Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Last Post at Blogspot Ugh

The El Paso Bicyclist blog and the Mud Blog are moving to a WordPress blog that will be housed at my own website markstone.org. For some reason the Google-owned Blogger (BlogSpot) eats my pictures and graphics that I post with the blogs, and so I'm just gonna set it up at my own website. I'm tired of doing constant restores. Ugh. With WordPress installed at my own site, I will have better control over stuff like that.

I will provide a link as soon as it is set up. I will leave links to my two BlogSpot areas because I think some of the articles are important.

Thanks -

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I talked with Bonnie . . .

. . .and we decided it would be best for me to continue using the car for commuting to work for a number of reasons. I will deal with anger issues and my inability to focus while facing driving rather than running away from these demons.

Family needs and schedules dictate the use of my car. Additionally, I need it occasionally at work, too.

I'm Turning Into an Angry Driver

7/13/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No Ride Today

I don't know if it has to do with age or what, but I'm discovering that my anger level is starting to increase while I drive. Today, when on the way home from Church of all places, I responded in anger to a driver and almost got her and I in a crash. Details of the situation are not important: She did something wrong and I responded in a manner that almost hurt both of us.

Also, as my wife Bonnie can attest, I'm not a very good driver any more. My mind wanders, and I lack attention to detail. I drive slower than all the other cars and am scared to drive faster than I do now. Last night, we went up to White Sands National Monument, and on the trip home I kept scaring her, even though I didn't do it intentionally.

For some time now, I have been going back and forth in my decision whether to go car-light or not, by starting to use bicycling and/or the bus as my main forms of transportation, and leaving the car at home. I remember in the late Summer through the end of 2011, when I was car light, the personal stress I was experiencing was a lot less. Not worrying about traffic was the most relaxing feeling. And now, we live in a different home in what has to be described as the most ideal of locations for a car-light lifestyle.

The two primary attractions are the closeness of local businesses and the proximity of the Eastside Bus terminal. Only a 10 minute walk away, the #59 Eastside Express runs every 14 minutes between this terminal and downtown with no stops. I walk 10 minutes to the #59, then two blocks from where it stops downtown to my work. The cost would be a mere $12 per week instead of my $40 per week I'm paying in gas. Door-to-Door time (from when I walk out my front door to when I arrive at work) is less than 30 minutes. These #59 buses run from about 4:45am all the way to 8:15pm. Think of it - Little to no stress, save a bundle of money, it just seems like a no-brainer.

Plus, there is every imaginable business within safe bike riding distance from my home. Two great bike shops (Crazy Cat and another new one whose name slips my mind now) are less than ten minutes away by bike. There are three malls (Cielo Vista, Basset Place and The Fountains at Farah) within cycling distance, and two of those are actually an easy walk away. Not to mention 10 or 12 little strip shopping centers that have all kinds of shops. Plus a bunch of stand-alone storefront businesses (like a pair of Walgreens) and there's also a K-Mart and WalMart nearby. All accessible with two wheels. A library is close by, too, that has a very active chess club.

And restaurants? I'll try to list what I remember, all in my neighborhood and all within easy cycling distance:

  1. All the restaurants in the food courts at the three malls mentioned above.
  2. Pizza Hut
  3. Village Inn
  4. Jack in the Box
  5. a Mexican restaurant on Montana that I can't remember the name of now
  6. Weinerschnitzel
  7. Tastee Freeze
  8. Chili's
  9. KFC
  10. McDonald's
  11. Denny's
  12. Sonic
  13. a gourmet Burger place (I can't remember the name)
  14. Two Wendy's
  15. Two Burger Kings (one in the Airport, about 12 minute away by bike)
  16. Dunkin Donuts
  17. Two Arby's restaurants
  18. Long John Silver's
  19. Elmer's, a greasy-spoon coffee place
  20. The restaurants in a Marriott Hotel nearby
  21. Applebee's
  22. Cattle Baron (a high-end steakhouse)
  23. La Chocolat'
  24. Carlos and Mickey's
  25. Another Carlos and Mickey's in the airport
  26. At least four Subway restaurants
  27. Souper Salads
  28. Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors
  29. a cool Yogurt place
  30. Luby's Cafeteria
  31. Panda Express (opening soon!)
  32. 5 Guys Burgers
  33. Papa Burgers (bestest burgers in El Paso)
And I've probably forgotten a dozen more.

With my past, specifically my history of commuting by bicycle and using public transportation, along with my deterioration in driving skills and my growing anger issues, along with the supremely convenient area of town I live in, is it not silly to try to continue to drive my car all the time?

I think my anger incident today has pushed me over the edge. I think it's time to go car-light. There's at least two trips per week that I can't - that would be to music practice and church, because I carry my guitar(s) and gear and need a car. But other than that, I am starting to not see the point of driving the car any more.

We start tomorrow morning. We'll see where it leads.

Friday, July 11, 2014

So Many Other Cyclists

7/11/14 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
37 Minutes in the Heat

My smartphone said it was 95 degrees, but it felt much hotter to me. It felt like a few weeks ago when it was 106, 107 - So I rode a little slower than usual, but I rode a little longer in time.

Trivia: I rode 8 miles today in 37 minutes, and arrived back at my house pretty tired. We (me and Bonnie) watched the Tour de France on NBC and when they got to the point where there was 8 miles left in the race, I timed them. They finished in 12-1/2 minutes - the same distance that I rode in 37. Yes, they were three times faster than I!

At the end of the "meat" of the ride today I sat on a park bench and relaxed. Several cyclists passed by on Edgemere Blvd. while I was there, and it was cool to see how different they were from each other. The first one was a road cyclist, on a nice road bike, going quite fast. He was in Kit. (Being "in Kit" means you're wearing your cycling jersey, shorts, helmet, and cycling shoes.) Guys like this ride nearly as fast as the cars. It takes a lot of work (and a lot of money for the equipment) to get as fit as he was, and I've always deeply admired the commitment.

The second cyclist fascinated me - he was (in appearance) as fit as the first guy, and was riding nearly as fast. He was in blue jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers. He was on a City bike, nearly identical to mine, except he had fatter tires. He had flat bars with bullhorns, and a luggage rack on the rear with a milk
This is my "Black Knight" bike, set up as a City bike, similar to the
second cyclist I saw today. A
milk crate on a bike may not look too cool, but
it is a wonderful convenience. 
crate zip-tied to it. The crate was full of gear. He has a chain draped over his shoulder for locking his machine. He looked to be in his twenties, and when he passed I wanted to hop on the Black Knight bike and chase him down to talk to him. A fellow Urban/Utilitarian cyclist is a rare bird here in El Paso, and he made me smile.

The next guy made me smile, too. He was on a road bike like the first, but was overweight and a bit out of condition. But he made me smile because I felt proud of him. He was actively doing something about his health rather than sitting at home watching the tube and wishing he was fit. I hope he keeps it up. If I see him again, I'll flip him a thumbs-up to encourage him a bit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Physical and Psychological Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

7/10/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Will Ride Later

The benefits of Aerobic Exercise are so well documented that I will not attempt to list the studies and most of the physiology here. At my website markstone.org, I have listed links to studies and documentation in regards to Mitochondria (there's a link to it at the top of the page here), and I may put together a similar page of documentation for the Aerobic Benefit shortly. Just know that there are hundreds of longevity and health studies completed through the past several decades that support the following statements. Additionally, thousands of personal testimonies and documentation attest to the reality of the Aerobic Benefit. The physiological changes that take place in the human body when subjected to even a relatively small amount of aerobic work are staggering. And the changes are systemic, too!

First, as we discussed in the last blog, you have time to exercise aerobically. Even if you think you don't, you do. Steal 30 minutes from TV, or 30 minutes from Facebook/Twitter time, or get up a half-hour earlier (or go to sleep a half-hour later), or commute to work on your bike instead of in your car,  or use your bike to make that trip to Walgreens or to the Library. The time is available. The dedication to enter into a program and make it a lifestyle, or at least a habit, is what is in question. I do not know of anyone who cannot find the time, and folks I know a lot of people.

