Searching in All the Wrong Places

It’s back in the news. To me, this problem is like smoking. I have no idea why in the world someone would even start the habit, knowing the amount of damage it does to your body.

Yes, I have seen a smoker or two light up before and after the gym (I could not help but stare), but this particular problem is in the fitness community. I’m writing about energy drinks.  I’ve just noticed this more and more, not only with unhealthy people looking for pick-me-up, but by athletes in pre-rides and pre-workouts. I try to my best to get the word out to those who may not understand the harmful effects these cans of chemicals do to the body. Okay, you got me. Maybe it is none of my business, but I am passionate about a healthier society . . . after all, I do pay for those on government assistance to have medical treatment when they are morbidly obese or have been a chronic smoker for 30+ years or both.

Most energy drinks have pushed back against the wave of danger signs by spewing out messages of “all natural” or “no caffeine.” I know that it sounds ridiculous, but cocaine is all natural too . . . for that matter so is heroine, neither of which contain caffeine. Silly you say? The argument and spin for the energy drink companies work, and people suck down the drinks. Even as bad as the “original” drinks are, stronger drinks are hitting the market just as fast as ever. The effects on the adult body are testable and are shown in studies, but with the flashy labels and “cool” persona of the drinks, they appeal to many children under the age of 19. According to Medscape Medical contributing author, Dr. Emma Hitt, “Of the 5448 US caffeine overdoses reported in 2007, 46% occurred in those younger than 19 years.”  That was 7 years ago and only involved cases that were actually reported. Which makes it scary when noticing how companies, such as Monster and Red Bull, target teenage events and hand out free samples.

Although there are 38 energy drinks on the market at any one given time, one of these drinks contains the same amount (70-200 mg) of caffeine as 14 cans of regular soda and 65 grams of sugar (2 full Snicker bars)! What is not known is a majority of the energy drinks use two synthesized amino acids called Taurine and Theanine. Naturally in the body, these are used in the drink to help the brain deal with the effects of the massive amounts of caffeine . . . in other words, help the brain not realize it is so stimulated. The various herbal stimuli used in these drinks is only fuel to the fire, causing heart palpitations, toxicity, kidney malfunction (resulting in high blood pressure issues), and even death. Like most drugs, to get the same effect you must increase the dosage, and we all know where that leads.

So how do we do it naturally? It will take some time if your body is used to fake stimuli. Be here are few tips:

1. Eat a healthy breakfast every morning.
2. Include lean protein with each meal and snack.
3. Stand and stretch at least once every hour.
4. Exercise! It unleashes fatigue-fighting brain chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine.

Give it time. You will be thankful you did, in the long scheme of things.

Sources include: Consumer Reports, Mayo Clinic, Rodal News, and Medscape Medical

Below Pathetic

If there is a line below pathetic, I have found it.

Many times, as I ride my bike around different cities, I am confronted with what few people like to see. There are few who give recognition it; then there are others who seek it out to give themselves some kind of pat on the back or believe that they are doing something good.

Here’s where I stand on the issue of “homeless”: if you have the ability to stand for 6-8 hours on a sidewalk and beg for money, you can walk across the street and get a job. WAIT! I know there are those out there who are mentally or physically disabled, but I think the percentage in truth is very low. And God bless him . . . if a man in the town where I live who only has use of one arm and in a wheelchair can work at Walmart as a greeter and give the warmest hellos to everyone who comes in, then there is NO excuse. Put down your sign that you are combat veteran (highly doubtful) and/or that you have kids to feed and get a job! No, no, no . . . don’t tell me that the economy has no jobs when nearly every fast food joint within a 50 mile radius has “help wanted” signs posted. But here’s what you’ve learned Mr. Panhandler: make minimum wage and pay taxes or take home $200 a day (cash) by begging. Where did I get that number? I’m glad you asked.

On Monday of this week, after work , I was hanging out at one of the local bike shops and a guy walks in. He states to the owner that he was there to buy the bike he looked at on Saturday. The man seems friendly enough and talked to everyone there. In conversation, I asked him where he worked.

“I hang a shingle,” he replied.

I nodded. “I bet roofing is hard work.”

“No, not that kind of shingle,” he said with a laugh.

I caught a glance and grin from one of the mechanics, so I pressed on. “What kind of shingle?”

“A sign, man. A shingle. I panhandle.”

Around this point, he pulls out $315 or so (in a wad of 1, 5, and 10 dollar bills) and pays for his bike. Of course, I pressed. “Man, you must do well.”

“Oh, it has it’s good and bad days,” he said, as he pushed the bike toward the door. “Most days I can bump over 200, if I’m in the right place.”

THAT, my friends, is below pathetic.

In most countries where this blog is able to be read, the opportunities to better yourself are there. There is NO doubt that there are people who do need help; but next time, instead of handing them money, ask them if you could buy them a sandwich or a soft drink. Items to keep warm would be a bonus to me, if I were homeless. Many times these requests or items are rejected. The holidays are a particularly lucrative time for panhandlers. Be careful about just handing money to strangers because you feel guilty about your success and nice home. I have even had someone to ask me if I felt guilty riding past the homeless on such expensive bikes . . . nope, I don’t. Why? I work hard to get what I have. Yes, I do give to charity and needy causes and volunteer at events, but I refuse to feel guilty. I included a few recent articles/videos that caused me to shake my head and show how far we have fallen:

Driving a Mercedes?

