Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Monday Rant: My Decrepit Lungs

Last week, I rode my bicycle for the first time in at least three years. As the cliche has it, I remembered how to do this task without difficulty. At least, I didn't have difficulty with the usual concerns like "balance" or "stopping". Hill-climbing, however, was problematic.

I appear to be somewhat out of shape. While I did pass a physiological / cardiological stress test, I now think that perhaps the high-sounding goal I achieved (13 METs) may have been somewhat hyped. The test is most often administered to elderly patients with multiple health problems prior to surgery, as a way to gauge a person's ability to survive general anaesthesia and invasive procedures. So maybe it was a little on the easy side.


A picture from the National Health Service of the UK. I have no idea what that creepy big-eyed kid is doing with the lungs. WTF?

I rode my bike to school, up the rather feeble "Gordon Street Hill" three times last week (Weds, Thurs, Fri), and again on Monday (yesterday, so this rant may actually be accurately titled in the first word). Yesterday, for whatever reason, sucked the most. Today I did not ride my bike, but only because I'll be visiting the grocery store later today (it's near school) and the bus is much more convenient when carrying large amounts of food.

I am not in great physical shape (as should have been obvious from the picture), but I like to think I'm not totally useless. I don't get out of breath walking to the 'fridge for another beer, for example. But yesterday morning, when my chain slipped off the front derailer and I had to stop and put it back on, I was seriously out of breath. I don't like that feeling, at all.

Other people talk about 'runner's high' and similar concepts, where the PAIN of physical exertion is apparently washed away by some combination of mental distraction and endogenous narcotics. I have never experienced this. Depending on exactly how far I've let myself slide, I feel variously uncomfortable, unpleasant, or shitty during and imediately after strenous aerobic activity*. That sucks.

Obviously, as I ride my bike more, and continue to get some much-needed exercise, I can expect this feeling to occur with declining frequency on my daily commute. It's still bloody annoying that it happens at all, though.

* One strenous aerobic activity that I quite enjoy does not provoke any such negative feelings, so there is an exception to that rule.

11 comments:

Chris Harrison said...

Oh yeah, biking to class was a regular thing for me this year. It got progressively easier as August gradually turned into May, so I expect it'll grow easier for you as well.

How far is it to your school?

TheBrummell said...

It's embarrassingly close, actually. When I first moved in to my place, we estimated the distance to be 2 km on my uncle's truck. Given that on my bike I can take a bit of a short-cut, it's probably just a little more than a mile, and the hill part is perhaps half the total length, or less.

I may run in to this problem again every year, as I doubt I'll be riding my bike to school in the winter. There is one professor here in the department who does ride all winter, but he buys a cheap used bike every year because that's easier and cheaper than replacing the chain, sprockets, and other parts every year on a nicer frame. The combination of salt on the roads and daily freeze-thaw cycles for the bike (friction and getting taken indoors) invariably leads to rusted-out, siezed transmissions by spring. He says he has a summer bike, too.

I can perhaps avoid such troubling lung discomfort by vising the gym on a regular basis when the weather is craptacular or minus lots degrees. Ah, Onterrible.

Chris Harrison said...

As a born and bred Texan, I'm entirely unfamiliar with Canadian weather, but I can imagine it gets impossible to bike up there around February.

I played basketball at the gym at least 3 times a week this year, which definitely elevated my stamina. So that would be my recommendation, as opposed to just running around in circles on a track.

If you take up basketball, just be careful not to throw out your back!

TheBrummell said...

If you take up basketball, just be careful not to throw out your back!

Of course, as then I'd have to resort to the C.H. treatment of mixing aspirin and vodka. I'm a little unclear on the technique, though - do you crush the aspirin tablets into the vodka?

It wouldn't be so much running on a track as running on a treadmill - even more boring. There are of course other options - stationary bicycles, rowing machines, and "eliptical" machines, but an active sport of some kind would probably be more fun.

The Guelph climate is essentially warm (possibly hot) and fairly humid summers, cool-and-pleasant fall and spring, and winters characterized by nearly-permanent coverage of a few centimeters of snow and temperatures a little below zero for about 5 months - typically the first snowfall that doesn't melt instantly would be in November, and the last snowfall in early March.