Aerobic exercise is defined as any light to moderate activity that maintains a heart rate of around 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Good examples are brisk walking, jogging or running, bicycling, rowing, and swimming (not just bouncing around in the water; I mean laps). When your activity keeps your heart rate in its "target zone" (the 60% to 70% of max mentioned above) then you've had a day. Do an average of 4 days or more per week of this, and you will eventually have a changed life. Period. And you will have changed your life without supplements and drugs.

If you read all the aerobic websites and books, you will discover a lot of difference of opinion in how
many times per week, how long you should exercise, and what the correct heart-rate "zone" is. Covert Bailey (one of my exercise heroes) claims only 12 minutes per day is enough. Others say 30. That's not the point. The point is: Get out there on your bike or in your walking/running shoes and start. Do 20 minutes. Do 30. But do something.

Personal Observation: I am 61 years old at the time of this writing. Who knows what's going to happen to me in the future – I may keel over dead from something or other any minute, just like any of you could. But at 61, I know of very few people that are my age that don't have to take prescriptions, or can't get in and out of chairs, or have a chronic disease of some type, or have had a bypass, or don't have to shoot up insulin, or are not tethered permanently to their doctor. I'm not perfect by any means, and have had times of being overweight and immobile, but I don't see a lot of people that are as healthy as I. Usually, the only difference is the exercise lifestyle. I have bicycled since 1972 or so – a lifetime of aerobic activity – and life, for me, bears more promise, less pills, less doctors, and more mobility. I'm going through my 60s able to do things. And I feel really, really good.

Here's what Aerobic Exercise does:

1. Better Cardio Function. Aerobic Exercise improves, cleans and maintains the entire circulatory system. Your heart grows in size and strength, able to pump more blood with each stroke. Because of this, resting heart rate lowers substantially. New blood vessels are constantly forming to carry blood to the muscles and extremities. The interior of blood vessels is "scraped" clean (removing blockages) by the increased flow and activity. Walls become supple. Because of the increase in mitochondria in the muscles, fatty acids are stripped from the blood so red blood cells no longer clump together, which
increases the blood's ability to carry nutrients because of the increased surface area of the blood cells. Also, the thinner (non-clumping) blood can reach extremities easier, so healing takes place faster.

2. Fat Loss. When muscles are working during aerobic activity, their need for fuel (obviously) increases. With this increased need comes an increase in the quality and numbers of mitochondria in the muscle cells. Mitochondria (as we've discussed before in these blogs) are the energy source for all muscular activity. When mitochondria are increased through exercise, they use an increased amount of fatty acids and glucose to create ATP, which is the fuel used by muscles. Here's the bonus: When you are at rest (for example, sleeping), the increased amount of mitochondria is still present. They are still actively converting fatty acids to ATP. Therefore, even at rest, the exercised body burns fat all the time, not just during the actual exercise.

3. Endorphins. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins in the brain, creating a sense of well-being and happiness that in my experience lasts all day. Aerobic exercise is a wonderful treatment for depression.

4. Stronger Immune System. Studies show that people who exercise aerobically have less incidences of viral diseases like the common cold, or the flu. Additionally, in the exercised body these diseases, when they do occur, are less severe and do not last as long. My own personal experience supports this entirely – I rarely get colds (I'm still waiting for my first 2014 cold, and it's July!) and when I do get them they are usually mild and gone within 24 hours.

5. Chronic Disease Reduction. This, to me, is exciting. Studies show that Aerobic Exercise substantially decreases the incidence of chronic disease of all types. Heart disease? Read point 1 above. Blood pressure is lowered, cholesterol is kept in check, the heart is a mammoth blood-pumping machine. Additionally, with endorphins introduced into the equation, stress levels are lowered. Blood vessels have supple, clean walls with no blockages. Diabetes? The tie between mitochondria production and type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) is undeniable and is extremely well established in science. The reason we don't hear about it is because the drug companies cannot make money off of prescription sales if we alter diets and/or increase aerobic activity and heal ourselves. See my Mitochondria T2DM blog for details. Cancer? It is difficult to find the reason, primarily because no one knows the root cause for cancer itself, but study after study confirms lower incidences of cancer in people that have a lifestyle of aerobic exercise.

Do people have heart attacks, die of cancer, and contract T2DM when they are aerobic exercisers? Of course. Everyone can think of examples of people they have known or heard of that are exceptions. Jim Fixx, runner extraordinaire, died from a heart attack. Lance Armstrong, before he won the 7 Tours de France, had serious testicular cancer. (A point can be made that these guys exercised too much, but I don't want to go down that road right now.) But the point here is that these chronic diseases are severely reduced in populations that exercise aerobically, and when you exercise aerobically you make your chances of contracting much, much smaller.

6. Oxygen Consumption. When you exercise, you breathe. The body's need for oxygen increases as the muscles use ATP to produce movement and energy, and by exercising the system of oxygen delivery we increase its efficiency. Stated simply: If you are bicycling and working your lungs on a daily basis, you discover that you are able to get to the top of the stairs without huffing and puffing. You can actually go for walks and breathe through your nose comfortably. I remember watching Dikembe Mutumbo, when he played for the Denver Nuggets of the NBA. He ran full speed up and down the basketball court but always with his mouth closed. His lungs were so developed, he didn't need to gasp for air. We can be the same.

7. Increased Energy. When we are exercising aerobically, we put our body on a new level of fitness. Tasks at work start becoming easier, even though we may be "tired" from our morning run or bike ride. I find that my energy level even when doing mundane tasks at home, like doing dishes, is increased. I don't say "Ugh, I guess I better get up and do the dishes" and then sit there for another ten minutes. I bounce out of the chair and attack the dishes. Instead of walking up stairs, I run. And I don't do it on purpose, it's just what my body wants to do. After a loooooong day, I still can keep up with grandkids.

One year, probably about a decade ago when I was entering my 50s, my wife was a counselor at a weekend Girl Scout camp and I got to go! We did all kinds of camping stuff in addition to all the crafts and Girl Scout learnin'. One afternoon we all went on a hike that ended at the top of a small mountain. We were all going to meet up there and sing songs or something. The first people to arrive at the top of the hill were myself and all the skinny Girl Scouts. A few minutes later more Girl Scouts appeared, then finally after about 10 or 15 minutes the adults, breathing and laboring, made it to the top. They plopped down on benches, panting, trying to recover from the climb. At 50, I was the oldest person there – and yet I was the only adult that was still fresh and felt rested at the end of the climb. Why? A lifestyle of Aerobic Exercise, an investment in my future I was willing to make.

There are many more benefits to a lifestyle of Aerobic Exercise, but I've hit the most important. I could also mention a reduction in Sleep Apnea, and improved sleep patterns, and better appetite (That's right: People that exercise aerobically usually eat less). But we're getting the point here. Lives change with aerobic exercise in so many ways. Following is a cool video about the effects of exercise from Dr. Mike Evans which brings home the point:


Actual picture of me jogging

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

They Want your Money - - They Want your Soul

7/9/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No Ride Today

There is a media war on our souls being waged by those that are after our hard-earned cash. As a population, we fall for and believe media hype and advertising. If an important sounding person says it on TV, after all, isn't it true? Admit it.

We have a real tendency to believe what we are told by people that appear to be experts without actually doing the research ourselves. It's always been the case. If a new wonder drug or weight-loss supplement comes delivered in an Advertising Company's packaging on TV, we buy it, baby.

Madison Avenue and the Drug/Weight Loss/Health companies know they cannot make money off of us if we exercise, even though exercise is by far and away the most effective weight-loss and health-improvement engine there is. My next article here at the Bicycle Blog will feature the proven benefits of aerobic exercise. Suffice it to say that exercise does much more in all areas of life than the supplements and/or pills even claim.

With that in mind, watch the ads for supplements and prescriptions. You will notice that they emphasize that we are busy, busy people. They build the impression, oft believed by us, that we are far too busy for exercise. We have to go places, do things, be social, take care of kids, hold down 6 jobs, and take care of aging parents. Therefore when we cannot fit exercise into our busy lifestyle, we need to try the newest Supplement, take the newest prescription! It's easy and fits in to our busy lifestyle!

