Lessons From the Trail

Things I have learned from running on the trail.

1. Silence is golden.

If you are introverted then running, or any other exercise that can be done in a solitary fashion, is the best way to start the day. I love nothing more than suiting up, plugging into a podcast or audiobook on my watch and disappearing to the middle of nowhere. Nobody knows where I am, it is quiet and deserted and the day has yet to begin so no cars or other fuss is around. Heaven. So good for the soul and brain.

2. Green is also golden.

Green is good for you. Not just food, but the spectacle. If you are outdoors in the greenery you are flourishing, and that is just a fact.

3. Sunrise is… er… golden.

Watching the sun come up. What absolute bliss, to be running through beauty, seeing beauty slowly appear and then watching it bathe the beauty in more beauty. Did I say beauty? I meant beauty.

Beauty.

4. Trails are better than roads.

If I must run on the road I do so on roads surrounded by green, but all things being equal I would rather be on the trail. Why? The soft grass underfoot, the animal sounds, the cool of the morning under a tree canopy, the moisture of life in the air, the smell of vegetation. I mean, can’t you just sense it all now?

5. Bathing in nature.

Gyms are stupid because human beings are meant to be outside. It is our birthright. Who the hell wants to spend time in a smelly, sweaty room full of sweaty, smelly people listening to dreadful music, trying to avoid eye contact with talking people who want to talk to you, all the while you are lifting things up and putting them down again. I mean, does that sound like appropriate behaviour for a real man? And then there are the posers who look at themselves all the time, the roarers who cannot exercise without panting and grunting and the talking people. Did I mention the talking people? These people want to talk to other people. I do not like the talking people.

Plus, why endure that when you can be outside, bathing in nature?

Mr T Pities the Fools

I do indeed pity the fools: those fools being those not concerned with Mr T. T as in testosterone. That is correct dear readers, I have embarked upon a testosterone binge, also know as cleaning up and optimising my endocrine system. Having done plenty of reading on the potentially devastating effects of low testosterone on men I decided to get ahead. I did not have low testosterone but I am in my forties, also known as the old age of youth, and so I do not wish to wait until the problem emerges before I act. It is no secret that testosterone rates in men are falling every decade so I hatched a plan to exempt myself from that dubious honour. I have already been long convinced that a whole food, plant based diet is the best for raising and sustaining naturally high testosterone levels. This lifestyle plan is complimentary to that. Below is what I did.

Eliminate Xenooestrogens

Xenooestrogens are substances that the body metabolises as oestrogen even though they are not. I began to take notice of products such as soap, shampoo, shower gel and suchlike in terms of their ingredients and I found something very interesting. Firstly many of these products have an ingredients list that I need a PhD just to understand. That is a bad sign. Not only should there be relatively few ingredients in such products, but also any time there are names of compounds that you cannot recognise or pronounce then the odds are high that you are dealing with things harmful to testosterone production. I have eliminated these. I think that absorption through the skin is probably the biggest source of my exposure to these chemicals so this was a big one to remedy.

Aromatase Inhibitors

I have begun to take a supplement that essentially blocks the uptake of oestrogen. It is non-prescribed, over the counter stuff but I would not recommend you start this without speaking to your doctor. That being said I use them and they are proving themselves to be very effective in terms of clearing my excess body fat, such as it was. Right now I do not know whether or not prolonged use is effective or healthy but thirty days of this stuff has been profoundly transformative. People whom I see on a weekly basis are commenting – unsolicited – on the transformation in my physique. I am also further convinced of the efficacy of these supplements by the fact that I have not lost weight. My body fat content has reduced substantially but I am still the same weight or thereabouts, meaning that I am gaining lean muscle. This is the promised land of male health.

