Exercise Addiction: Chasing the Dopamine High

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Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham crawl to the finish line at the 1997 Ironman

In a day and age where extremes seem to be the norm, rarely do I find someone that I know personally that exercises moderately for their mental, physical, and spiritual well being. Just about everyone I have met in the climbing and mountaineering, road cycling, running, swimming, and XC ski communities tend to exercise or “train” at the extreme or sharp end of their chosen sport or recreational activity.

Keep in mind that the majority of the aforementioned are at least in their forties now and would be considered master-aged athletes. Some are incredibly gifted physically and appear to excel at their chosen sporting endeavor. The majority are just ordinary middle-of-the-road “pack filler”, yet they train and race in their age-group or skill level categories like they are world class athletes. They are addicted to exercise and the dopamine highs that come with it. Their stated reasons for participating in extreme endurance sport are varied, but if work and/or family responsibilities, injury, or illness prevent them from exercising daily, they are often miserable, anxious, and a bear to be around socially or otherwise. That dopamine high – the heightened sense of well-being and feeling alive rapidly diminishes. For many, depression is not far behind.

How did I come to recognize this in others? Because I am just as guilty as they are for chasing the proverbial dopamine-on-a-stick so prevalent in endurance sports today. Our sporting clubs are almost like destructive religious cults where we literally celebrate the extreme and those individuals that accomplish the extraordinary. Every ride, every run has to be of “epic” proportions to be worthy of our praise. The bar is set higher and higher and we move from marathon challenges into the realm of ultra marathon distances. If one has not gone on a four to five hour 100+ kilometre ride over the weekend, one’s efforts are not deemed worthy of attention, let alone celebration. This is borderline insanity and we have social media sites like Strava to prove it.

Over a period of many years, I have repeatedly asked medical doctors and other specialists how much exercise is necessary to maintain optimal physical and mental health. Invariably, their response is typically ” about thirty minutes of moderate activity per day“. Keep in mind that several of these physicians are endurance athletes themselves and are just as addicted to the dopamine highs as the rest of us. Perhaps we need to heed the warnings of the medical community, and the studies of psychologists and psychiatrists about exercise addiction and the long-term consequences of abusing our bodies in our pursuit of exercise nirvana.

A number of months ago a friend suggested to me that I should consider participating in sport in a “manner that is suitable for my age“. At first I felt insulted and wondered if this was just another criticism from someone that may be living a rather sedentary lifestyle. It is that group that I am most concerned about, as the medical clinics and hospitals of our nation are filled with people who suffer from diseases that predominantly originate from inactive lifestyles and poor food choices and eating habits – the opposite extreme of exercise addiction.

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Walking – a healthy alternative to extreme endurance sport. © 2017. Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

The answer, of course, to the aforementioned dilemma is moderation in all things. If we want to be truly healthy in mind, body, and spirit, we need to make positive choices that will benefit us in the long term. It was the off-the-cuff remark of a friend that has caused me to re-evalute what it truly means to be healthy and to take positive steps to wean myself off of the pursuit of dopamine highs through extreme exercise. Addiction is addiction, no matter which way the ball curves. There is no such thing as a healthy addiction in the true sense of the word.

The extremes that we see in just about every aspect of life today reminds me of how broken humanity really is and how far removed we are from our Creator and His loving intentions for our lives. We really are living in an upside-down world.

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The Willow Tree: Part Two

The Willow Tree:Part Two on Vimeo.

Without a doubt there is no shortage of images, video, and stories on social media espousing the extraordinary and the mundane. For me, life is about the simple things that combine and/or synchronize together into the complexity of life.

As a conservationist, I have always been fascinated by our natural environment and silviculture in particular. Our forest resources, whether natural or in a horticultural sense (i.e. the willow tree in my back yard), are renewable. If we treat our environment with respect and care, each new generation of our respective families, not to mention greater society, will benefit greatly.

The large willow tree in my backyard was cut down because the trunk had split, probably due to old age, and the willow tree was threatening to come down on the roof of our house, or perhaps the fence between us and our neighbours. It is conceivable that the majestic tree could have lived for another decade, but the risk of the perpetually strong prairie wind blowing it over was no longer acceptable.

According to one of the team members of the company that we hired, the wood chips will be recycled as ground cover for new trees and shrubs in private and perhaps public areas in the city. The useable firewood will likely be donated to someone in need.

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Motorized and hydraulic stump grinder in action.

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Reflection: Dr. Leaf Smith

I am not even certain how I got on this guy’s email list, but I really do like what he has to say, especially for coaches and athletes involved in sport. Very useful and down-to-earth advice from Dr. Leaf Smith at Personal Best Consulting.

