Monday, April 11, 2011

Sprinting through the golden years

95-year-old Ida Keeling is still sprinting through life. According to ABC Newsin February 2011,  Ms. Ida set a world's record for fastest running nonagenarian at a Manhattan track meet, running 60 meters in 29.86 seconds.

Ms. Ida began running at age 67 year old. She was encouraged to start running by her daughter, Shelly, who besides being a lawyer and real estated was also a high school track coach. 

A pint-sized power house, Ms. Ida is 4'6" tall and weighs just 83 pounds. In the attached video you can literally hear the strength and clarity in her voice and thoughts, and see that strength manifested in her physical being. 

For more information on Ms. Ida see this article in the Huffington Post. 

What year will it be when you turn 95? For me it will 2059! And that's 19 years past the 2040 project!

Ms. Ida and her daughter Shelley Keeling

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Baby it's cold outside! What to wear for cold weather exercise.

Brrrr. It's chilly! However, a drop in temperature need not run the 2040 posse indoors. With the appropriate clothing we can continue to run and cycle outside in Louisiana in the winter months. It's a question of garment type, fabric and number of layers.

A favorite blog post on the subject is by architect / cyclist Robert Anderson. See A Practical Cyclist: Winter Cycle Clothing Guidelines.   Though Anderson's post focuses on how to dress for cycling, his recommendations are easily adjusted for running. I particularly like the chart he created. No doubt his design sensibilities played a role in his creating such an easy to read and understand chart. 

For now, you won't catch me exercising outdoors when the temperature drop below freezing. However, for 2040 posse members undaunted by freezing temps, Anderson's chart provides his tried and true suggestions for freezing and below freezing temperatures.

This "what to wear" chart by architect / cyclist blogger Robert Anderson continues to be my "go to" chart for  figuring out how to dress for various weather conditions.

One addition I make to Anderson's chart is ear warmers or a headband designed to cover my ears. When I run or cycle in temperatures below 50 degrees, the cooler air causes my ears to ache.  I find that wearing ear warmers keeps my ears from aching. I'll even wear the ear warmers with a beanie under my helmet. In the past when I've worn only a beanie, it would sometime ride up over my ears during my exercise.  I seem to have better luck keeping my ears covered with the warmers / headband.
A headband like this keeps my ears toasty warm.

In colder weather I also add lip balm and face cream to my "what to wear" list.  Both lip balm and face cream a protect my lips and face from chapping or wind burn. 

In lieu of the fleece tunic and wind proof vest, I've been successful staying comfortable by using multiple layers. Just last week, I biked in 44 degree temperatures. For my torso I wore 3 layers: short sleeve wicking top, arm warmers, long sleeve wicking top and a zippered pullover jacket. With multiple layers, I can always peel off a layer and tie it to my waist if the temperature (or I) warm up too much.

Wishing you toasty toes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

She's baaaaack

It’s been a long time since I've written. Though I’ve been away from writing, I’ve not given up on 2040. I'm three weeks in to a 20-week training program leading up to the New Orleans half-ironman and am still working on those dietary changes I started back in October. 

As an update from my last post, I completed Leanne Ely and J.J. Virgin’s 28 Day Break Free Boot Camp program. My weight loss over the 28 days was a little over 6 pounds. Four more weeks later my weight loss was hovering at 10 pounds. 

The 28 Program was targeted for those who suspect that may have food sensitivities or allergies that may negatively affect their health and hold back their weight loss. The program eliminates from the diet the most common causes of food related illnesses: gluten, dairy, peanuts, and soy. Caffeine and artificial sweeteners were also off the market. 

Before the program I was not experiencing any significant symptoms of food allergy or sensitivity. I have a family health history of gluten sensitivity and, like most Americans, eat way too much processed food and sugars. For me, completing the 28 Day Break Free program was a nutrition boot camp and what I needed to clean up my dietary act. I have also been wrestling with my weight for a few years and hoped that it could jump start my weight loss. 

The first week on the program was by far the hardest. Giving up my beloved diet soda and foregoing caffeine left me with a headache and grumpy. If I needed any proof that food was a drug, I got it the first week where I experienced true withdrawals.