But what are our lifestyles like, really? Think about it. We, and our children, sit and stare at screens. We are watching TV, we are playing video games, and we are on Facebook. I know a lot of people,
and I do not know one who is not addicted to some kind of screen. Twitter. Grey's Anatomy. Dancing With the Stars. Candy Crush Saga. Studies show that the average American adult is in front of some kind of screen an average of 5 to 6 hours per day.

I'm not saying these things are evil in and of themselves, but my friends that I referred to all claim that they do not have time to exercise. They cannot take 30 minutes out of their precious Facebook time to walk or ride a bicycle or go for a jog.

And when they don't feel like they have time, a position completely supported (and even suggested) by the money-hungry advertising, drug and supplement industries, then they have no recourse but to begin to depend on the almighty pill for their salvation.

That's the way it is.

Do the pills and supplements work? I think on an individual basis, from time to time, probably. But even when they do work, they do not address all the issues that a regular exercise program addresses. A Blood Pressure medication does not strengthen a person's heart, or increase mitochondria for better sugar metabolism. A weight-loss drink does not thin blood, increase the volume of blood, and create new blood vessels. No drug or supplement affects the human body with the scope of improvements offered by a simple, aerobic exercise program. But they do earn a large profit from unsuspecting and gullible individuals.

Look at society as a whole. We have higher rates of obesity and diabetes than ever in history. We are dying of heart disease and strokes. Yet, we have more "miracle" drugs out on the market than ever before! Advertising on TV is largely peddling products that supposedly will make us look and feel better. But, taken as a whole, do we look or feel better? Nope. With all the drugs and supplements available, if they worked wouldn't the situation be getting better? It's not. We're letting money-hungry corporations steal our money and our health.

When Jesus said that the love of money is the root of all evil, He knew what he was talking about.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Riding Away the Blues

7/8/14 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Last two days? Two rides totaling about an hour

Last night and then again this afternoon were rides that felt very good. Although my goals in regards to cycling are pretty modest, especially compared to the past, I can feel myself getting stronger. There's a small increase in endurance, too, albeit very small.

Not me . . .
Today I passed 550 miles for the year, and am on course to go over 1000 for 2014. The last time I went over 1000 miles in a year was 2003, eleven years ago, the year that Ken Kifer was killed by a drunk driver near his home in Alabama. I switched to walking after that (and gained a lot of weight). My 2003 total mileage was 1223.18, and if I pick up the pace a bit I may be able to beat that this year.

The most bike mileage I've had in a year was 2,401, in the year 2000. But that figure, although the most actual mileage, is deceptive. When Bonnie and I lived in Denver during the early 1990s I had 4 years where I rode around 2200 to 2300 miles each year, but the Denver miles were over mountain passes
Also not me . . .
and up front range canyons with speeds of 8 or 9 mph. During the steep parts of my favorite steep climb, Mt. Vernon Canyon, my road speed was only 5 or 6 mph - AND I WAS PASSING PEOPLE! So my 2200 to 2300 miles in the Colorado mountains probably translates to 3 or 4 thousand miles at the rate I was riding (flat El Paso, Texas, averaging about 17mph) in 2000. Note: At 61 years of age I am averaging about 13mph road speed on the same routes I used to do the 17 - aging happens!

As we age, I feel very blessed to be able to be active and ride my bike. I know many other people, some family members and some not, that hover around my age but are unable to be active, and it makes me sad. Riding away the blues, that's how it's done. That's how I roll. I wish my friends rolled with me -


Sunday, July 6, 2014

No Ride Today, but it Irked the Corner Store Guy

7/6/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No Ride Today

This morning it was announced at Church that we would not be having music practice tomorrow (Monday) night, so it opened up Monday evening for a bicycle ride.
That means that I am able to take today off, and let my poor 61 year old body recover from the rides this past week - get a day of rest - and attack the ride tomorrow and get a head start on next week. That's pretty cool.

But I did need to put some gas in my little 1997 GMC Jimmy, which we lovingly refer to as "Apa's Little Red Truck". So, I drove it over to the local Corner Store to put a few bucks in it and pick up a pair of soft drinks for me and the lovely Missus. When I walked inside the store, the clerk looked at me with surprise and shock in his eyes - "Where's your bike today??!?" I told him that I was taking the day off from cycling today, and would he kindly ring up my items and my gasoline purchase. "Wow, man, I never thought I'd see you driving a car. What was it, the weather?"

After I finally convinced him that the world wasn't going to end because I didn't ride today, I left with the sodas and the push-o-line.

Neighborhood people are getting used to seeing me on the Black Knight bike tooling around here and there. It's a dynamic I hadn't really thought of, but is quite large. I guess we're all on a stage to a certain
level, being watched by others. But if your activity is a bit unusual, like cycling, then it is true even more so. And I have a double effect. Not only am I "some guy on a bicycle", but I'm an "old guy on a bicycle". That really is a blessing. We learn, many times, by watching others and following their example. My neighborhood is full of elderly people, and I wonder if seeing me (an elderly person myself) might encourage a few of them to start becoming active? It's pretty well established scientifically that exercise, just being active, probably adds years (by increasing mitochondria, which is very important to the aging process; in addition to aerobic improvements) and increases the quality of those years. I'm wondering if an old fart like myself may be helping others in the neighborhood lean towards a more active lifestyle?

It's something to think about, and gives me even greater motivation to keep riding.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tubes Tubes Tubes

7/5/2014 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
31 minutes, to local shops

Today I was able to ride in a fashion I love - Utilitarian. It's great to be able just to go out and sightsee, or to do some distance for training or aerobics. But there's something particularly satisfying to me to go out and do errands on the bike, to go to shops and make purchases, drop off mail, etc. Today I didn't get to drop off mail, but I almost got to! Bonnie put some bills in the mailbox, but we weren't sure whether the mailman was going to come by. If he didn't, I was going to toss the letters in my backpack and ride over to the post office to drop them off. But the mailman came to our home and picked them up, so I didn't get to drop off mail.

Darn.

But I did need a couple of tubes for my tires, and I wanted to buy some sodas for myself and Bonnie. So I did get to ride "utilitarian" today, and thumb my nose at cagers because I was  - er - "Green".

I rode over to Crazy Cat Cyclery, the one on Montana by Airway, which is a little challenging to get to if you are scared of traffic. I'm not interested in breaking any speed records, so it is easy for me to pick my way through traffic (by stopping and waiting for gaps), jump up on sidewalks, etc to get to my location. Crazy Cat has convenient bike racks right in front of the store, which is cool - I wish more bike shops did that, it seems to make sense (are you reading, guys from Atom??!?). I like CC because that's where I got the Black Knight bike, plus they have a top-notch group of bike mechanics. But if you go into the place wanting to make a purchase, they have a bit of a tendency to talk down at you.

Today I went in for tubes. So, after a couple of seconds of waiting, an employee approached - "May I help you sir?"

I told her "I need 3 tubes, 700 by 32, with Schrader valves." I figured that by being as direct as possible I would be able to avoid their tendency towards lecturing. Usually the salesperson will say "Are you sure you need Schrader? You understand that Schrader valves are the same kind they put on cars. Are you sure you don't need Presta? Here, let me show you the difference."

At this time, I always have to fight back the urge to say something like "Hey - I have been riding for over 40 years, and have 60,000 miles under my belt. I know what a Dad Burned Schrader valve is!"

But I don't. Usually, I graciously allow the employee to show me the difference and I go ahead and play the role of the innocent beginner cyclist, nodding and appreciative.

Today, however, I didn't play the game - and neither did she. She graciously just went back and got them, and all was well. I wonder if it wasn't because I rode my bike to the shop and was still wearing my Skid Lid, so I almost "looked like" an actual cyclist. Or not. But it was a non-lecture visit, and was therefore pleasant.

After I got the tubes, I fought the traffic to get back into my own neighborhood, visited the convenience store to buy the sodas, and rolled home, satisfied. I love that Utilitarian cycling!