Homeless in New Car

It boils down to this: if a person has the ability to work, but guilts you into giving him money, it’s flat out theft by deception. He’s a thief. The two in the above articles should be imprisoned. I’m glad that in both articles someone was taking a stand against this. Keeping silent, knowing what is happening, is why this is a very rapidly growing problem around the world.

Luck of the Draw?

Having been in education for many years and dealing with various levels of students, both in age and mental strengths, I have learned a few things that separates one student from the other. From drop-outs to scholar students, the formula is simple. Don’t think this is one directional either. I have used this with my own two children and have seen this work over and over again with parents who took what I told them to heart.

The world of academia has changed so much. The idea of loco parentis has been skewed so very badly. No longer do the majority of parents and teachers work as a single educating unit, but the students are shoved into the system at 4 years old without even as much as potty training being taught to them. Many “parents” think that it is the sole responsibility of the school system to feed, teach, medicate, and  . . . well, discipline (sort of) . . . but that is for another post. I don’t know why, but it still stuns me to talk to a seventh grader (transferring to our school after having been bounced around from school to school) who doesn’t comprehend when I make a reference to something being as tall as the Eiffel Tower.

A recent article Parenting and Smarter Kids discusses what I’ve been preaching for years. It is the key. It is the “secret” ingredient. Smart kids are developed, not born. Yes, I know that children are born with genetic gifts, but that isn’t what this post is about. It is my opinion that “gifted” children are developed even before birth. The strict diet of the mother, eating and drinking only what is good for her child, is the start; then it is from the moment of breathing oxygen that education begins. Speaking to the infant and displaying the new world to the child help with brain activity by stimulation. Reading to a child, who has no clue what you’re reading but loves the sound of the parents’ voices and the silly sound effects, is wonderful for the child . . . stimulation. As the years progress, the parents are one step ahead of where their child is currently when it comes to learning. If you have a child learning about stars and constellations, go to the Internet together and see what the Mars Rover is doing; or better yet, take a trip to a local observatory and look at Mars . . . stimulation. By the time the child is literally six years of age (much data to back claims), the “thirst” for learning is set and will grow at an astonishing rate. By the way, the proper food and drink for the child should also continue after the birth and through the years.

I must address a problem with parenting that seems to be a growing tumor on the education process, if not already a malignant mass that has no hope of recovery. I’m sorry for being Debbie Downer, but it’s true. Somewhere between the early 1990′s and the 21 Century, parents began to think that they needed to their child’s best friend. While this is wrong on many, many levels, the sad thing is that it actually harms the child more than the parents think. A recent article Parenting is an interview with Kelly Ripa who discusses the importance of being a PARENT, not a best friend. Parenting is tough work. It is not for the faint at heart. Child upset at a decision you made? Okay, he’ll be fine. Your child doesn’t understand why you won’t buy something for him? No explanation needed. He’ll be fine. You demand adherence to rules and guidelines with consequences? Good for him! Hold on, Mom and Dad, it will pay off.

I am not the perfect parent, nor have I ever claimed to be, but I see the effects of bad parenting on a daily basis. Everyone makes mistakes. But don’t lose sight of where you want your child to be in a few years . . . and as an adult. You must encourage, support, discipline, and make tough decisions that will not always be liked. It’s tiring. It’s not always a bowl of cherries. But it is the end product that counts, and your child will respect and admire you for your hard work . . . later, but they will.

Being Anti-fragile

Man-up

Suck it up

Grow a pair

Whatever you want to call the art of being anti-fragile, it is a trained skill that must be honed. How? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Quit whining. Stuff happens. Deal with it. No matter what the circumstance, there is a way through it . . . not around it.
  2. Take a stand. With everything being so political and sensitive, chose a side and stay on it. Don’t be wishy-washy. Read. Educate yourself to be able to discuss your beliefs and why you take the stand you do.
  3. Be an example. Children have enough idiots to view in their lifetime. Be an example to your children and NOT diving in to solve all of their problems. Allow them to explore and learn and ask any question.
  4. Follow the best path for you and your family. It might not be popular, but it will benefit who matters the most. Set your feet to the course and do not deviate.
  5. Stop panicking. If a bone is not hanging or you are not losing massive amounts of blood, you will be okay.
  6. Help other people. You are never good enough that you can’t reach out and help other people.  Being there for others will make you a better person.
  7. Set goals . . . and stick to them. Starting projects or workout plans and then quitting because it became tough demonstrates weakness. Where you finish is so much more important than where you start.
  8. Be a leader. The world is full of followers. When it’s time to step up and lead, LEAD!
  9. Put the stories of high school glory on the shelf. Do something NOW that is worthwhile. Nothing is more ridiculous than a grown man or woman talking about what they accomplished 25 years ago.
  10. Be loyal. If you love someone (family, friends, wife/ husband), keep your word and have their back. They should never doubt you on this matter.