High T Herbal Supplements

There are a few natural substances that are readily available online, very cheap and which will raise testosterone naturally. I have started to take this as a supplement. I plumped for ashwagandha, a herb. I have added it to my daily pill regimen. Aside from prescription medications I now take ashwagandha, resveratrol, lion’s mane extract and aspirin. All of these I have been he back of reading peer reviewed research and taking expert advice. Ashwagandha is for raising testosterone levels, resveratrol is the healthy part of red wine, lion’s mane is found to sustain brain function and even stimulate neurogenesis, and aspirin as a blood thinner is good for my heart. With the exception of resveratrol, the effects of which accumulate over a lifetime, I have noticed positive effects from each of these. Aspirin has been recommended for heart health for decades so that is nothing new. Lion’s mane, which is recommended by the incredible Paul Stamets, has definitely given me a cognitive edge. I have noticed that my intellect and wit is far more powerful after a year of taking it. Ashwagandha seems, after a month, to be generating positive outcomes too.

The message, to me is clear. Take Mr T seriously.

Battling and Recovering

Coronavirus got me, and by god did it get me. In addition to two weeks in bed I have taken a long time to get over it. It was as bad as when I have had flu, and I mean real flu and not a cold. Of course, one by one it was transmitted to my family and they all had the sniffles. This is a thing. Whenever there is a respiratory ailment doing the rounds everyone else gets the sniffles and I get absolutely smashed by it. Man flu jokes aside I must just be susceptible. This of course makes personal fitness even more important so I have religiously adhered to my intermittent fasting regimen, and now I am back on the road. The weather has permitted me to run twice recently, and today I just did a mile in the snowy, freezing cold winter. Garmin very kindly gave me a badge as a result:

I chuckled when it said below that I ought to try for the toasty badge by exercising in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Clearly those guys have never visited the north of England.

I Never Learn

I have indulged myself in another watch upgrade. I just cannot cope with Apple Watch and I think I finally know why. As an introvert it is common to switch off and zone out when completely overloaded with sensory input, and Apple Watch is all about data, nagging and constant contact with technology. I have owned three and each time I have lasted a few months before I had to get rid of it. Introverts are at their best when functioning independently and left alone. Apple Watch is the antithesis of this. I have, hence, bought a Garmin Fenix 6S. It does not support media playback so, to avoid taking my phone on runs I have broken out my ancient iPod Nano. One day I will upgrade to a Garmin watch that supports media playback but right now I am just glad I can use it for sports, then take it off and put a proper watch on. I know I could do the same with Apple Watch but it is not designed for people like me or that sort of usage. It is a very needy device and designed for constant interaction. I just cannot assimilate all of this data from Apple. It is too much. I prefer to take what I need and then be left alone.

Sadly it took me three iterations of the damn thing before I figured this out. In my defence, introverts are so often placed in such positions. Ask any introvert and they will tell you that this is common and that we are often treated as though we are malfunctioning. Thankfully a solution was readily available, and thank god for Garmin.

Looking Forward

I want to get the drop on spring by working hard in winter. Coronavirus and the five weeks of self-isolation I have had to endure have each, obviously, been difficult. I am still fitter than previous years when I have been in this position so I will get up to speed quickly. Despite doing just a mile today it is progress. I could have gone further but it was -2C. You can knock that even lower if you include windchill, and breathing air that is so cold can be very painful. Thankfully the nights are getting lighter so I can easily be up to double figure distances by the time warmer weather arrives. I think that, even without factoring in lockdown, this has been a bitter and long, dark winter. The biggest challenge has been mental health and at my age I manage it scrupulously and without slacking off.

After a horrible year in 2020 it’s time to get moving.

Nine Minute Miles: Smashed

Today I ran around a local waterway, Clowbridge Reservoir, and by god I smashed the time, beating nine minute miles. Granted, this is only a two mile run but since I am building again after injury – getting good distance hopefully quicker than last time – I am putting this one in the win column. Hell, I kicked the ass out of my previous best by a minute per mile. I can only presume my whole plant diet is powering this because I barely feel at all tired after legging it as fast as I can for 18 minutes. If not then god knows where this is coming from, but I am not complaining.

