard and try to post a great marathon time. Maybe he'd come close to the times he's been posting. Maybe not. Maybe he'd find that running a genuine marathon is more satisfying than cheating. In my ideal world, Meza would humbly attempt to regain his dignity, the running community would forgive him, stop gloating, stop making a spectacle of him, and we'd all go on about our lives - happily.

What surprises me about all of this is that for many people, the ideal resolution to a situation like this is one in which a lot of people still feel really badly.



Meaning is broadly one of the hardest things to express to other people. I can tell you about how I give my daughter ten cents for every new thing she tries and for every difficult task she attempts. I can tell you about how happy this makes her, and about how she subsequently seeks out opportunities to try new things or difficult things in order to earn her dimes. And, I can tell you about the other day, when my wife decided to try something new for dinner, and in response, my daughter said, "Mom, you can have one of my dimes because you tried something new." You'll kind of get it. But the total meaning of all this will forever escape you. On an intellectual level, you'll understand why I'm so proud of my daughter for internalizing the value of trying new things and reaching out to the rest of us to award us for our own mini-accomplishments. On an emotional level, though, it won't hit you.

I guess you had to be there.

Someone I know was talking to a friend about how accomplished she felt when she finally reached the point in her career when she was earning a six-figure salary. Her friend dismissed the idea, saying essentially that "everybody" earns six figures these days. That plainly isn't true, but even if it were, it represents a failure to understand another person's accomplishments. Or perhaps her friend did understand the accomplishment, but failed to understand the meaning of the accomplishment. She wasn't bragging about her salary, she was expressing gratitude for her good fortune in life. Reaching a six-figure salary, for her, meant achieving a certain station; it's a mark of internal validation, not a mark of external validation. It has little to do with who else has achieved the same thing.

I have most often encountered this disconnect in the reverse. I'll run a road race or something, maybe snag a top age-group finish, and my friends will do their best to congratulate me on an amazing accomplishment. How can I express to them that, when it comes to running, I already achieved much more than that two decades ago and that "second place in my age group at the Podunk Days 5K Fun Run/Walk" is not something I'll remember next week, much less twenty years from now? How do I explain that what would be highly significant if my friends did it is not particularly significant when I do it?

Moreover, how do I explain to people that their making a big deal about what to me is not a significant accomplishment detracts from my real purpose at the fun run? I wasn't there to earn a place or an award, I was there to join the rest of the community in a fun run. I may have been there to see what kind of time I could get at the race, to check my overall level of fitness or the state of my training. The age group awards are for people who care about that sort of thing, and I'd much rather forego an age group medal so that someone who is really trying can get the recognition they deserve. I'm not ungrateful, but I also don't want accolades for something carries no meaning for me.

In the end, it's a meaning-gap. What means a great deal to one person might not mean very much to the next person. It might be a loving exchange between a father and a daughter, a personal accomplishment that you're trying to share with a friend, or an accidental accomplishment you never wanted or sought out. Humans thrive on meaning, we each seek it out in our own way. The act of recognizing someone else's meaning is an act of empathy, a bridge to human emotional connection. Whether we're on the giving end or the receiving end, we long for that meaning to be reflected back at us by the other people with whom we interact. In many ways, meaning is love, and its absence is a type of rejection.

There will often be meaning-gaps between us. This is unavoidable. We can keep our relationships healthy, however, by trying to recognize the meaning that other people see in the world, trying to experience it from their perspectives, and expressing that recognition back to them, to the best of our abilities. 


Creatine Update

A short while back, I posted briefly on creatine. Just to recap, my thinking was that most of the benefits that can be gained from creatine supplementation can be gained merely by increasing one's water consumption without taking creatine.

I had posted that I intended to stop taking creatine and just drink more water instead. So I did. For the past few weeks, I've been drinking no less than a liter of water between 7:00 AM and 11:00 AM, every day. (That's roughly between the time I arrive at work in the morning until the time I go to lunch.) In addition to that, I drink approximately 16 ounces of water at breakfast, along with another 16 ounces of water + milk in the form of two homemade cafe lattes. At lunch, I drink about 30 more ounces of water (just shy of another liter). I'll drink perhaps 12-24 ounces of water at dinner, and then throughout the evening, I'll have a cup of tea and another glass of water.

As you consider the above, please keep in mind that I live in a very hot and humid climate, and I work out 1-2 times per day. If a sedentary person in a more temperate climate were drinking this much water, I think it would make them sick. But for an active person living in Texas during the summertime, I believe this represents heightened, but reasonable, water intake.

Another thing I should mention is that I have significantly reduced the amount of alcohol I drink. Until recently, I've been having wine with dinner, and beer occasionally. Recently, I've eschewed alcohol unless I'm out socializing with friends. Reducing the amount of alcohol I drink also reduces the dehydrating effects of alcohol, therefore improving my body's overall hydration.

The result of all this additional hydration cannot be measured by "increased muscle mass," as is typically advertised on the label of a bottle of creatine, because I'm not a bodybuilder, and I'm not trying to increase my muscle mass. As a distance runner, however, my experience with creatine was that it helped my muscles feel fresh when it came time to do fast runs and speed workouts. (They felt fresh before any workout, really, but it was most noticeable during the most strenuous workouts.)

With that in mind, I'm pleased to report that my subjective experience with hydration in lieu of creatine supplementation is that, so long as I drink enough water, I can enjoy all the benefits of creatine without the actual creatine.

So, drink up, folks. All that additional water will likely help you feel every bit as good as you feel after a couple of weeks of creatine supplementation.