First Flat since 2008 - But it Doesn't Count

7/5/14, 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/14

The tires on my bike are top-of-the-line. These days, a few tire companies (notably Continental and Schwalbe) sell tires for commuting and urban cycling that are outstanding and offer great flat protection. I discussed these tires and provided links to the sites in a June 7 blog entry here.

Not a pleasant experience . . .
These tires are quite a bit more expensive than "generic" tires. Schwalbes run around $40 to $50 each, and Continentals are only slightly less expensive. However, this is a classic case of "you get what you pay for" and "you save money in the long run". If you get the $15 specials then you can expect several goathead/nail/broken glass attacks to strand you by the side of the road almost daily, especially when riding through a city like El Paso where the streets are vicious to bike tires. Just ask my niece Diane - A wonderful cyclist who purchased a high-end road bike but insists on installing inexpensive "Kenda" level tires. Her narratives about all of her flat tires is legendary in our family. I've told cyclists like her and others that if you make the investment in the higher quality tires you can stop worrying about punctures and just ride.

My last tires, which I replaced about a month ago, were Continental SportCONTACT tires and had no flats for the entire two years they were installed on the Black Knight bike. As a matter of fact, it had been 4 years at that time since my last flat - but that was before I started paying the extra $$$ for the better tires.

So there remains a choice: Spend $30 for a pair of cheap tires and replace them twice during the year ($90) for a period of two years ($180) and spend a substantial amount of time on the side of the road disassembling your bike and repairing flat tires; or get a pair of Continental Touring Plus (my current
tires) or something similar and just ride, occasionally checking tire pressure, for two years before you replace. Total investment $60 - Your choice.
Not really me . . .

But, as the title suggests, I had a flat tire yesterday on the Black Knight bike. However, it was the failure of a valve on a tube and not a puncture or tire failure, so it doesn't "count" (lol). It also was discovered in the garage before a ride, so there was none of that sitting and cussing on a curb business.

So, there was a ten minute delay while I replaced the tube in my front tire, then I had a 30 minute neighborhood tour. It was a very enjoyable ride. As I am continuing riding my bike through my 60s it continues to wake up a part of me that wants to depend on cycling and public transportation rather than an automobile for basic transportation. As I've mentioned in past blogs, it is not a lifestyle that is foreign to me. My current location (both home and work) makes a commuting lifestyle ideal. I keep deciding to do it, and then deciding to not do it, over and over - I have been very "double minded" in that regard. But the part of me that's "waking up" is getting stronger and stronger. So I imagine I'll make that change, and leave the car at home, eventually.

One thing to think about is the fact that I am turning into a poor driver. I lack attention to detail, my mind wanders, and I drive slower than everyone else - classic old guy syndrome I guess. It's a consideration, for sure.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Slower than Heck!!

7-2-14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
25 minute Windy Grind

Tonight's "spin" through the neighborhood was pretty enjoyable, but it showed me a lot about aging and bicycling - especially for me personally! I started out just rolling through the neighborhood, impressing girls (chuckle) and after a few minutes ended up on Edgemere Parkway to ride up and down. Edgemere Parkway is a nice long park, bordered on both sides by relatively quiet Edgemere Street. In the center of the parkway was a bicycle path, but a few years ago they put "No Bicycles Allowed" signs on it, so it disintegrated into a baby-stroller walking/jogging path. It was probably my fault that bikes were banned from the path. Back in "The Day" (late 1970s, early 1980s) I would bomb up and down the path at breakneck speed frightening everybody. It was not a pretty sight.
Not really me . . .

So now we have to ride on the actual street with the cagers. It's still not a bad ride, though. One thing about it is the wind. It's a big tailwind one direction, and a big headwind the other. Occasionally, it's a big headwind both directions, which I can't figure out.

Anyway, tonight I was doing the ride Eastbound and I was having severe difficulty with the headwind. I was going about 9mph, suffering, breathing heavily, sweating like a pig, and suddenly a herd of road cyclists passed me. Which is OK, except that they did it quite effortlessly. Chatting, laughing, not perspiring, not panting. It was pathetic. Or, rather, I was pathetic.

So I immediately became depressed. That was, of course, the only possible response.

This is why I ride bikes by myself. I'm old and slow. Since when is 61 old?!?

When I got home, I dug out bike logs from 20 years ago - 1994 - during my Colorado Mountain bicycling "heyday" and compared notes.

  • 1994 average road speed (flat surface, no wind) 18mph. 2014? 13mph if I'm lucky.
  • 1994 favorite rides - Mountain passes, especially steep challenging Battle Mountain. 2014? A slow, steady cross-town route to my daughter's house, with several rest stops.
  • 1994 average TIS (Time In Saddle) 2 hours per day. 2014? 25 minutes.
  • 1994 Mileage - 2500 or so. 2014? I just passed 520 half way through the year.
  • 1994 reaction from observers? "Wow, what dedication to make that entire climb!" 2014: "Wow, look, an old guy on a bike! How cute!"
Old guy on a bike. Hrmph.




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Eleven and a Half Minutes

Tonight I had one of the shortest bike rides ever - it lasted 11-1/2 minutes! And then relatives made fun of me!

Huge thunderstorms are rolling through the El Paso area, but I figured (after looking outside) that I could probably fit in a good 30 minute spin before the storms got to my house. Wow, was I wrong. They must have been riding on a magic carpet, or something. I rode down a side street and came back around the block, and hit a wall of wind that was amazing. I rode back towards the house as fast as I could against the wind (approximately slow walking speed) while my clothing, especially my shirt and socks, filled with runaway rain drops and dust. I got to the house, got inside safely, and let our dogs in the house and sat.
Not actually me . . .

Then my smartphone lit up.
Viv in her house

You see, my Sister-in-Law, Viv,  lives right across the street. She and her kidlets were at their window watching the storm roll in, and were filled with delight to see me riding through the 400mph wind to get
home. The laughter I can handle - but the cell phone abuse? Text messages started rolling in - "Awfully short ride, ey Uncle Mark?"
Also not actually me . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ahh, the Tailwind, the Heat and the Lanes

6/28/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
41 minutes, 8 miles to the Old Homestead

We moved from our home on Arnaz on the far Eastside of El Paso to our current residence about 9 months ago. When we lived "over there" I loved bicycling, but it was a challenge riding through the area because of the lack of bike lanes and paths. Every ride was an adventurous encounter with those crazy cage drivers we call "motorists". When I would take off on a ride, I would say to Bonnie "Well, I'm going out for a while to play Dodge Car!"

I was fortunate to not have any collisions or even "close encounters" with drivers. There were several times, believe me, when automobile drivers were irritated or even angry for some reason that I was out on the roads. I can't imagine why anyone would be offended that a 60 or 61 year old person would be out riding a bike. But that's another blog - I'll wait til I'm in the "right" mood to write that one!

The ironic thing is that within a month or two after we moved from that end of town to our current mansion, they put in new high-zoot bike paths all throughout my old neighborhood! I could not believe it - on Montwood and Trawood, where I had previously battled cars for supremacy, were new fancy bike lanes. I could only laugh.

Today, 9 months later, I finally had an opportunity to use the new lanes on both Montwood and Trawood, and boy oh boy was it niiiiiiiice! I rode from the area of Burges high school through to the eastside and arrived at my daughter's house in 41 minutes. The stress level through the George Dieter/Montwood/Trawood area was greatly reduced with the new lanes.

The entire ride had a tailwind because it was eastbound, and the temperature was 99 degrees. But it was an enjoyable spin nevertheless.

See you on the bike!


Friday, June 27, 2014

My Weight and Health Story, from 2003 til Now

Most of my adult life, I have been very much in control of my weight. Occasionally, and actually quite rarely, it would creep up when I experienced periods of inactivity, however most of the time from the age of 18 up to the age of 50 I've been OK. Most of the credit goes to Bicycling. From 18 or 19 years of age up to my 50th birthday I rode probably 60,000 miles, mainly in the Desert Southwest (Tucson, AZ and El Paso, TX) with some trips up into New Mexico. Additionally, my family and I lived in Denver
for about 4-1/2 years, where I rode all over the Colorado Rockies. I rode over many of the high mountain passes, up and down the canyons, and all over the Denver Greenbelt system of bike paths. My weight stayed around 220 most of the time. At 6'5" 220 is a very good weight.

