Altitude Sickness
August 7, 2015

Altitude Sickness

Altitude Sickness

So the general plan is paying off.  I am avoiding listening to the dirty little must-go-faster demons in my brain stem, and I am achieving gains without injury or the crushing fatigue that I encountered in my road training in previous months.

The training schedule that I am experimenting with is short run, long run, cycle, rest, rest, repeat.  Short run and cycle days I also do weighted (with a 40-pound vest) pull-ups and burpees. One rest day I do small sets of unweighted pull-ups and burpees, short and longer walks, and Tibetan Yoga. I am also tossing pushups (weighted and unweighted), bar hangs, and handstand pushups (unweighted) into the mix.  I do varying numbers of crunches 100-500 daily.  I will juggle cycling days around a little bit to avoid rain.

About burpees. I hate burpees. I hate burpees with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. I hate the word “burpee.” My computer hates the word so much that it makes me change the spelling three times before it will let me actually type the word, which only increases my hatred for the word “burpee.” I hate the person who invented burpees. I hope that the jock strap of the person who created burpees will be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels.

Though based on the sheer level of physical and torture that burpees involve, I am going to bet that the inventor of burpees did not wear a jock strap, but rather that they were invented by the only person on this entire planet capable of not only inflicting ridiculous and unnecessary amounts of pain, but convincing me that I needed, nay wanted, should in fact, pursue and endure that pain (a key element to burpees): my ex-wife. Mind you, I am not casting stones at my ex-wife (it would just end up in a rock fight where we both blamed me anyhow). We were a perfect match; she a sadist and I a masochist.

My point is, however, that the person who invented burpees must be an evil genius, and also that I want to go back in time and kill them. I don’t care that it would ruin Crossfit. In fact, I might like that fact, too.

I can do jump knee tucks all day.  When I am well trained, I can do in excess of 80 pushups without stopping or appreciably slowing down. Until recently, the most burpees I had been able to put together was 15, and usually I stop at 10 after almost giving up at five.

Burpees are tough on tall people because the taller you are, the more work you are doing.  Say you have two people, both 200 pounds, one 76″ tall like myself, and one 65″ like my college roommate (who was also a Brady)!  The 5’5″ person is doing 85.5 percent of the work in the squat (that translates to pushups too, generally based on the length of the arms), despite lifting the same amount of weight. This is because he is lifting the same amount of weight 85.5 percent as far as the taller person. This is why weightlifting competitions (especially the repetitive motion crossfit ones) play against a taller person — the mass of the lift is the same but the work is different, and the distance from the barbell to the floor is a smaller percentage of overall lift.  When you lift 135 pounds over your head 30 times, the overall difference in Joules expended is considerable to staggering.

In any case, I am starting to see results with burpees. I can now bang out 20 unweighted burpees without actively wishing I was dead. Which is progress.

A word about crunches and ab work: Most people hear the numbers of crunches that I do (my record without stopping is 2,200 and I quit because I got bored) and back away smiling and nodding. When I was 14, I started to have back problems. When I was 17, in my second senior year of high school (I liked it so much I went back and did it again! But seriously though, I was 17 when I started my second senior year, way too young for college), I herniated two discs in my sacral spine running on the cross country team (see why I hate running). I was nearly completely disabled for a few weeks, went through PT, traction, etc.

I joined the swim team and not only did I literally gain 25 pounds in two weeks (seriously, I was a twig), but my back healed itself — at least for a while.

I endured another year or so of disabling bouts of sacral/sciatic back pain, and then I ignored my orthopedic surgeon’s advice and went to a physical therapist. They gave me a list of exercises to do every day.  They were all ab exercises, and I did them every day as soon as I got up. Five minutes a day, and I no longer experienced a back problem as a disability. There was sometimes pain (I always have to sleep on my back: if I roll over onto my side even for an hour I am in for days of misery), but I could always move.  Also, in a month, I had a ridiculous six-pack ab situation that made me very popular with women.  As a boy who was never particularly popular with women, I enjoyed this.

I have added to those exercises since, but I have removed none of them. So I have been doing ab work (centered around those exercises) every day for 26 years now, and it has been the cornerstone of my physical, metabolic, and emotional health.  It has also taught me the value of the long game in fitness.  Ab work, walking, some strength exercises, eating well, and getting up and moving EVERY SINGLE DAY. I try to avoid even taking sick days from at least some form of exercise.  This is why I can do crunches for tens of minutes without stopping.  You can too.  Just give it 5-10 minutes a day for 10-20 years and you will really see results.

Back to the running, though, I have really been cranking on the downhills, and my eight-mile trail run this week finished out with the last mile in the low 10s, and the last mile of this weeks four miler nearly cracked the eights, which is very, very fast for me.  Both runs averaged in the low 13’s overall, just shy of 5 mph.

I had a few days of starch eating this week, and knocked myself out of ketosis. While I do not practice an Atkins diet, I do generally practice a very low carbohydrate diet where I avoid nearly all starches and refined sugars, and have very little raw fruit sugar.  This causes the human body to drop into a fat burning metabolism, which allows your cells (brain too) to burn ketones (thus ketosis) in addition to glucose as fuel.  When you are in a glucose burning metabolism, your cells can only use glucose as fuel, and your body will metabolize muscle during periods of starvation or intense exercise.  In a glucose metabolism your body is actually blocked from burning fat.

Ketosis is very useful for endurance athletes because your body fat is your fuel tank. At 200 pounds and 5 percent body fat, I am carrying ten pounds of fuel at all times, which is about 35,000 calories, whereas you have enough glycogen in your body to get you through about two hours of exercise. Not only does ketosis allow you a much larger fuel tank, but it uses about 30 percent less oxygen, another bid deal for athletes.  I can tell that I am out of ketosis, because I got a very rare stitch in my side from my body going into anaerobic respiration (O2 deprivation causing a switch from  ATP to ADP, leaving lactic acid as a by-product), something that never happens when I am in ketosis.  I am already back in my high-fat low-carbohydrate eating pattern, so I will soon be back in that most favored of states, ketosis.

For the update on Pip the Impaler (my guinea pig, for the first time reader), he has good days and bad days.  I am trying to see the friend inside him, I know that he was mistreated when I rescued him, but I really feel like changing his name to Richard, because he is a total Dick. Just kidding.  But only kind of.  At least this week he didn’t bite me on the nose.

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