The following weeks were much easier. Many program participants shared amazing testimonials of improved health. I didn’t experience any quite so dramatic but I did feel better following the program. A big plus was that on the program I no longer beat up on myself for what I ate. That saved me hours of mental distress. Beating up on myself about what I ate was a favorite past time. By following the guidelines, I knew I was making better choices and eating in a way that would sustain my body while helping me shed unwanted pounds. 

The program ended just over a month ago, but I’ve maintained some the changes I made while participating. For one, I start off most mornings with a high protein smoothie. This small change shifted the balance of my diet toward one that was more protein based. Before the plan I would have had a high carbohydrate breakfast of toast or cereal.  By consuming the smoothie, I know get about 17 grams of protein.  I've tried a couple of protein mixes, but my current favorite is Design's for Health's Paleomeal DF (Dairy Free) berry / cream.  

Before the Break Free Program, my go to snack at the office was Sunchips or Goldfish or other snack cracker.  My new snack of choice is an apple with some nut butter. I like almond and cashew nut butters, but raw cashew butter is my current favorite. I’m still off diet sodas and miss them though not as much as I used to.  I drink a lot more water than before because its better for me and well, because I'm thirsty and I've given up diet soda. 

Christmas and New Years will pose their own special challenges to my healthy eating program. But I know that regular exercise and  better food choices will enable me to come through the holidays just fine and ready to start 2011 healthy and happy.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

28 Day Break Free Boot Camp

"Are you…
  • trying to eat right, yet still can’t lose the excess weight or that final 10 pounds?
  • wondering whether or not your bloating, headaches, gas or other annoying symptoms are due to a specific food you are eating?
  • confused about what foods are really good for you?
  • ready for a clear, comprehensive and step-by-step program to guide you through the confusion and support you along the way?"
(from the 28 Day Break Free Boot Camp website)

Well, I sure am. I’m tired of obsessing about those final pounds that I cannot seem to lose despite what I call “healthy eating” and lots of exercise a la triathloning. So, I’ve decided to embark on the 28 Day Break Free Boot Camp. The Boot Camp is a programs based on the 28 Day Break Free Plan. 

Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy: The 5-Step Plan to Sleek, Strong, and Sculpted ArmsThe Boot Camp is led by Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner and JJ Virgin author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy:The 5-Step Plan to Sleek, Strong, and Sculpted ArmsFor over a year, I’ve been a subscriber to Leanne Ely’s menu mailer which provides menus and grocery lists for regular and low carb dinners for 2 or 4. I first learned of Leanne through the the Marla Cilley aka the FlyLady. And, I found the FlyLady years ago when I found myslef overwhelmed with housework and family duties. The FlyLady basically runs a self-help group for people who are trying to be neater and better organized in their homes. 

The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic PerformanceSynchronicity convinced me join the 28 Day Break Free Boot Camp. Synchronity is that term where two or more things occur from unrelated directions but come together in a meaningful way.  Within the span of the past three weeks, I’ve been nudged by the idea of eating healthy and cutting processed foods from a number of directions. A few weeks ago, I downloaded an e-book by Leanne on breaking free from sugar addiction and foods that hold health hostage.  Not long after, I read a blog by Tim Ferriss entitled “How to keep feces out of your blood stream (or lose 10 pounds in 14 days)."  In the blog, I noticed that Tim referred to Robb Wolf who wrote the Paleo Diet with Dr. Loren Cordain. I had heard about that book from a trusted yoga instructor and cyclist last year during lunch following a bike ride. I check Amazon for the book and am delighted to learn that Joe Friel, expert triathlon coach and author of The Triahtlete's Training Bible (among other titles), co-authored a follow-up text The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic PerformanceThe Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. Next, I go for a workout at the Woman’s Fitness Center and notice they have a display of Paleo nutrition products.  The final straw came when I got an email from Leanne announcing the 28 Day Break Free Boot Camp with JJ Virgin. I looked into the program and the eating plan was very close to that espoused by Tim Ferriss, Robb Wolf, Dr. Loren Cordain, and Joe Friel: a diet high in protein with plenty of fresh fruit and vegtables.  That was it. There was simply too many conincidences pointing the same direction. I enrolled.