In September of 2003, the year I turned 50, the entire cycling world was shocked by the death of Ken Kifer, a cycling legend who had traveled across the USA on his bike, advocated for cycling issues, and mentored many, many bicyclists such as myself through his excellent website. He was an internet acquaintance of mine – we shared the occasional email as my fledgling website markstone.org was getting underway and we were discussing linking our sites to each other.

While on a short ride near his home in Alabama, Ken was killed when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver. The driver had been released the same day from a jail sentence he had served for DUI! News of Ken's death spread through the bicycling world like a shockwave.

I was very much affected by the news of his death, and within a few days made the decision to give up bicycling. I thought I was going to be next; I felt that if it happened to Ken, the next cyclist hit and killed by a drunk was going to be me. Filled with fear, I decided to give up cycling. And so I did.

Cyclists eat a lot of food. Just ask my wife lol – we can slam down the calories. Unfortunately, when I stopped bicycling in 2003, I did not back off on eating. Slowly and steadily, weight began to pack on through the years as I continued my cycling calorie consumption without my cycling. Finally, by 2011, I had become an extremely obese person. I was ashamed of pictures of myself. I had to wear overalls all the time because regular clothing would not fit me.
That's me in the background center with the tummy. This was at the Revelation
Band Reunion concert in the Spring of 2011
I had developed Apnea, where I could not sleep more than a couple of minutes at a time before I would stop breathing and wake up in a panic. I had become extremely immobile. It was very, very difficult to climb up stairs. When I told people that I had 60,000 bicycling miles under my belt, they looked at me in disbelief.

During the summer of 2011, when I was at my heaviest, Bonnie and I began attending Rock Church (now known as Mosaic Church) in El Paso. One of the coolest things about this church was that the entire leadership team (pastors, worship leaders, etc.) were very physically active. Dr. Steve Muller, the Worship pastor, was (is) a fanatic cyclist. Dr. Steve began to wake up the old cyclist in me, and, realizing what the previous 7 years of inactivity had done, I began to think about beginning to ride again. I pulled out my old bike and rode it around the block – and barely could do that. But even that first block had an effect on me! It got me thinking about an active lifestyle again. It got me to thinking how I hated the immobility, the Apnea, the hurting back and knees. After so many thousands of miles of
Summer of 2010 at prolly 310 pounds or so . . . BTW Bonnie
has lost a lot of weight too since them days, and she
looks shaaaarp!!
cycling and being healthy, is this what I had become?

I had not been on a scale in a long time, but decided to start an active lifestyle immediately. Starting the last week of July 2011, I committed to walking and/or riding my bike to the bus stop (going car-light) and leaving my car at home. Believe me, it was hard! It was less than a 15 minute bike ride to the bus stop, but it hurt. However, I kept the commitment and continued to ride the bike and use the bus. Finally, on August 30, 2011, I bravely put myself on the scale – I weighed 308 pounds. That 308 figure is what I consider my starting weight. I was so shocked to see a "3" in front of the "08" that I didn't weigh myself again for several months.

But I continued to commute by bicycle, without dieting. As the months passed by, I noticed clothes were fitting a little bit looser; I also noticed that the rides were getting a little easier, and my mobility was increasing. In December 2011, about 6 months after starting commuting, I noticed that the Apnea had disappeared!! I was still too scared to put myself on the scale, though. I continued to
My official Greyhound picture,
taken in December 2011 after
about 25 (?) pounds weight loss
commute. In December, pictures and videos of myself still showed a very heavy, overweight person.

With that in mind, my wife and I agreed to join Weight Watchers in January of 2012. My initial weight on WW was 275 pounds. That is still considered obese by BMI standards, but it meant that I had lost 33 pounds in the 7 months I had been commuting! I bought a new car and stopped commuting on the bike at the end of February of that year. However, I still kept up cycling as much as possible, and even traded up to my current bicycle that summer. Between Weight Watchers and Bicycling, the year 2012 saw another 45 pounds of weight loss when I hit 230 on the 15th of December. Total weight loss at this time was 78 pounds!

Bonnie and I both gave up on Weight Watchers at the beginning of 2013. Weighing portions, scanning labels, and feeling hungry all the time gets on the nerves, I guess. Even after WW though, we continued to moderate diet in addition to exercise.

In the year and a half since we stopped WW, I have slowly and steadily gained back 22 pounds and am currently at 252 – which reflects a net weight loss of 56 pounds since the summer of 2011 when I
At 230 pounds in December 2012, after
78 pounds lost
started commuting. I feel much better. The back pain, knee and foot pain, are gone. There is no Apnea now. I can get in and out of chairs (and up and down stairs) easily. I can stand while playing guitar in the Church band. (When I started playing in September 2011, I had such a large stomach that I had to sit to play my instrument).

I still have a long way to go, but am packing on bicycling mileage and am eating intelligently. I believe I will hit the goal weight of "somewhere in the 220s" by the end of this year (2014). At 61 years of age, it is critical.

Main thing: I don't have to wear those dam overalls all the time. So there.
Here's them dam overalls I don't
have to wear all the time any more. This
picture was at 275 pounds, right
after we started Weight Watchers
More Afters:



See? Bonnie looks great now, too. This
photo was for our 25th anniversary
in March 2013





See you on the bike!

My Numbers?

I was surprised when I checked the number of visitors I am receiving here at the blog and at markstone.org. I always think that a couple of people occasionally drop by, and when I'm posting (especially boring stuff like the mitochondria discussions) I'm basically posting for myself. I'm pleasantly surprised to discover that we have over 100 daily visitors, sometimes up to 150. The busiest section is the Oscar Study Page, which is a website dedicated to the study of Astronotus Ocellatus, aka the Oscar, a South American Amazon Basin cichlid (tropical fish). This page receives around 75 to 80 hits a day, mostly coming in from links at Aquaria related forums and websites. The url there is oscar.markstone.org. I coded The Oscar Study Page and posted it at the Rio Grande Freenet waaaaaay back in 1996, and "The Aquaria FAQs" labels it as the oldest species-specific Aquaria website on the internet.

In second place is this very blog (yeah, the one you're reading lol) at about 30 hits per day, and most of those come in from Facebook. A few people wander in from the bicycle forums I used to hang around at, because I have its URL in the sig over there.

The Music section is third with ten or so seekers of truth per day.

The major purpose for the website as a whole is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that people drawn to it by their love for Oscars (the "puppy dogs" of the fish world) or their bicycling addiction or even because they like American Primitive Guitar playing will end up reading the sections about the Love of Jesus.

I'm really quite full of myself today over this. I thought I got about one hit per month!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Apa the Hoarder?

