Charlie's Blog: March 2024


Fitness and Comfort

My philosophy is that you will do a thing more if you are comfortable doing it.

It's a rare thing when I quote myself. I only do it when no one else has said it. In the case of fitness, everyone knows the old adage. "No pain, no gain." I don't believe in this adage anymore. When I did, the pain resulted in no gain because I quit. I am not ashamed to admit that either. I think pain is the number one reason people do not pursue fitness or stick with it.

The idea that pain makes people quit is a no-brainer. The more subtle message is that you can get fit without the pain. I have this crazy idea that exercise should make you feel better not worse. Consequently, I take aim at running, lifting heavy weights, and CrossFit as things I don't ever care to do. My philosophy of exercise is to see it as physical therapy instead of masochism. You want to improve your body not punish it. Here are ways I have discovered to make exercise more comfortable.

1. Stop using heavy weights.

Men are vain, so they want to impress themselves and others with how much they can bench and squat. The problem comes when you acknowledge that muscles get bigger, but joints and connective tissues don't. In the long term, that heavy weight takes its toll. In the short term, it also takes its toll.

I prefer bodyweight exercises and the light resistance of a dumbbell or stretchy bands. The goal for me is to not cause injury but prevent an injury or rehab an injury. If exercise injures you, you are doing something wrong.

2. Choose the recumbent stationary bike.

I don't like treadmills because they are dangerous. I don't like stairclimbers, rowing machines, ellipticals, or anything else. When it comes to indoor cardio, my top choice is a recumbent stationary bike. It is essentially a chair with pedals. Once upon a time, I bought a standard exercise bike secondhand from a coworker, and I found out why he parted with it. That bike and others like it are essentially crotch hammers. I have always hated bicycles for this reason, and I have never found a saddle that could make cycling comfortable. The recumbent bike solves this problem. You also eliminate being hunched over the handlebars which leads to shoulder and neck pain and numb hands. You can keep that.

The recumbent bike allows you to watch the television or read a book or whatever. Like I said, it is a chair with pedals. Indoor exercise is inherently boring, so you want those distractions. I recommend the radio and podcasts.

3. Do your own chores.

Manual labor is exercise. I don't get why people will pay for a gym membership while also paying for lawncare and a maid. People want pain in their fitness while wanting total comfort in everything else in their lives. This is stupid. It makes no sense.

Pushing a lawnmower or a broom is excellent exercise. People look at me like I am crazy for using a reel mower for the yard, but they will go do HIIT sessions at the gym and pay for it. It boggles my mind. This one is on the same wavelength of idiocy as taking an elevator or an escalator to the gym to spend thirty minutes on a stairclimber.

Household chores are easy in comparison to a sufferfest at the gym. Plus, they are free and save you money. You also don't have to go anywhere.

4. Go for walks instead of running.

You don't have to run and tear up your knees to get in shape. Walking is fun, easy, and pleasurable. Running is none of these things. Walking also leaves you feeling great at the end. I never felt that way after a run. That's why I quit running so long ago. It wasn't a definitive decision so much as the accumulation of choosing to skip it. I quiet quit the running thing with the good intentions of going back. I don't do that with fitness walking.

5. Wear comfortable clothing and gear.

I wear old work clothes when I exercise. This is unique to me. Other people wear fitness apparel made from technical fabric to deal with a hot climate and sweat. I am just weird because I like having pockets and not feeling half naked. I hated having to wear shorts and tights to go running, so I was happy to wear normal clothes for walking. But if you feel comfortable in a Speedo, don't let me tell you different. You do you.

Comfort is a relative thing. We seek comfort in every other area of our lives. Why not seek comfort when it comes to getting in shape? Why does anyone have to suffer in their pursuit of fitness? Who made that a rule? As for chiseled fitness influencers, many of them were blessed with good genes and steroids. That might be a newsflash to the Gentle Reader. That's a topic for another time.

My motto now is "gain without pain." I have accomplished more with that motto than I did with "no pain, no gain." I do whatever I can now to make it comfortable.


Sells: Hard and Easy

Take my advice. I'm not using it.

The purpose of this blog is to give me a platform to say what I think while giving everyone else the opportunity to ignore it. The vast majority of the English speaking world does not care what I have to say about anything. This is not a bother to me whatsoever. What does bother me is my conscience. I watch a lot of people do stupid things to themselves. Except for this blog, I don't say a word. What I have to share is a hard sell which virtually no one wants. Here is a list of those hard sells.