Is it possible that I could get below eight minute miles? At any distance that would be thrilling for me. I guess I can only watch my data and see where this goes.

Strava

Shaking Things Up – Time Over Distance – Bonus Content: Gout Can Eat my Ass and Balls

A brief summary of the key points in this post today:

  • I have gone over to the new Apple Watch, using the native workout app and Healthfit for syncing and export
  • I have recovered from another gout flare
  • I am tweaking my diet again
  • I have started running for speed
  • I have upgraded from Garmin Edge 1000 to the Edge 1030 sensor bundle for cycling

Details

So that list is quite a lot. Thankfully I have quite a lot to say so hopefully this will be a blog post of a kind most revelatory.

Apple Watch

I continually flirt with gear and currently I have left my Garmin Vivoactive HR aside and turned to the might of Apple with its Watch Series 6. I avoided Apple Watch for a while as the notifications are so annoying, however I have been able to turn most off so now it seems to be an option. Additionally, and I hate to sound shallow, but media functions matter to me. Running without a long form podcast or an audiobook is, for me, intolerable. Not only due to boredom but also I view it as a missed opportunity to work my brain whilst I exercise my body. Right now the best Garmin can do is sync media to its watches using a wired connection to a computer and I am sad to say that that is just not good enough. This is supposed to be cutting edge fitness and navigation technology. When Apple Watch will synchronise it all as I need, wirelessly whilst I sleep is Garmin really offering nothing better than a 25 year old method to get media to listen to? Plus, now that Apple has retired iTunes and separated music, podcasts and video I would have to wait for Garmin to update its sync software, to say nothing of the fact that the software that Audible provides for getting audiobooks onto devices looks like the ancient software I used to use when I owned a Palm PDA – now there is a retro tech reference for you.

It seems to me that for someone in my demographic Apple Watch is the best I can get, so I did. The options and apps available are superb and now that Healthfit (£3.99) will export everything I need and connect to Strava I have to say that I am sold on Apple Watch going forward. For massive day hikes such as the Yorkshire Three Peaks I have my Vivoactive HR ready to go but as an everyday device it is surpassed. Things can change in future as always, but that is my roadmap for the time being.

Health

Gout is garbage. I still curse my bad luck at being susceptible. Even my GP cannot believe it. A teetotal, outdoors-obsessed plant muncher should not be so unfortunate, but there we are. My body simply cannot process uric acid as efficiently as necessary and from time to time I will have to put up with this crap. This time I needed two courses of prednisolone to get rid of it, and be under no illusions about what a horrible drug that is. Naturally I have not done much exercise recently, until the last couple of days.

Diet

I am attempting to tweak my diet to see if I can get the drop on gout. The current view is to get my kidneys to flush – more efficiently – the uric acid, so I am consciously drinking even more water but also I am adding pomegranate juice and powder to my diet. Allegedly this can help. The science seems to suggest that free radicals are raised during a flare and pomegranate contains a powerful antioxidant that will counter this problem. I will also be creating a tincture out of which I will make a herbal infusion to drink daily.

Speed

Today I ran 2.5 miles, prioritising speed over distance for a change, and with relative ease ran my first and second fastest miles, and weirdly Strava said that, according to my heart rate, this was easier than usual, so I need to do some thinking on this front. I do remain convinced that my diet is affecting my performance massively however, and all for the better.

This is much faster than normal and I definitely felt I had more to give.

Cycling

I have upgraded my cycling computer to the Garmin Edge 1030 sensor bundle so I now have a cadence sensor, speed sensor and a heart rate strap. I plan to spend the next few weeks and blog posts going through the Garmin sensor metrics to which I now have access and see what I can do with it all to improve my performance. Stay tuned for that.

Tribute

Today is a day of sadness, and those who understand will appreciate a simple pictorial reference. Goodnight to the Mozart of the Electric Guitar.