6/26/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Will Ride Tonight

Note: The following blog is a reprint from July 11, 2012

Today I'm cleaning/organizing the garage getting ready for the new bicycle (discussed in previous posts) and it really surprises me how much "bicycle stuff" I've accumulated through the years, then put aside and forgot. It's really remarkable. Shelves and shelves of items that I may never use, or rarely use, but am loathe to throw away. Dusty, forgotten, but hanging on to dear life because some day, under some circumstance, I may want to use it -


  • Tires. I have no bike that has 27" wheels any more, but I kept the tires. May use them someday (?). I also have a couple of spare 26" tire sets, too. One of them (a knobby mountain tire from Bontrager) I threw away because I only ride on the streets.
  • Tubes. New and used. Amazing. I must have 50 pair.
  • Wedge packs. Those are the little packs that go under the seat, great for carrying flat tire repair kits. I think there's three. I had four, but gave one to my niece.
  • Heart Rate Monitors - just two. Funny thing is that I don't even use HR monitors any more. I just ride for fun. But I won't throw them away or put them on ebay because I might need them some day.
  • One thousand allen wrenches.
  • Two rear racks. I use one.
  • Rear panniers and trunk. The trunk is in use on The Rig right now, and the panniers are used rarely.
  • Handlebar Bags - Three. I don't use these any more because I attach high-end lighting to my handlebars and the bags won't work with the lights. But I'll keep all three because some day . . .
  • One top-tube bag. A little thing to put your cell phone in, maybe the keys and a little change.
  • Rear tail lights - probably 6 or 7 blinkies. Two are NiteRider Cherry Bombs; two Planet Bike SuperFlash, one turbo; a Cygolite 2-Watt that recharges (the best of the lot); another expensive 1-watt light that is great, but I forgot the name and it is not printed on the light; and a few older generic blinkies off the Wal-Mart shelf.
  • Headlights. Let's see - There's a Dinotte 5-Watt LED, uses rechargeable AA batteries that I got about 6 or 7 years ago. A soft, full pattern, fairly bright. I never use it, but might some day. There's a light called the View Point Gen3, an LED light that was very very bright for its time. It was the house brand for Performance. It is not bright at all by today's standards, but it was bright enough that it made me feel safe riding at night! A NiteRider MiNewt 200, very nice. There were two NiteRider MiNewt 600 Cordless, which are monster bright lights - but I gave one to my niece (she still uses it). The other one is currently in use on the Rig. Finally, a NiteRider 1500 Race, an incredible light that shares handlebar space with the 600. This thing turns night into day, it floods the street ahead of me with bright light. When I run the 1500 in concert with the 600, there are 2100 claimed (1700 actual) lumens lighting up the road, and people in cars veer away and flash their brights. It's amazing.
  • Rags. Don't get me started on rags.
  • About 20 years of Bicycling magazines that I WILL NOT throw away. Too much info!
  • Locks. I have three U-locks, all three Kryptonite although one of them is sold under the Trek name. Plus, about 3 cable locks, too.
  • Three or four empty cans of Tri-Flow. Plus a full one.
  • About 2 pounds of those little rubber strips that are used for spacers to make things mount easier on handlebars
  • An entire coffee cup full of water-bottle cage bolts. Everything that attaches to a modern bicycle uses these bolts.
  • Two floor pumps, three frame pumps
  • Several water bottles and their cages
  • A CamelBak Mule
  • A handful of chain breakers
  • A few extra chainrings that don't fit on any of my current bikes, plus a couple of chains

Maybe I'll have a garage sale!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Still too hot to ride?

6/25/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
30 minute ride in the heeeeeeeeet ♫ ♪ ♫

Well, like a lunatic here I am again riding the Black Knight in the dead of the mid-day heat. But it's only 98 degrees - although it feels hotter. These days it's rare to see a day where the high isn't over 100, so I guess today's temperature indicates a cool spell!


The ride was enjoyable, regardless of the heat. Gradually my strength is increasing and I'm feeling more comfortable on the machine.

Spoon-Fed Weight Loss

If it's on the internet, it has to be right -- Right??

In the olden days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and everyone knew who Johnny Carson was, that's what we used to say about TV. I remember my Mom saying to me in all seriousness "If it's not true, they can't say it on TV." We know now how silly that was. But nowadays we see the same tendency with the internet.

Of course, I don't think there's anyone who believes my opening statement - "If it's on the internet, it has to be right -- Right??" We know there are quacks out there who are really only after our hard-earned money, and will make any claim to get it. Unfortunately, a lot of people see something on an internet website and believe it a little too easily. The internet, in that light, can be a trap.

However, the internet can also be a huge help.

Consensus


About 15 years ago, I worked for a company called Marui here in El Paso. Marui manufactures the plastic faces for car stereos, and they had a molding/painting/laser factory here that is now long gone. Marui was (is?) a Japanese company, and when I was hired I discovered they made many of their decisions based on consensus, and rarely allowed a single individual to make an important decision.

The lesson I learned there has been an important part of my life since then. Generally, if there is not consensus on an issue, I am more likely than not to dismiss the claim, or research it ultra-completely. This applies to what we can discover and research on the internet. For example, let's say we run into a website on the internet that claims that the sky is actually green, and not blue. That particular website cites studies (whether real or imagined) and really makes a convincing argument. Now of course all a person would need to do is take a glance outside to see a blue sky, but for the sake of the example let's say that is somehow impossible. Using search engines, it is possible to gain consensus and therefore "prove" that the sky is actually blue. The Giggle search results would show the single website with the Green claim, and 40 websites with the Blue claim. Through consensus, we discover what most likely is the truth.

Health and Weight Control on the internet is a zoo. There are a million claims and counter-claims, and I believe one of the worst mistakes we can make is to just believe what we read and apply it to our lives without doing proper research. There are multitudes of objective (non-profit oriented) sources for information and there really is no excuse for not doing the research. After all, if we start using a fad diet or a new wonder-supplement, our personal health is at stake! It is silly to blindly follow the claims of one or two websites without spending an afternoon studying.

When studying through an internet claim, place your emphasis on finding sources that are independent, objective, and have no financial interest. If a company is selling a new wonder-drug or supplement for weight loss, and they cite a study proving it works - but then an internet search uncovers a dozen other studies or testimonies that say it doesn't work, are you going to still make the purchase and try the product? That would be silly.

Many close family members and friends are trying out a few new diets and supplements. All I'm saying is that using these diets and supplements may have unintended and lasting negative effects on our health. And, they may not - they may be great. My point is to do your own research and study before you commit your health to any of these plans.

See you on the bike!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

500+ Miles for 2014! (So Far . . . . )

6/24/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
31 minute night ride over to VI for a Cobb (no olives please)

On tonight's ride I passed 500 miles for the year on the Black Knight bicycle. 500 miles in 6 months is not much for many of my friends (Tony Magana, Steve Muller, some others . . .) who routinely put together 500 mile months. However, keep in mind that I'm 61 so I get to ride slower and less miles if I want, nyah nyah nyah.

Tonight's ride was thoroughly enjoyable. I left before sundown, and there were these small thunderstorm cells dancing around my East El Paso neighborhood. Each one had its own personal bright, colorful rainbow as it marched through the city. No rain drops hit me, though, but the whippy thunderstorm wind was present. Thunderstorm winds are strange - No matter which direction you go, it's a headwind. Serious - Ride straight north into a vicious headwind, get tired of it and turn around, and there's still a headwind!! That's why I love El Paso. Or not.


But I don't really mind windy days. That's why God gave us low gears!

500 miles - Whooda Thunkit?

See you on the bike!!

Mitochondria and Type 2 Diabetes

I'll start with the conclusion. This is a reprinted abstract from the ncbi dot gov website (the National Library of Medicine) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22399425) and states:

"Mitochondria play a key role in energy metabolism and ATP production in many tissues, including skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, brain and liver. Inherent disorders of mitochondria such as mDNA deletions cause major disruption of metabolism and can result in severe disease phenotypes. However, the incidence of such mDNA based disorders is extremely rare and cannot account for the dramatic rise in human metabolic diseases, which are characterised by defects in energy metabolism. Mitochondrial dysfunction characterized by reduced ATP generation and reduced mitochondrial number in skeletal muscle or reduced ATP generation and mitochondrial stimulus-secretion coupling in the pancreatic beta cell has been implicated in the pathology of chronic metabolic disease associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus and also with aging. Additionally the generation of ROS from mitochondria and other cellular sources may interfere in insulin signaling in muscle, contributing to insulin resistance. Reduced mitochondrial oxidative capacity coupled with increased ROS generation underlies the accumulation of intramuscular fat, insulin resistance and muscle dysfunction in aging. We will review the molecular basis for optimal mitochondrial function or mechanisms of dysfunction and correlate with pathology of identified diseases and aging."