According to the website literature, Break Free Boot Camp is a comprehensive program “designed to free you from the foods that are holding your health hostage, and to bring your health to an entirely new level (not to mention lose fat, have more energy, and look better than you have it years!).” Over the next 28 days on the plan, I'll have a food plan and menus, access to a member-only website and interactive forum, a library of audio recordings, and 4 tele-classes and 2 questions and answer sessions with Leanne and JJ. 

Ace Sherpa agreed to join me on the 28 Day Break Free Plan.

Ace Sherpa agreed to join me on this 28 day nutrition adventure.  This morning while wearing my Speedo swimsuit, Ace Sherpa helped me record my measurments and weight. Because I get so depressed about weighing, I weighed backwards and Ace Sherpa wrote the number down and agreed NOT to share it with me until I got within five pounds of my goal weight. I’ll be jotting down notes and will report back in a later blog on my results.

This is my second day on the program and my first teleclass. Will it work? Will I stick with it? Will Ace Sherpa? Stay tuned. I'll report back at the end of 28 days and let you know. Wish me luck on my experiment! 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review: Switch: How to change when change is hard

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Switch: How to change things when change is hard
Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Broadway Books (book)
Random House (audiobook)

I seem to be all about change these days. I’ve got external, life generated changes like graduating children (college and high school), aging parents, and my own physical “mid life” changes. I have internal self improvement changes on the radar, like eating better and staying on the path of regular exercise. There are changes to be made at work, in my home environment and in my community.

All this change is what drew me to the book Switch: How to change things when change is hard by the brothers Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  I pre-ordered the book on Switch has now been on the New York Times best-seller list for 28 weeks. Because of the changes in my life this year, my first “reading” of Switch was as an audio book during, what else, a change episode: caravanning with my youngest daughter to college five states away. During the trip I was also able to “read” the brothers Heath best seller Made to Stick.

Fast forward a month, I’ve recommended the book to many friends, put my copy of the audio book in circulation and drafted a preliminary blog review of Switch. As luck would have it, I was able to hear Chip Heath in person just last night. Heath is as compelling a speaker as the concepts in the book.

Lizzard with Chip Heath author of the New York Times bestselling book Switch.
Switch is a book about change, change process and change theory. Yes, people must change themselves and change can be hard, but Switch notes that successful changes follow similar patterns. The book explains the dichotomy between the rational mind and the emotional mind, and the role that physical circumstances plays in shaping both. The framework outlined for effecting successful change is to direct the rider, motivate the elephant and clear the path.

Directing the rider refers to our cognitive control over ourselves. This is the part where we use will and self discipline to make a change. The problem with directing the rider is that the rider gets tired, and, well, the elephant does have a size advantage. Motivating the elephant refers to creating the emotional desire for change. Clearing the path refers to creating the structure for change or, perhaps better, a structure where the change is built in.

Take, for example, my desire to become a lifelong exerciser (i.e. a person who will still be moving in the year 2040). Directing the rider is easy. I know that to still be moving when I’m 75 means I need to remain mobile now, preferable 4 – 6 times a week (for me.) Directing the rider, while easy to do, is not easy to maintain. The rider, my cognitive ability to self-discipline, gets worn out and tired. And when my cognitive self-disciplined self gets tired, my emotional self, my elephant, takes over and can run amok.

In the book Switch, the cognitive mind is likened to a rider and the emotional mind the elephant.
I motivated my elephant to stay with the program by tapping into the positive emotional side. I love people and shared activity. That’s fun for me. So, I sought out and joined a training group of positive women with similar goals. (shout-out here to the Fitbirds). I also participate in other groups such as the local tri club and running clubs where a training activity becomes a mini adventure because of location or a fun social outing coupled with, for example, brews and burgers after. (shout-out to the FreshChix, YaYos, Happy’s, Varsity Running, Baton Rouge Tri, Baton Rouge Bike Club, and Fleet Feet Running! To name a few!) Just being around these women and other athletes, even when I’m not at their level of athleticism (and, trust me, I’m NOT), helps me view myself as an active person and keeps me motivated. Once I’ve made the emotional connection, I am reluctant to disappoint my buds. I’m less likely to skip exercise with a social group than if I were exercising alone.