1. Roman Catholicism

I have one convert to my credit. He went from a nominal Baptist to being a nominal Catholic. I have no clue why he even wasted my time asking me to be his sponsor. The only positive thing I can say is that he is always one confession away from getting right.

The most valuable thing I have to share is my faith. Nothing has made my life better than being a Roman Catholic. Many have seen the difference it has made and continues to make in my life. No one cares to follow me on this path.

The number one reason to become Roman Catholic is to not go to Hell for eternity. You can see why my conscience can trouble me on this. I don't want Hell for anyone. Yet, most of the people I meet and know want Hell for themselves. There's not much I can do for these people except pray for them. I stand at the ready to assist them in becoming Catholic or returning to the Church. No one is interested.

2. Thrift

I don't have any sophisticated schemes for making people rich. The fact that I am not rich should be a strong indicator to not look to me for such advice. My only wisdom on money is to practice thrift in all things and at all levels.

Everyone believes they are thrifty. They aren't. This is self-delusion. I see people running up credit cards to buy toys they don't need and can't afford. They eat out almost daily, and they give you a look of disgust when they find out you buy clothes from the thrift store. Inevitably, they feel the pinch of their spendthrift ways. They can't pay their bills which leads to whining and crying. They live in perpetual anxiety over their money woes. Yet, they never take the hint to live a thrifty lifestyle.

3. Plant Based Diet

The vegan diet is the hardest sell I've got. People would rather die than eat a vegan diet, and they will. I have convinced some people to try my 3 day vegan challenge, and everyone who did reported feeling better. None of them stuck with it. YouTube is replete with ex-vegans giving up the diet and declaring it to the world. One of those ex-vegans ended up with a widowmaker heart attack at the gym on his meat and eggs diet. Even that was not enough to make him return to plant based eating.

99% of the population reject a vegan diet. They always will.

4. Hydration

This one really floored me, but people tell me that they never drink water. They drink soda, coffee, beer, iced tea, whiskey, sports drink, and on and on. They reject plain water. They would rather be chronically dehydrated and unhealthy than drink water that has nothing in it.

I crave water. This is because I need it to live and function. I assumed that all human beings were like me on this, but they aren't. They would rather go without than drink plain water. I find this staggering stupidity to be amazing. It is straight out of Idiocracy.

Those are the hard sells. I know those things are DOA. Nobody is buying what I am selling. The result is an overwhelmingly large number of people who are broke, unhealthy, dehydrated, and destined for eternal damnation.

Not everything is a hard sell. Here is a list of easy sells.


1. Fitness walking

I don't preach about walking except here on the C-Blog. Yet, people take inspiration from me and others to take up walking for their health and fitness. It really is amazing to me. I think people always want to get fit, and walking is just too easy not to do.

2. Almond milk

No one wants to be vegan, but they love almond milk when they try it in their coffee or cereal. Most of the people who quit my vegan challenges stick with the almond milk. Almond milk is also a brisk seller at our grocery store. This is because almond milk tastes much better than regular milk.

3. Skipping college

I have been talking about this one for over 20 years now, and people are listening. College is a waste of time and money for the vast majority of people dumb enough to load up on student loan debt to go there. Even STEM majors are waking up as many of them can't find employment that justifies the heavy debt loads they will carry for the rest of their lives. A college degree was thought to be a first class ticket to a comfortable middle class life. The reality is that it is a one way ticket to debt slavery. Go to trade school or do an apprenticeship. Blue collar is back.

4. Christmas

Most people I know are functional atheists. They believe in God, but He has no place in their lives. These people don't go to any kind of church or read the Bible. But they love Christmas. Despite the efforts of Puritans from yesteryear and atheists today, Christmas persists as a permanent part of our culture. Once a year, people change what they are doing to acknowledge the birth of our Savior and to be kind to one another. I will take it.

Those are the hard and easy sells. Why are the hard sells hard? Why are the easy sells easy? I think it comes down to comfort and pleasure. People don't want to do hard things. They don't want pain and discomfort. In the long term, they will find that pain and discomfort accumulated and waiting for them. This would be a heart attack, a kidney stone, a repossession or foreclosure, and even Hell itself. People are their own worst enemies on this stuff. There is one thing I can accept and need to accept. These people know better, and it isn't my fault.