To break that paragraph down and to bring in a small historical perspective, the Mitochondria in especially muscle cells has long been thought to be important to the development of type 2 DM (Diabetes Millitus). The reason that Mitochondria is implicated is that it is the primary agent in the transformation of blood sugar into energy. Type 2 DM is, basically, when the body forgets how to use its glycogen/sucrose and therefore the little Mitochondria are at the forefront of suspicion (since they are the main "users"). For some time science believed that a mutation in the DNA of Mitochondria was the culprit, as stated above: "Inherent disorders of mitochondria such as mDNA deletions cause major disruption of metabolism and can result in severe disease phenotypes. However, the incidence of such mDNA based disorders is extremely rare and cannot account for the dramatic rise in human metabolic diseases, which are characterised by defects in energy metabolism." As you can read in this snippet, the huge rise in metabolic disease cannot be accounted for by the extremely rare occurrence of the DNA mutation. The only other player in the card game is the dwindling amount of Mitochondria in possible concert with a large sugar intake.

To simplify, when we increase the amount of Mitochondria in muscle cells then we enhance the body's ability to handle sugar and the incidence of type 2 DM decreases. It is just that simple. Am I saying that a lifestyle of aerobic exercise through a lifetime can prevent type 2 DM? Well, I'm afraid to make that statement of course. However, the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community supports that thought:

  1. University of New Mexico Dr. Len Kravitz: "Mitochondria . . . improve insulin sensitivity (and thus help to manage or prevent pre-diabetes or diabetes)
  2. The Endocrine Society, in their study published at NCBI: "The pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) is varied and complex. However, the association of DM with obesity and inactivity indicates an important, and potentially pathogenic, link between fuel and energy homeostasis and the emergence of metabolic disease. Given the central role for mitochondria in fuel utilization and energy production, disordered mitochondrial function at the cellular level can impact whole-body metabolic homeostasis. Thus, the hypothesis that defective or insufficient mitochondrial function might play a potentially pathogenic role in mediating risk of type 2 DM has emerged in recent years."
  3. The above paragraph from the National Library of Medicine
  4. From the Diabetes Learning Center at Medpage (http://www.medpagetoday.com/resource-center/diabetes/Mitochondrial-Mechanisms-Disease-Diabetes-Mellitus/a/31636): "Mitochondria are found in every cell in the human body. Known as the "power plant of the cell," mitochondria are central to the conversion of fatty acids and glucose to usable energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). A growing body of evidence now demonstrates a link between various disturbances in mitochondrial functioning and type 2 diabetes. In patients with type 2 diabetes, the size, number, and efficiency of mitochondria are reduced."
  5. From Nature Reviews Endocrinology (http://www.nature.com/nrendo/journal/v8/n2/abs/nrendo.2011.138.html), in an article entitled "The role of mitochondria in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus": "Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) has been related to alterations of oxidative metabolism in insulin-responsive tissues. Overt T2DM can present with acquired or inherited reductions of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation capacity, submaximal ADP-stimulated oxidative phosphorylation and plasticity of mitochondria and/or lower mitochondrial content in skeletal muscle cells and potentially also in hepatocytes. Acquired insulin resistance is associated with reduced insulin-stimulated mitochondrial activity as the result of blunted mitochondrial plasticity. Hereditary insulin resistance is frequently associated with reduced mitochondrial activity at rest, probably due to diminished mitochondrial content. Lifestyle and pharmacological interventions can enhance the capacity for oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondrial content and improve insulin resistance in some (pre)diabetic cases. Various mitochondrial features can be abnormal but are not necessarily responsible for all forms of insulin resistance. Nevertheless, mitochondrial abnormalities might accelerate progression of insulin resistance and subsequent organ dysfunction via increased production of reactive oxygen species. This Review discusses the association between mitochondrial function and insulin sensitivity in various tissues, such as skeletal muscle, liver and heart, with a main focus on studies in humans, and addresses the effects of therapeutic strategies that affect mitochondrial function and insulin sensitivity."
And there are plenty more. Google away, folks!

My conclusion: Actively increasing Mitochondria in muscle cells, especially through a lifestyle of aerobic exercise, severely diminishes a person's chances of contracting Type 2 DM.

See you on the bike!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Best Way to Increase Mitochondria?

6/23/14 255lbs, 53 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No ride today (too hot, and music practice tonight)

There is a lot of debate over the best method to increase Mitochondria in muscle cells – a lot of debate! According to experts (of varying degree lol) it can be increased by diets, supplements, and/or exercise, or a combination of the three. Exercise proponents break it down even further to aerobic, anaerobic, or weight lifting. If we study the reason why Mitochondria increase, we have to conclude that diet and exercise both work, and supplements may work.

Diet


Mitochondria increase in numbers when it becomes difficult to supply a muscle cell with enough ATP for its purpose. Therefore, when essential fuels are missing from the bloodstream Mitochondria increase to get as much of the fuel as possible. That's why the Atkins diet has always produced fat loss. When the bloodstream is lacking glucose because of the extreme low-carb diet, one of the (many) ways the body responds is to increase Mitochondria in cells. Although the Mitochondria are really "looking" for glucose, when the numbers increase they are "accidentally" processing Fatty Acids also, and the body has increased its metabolic rate. Therefore, don't make fun of Atkins any more. Additionally, the same response is present when we go on a very low fat diet – except that the Mitochondria are increasing because of the lack of Fatty Acids in the bloodstream.

This leads me to conclude that a diet based on the content of what we eat is better than a diet based on the amount of food we eat. Just decreasing calories does not produce the change in muscle chemistry we desire; but starving the bloodstream of either sugars or Fatty Acids does.

Supplements


I'll be honest with you – I don't know. People that are selling supplements to increase Mitochondria have a profit motivation that I'm uncomfortable with. I'm not saying that the supplements don't work, I'm saying that I don't necessarily trust "experts" with a profit motivation. When you're 61 years old like me, you won't trust anybody, either.

Exercise


All exercise causes an increase in Mitochondria, simply because it increases the fuel demands of the muscles being used. Can't get any simpler than that!

Studies (see my "mitochondria links" link above) seem to indicate that Aerobic exercise (like bicycling, higher-intensity walking, running/jogging etc.) continue to increase Mitochondria continually over a long period of time, whereas Strength Training increases it a lot but then it levels off. Both are very effective and valid.

My Choice


When looking at the various methods to increase Mitochondria, my choice is Aerobic Exercise. I'm just like Covert Bailey in that regard. The reason I would make that choice is that there are a huge amount of additional benefits that Aerobics bring in addition to increased Mitochondria that the other methods do not necessarily provide. After I'm finished extolling the virtues of Mitochondria here at the blog, I will go through the Aerobic Benefit in some detail. However, the following points are well established. To wit:

1. An increase in the amount of blood, and an increase in the blood's ability to carry oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body.
2. An increase in the amount and quality of capillaries to the extremities.
3. Thinner blood, because of Aerobic Exercise's overuse of Fatty Acids.
4. Increase in lung capacity, and in the lung's ability to refresh blood cells with oxygen.
5. Increase in the size/strength of the heart, resulting in a lowered resting heart rate.
6. A change in the muscle chemistry through the increase in Mitochondria, effectively increasing metabolic rate. (But wait – isn't that what this blog is about?)
7. Cleansing of the interior of blood vessels
8. Decrease in Cholesterol, regardless of genetic disposition.
9. Decrease in Blood Pressure
10. Decrease in incidences of Depression
11. A remarkably large decrease in the incidence of all types of cancer
12. A huge decrease in the chances of contracting Type 2 Diabetes. This ties in to Mitochondria, also, and I will discuss it in a separate article
13. Many, many other cool benefits, including weight loss, increase in mobility, plus the increase in the simple enjoyment of life.

My logic says: Why not choose the method for increasing metabolic rate (by generating millions of new Mitochondria) that gives the best overall benefit, even apart from the Mitochondria variable? Hands down, for me, the choice is Aerobics.

Is it possible to combine Aerobics with diet to increase Mitochondria? Of course. In 1999 through about 2003, I employed a diet I called "VLF" (Very Low Fat) where I ate less than 10% of my calories from fat (both bad and good) in addition to at least 4 aerobic workouts per week on my bicycle. The result was a dramatic increase in health and loss of weight, although at the time I didn't know a "mitochondrion" from a hole in the wall.