Speaking of exercise dates, the final component of the framework is scripting the critical moves or clearing the path to change. I’ve found that setting out my clothes the night before clears the path for my exercise. I wake up in the morning, roll out and my clothes are there. Knowing my weekly training schedule in advance is another way I adapt my environment. As a wife, mother, employee, caregiver, and community volunteer, time is my most precious asset. Even if I don’t follow a training plan as written, knowing my training schedule plan helps form and increases the chances for my compliance. Switch refers to this advance planning as a “pre-loaded decision” or “action triggers.” According to the data in the book, these triggers triple our chance at success! Now that’s good planning.

“Action triggers” is just one of the book’s concepts that can benefit the 2040 Project Posse. The book is chocked full of additional examples, concepts, studies and statistics demonstrating an effective framework for change. The concepts in the book are scalable. The framework applies to changes of all shapes and sizes. Whether the change is to eat healthier, exercise more, correct a negative behavior in animals or children, or to make lasting community or systemic change, Switch provides a new lens from which to view the framework for making positive change.
A training schedule acts as a "preloaded decision" and increases the chances that I'll exercise.
Reading Switch won't make change occur automatically just like having a carbon fiber bike won't make you a faster rider. But like that sweet bike, the information in Switch may be the tool to help you reach your change goals faster.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The eyes have it! Take care of your peeps!

September is Sports Eye Safety Month. In honor of Sports Eye Safety Month, this week’s blog will address basic care of aging eyes and eye safety.

FitBird training team member Dr. Stephanie Cauley is an optometrist with an active practice in Baton Rouge. I corresponded with Dr. Cauley and asked about what we could do now to protect our vision for the future (2040). Her recommendations include wearing ultraviolet protection for your eyes when outside and getting yours eyes checked every two (2) years if you are over 40. She also pointed out to me that when we age our eyes get dry so we should use moisturizing drops as needed. Dr. Cauley uses Refresh but suggests that we start with generics and experiment until we find the right one for our eyes.

Wearing UV protective eyewear is not only a fashion statement (as clearly shown by Coug), it's good for your eyes!

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is emitted by the sun and most of us are aware of it by the sunburn it causes. But sunburn is not the only damage that UV rays can cause. Our eyes have special molecules that absorb UV lighting. Long term exposure to UV rays can cause damage to the cornea, lens and retina as well as to the eyelids and the delicate skin around our eyes.

To protect our eyes against harmful UV rays, doctors recommend that we wear sunglasses that block out 99-100% of UV rays. How do we know if our eyewear provides protection? Look for sunglasses that say “UV 400” or “100% UV Protection.” Look carefully, eyewear that merely says “UV Protection” may not offer the required safeguard against UV rays.

When selecting sunglasses look for those that say "UV 400" or "100% UV Protection."
In addition to UV protection, sunglasses offer additional protection for our eyes. In fact, according to National Eye Institute, over 90% of all sports eye injuries can be prevented by wearing protect eyewear.

Up to 90% of all sports related eye injuries can be prevented by wearing protective eyewear. This is especially true when you are going speeds in excess of 20 mph!

Wearing sunglasses during a bike ride or run guards again grit, dirt, bugs or other errant objects that fly into our eyes (or, objects we may run into like low hanging limbs). As the air flows into our face while running or cycling, eyewear can maintain the moisture content of our eyes.

The wrap-around style of eyewear (as modeled by Dazzle) gives additional protection to your eyes from dirt or other airborn debris.
On a personal note, last year on Superbowl Sunday, I had an unfortunate run in with a dog while riding my bike. When the incident happened I was wearing protective eyewear (Specialized Optics). My helmet cracked in three places and my eyewear was scrapped free of color on one side, but the skin around my eye was protected and free of road rash.

