No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Gimme shelter

Posted by Ben on Monday, May 11, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I went on my first mass-group motorcycle ride. I’ve had my Harley since July 2005, so it took nearly four years for me to ride with more than one other bike, and I’ve only done that twice that I can remember. I’m perfectly happy riding solo since that allows me to chart my own courses and timetables while not having to coordinate rest breaks and calls of nature. However, a mass-group ride had been one of the few things I hadn’t experienced on the bike, and since this particular ride was put on by one of my radio stations (and since I’d been invited on the previous five iterations), I finally pulled the trigger.

The weather was pristine if a little hot, the laps around Lowe’s Motor Speedway were surreal, and the pictures from the ride were great, not to mention a lot of money was raised for a good cause. That’s about all the good I have to say about it, though. Just before buying my motorcycle, I took an intensive rider training course from a local Harley dealer that went far beyond what is generally taught at community colleges and the DMV here, and I’m admittedly a borderline paranoid rider—hey, all I have between me and the next thing is a helmet and some minimally protective clothing compared to the seat belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and every other gadget designed to idiot-proof regular cars and trucks.

With that course as my introduction to riding, I had the impression that the majority of motorcycle riders are at least nearly as cautious and observant as I am since we have to deal with the cluelessness of other drivers anytime we’re on the road. Instead, it seems that the majority of riders bring their four-wheel habits to two-wheelers, which made the actual ride that day a fairly stressful event, whether it was people not keeping speeds, not holding their formation lines, or not giving room for our law enforcement escort to pass (one officer ended up in an ambulance with serious though non-life threatening leg injuries). Let’s just say I’m all but done with anything that might involve more than a half-dozen bikes.

So, my impression of motorcycle riders was shot. It was a (most likely) one-time event that I can keep in the back of my mind and remember on rare occasions as needed. When it comes to health and fitness knowledge and practice, though, my assumptions are obliterated on a fairly regular basis, as if the moment I think things are either becoming somewhat sane or couldn’t get any worse, something happens that just blows my mind. Some examples:

KFC – Good thing they shortened their name to just an anagram, or the new marketing ploy wouldn’t work so well, but it has to be a good thing since Oprah endorses it, right?
—Wii Fit – I still don’t see how standing and leaning is considered a health benefit (especially if you’re cheating). BS testimonials are no help.
—Dance Dance Revolution – Speaking of video games, sure, you’re getting up off the couch, but how healthy is it for you to jumping and stomping on your heels (and you most likely will, thanks to deactivated glutes, foreshortened hamstrings, and overactive quads)? And you think your knees, hips, ankles, and lower back hurt now…
—Tracy Anderson –

Another case: a co-worker who, by most standards, is a fit and active person. He runs a three-to-five miles a few times a week, limits his calorie intake, and occasionally “lifts weights.” I’m not disparaging the guy—he tries and, for the most part, succeeds—but every now and then, when he asks me this or that about something health-related (usually nutrition), he’ll pull out some gem from the original food pyramid days with a measure of seriousness that he’s decided is the next step in maintaining or improving his fitness level, often contradictory to what I’ve found to be most beneficial (yep, chicken again, and yep, doing my weirdo foam rolling again).

Three words describe my understanding of people who still ascribe to long-outdated health guidelines like a carb-heavy, low-fat diet or three sets of twelve reps in circuit fashion on the numbered machines at the gym: DOES NOT COMPUTE. There’s just this sense of bewilderment at how what was once groundbreaking “knowledge” that has since been exhaustively refuted is still accepted as gospel. I fully admit that I live a relatively sheltered life. I do my reading and research and experimentation, I subscribe to various blogs and a couple journals, and I surround myself with like-minded people who both encourage and challenge my ideas on what it really means to be healthy. This has meant that I went from “lose fat at all costs” to “machine circuit warrior” to skipping the fundamentals to embracing the very basics of human movement. That’s not say I’m done—far from it—but I like to think I constantly challenge my own thinking to see if it’s still, ya know, valid. For example, I know I was sheltered in living downstairs from the office before the recent move; now I’m dealing with the same food prep and packing issues as other people who brown-bag it (more so since 99% of my commutes are on the motorcycle right now). Anyone else deal with this on a semi-regular basis?

Gah, I want to go lift something really heavy now. Instead, I’ll be doing some SMR and mobility work as scheduled since I haven’t done anything substantive in a few weeks, and I need to ramp up my conditioning a bit before jumping back in. Speaking of which…

Quick updates:
—The old/new house (hard to call a thirty-five year old house “new”) is going well. Lots of small-ish projects completed with many more to go. The romanticism of a reel push mower is gone, though—I can hack out the quarter-acre front yard well enough, but the acre-plus back yard is a different story altogether (read: ain’t happening), so I’ll be buying a gas-powered push mower and trimmer/edger next week. The back yard is plenty of workout that way, too.
—The hand laceration has closed up nicely, though there’s still some subcutaneous healing to be done, and the wound is nowhere near as elastic as normal. The blisters from the reel mower yesterday are a nice touch.
—I’ve been studying my IYCA Level 1 materials for a few weeks, but I’ve had no chance to block out four hours to watch the DVDs all the way through in one sitting, so I’m hopeful that this weekend’s beach trip will give me that opportunity. There’s really no reason to think that I won’t submit my exam by the end of the month. Then I can legitimately add some letters (and for-hire services) after my name :)

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