See you out on the bicycle!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Second Chapter Mitochondria Discussion

6/22/14 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No ride today

I have studied a number of books and websites through the years attempting to explain something I have experienced my whole life. I had not found a satisfactory explanation until I began to read the University of New Mexico documents and studies on Mitochondria, then expanded my research. For an explanation of what Mitochondria are and what their function is, see my blog posted 06/21/14 here.

Mitochondria in a lung cell photographed by electron microscopy. Picture public domain, farmed from Wikipedia
During my 40+ year "career" as a bicyclist, I've discovered that the good old "Calories Out - Calories In" theory of weight loss and maintenance does not work with me. According to this reasoning, if I eat 3500 calories, but burn only 3000, then there is a net weight gain. However, there are two situations that happen in my life that have been documented over and over and over. They are:

  1. When I ride my bicycle aerobically at least 4 times a week and 30 minutes per ride (which is not that much) it is impossible for me to gain weight, no matter how many calories I eat. During these times I have not always lost weight (with a couple of notable exceptions), however I have never gained weight. The most recent occurence was between July 20, 2011 and January 21, 2012, a 6 month period where I did not diet but rode with a frequency of 4 to 5 times per week. I lost 33 pounds during this period alone. (You would not believe the amounts of food I was eating during this period - it was staggering. Ask my wife lol!). Other examples are experiences throughout the 1980s, and the early 1990s when I lived in Denver. This has been repeated over and over in my lifetime.
  2. When I ride those same 4 times per week and my rides average 2 hours each, my weight always settles in at 215 regardless of my diet. No matter how little or much I eat, 215. If I start at 300 pounds, I end up at 215 (with no diet). If I weigh 195, I gain to 215. When riding extensively, my body loves 215 regardless of diet
If weight gain and loss is simply based on how many calories a person consumes vs. calories burned, neither of these episodes would have happened. But they do. Over and over. Why?

My first clue was in a book entitled Fit or Fat that I mentioned in yesterday's blog. In it, the author (Covert Bailey) explains that the reason diets don't work is because they do not address the real issue: That the body's chemistry is predisposed to store fat (rather than using it). The real key to fat control, he states, is to change the body's chemistry to normal and then it becomes a "fat burning machine". If we just diet, without addressing the underlying cause of our obesity, we will always gain the weight back because we have not addressed the real issue.

However, the book, although correct, does not go far enough into the science of the necessary chemistry change although it is very strong on the method (aerobic exercise) to bring it about. I finally discovered the role of Mitochondria by doing internet searches, and the evidence of the power of Mitochondria to control not only weight but other health issues is overwhelming. I first ran across the term "Mitochondria" referencing work done by Ken Kravitz, Ph.D., at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. One of his documents is available by clicking the link at the bottom of yesterday's blog. Once I had the term for the actual mechanical cellular "part" that was missing from the Fit or Fat chapter, then Google and I began to dig up a multitude of studies and data regarding Mitochondria.

I wrote a paragraph in yesterday's blog to explain how and why Mitochondria work to change muscle chemistry so that it causes the body to use ("burn") more fat rather than storing it. Here is a reprint:

"What does this mean to those of us that want to get a grip on our health and weight? Plenty. The amount of Mitochondria in a cell is utterly dependent on its need. In a muscle cell, there can be thousands; in a hair cell, a few. They proliferate based on energy need. Therefore, again a simplification, the more we exercise, and the higher the energy needs of the used muscles, the higher the number of Mitochondria in the muscle cell. And the bonus, the point of the discussion really, is that Mitochondria are never at rest. Once a huge number of Mitochondria are present in a cell because of increased exercise, they continue to turn fatty acids and glucose into ATP when the muscle is at rest. This translates to an elevated metabolism, or the ability to burn fat even when we are at rest."

At the top of this blog is a link entitled "Mitochondria Research Links". That link leads to a special page at markstone.org where I have listed several links to websites, some scholarly and some not so scholarly, which provide interesting reading on the role of Mitochondria.

The way my body responds to aerobic exercise (detailed in the bullet points above) has always baffled me until now. It is so refreshing to find an answer that makes sense.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Mitochondriac is Here!

6/21/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11

Covert Bailey, in his excellent book Fit or Fat (published way back in the 1990s) concluded that exercise was the most important variable in weight loss/maintenance and fitness. Clearly the popular press and many (if not most) diet programs and experts place the emphasis on food and calories, and mention little about exercise. My personal experience, collected through my 6 decades of life, supports Covert's exercise emphasis; it is a fact that with proper exercise, metabolic and other system-wide changes occur in the body that are huge. I believe that most "experts" and diet gurus (and companies) emphasize food and calories because they know the average American either does not want to exercise or does not have the time. They also make a greater profit by selling their food-related programs and supplements to a public that is becoming more and more convinced that exercise plays little (if any) role in health and weight management.

One of the Fit or Fat covers

I'm not saying dieting and eating correctly are useless. I say that the most critical factor in health and weight maintenance is exercise.

In Fit or Fat, the author states that regular aerobic exercise makes a change in the working muscles at the cellular level that cause them to "burn" fat more easily, even when not exercising. However, he fails to identify the detailed process and states that he doesn't want to bore us with the science. I have always wished he would have "bored" us with a little more of the science in this particular chapter! However, the change in the "muscle chemistry" he described is really quite well documented with other sources. In a nutshell, regular aerobic exercise, when done long enough and frequently enough, proliferates Mitochondria.

Here is a simple definition of Mitochondria from the Free Dictionary Dot Com:

A spherical or elongated organelle in the cytoplasm of nearly all eukaryotic cells, containing genetic material and many enzymes important for cell metabolism, including those responsible for the conversion of food to usable energy. Also called chondriosome.

Here is a supplemental note from Biology Online:

They produce large amounts of energy through oxidative phosphorylation of organic molecules during cellular respiration. That is, they are capable of using glucose and oxygen to produce energy (and releasing carbon dioxide and water in the process) for use in many metabolic processes. Thus, it is not surprising to find several mitochondria in high energy-requiring cells, such as muscle cells.

They are semi-autonomous, self-reproducing organelles because they contain their own genome. In fact, their DNA has become an important tool in tracking genetic histories since their genetic material is present in only one copy, and does not recombine in reproduction.

According to the endosymbiotic theory, mitochondria might have been the remnants of early bacteria engulfed by ancient eukaryotic cells a billion years ago that might have evolved and become energy-yielding structures within eukaryotic cells at present.

Word origin: from Gk. mitos - thread + khondrion - little granule. 
Related forms: mitochondrial (adjective). 
Also known as: chondriosome." 

To simplify, Mitochondria are in charge of taking food energy, from Fatty Acids and Glucose, and transforming it into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a nucleotide that is further broken down and used as the energy source for all metabolic functions.

What does this mean to those of us that want to get a grip on our health and weight? Plenty. The amount of Mitochondria in a cell is utterly dependent on its need. In a muscle cell, there can be thousands; in a hair cell, a few. They proliferate based on energy need. Therefore, again a simplification, the more we exercise, and the higher the energy needs of the used muscles, the higher the number of Mitochondria in the muscle cell. And the bonus, the point of the discussion really, is that Mitochondria are never at rest. Once a huge number of Mitochondria are present in a cell because of increased exercise, they continue to turn fatty acids and glucose into ATP when the muscle is at rest. This translates to an elevated metabolism, or the ability to burn fat when we are at rest.

After about 7 days of inactivity, the Mitochondria begin to decrease in numbers and the metabolism begins to slow down. With continued aerobic exercise, the amount of Mitochondria is maintained.

According to a number of reliable sources, the proliferation of Mitochondria plays a key role in not only weight control and health, but also in drastically reduced rates of type 2 Diabetes.

I plan on continuing discussion on Mitochondria in the coming weeks at the ol' blog here, including personal experience, as I study this through. At the top of the page is a link called "Mitochondria Research Links" that provide a lot of interesting reading material. One of my favorites is from the University of New Mexico's Dr. Len Kravitz, Ph.D. Here's a link to his article.