Walking and Eating

No, I'd lose time. If you quit once, it's easy to do it again and again and again. It becomes a habit.

The Walking is Fitness podcast had an episode entitled Should You Walk or Eat First?. I recommend listening to it. It inspired me to write this blog post on the topic.

The Gentle Reader who is a faithful C-Blog devotee knows by now of my antipathy for running for fitness and my love of walking for fitness. One of the things I neglected to cover in my walking vs. running posts was the issue of eating. Walking and eating is way easier than running and eating. I must warn you that I am going into a zone that is graphic and TMI. You've been warned.

Running is a stupid activity that burns a lot of calories. This is mostly glycogen from your bloodstream and muscles instead of fat from your gut and butt. The body needs that quick energy to maintain the speed needed for running. When you run out of this glycogen, you hit the wall or bonk. To counteract this, runners drink sports drinks, slurp gels, and eat energy bars. They can't eat real food because the combination of real food in the gut with the up-and-down pounding produces a condition known as "runner's trots." Everyone else knows this as diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a constant at road races. There are even infamous tales of runners who have soiled themselves completely in a race. I'm not going to share the pictures, but you can Google them up if you don't believe me. There is also a Wikipedia article on the subject where you will find the context of the opening quotation of this blog post.

Runners will blame the trots on "trigger foods" before a run or race. Everyone thinks immediately of Taco Bell which is a trigger food for every member of the human race except me. That is one of the upsides of a plant based diet, but that is a topic for another post. With runners, all solid food is a trigger food for them. This is because the trigger is the running and not so much what they ate.

If you are a runner, the choice is stark. You can risk bonking, or you can risk explosive diarrhea. Sometimes, you get both. The undeniable fact is that the human digestive tract hates running. This is a big reason to give up running and become a fitness walker.

Walkers don't have these issues. Walkers can eat a Thanksgiving level dinner and go walking immediately after. The walking actually aids in digestion. Many people go for a short walk after meals for this reason. Food is never an issue for a walker unless it is Taco Bell. Walkers also don't waste money on expensive sports drinks and energy gels. I like a granola bar or a sandwich before my walks when I think I need some food.

I couldn't do this sort of thing when I would run for fitness in my younger days. I have had some close calls with runner's trots. I will spare the Gentle Reader the worst details but trying to manage running and nutrition with other aspects of a busy schedule was a nightmare. Why did I ever waste time with running? That was really dumb.

I have had to go to the loo in the middle of a walk, but it was never catastrophic. I have never soiled myself on a walk. I can't imagine how a runner wants a medal so bad that they would expose themselves to the public spectacle of having liquid feces running down both legs.

The cure for runner's trots is to become a fitness walker. That switch will cause you less distress and embarrassment. And you don't have to time those meals around your training anymore.


The Worst Book Ever

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, podiatrist, healthcare professional, personal trainer, or anything requiring extra letters after my last name. Consult with those people before beginning an exercise program.

Blaming the running injury epidemic on big, bad Nike seems too easy - but that's okay, because it's largely their fault.

The title of this post is deliberate hyperbole. I am certain that I can find books that are worse than Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. I just don't care to look. The reason I think Born to Run is the worst book ever is because it was a fad that pushed many bad ideas out there that persist to the present day. That pervasive influence is what makes it the worst book ever.

I read the book over a decade ago mainly because of its fad nature. I loved the book especially with the takedown of Nike as the cause of all running injuries. I thought McDougall had solved the problem of running injuries. He didn't.

We are not born to run. McDougall's tale of persistence hunting and evolution is a nice myth, but it is a myth. I do not believe in evolution. When I read Born to Run, I did believe in evolution as an explanation for human origins because I was a stone cold atheist. I am not an atheist now. I believe God designed all human beings and all living things. There is microevolution and devolution that occurs within a species but no species are created as a product of this process.

If I said that we were born to swim, people would laugh. Some people can swim but nothing close to how dolphins swim. If I said that we were born to fly, people would laugh at that as people can't fly without additional equipment. The same applies to cycling as the bicycle is a relatively recent invention in terms of human history. We were not born to cycle.

Humans can run reasonably well over short distances. That's about it. Those anaerobic bursts can save your life, but they cannot be sustained for long. When we run slower at aerobic levels, we can maintain that indefinitely until the injuries kick in. This is where footwear comes into the picture. All footwear exists to prevent injury to the foot. This is why footwear has a long history predating Nike by thousands of years.