May 2017 Edition ISSUE #161

Reflection

Three habits you need to STOP (because they increase your anxiety levels)
1. Disengaging.
Disengaging from your life-via shutting down, ignoring work to be done or conversations to be had, or running away from your stress-only makes things worse. Procrastination is another form of disengagement. Even if your current stress levels are overwhelming, stay in the fight! Sometimes the best move is to simply stand your ground. The next step will come to you. Stay engaged with your social network, your partner or spouse, and your supportive family members.

2. Negative self-talk.
We all have that negative inner voice-the one that tells us we aren’t good enough, smart enough, thin enough. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to be negative, since predicting pain is a way we try and protect ourselves. However, we have to be discerning homo sapiens. We have to understand the difference between helpful self-talk (“I need to stop being late all the time, and plan my time better”) and negative, unhelpful self-talk (“I’m such a screw up, I always do this”). Stop beating yourself to a pulp with your negativity. Quiet that voice via positive, rational thinking. Ignore the negativity. Just don’t give it free space in your head any longer.

3. Failing to prioritize.
Being busy isn’t the same thing as being productive. Most people fool themselves in this way, feeling proud of their busy days, when in reality, they did very little with regards to tackling their most important life priorities. Everyday, as soon as possible, do one thing to improve your health, your finances, your relationships, or your spirituality. Choose one category, and get something done! Nothing will improve unless you prioritize like this. Your future self will thank you!

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Deep calls to deep…

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There is one thing that I have learned in life that applies to everything we do and say. That one thing is personal integrity. Integrity can be defined as follows:

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
    “he is known to be a man of integrity”
    synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness

    “I never doubted his integrity”

As the reader can see, personal integrity, by definition, is one tall order that few, if any of us can claim to possess with any degree of consistency. It goes without saying that the very basis of personal integrity is predicated upon ethics and morality and is demonstrated through our own willingness to be honest, sincere, and truthful, not only with others, but with the person we look at every morning in the mirror.

I do not think it is possible for any one individual to demonstrate true integrity apart from God in our lives. We may hold to some external form of religious piety or offer lip service to integrity based on secular humanistic principles, but inwardly we are a wayward people.

The words that we speak reveal what is in our heart, and ultimately reveal our character.

In a previous post, I presented numerous examples of how people use certain words, but often mean something completely different. To recognize deceit and a lack of integrity in another individual or group is not as difficult as it may seem. One needs to simply start listening, not just with the mind, and the various auditory and visual clues of understanding communication, but with our hearts. The scripture tells us that what comes out of a person’s mouth is that which fills his or her heart.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 NLT

As a child, I was a very trusting person. Somehow, I had a natural tendency to trust others and to give them the benefit of the doubt. By the time I was a young teenager, I had learned the hard way that what people say and what they mean, and do, are often very different things. At first, I was confused, and did not trust that “gut instinct” that the words of someone else, sometimes an authority figure in my life, were actually lies. That particular person(s) lacked personal integrity, and their hollow words were revealing what was really in their heart.

In my early adulthood, when I became a committed follower of Christ, I finally came to recognize that the ability to discern what was in the heart of another was much more than just differentiating between words and visual clues. By the Spirit of God, I was “looking” into the heart of another human being, created in the moral image of God. What I saw there sometimes was deeply disturbing, and yet, at the same time, caused me to feel compassion for that particular individual(s). Perhaps, the compassion I felt was the result of recognizing my own fallenness and tendency to wander from the very God I love. Perhaps it was a gift or a tool that God intended me to use to discern between good and evil, to truly understand the struggles of the human soul in that ongoing war between darkness and light.

So, why am I telling you all this? After all, for some, this seems just too incredible to believe or even understand. I would like to suggest that the ability to discern in the spiritual realm is a lot more common amongst followers of Christ than the world could possibly understand. Yet, even for those who profess to be Christians, I often come across individuals who still depend on their natural mind to understand or grasp something that can only be comprehended spiritually. I have even witnessed that in the prayer lineups of Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. People praying for others with lofty prayers using majestic words, but completely missing the point, and not rightly discerning what is happening in that particular person’s life who has come for prayer. Often, the person in need walks away with an even greater burden upon their shoulders, their spirit broken and slowly drying up. The sick remain sick, the downhearted remain hopeless, the disappointed become disillusioned…

I was troubled to learn that people are being taught in the Church to pray for others with their eyes open looking for visual clues to assist them to know how to pray. So much for discernment, even the proponents of modern psychology know how to use auditory and visual clues to guide them in counselling others. That is not spiritual discernment, that is observation based on the principles of basic science utilizing two of our five senses to understand and verify our environment.

