Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Do you give unsolicited advice at the gym?

Tonight at the gym, a guy got on the treadmill next to the one I was using. He didn't look like your stereotypical runner (i.e., he was a bit overweight, though definitely not obese), but he set off at a decent 10 min/mi pace. I'm not immune to the perception that runners are mostly thin, so this was a good lesson to check my biases, I thought.

After half a lap, though, the guy reached out to support himself on the side rails for about five seconds. Twenty to thirty seconds later, he reached for the handles to steady himself while gasping. This went on for the rest of his run, which lasted one mile. The crazy thing is he even upped the speed on the treadmill by a tick!

I was tempted to suggest that he slow down, as he seemed to be running faster than he could handle, but (1) I was doing a threshold run and hence couldn't really carry on a long conversation; and (2) I don't give unsolicited advice to other people.

Anyway, he took a break, got off the treadmill (but kept his jacket on it to reserve it), drank water, rested, and then got back on. Once again, he ran at a 10 min/mi pace, and once again, after half a lap, he was doing that grabbing support/gasping bit. This time, he made it only 3/4 of a mile before stopping.

It was kind of painful to notice, not to mention somewhat distracting, so I might have overcome my natural reluctance to say anything, but he finished and left before I was done, so I was spared having to make a decision. But I wonder if, given the opportunity, I should have said something....?

PROS: He seemed to be struggling with his running. Slowing down would have enabled him to run more smoothly, as well as suffering less misery.

CONS: Maybe he was pushing himself on purpose (although interval training would probably be more effective than what he was doing if that were the case). And it's not like I'm actually a certified running coach.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Scientific studies and the "best exercise"

As a former math/science type, I certainly don't discount the value of empirical, scientific research. At the same time, I think it's useful to recognize the limits of such research, at least in the short run, before the usual process of science, which is to say, attempted replication/falsification of the initial study occurs enough that the results are considered not to be a fluke, and to reflect careful elimination of other possible explanations.

This is often true in the realm of exercise and health-related studies, where press releases trumpet the latest surprising finding, and which the mass media accepts uncritically for all that the study could be worth, as opposed to the least that it can be said to confirm.

For example, last week, the British paper The Telegraph reported that, per a new study, "weight training is better for your waistline than running." Note the specificity of the claim: it's not that weight training is better at producing weight loss, but at slimming the waist. Now, let's take a look at the study's press release and abstract:

Friday, December 19, 2014

The business of low-cost gyms

I'm not exactly a gym rat, but I am a cold weather wimp, so I spend a fair amount of time certain months of the year indoors on the treadmill. And while I might like to have my own treadmill at home, I'd prefer to pay the gym membership and leave it to the gym to take care of maintaining/repairing the treadmills.

And one of the things that frequent gym-goers deal with is the flood of new members at the start of every new year -- people who've made it a New Year's Resolution to get into shape. As the story goes, gyms get crowded for a couple of weeks before most of the newcomers stop showing up, leaving the place back to the regulars.

Cynics note that gyms feed off this sort of mentality. They lock people into a year-long contract, get twelve months' of revenue, but have to maintain equipment for only a fraction of those members. Here's an article about a sub-species of gyms, the low-cost (i.e., $10/month) ones, and how they supposedly manipulate people into not showing up:

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Noooo!!! Please tell me that this isn't true:
In a new interview with the UK newspaper The Telegraph24 star and executive producer Kiefer Sutherland says he has no desire to reprise the character despite reports as recent as September that executive producer Brian Grazer was looking (again) into doing a movie.
At least at the end of the article, Kiefer Sutherland admits that after season 8, he said the same thing. I can appreciate that as an actor, he might not want to be too strongly associated with one character. Maybe it's just going to take the right (i.e., really good) script to entice back for a final "rescue Jack from Russia" storyline.

Or maybe "24" could be revived with Yvonne Strahovski's character Kate Morgan....

My recap of the fall 2014 TV season

Now that the fall 2014 TV season is over, pretty much all network shows are going into repeats or hiatus until after the new year, and in some cases, until late winter/early spring. Overall, I thought it was mildly disappointing even compared to recent years, and a far cry from the golden era of the mid-2000 decade, when "24," "Prison Break," "Lost," and "Battlestar Galactica" were all on the air at the same time.

New Shows

There were a number of new shows that I was excited about: "Gotham" (Fox), "How to Get Away With Murder" (ABC), and "Scorpion" (CBS). But "Gotham" ended up being too relentlessly grim and bleak for my tastes; since we know(?) how the show will end, Detective Gordon can't win against the bad guys, and things will just get worse and worse. It certainly seemed well-done, though.

The "How to Get Away With Murder" pilot was anything but boring. Unfortunately, included in "anything" was utter ridiculousness and a complete lack of any likeable characters. It's not that I expected it to be slavishly realistic about law and law school. One of the few law-related shows I enjoyed was "Boston Legal," which was hardly realistic. The difference is that "Boston Legal" didn't even pretend to be serious, whereas "How to Get Away With Murder" seemed to want to be taken seriously.