Running shoes are not the cause of running injuries. Running is the cause of running injuries. McDougall points out correctly that running shoes have not prevented these injuries. What he leaves out is that barefoot running or wearing minimalist footwear has not stopped these injuries either. Here is what Martin Fritz Huber wrote for Outside,

Fortunately all photographic evidence has long been destroyed, but there was a time when I briefly belonged to the barefoot running cult. This was roughly ten years ago. Like millions of others, I read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run and realized that I’d been duped by big running shoe companies who had sold me something that I didn’t actually need. Newly enlightened, I did the only rational thing and spent $160 on a pair of shoes that mimicked the sensation of running barefoot. I felt sorry for the idiots I saw on my daily park loop who were still caught in the cushioning-is-necessary matrix. I exchanged nods with the local hippie guy who always ran in sandals. After a few weeks, however, I became disillusioned. The anticipated breakthrough in my running never came. What’s more, none of the top professionals seemed to be ditching their plush footwear and going minimalist. If they weren’t doing it, why should I? In the end, I was relieved to go back to wearing regular old running shoes; my feet were really starting to hurt.  

When you dig into McDougall's claims, you find that he is a first class bullshitter. Here is what Jamie Compos wrote about the minimalist running thing:

So I did some runs in my fancy new shoes and it felt liberating. I even did a spate of barefoot walks on all types of terrain, and some sprints in grassy fields. I tore out the cushy insoles from my work shoes and got some good ol’ Chuck Taylors (minimalism incognito) to wear casually.

Everything was going well. So well, in fact, that one day I decided to do several squats at the gym, followed by a 6-mile run – more than double the distance I’d attempted in my minimalist shoes to date.

My knees were screaming the next day, and remained extremely tender for weeks.

Thus endeth the experiment in minimalism.

The injury frightened me so much that I gave up running for several years. Dual obsessions with backpacking and running are probably not good on the knees. A friend’s comment while we were out on a beautiful backpacking trip sealed the deal:

“I’d rather be able to do this in old age than risk it all on running,” he said.

The claim from barefoot and minimalist enthusiasts is that runners have to allow for an adjustment period until you get used to running without all the cushioning of a modern running shoe. This sounds almost identical to carnivore diet enthusiasts who tell people to allow for days, weeks, and months as you suffer explosive and chronic diarrhea until you "adjust" to the new diet and become chronically constipated. With a vegan diet, your health is already improving after a few days. But I digress. . .

I am going to tell a different story. You can agree or disagree if you like, but I think my tale is better. We were never born to run just like we weren't born to swim, fly, cycle, row a boat, or sweat to the oldies with Richard Simmons. We were born to walk. This is our natural movement. You begin as a toddler with a few unsteady steps and progress from there. Walking injuries are rare relative to running. You feel better when you walk. You don't feel better when you run. Our bodies are designed to walk for long distances which we are able to do with little difficulty or distress. In comparison, chimpanzees are terrible walkers but outstanding climbers. They were designed to climb. It is their natural movement.

Human beings did not develop big brains from eating meat from persistent hunting. Humans always had big brains, and those brains have been maintained by starches derived from farming. The energy we require to walk and work comes mostly from carbohydrates not meat. Carbs are the preferred fuel source for human beings. I don't know how persistence hunters can run all day while bonking on a meat diet.

McDougall is at pains to argue that endurance running is natural to humans. Yes, humans have great endurance and sweat like horses. We can go all day when it comes to walking and working. The running thing comes up short with the injuries. This leads us to the next big myth which is ultrarunning.

Ultrarunners do not actually run ultramarathons. They run and walk those extreme distances. A marathoner is able to cover a marathon while running the entire distance, but ultramarathoners are incapable of doing that with ultramarathons especially those 100-milers. They shouldn't call it ultrarunning but speed hiking. Here is what Heather Hart wrote:

Here’s a bit of a reality check for new (or non) ultra runners: you’re likely going to walk during your ultramarathon. The longer the distance, the more you’re going to walk. But don’t worry: walking during an ultramarathon is quite normal – you’ll even see the elites power walking up some steep and gnarly hills.

But for whatever reason, not a lot of people seem to know that.