There are way too many fragile people in the world, and the population is growing. Softness is learned. Softness is easy. But being soft will cost you. You will pay in the long run. Not being a fragile person is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your children. Be strong.

I am NOT Scared of You

This is difficult.

There is a fine line between unsolicited advice and bragging.

Recently, while on a club ride, I was in form. You know those days when everything kind of clicks. The temperature is perfect. Your hydration is set. Your diet has been spot on. Your training has been grinding and painful. Suddenly, it all comes together. Then the unexpected . . .

As I moved rapidly through the pack on a climb and topped the hill ahead of everyone else, a rider moved up beside me a few minutes later and asked me if I take anything to help me train or ride better. Wait. What? I thought he was kidding. I told him that I did not, if he doesn’t count a multi-vitamin. We then discussed training, eating, and hydration. It’s very hard in those situations because normally the guy that wants to know an advantage is the same dude that wants to shave 13 grams off of his bike when he won’t put down the fast food.

Here’s how it works for me.

There is beast called Mr. Hard Work. He’s unusual to many people. Many have never met the guy. They wouldn’t know him if they saw him, but they run from him all of the time. They hide when they get a text from him about a long, hard group ride. They look at the rain or cold and give him an excuse not to train. They whine because Hard Work made their legs so sore the last time they did front squats. Hard Work demands too much. He wakes you up to train when it’s still dark out . He doesn’t relax . . . no weekends, no holidays, no vacation from training. He drains you. He makes you doubt yourself. He questions your abilities.

Hard Work doesn’t take partial payments. It is everything or nothing. Many play with Hard Work and think that he will somehow reward you after you quit half way through a workout or ate like a pig a feeding trough. Hard Work does not give a crap what kind of bike you bought or how light it is. You cannot pay your way past Hard Work. He sees what you’re doing . . . or rather not doing.

I met Mr. Hard Work when I was a child. My dad introduced me to him. He sucked from the moment I met him, but he knew one thing about me: I was NOT scared of him. Get up early? Not a problem. Work hard for eleven hours? Okie dokie. Sacrifice time with friends? Sure! Do you know why, Mr. Hard Work? I am NOT scared of you. I want to separate myself from the pack. I want to be stronger and faster. Oh, and one more thing, Mr. Hard Work: don’t even think about reminding me of my age. I can dig very, very deep. Keep bringing it.

So . . . what do I take? I take pride in Hard Freaking Work. Yeah, I know his middle name.

What Needs to be Said

There’s a fine line between a stream of consciousness and a babbling brook to nowhere. –Dan Harmon

Communication is an innate human necessity. We learn how to express our ideas from an early age, crying and pointing and grunting. These skills are developed, in most, as we get older. Some humans are quiet and only speak when absolutely necessary, while others communicate just be making noise; the former tends to get the correct amount of reception. Writing holds the same value.

Many years ago, I use to sit with my grandfather at his farm. He spoke very little, but would answer the hundreds of questions I threw at him. Even as a child, I would wonder why a man could know so much and be quiet about it. He had lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II as a tanker with General Patton, raised a family, manged a farm, rose through the ranks of textile mill, and settled into a quiet retirement. I remember how everyone turned to him when he spoke, conveying that it must be important if he had something to say.

Of the many, many blogs that I follow, I tend to see the same trend; after all, it is still communication. Many post to be posting something, and others post only when something is good enough to communicate. Blogging is a finicky thing. Don’t post enough and the blogger won’t be noticed enough to attract new followers. Post too much and the readers click “like” and move on. I have been blogging now for almost a year. I don’t have even 200 followers, but I can’t force myself to blog just to be blogging. Maybe the quality of what I write isn’t up to par. Maybe I bounce too much and don’t stick to one subject area. I guess it just comes down to quality over quantity. I truly want to write well and use my time to hone my skills as a writer. There are blogs that when something is posted I savor, for example The Drunken Cyclist and Northern Bike and Fossil Cycle and Ashley Nicole and others.

I appreciate quality things, like having one Luminox watch over having thirty different Timex watches. The same goes for writing: Words placed in the right area at the right time are golden. Yes, there are the rare birds like Henry James who can discuss a man’s shirt button for three paragraphs, but 99% of us are not Mr. James. We, as writers, must search for that perfect word, sentence, or topic . . . and if not found, remain quiet. Don’t “speak” just to make noise. The art of communication can’t be lost in a sea of words. We must continue to learn the craft.

 

 

What Would You Do?

You are Sir Bradley Wiggins. You were treated like garbage last year by team Sky, chiefly the ignorant team manager Dave Brailsford. Your contract with Sky ends this year. You are given two options: Saxo-Tinkoff wants to give you a huge contract worth millions of dollars for your name to be associated with the team and to work solely as a domestique. At the same time, a smaller team (always in the showing of the Tour) offers you a far smaller contract to be the team leader. At the same time, Sky sends word to you that they are willing to sit down and discuss a new contract.