Finally, "Scorpion" was kind of like "Mission: Impossible" with all nerds + Katharine McPhee. It came across as a show about what Hollywood thinks geniuses are like.* It was okay, though implausible; but somewhere around the eight episode or so, I realized I'd had it running on the TV and had been paying no attention to it. I deleted the season pass and haven't missed it since.

* The scene in the Vegas episode where O'Brien defends himself in the bail hearing by arguing that it would be impossible to find a jury of his "peers" - meaning 190+ IQ persons - was kind of funny, I'll admit.

Oddly, the one new show that I've liked is one I wasn't planning on watching at first, and in fact, I missed its premiere; fortunately, it re-aired the following night. That would be "The Flash" (CW). Granted, as between Marvel and DC comics, I definitely prefer the former, and that bias is probably why I was going to pass on "The Flash." But it's actually a refreshing change from most superhero shows where the main character is brooding, damaged, etc. I just wish they would wrap up the unrequited love storyline....

There are some new shows debuting in the spring, but "Marvel's Agent Carter" is the only one I'm likely to give a chance. Besides, season 5 of "Justified" should be hitting Amazon Prime in a month or so, so I've got that to look forward to for any spare TV watching time.

Returning Shows

I've stuck with "Once Upon a Time" (now in season 4), "The Blacklist" (season 2), "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" (season 2), "Person of Interest" (season 4), "Survivor," "Scandal" (season 4), "Hawaii 5-0" (season 5), and "Grimm" (season 4).

I did watch a lot of "The Voice" as well, but my HD antenna was having trouble with the NBC feed for a while, and on top of it, I couldn't remember any of the contestants, which is not a good sign for a reality TV competition! I did like the episodes with Taylor Swift as the guest mentor, though. I'd come back to watch the show if they add her as a judge.

As for the rest, "SHIELD" seemed to continue the generally higher level of quality ever since the crossover with Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. "Person of Interest" too has gotten really good with the heavily serialized story arc of Samaritan vs. the Machine. "Hawaii 5-0" continues to offer outstanding scenery with a mash-up of "The Odd Couple" and the mystery of the week. "Grimm" has sent Trubel off somewhere, leaving it open for a possible spin-off, I suppose. And "Once Upon a Time" remains my favorite show on air right now, although I didn't think the winter finale had anywhere near the same impact as last winter's finale did. Then again, I continue to think last winter's finale should have been the series finale.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yeah, but does it have a full-size running track?

An artist's drawing of the Aqua Park planned for Norwegian
The Norwegian Escape (photo from USA Today)

Norwegian Cruise Lines has announced that its latest line of super cruise ships will have a giant water park with four water slides, full basketball court, and other sports-related stuff. What I want to know is if it has a regulation-size track lap for running. Maybe I'm too rigid in my expectations, but I don't really like odd length tracks where 1 mile = 9 laps or something like that.

Running on a cruise ship, by the way, is an interesting experience because of the Brownian motion. On some steps, you fall a long way down, and others almost feel like going uphill.

Not to mention, neither road running nor trail running lend themselves to the experience of seeing dolphins while you run!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A visual depiction of States I've gone running in

Create Your Own Visited States Map

I've actually visited more States than this map shows. This just shows the States that I've gone running in. Alaska is questionable, though. I was definitely within the state boundaries, but I happened to be on a cruise ship at the time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My 2014 race results

Excuse my shameless self-promotion here, but after all, this is my blog!


Total races: 14 (plus one untimed zombie run).

- 1 mile: one
- 5K: nine
- 10K: three
- half: one

Size of races:

- largest: 353 (halloween-themed 5K)
- smallest: 35 (fundraising 5K)

Top 10% finishes:13/14

- The one miss was #16 out of 154, so if I'd finished one spot higher, I would've nailed this category.

Age Group Finishes:

- #1 finishes: nine [3 of these were overall #1 masters finishes]
- #2 finishes: one
- #3 finishes: four

(Quite pleased that I finished first, second, or third in my age group in every race this year.)


- 10K: 44:22 (by 16 seconds)

Friday, December 5, 2014

62 miles on a treadmill . . . in a single session!

Photo courtesy of Canterbury Christ Church University.
I don't mind the treadmill the way that many runners do, but 10-11 miles is about my limit for a single run, even with TV (which I love). The guy in the picture is British Ph.D. student and ultramarathoner Phil Anthony, who ran 100K in 6:40:35 on a treadmill!

You could watch the entire original Star Wars trilogy in that time (A New Hope = 2 hours, 1 minute; The Empire Strikes Back = 2 hours, 4 minutes; Return of the Jedi = 2 hours, 12 minutes), or 9 episodes (stripped of commercials) of 24.

Of course, given that Anthony averaged just under 6:30 per mile, it would take me a lot longer to run that distance. I'm sure I'd have time to squeeze in another Star Wars movie. Then again, since that would have to come from the execrable prequel trilogy, maybe it would inspire me to run faster just to endure less Jar-Jar Binks....