After a 17 mph bike accident with a dog, the pink beveled edge of my Specialized eyewear was scraped flat and clear of color. I'm glad the glasses took the abrasion instead of my face.
Bruised, but no abrasion! Yay for sports eyewear!

What brand or type you choose is up to you and your budget. Wrap around eyewear can protect the eyes from debris from every angle. I prefer shades with a streamlined shape and slimmer profile because it makes them more comfortable under my bike helmet or sports cap. I also look for glasses that have special rubbery nose grips as opposed to just slick plastic. It’s very annoying to have the glasses slide down my face with every step or pedal stroke. Lightweight and scratch-resistant is preferred over the opposite. You can even get prescription inserts.

Sunglasses can be fit with a prescription lens insert.
What about polarized or colored lenses? Polarized lenses reduce glare but have nothing to do with UV rays. Polarized or varying colored lenses can however increase runner or cyclist safety to the extent they better enable an athlete to see hazards.

Smile! You're taking care of your eyes!
All those who want to protect those peepers, say EYE!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lake Pontchartrain water quality – is it safe for swimming?

As a child I grew up on the north shore of the Lake. I remember the Lake being so polluted that it was off limits to swimming. Though I lived all my life within an hour or the Lake, I never considered swimming in it until I registered for the inaugural Ochsner Ironman New Orleans 70.3 in 2009. The swim course for IMNO 70.3 is in the Lake so it’s not optional. Registering for the race made monitoring the pollution and water quality for swimming in the Lake a personal priority.
In 1979 the Department of Health and Hospitals posted "No swimming" advisories along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
In 1989 the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation began its work to restore the health of the Lake. By 2006 the Lake is removed from DEQ;s impaired water body list.
So how do you make an educated decision on swimming in Lake Pontchartrain? GNO Tri member Eric DeRonde summarized the decision process succinctly. “Open water swimming, just like biking in the rain and running with mp3 players, is all about risk assessment. Get the facts, assess the risks, assess your abilities, combine and make a decision.”

Get the facts.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation takes weekly samplings of the water quality in ten locations surrounding the lake. The tests are taken on Tuesdays and their reports are published on Fridays on their website at:

Here is a recent example of the Basin Foundation weekly report following a week of heavy rain:

This Week’s Numbers

Please note that Lincoln Beach is inaccessible
and Bayou St. John has replaced it for the time being.

This report is based on conditions found on the sampling day (8/31/10) only.

Date: 8/31/10


Bonnabel Boat Launch
Old Beach
Pontchartrain Beach
Bayou St. John
Bogue Falaya
Tchefuncte River
Bayou Castine
Fontainebleau Beach
Northshore Beach


The location number that corresponds with the “swim hole” is number 3 above, “Old Beach.” 

The count triathletes talk most about is the fecal coliform mean probable number (MPN). According to the standards set forth by the Louisiana Department of Environment Quality, swimmers should use caution when the fecal coliform MPN exceeds 200.Since I began to train for the New Orleans half-ironman distance race in 2009, I have swam in the Lake more than a half dozen times. Each time I swam the fecal count was below 200. 

The only times I have seen the count above 200 is after a lot of rain. As we in south Louisiana are at the height of Hurricane season, there is a lot of rainfall this time of year.  On the date I copied this table the fecal count exceeded the 200 MPN threshold at 540.

The high fecal count reading spawned a lively discussion on the GNO Tri* forum last week about whether it was safe to swim in the Lake. The scientific information and opinions shared were illuminating. It wasn't long before I knew it needed to be compiled so it could be shared.

So does a reading of 540 on Friday, mean it’s unsafe to swim on Sunday? That depends.

Assess the risks.

A snapshot in time. DeRonde notes that “the data on the website only shows the water quality right at the moment when the sample was taken. The data isn't valid for a week; it's valid for the 10 minutes when the sample was taken. That's it! It's very useful for long term tracking of water quality in the lake, but for making a decision to swim in it, it's really not all that useful.”