Anonymous said...

Ben Here,
If your bike is 1.5km, why don't you just walk in the winter, you should be able to do it in under 15 min. My goal is to bike to work this friday. I hope it takes less than an hour, other wise I may as well take the train.

As for never reaching a runners high think about underwater hockey, I'm guessing that at the start you feel good at about 15 min you feel tired and by the 1/2hr to 3/4 hr mark you feel good again. At least when I swim the first 300 to 400m are good the next 500m suck and anything after is fine. That is what I take to be the runners high, less a feeling of euphoria and I could do this for quite some time without dieing.

Necator said...

There was a former department mate here who rode in EVERYday for two years the ~30km from his home. Sleet, snow, ice, hail, it didn't matter. When he moved ~5km closer to the lab, he took an extra long route to ensure his 30km.

Nutbar. I'm with you Brummell, even when I was in shape ans swimming competatively, I never got runner's high. I simply don't get it. After my drowing (technically near-drowning)incident in '96 I have never recoevered my original lung capacity due to my burst alveoli following secondary drowning - and so any aerobics now are exhausting. Now I just flex my Molson Muscle.

Carlo said...

Yeah, I hear that the thumb workout you get from playing your PS2 burns like 120 KJoules/30 mins. That's what I hear anyways...

Chris Harrison said...

Of course, as then I'd have to resort to the C.H. treatment of mixing aspirin and vodka. I'm a little unclear on the technique, though - do you crush the aspirin tablets into the vodka?

Naw, you just wash the medicine down with the alcohol, no crushing required. haha

I don't think you could pay me to run on a treadmill.

OK, you could, but it wouldn't enjoy it, and I'd rather run up and down a court with a leather ball for free.


The Guelph climate is essentially warm (possibly hot) and fairly humid summers, cool-and-pleasant fall and spring, and winters characterized by nearly-permanent coverage of a few centimeters of snow and temperatures a little below zero for about 5 months - typically the first snowfall that doesn't melt instantly would be in November, and the last snowfall in early March.

I am unfamiliar with this "snow" word, so I'll have to look it up a bit later.

TheBrummell said...

Hi Ben,
I do walk in the winter, it takes me about 25 minutes if there's snow on the sidewalk, 20 if the sidewalks are all clear. I don't like to walk when it's cold enough that my legs get uncomfortably cold - my quads are big, energy-intensive muscles that are usually the warmest part of my body, but when I walk to or from school and it's -15 degrees with a bit of a breeze, it's my legs that get really cold. Probably because my jacket isn't long enough.

And I never get a feeling of euphoria or anything like relief playing UWH - I just get more and more tired as the game goes on. There's no bad-good-unlimited progression at all - just I feel normal at the start, 15 minutes later I'm pretty tired, 30 minutes after that I'm feeling pretty crappy. It's only the fact that the game is fun that keeps me going.

Carlo said: I hear that the thumb workout you get from playing your PS2 burns like 120 KJoules/30 mins.

I don't think it's so much the thumb workout as the energy expended yelling at the damn TV.

Laelaps said...

I had a similar experience hiking on the Appalachian Trail last weekend; about an hour in I was starting to get a bit light-headed and could tell I was out of shape, which (of course) means that I have to go through more of the same to get in better shape. Oh well, at least the field season is in full swing.

"I have no idea what that creepy big-eyed kid is doing with the lungs. WTF?"

Seems to be something of a Powerpuff girl rip-off to me, although it must be interesting to have stubs (blades?) for arms.

King Aardvark said...

Swimming is a great choice for all around fitness and would definitely help the old lungs there. Necator, I used to be a competitive swimmer in my youth, and it was slightly possible, though exceedingly rare, for me to get a runner's high. Mostly that involved doing a 1500m. And even then, the high was overshadowed by the exhaustion and pain. I'm in decent shape now but nowhere close to the shape I was in when I was swimming.

My wife complains about the Molson workouts (I drink Rickard's usually, so it's technically Molson).