Have we forgotten that the Spirit of God dwells within each and every follower of Christ? Do we understand that only spirit can understand spirit? Deep understands deep?

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7 NIV

For those who have understood and comprehended all of the aforementioned, I want to encourage you to pursue the Giver and not just the gifts. At the same time, allow the Spirit of God to work in and through you for the benefit of others. He will indeed lead you and guide you through this life. Deep calls out to deep.

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The Consumer: Unwitting Guinea Pigs

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Apple Inc files a patent for a method of calculating wind resistance for a cyclist, one factor that could be used to calculate a rider’s power output without a dedicated meter

This patent by Apple will most likely get buried and never come to fruition. It is interesting that the concept (based on Newton’s Third Law) has already been developed into a product (http://www.ibikesports.com) since about 2006.

Today, most popular commercial power meters are based on some sort of measurement of direct force applied utilizing various hardware, and software algorithms. The actual cost of developing a direct force power meter (DFPM), including research and development (R&D), is actually minuscule compared to the retail selling prices. Don’t take my word for it, just ask DC Rainmaker, considered an expert in the field.

As consumers, we are paying through the nose for a direct force power meter from companies such as SRM, Stages, Quarq, Pioneer, 4iiii, Rotor, PowerTap, and so forth. The strain gauges used in DFPM’s were originally developed for the nuclear industry several decades ago, and are relatively inexpensive. The claim that R&D is expensive has some merit, but every company out there is piggybacking off each other and using the abundance of data that is already out there in the public or commercial domains. The personal power data that cyclists eagerly post to sites like Strava, Training Peaks, Today’s Plan, etc., is most likely being repackaged and sold to other commercial interests who develop powermeters and other cycling specific products. Big data is big business.

So, what is my point?

Consumers are the guinea pigs upon which technology is developed and beta tested on.

Much of the hardware and software that is purchased by the consumer, especially niche products like power meters, is underdeveloped (i.e. released as final product, yet still in the alpha or beta stages of development) and buggy until several reincarnations down the road. By then, companies have already moved on to the latest and greatest, and the consumer starts the process all over again.

The hardware failure rates of DFPM’s is very significant (again, go ask DC Rainmaker), and something the consumer is generally not aware of. Likewise, we are all aware of the software issues that plague us almost daily in the “new is always better” mentality of hardware and software development in the cycling world.

Stop this madness!

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In a pinch…make your own chain degreaser & lube combo

chain lube

I ran out of fancy commercial dry lube for my bicycle chain on my road bike and decided to make my own from what I had on hand around the house. A quick search on Google revealed that many people use paraffin wax (which attracts too much dirt) or ordinary motor oil diluted with mineral spirits in a 1:3 or 1:5 ratio.

I had some two stroke 50:1 motor oil in the garden shed along with a couple of large containers of camp fuel (naphtha). I know from previous experience that naphtha (similar to mineral spirits), although highly volatile (flammable), makes an excellent degreaser and evaporates very quickly. The motor oil is a dark blue colour and when diluted to a 1:3 or 1:2 ratio with naphtha, it becomes a very light thin oil and degreaser.

My wife happened to have a few small 4 fluid ounce (118 mL) clear pump-spray bottles that I mixed in the aforementioned ratios with a plastic 1 tablespoon (15mL) measuring spoon. The final mixes turned out a deep-sea blue colour, similar in consistency to window washer, only with oil as an additive. I sprayed on the mixture on my chain and it quickly dissolved any gummed up oil and dirt. In about a minute or so, I wiped off any excess oil. What surprised me was that the naphtha had already evaporated leaving a very fine film of oil on a clean chain.

Wow, a degreaser and light lubricant all-in-one similar to commercial chain lubricant products like White Lightening. Perhaps, I will not have to degrease the chain, chainrings, and cassette very often anymore with commercial heavy duty citrus cleaner.

I will test the different ratios of lube over the next few weeks to determine which would serve well as a dry lube (dusty dry conditions) and a wet lube (rainy and wet conditions). The actual cost of making my own bike chain degreaser and lube is negligible and a mere fraction of something similar commerically for at least ten dollars for a 4 oz. (118mL) bottle of dry lube. Time to make my own degreaser and lube? Less than five minutes!

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The Quantum Leap

The world of physics and engineering is about to make a quantum leap as IBM prepares to launch the first commercially available quantum computer in the cloud. This article provides a detailed explanation of what quantum computing is all about.

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