The role of rain and runoff. Rainfall runoff directly affects the Lake’s water quality. The Basin website warns that if it has rained in the past three days, the runoff could pollute the Lake.

DeRonde shared the following risk assessment for rain:
     No rain for a week: low risk
     Steady rain for 3 days: moderate risk
     Very heavy shower yesterday: high risk

Ecoli, shigella and staph, oh my! “The (infectious) worry about heavy run-off is mostly concern about exposure to sewerage – that’s that E coli count,” according to Dr. Susan McClellan with the Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Department of Tulane University’s School of Medicine and a GNO Tri member.

E coli is a nasty bacteria, known by the low down bad company it keeps.
Though the mention of E coli conjures up disgusting images, we apparently track E coli because of the nasty company it keeps. Writes Dr. McClellan, “The E coli mostly won’t bother you (just an easy to measure marker), it’s the occasional diarrhea-causing Salmonella / Shigella / whatever that might also be in sewerage that you don’t want to swallow.  Of course some of those natural Vibrios can do it too.  Run-off or no, we share the lake with a lot of critters, some of which can occasionally do us damage."

What about Staph? According to Dr. McClellan, “If one gets a Staph infection from an injury in the water, it was probably bacteria colonizing one’s own skin that did it – Staph are not particularly water bugs.  There are plenty of water bugs which can cause a nasty wound infection (Vibrio of various sorts, Aeromonas, Pleisiomonas, Erysipelothrix, and the ever popular M. marinum, for example), but these are not related to any type of run-off or human pollutants or sewerage, they are normal inhabitants of wet environments (variability dependent on salinity, turbidity, temperature, etc but you get the idea).”

Assess yourself.

In addition to the water quality data and an understanding of the risks, you must add yourself to the equation before making an informed judgment. DeRonde suggests asking the following questions:

1. What is your sensitivity to foreign matter? Do you have an impaired immune system? “Some people have stronger stomachs then others. Some build up resistance, others not so much.”

2. Do you have any open wounds or abrasions? “If you have open wounds, dress them waterproof, or stay out of the water when risk is high.”

3. How strong of an open water swimmer are you? “If you can't breath very well yet in the waves and still take in gulps of water every third breath, then that's a risk factor.”
At GNO Tri's 4th of July practice triathlon, swimmers of all abilities took to the Lake for a swim.
Combine and decide.
The bottom line, as DeRonde points out is “there is no one single ‘the lake is safe’ or the ‘the lake isn't safe’ answer. Open water is never 100% safe, as there are always risks. Know your risk and use common sense. The question that needs answering before you jump in is: Are the risks present in the current conditions manageable within my capabilities?"

Coug and Lizzard (me) slither into our wetsuits for a Lake Ponchartrain cold water practice swim the day before the New Orleans half-ironman distance race.
Anecdotal accounts of infection are few, but still exist. GNO Tri member Keith Clement experienced the nastiness of an open wound infected by the Lake’s water. Last year after pulling his boat out from the Bonnabel boat launch he knocked his hand against the trim tab causing a brush burn.  Two weeks later a large cyst developed on his hand requiring two hand surgeries and months of antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection. “At my first appointment with the infectious disease doctor,” Clement recounts, “he said I was the 4th patient within the same week with the same bacterial infection (all water related).”  Did this infection keep Clement from swimming in the Lake? No. “There’s “stuff” anywhere you go, just use common sense and know your risk. I still fish the lake."

Nor has it kept the Dr. McClellan. “As someone who grew up swimming in the lake in its peak of contamination in the 60s, I’m a lot more afraid of inhaling a piece of plastic than most of the bacteria.” says Dr. McClellan. “So you play the game, you take your chances, trying to keep it within reason and your own comfort level.” 

Happy swimming!

* GNO Tri is an active tri club in New Orleans. GNO Tri is coached by Kevin Pilet and Rick Montgomery. Kevin and Rick are well respected in the tri community and all around great guys. Kevin and Rick host open water swim clinics periodically and are very gracious about allowing non-members participate.