The reason not a lot of people seem to know that is because ultrarunners hide the truth about the walking while embellishing the running. I would like to know how much they walk in a typical ultra, but I will guess 50%. Some researcher needs to use fitness tracker data to get a true picture on the ratio of running to walking in an ultra.

Why do ultrarunners have to walk? That is obvious. Human beings are not born to run. Running long distances is unnatural for us. But we can walk those same distances though we do it slower. Ultrarunning is just a great way to ruin a hike.

If you believe the ultrarunning myth that ultrarunners run the entire 100 mile distance, you will buy the born to run thesis. The reality is they don't run the whole way. That brings us back to the shoe issue.

Neither cushioned trainers nor barefoot shoes make any difference. If you run, you will have running injuries. No shoe causes or cures these injuries. The running shoe industry won't tell you this because they make bank off of your search for that magic shoe that will cure those injuries. This is why they never make those injury prevention claims. When Vibram made those claims, they got sued and lost.

Running injuries have one thing in common. They are all sustained while running. When you stop running, those injuries clear up. This is the number one advice for healing running injuries. Stop running.

When it comes to cushioned shoes, they certainly make walking more comfortable. When people walk, they heel strike normally. This is why shoes for eons have had stacked heels relative to the forefoot. That is the point of first contact when walking normally. Forefoot striking is abnormal for walking on level ground. Forefoot striking comes into play when going up steep hills. You can walk barefoot, but this becomes painful very quickly. This is why people like carpeted floors and rugs.

Born to Run is a bad book. Unfortunately, it still remains influential. It was a microfad in the larger fad of running. If there is one upside, Born to Run has made some people give up running when they finally rejected the hype. A better book to read is Shane O'Mara's In Praise of Walking. The big complaint of that book is that it is very scientific and has a ton of evidence and research that can be wonky to read. I don't care for the evolution arguments O'Mara makes, but the book seems solid in its presentation which makes it the opposite of Born to Run. O'Mara isn't full of crap. I think runners should switch to walking and do that walking in comfortable shoes.

UPDATE #1: I enjoyed this comment from Ben so much on one of my sources for this post that I wanted to share it.

To me, the issue isn’t whether barefoot running is better than running using cushioned shoes, but whether humans are truly ‘born to run’ at all. We can run long distances, certainly, but did we evolve to do so, or are we to some extent ‘misusing’ our biology?

The persistence hunting theory, often used as an evolutionary explanation for our running ability, has been debunked as unscientific. It has about the same standing among anthropologists as the aquatic ape hypothesis. Studies of extant hunter-gatherer societies show that some never run at all – never.

All in all, it seems that running is something that we (or some of us) can do, but we don’t have to do it, it isn’t necessary to be healthy, and its importance in our evolution has been overstated (or at least misstated – no doubt occasionally running from predators or towards prey is very useful). It’s an interesting issue, and personally I find McDougall’s mythologising of running and running culture doesn’t contribute in a useful way, whatever its practical applications for runners or effect on the industry.

UPDATE #2: I found this video on the Sport Walk channel on YouTube:

Sport Walking Top Tips - Should you use Forefoot Landing when Sport Walking?

This video definitely settles the issue of minimalist footwear and the barefoot philosophy for walking with a dose of plain common sense. Running is a different story. I know that I need cushioned shoes and to land on the heel not the forefoot when walking.


Bald + Beard

We're all born bald, baby.

I never grow a beard on purpose. I grow what I call "the beard of neglect." This is when I stop shaving for awhile because I don't always have the energy to stand in front of a mirror for 30 minutes shaving my entire head. That is one of the curses of my accident. Standing for long periods is very fatiguing for me because of balance issues. Sometimes, I sit down and take rest breaks to get through a shaving session.

Some folks have suggested to me to let my hair and beard grow out on purpose. I don't care to do this. I like having a clean melon as opposed to male pattern baldness and a scratchy beard with dandruff. I don't care what I look like, but I like the feeling of not having hair on my head or face. There is a real benefit there that doesn't get discussed enough.

My all time hero for the shaved head thing is Telly Savalas. He was the first bald guy I remember seeing as a kid who shaved his head. The second was Yul Brynner. Those cats embraced the blade long before Michael Jordan and Bruce Willis. Today, the Rock is carrying the torch for the practice.

There is a channel on YouTube called Baldcafe that I used to follow for inspiration once upon a time, but I don't care for it anymore. This is because the host of the channel does the dreaded practice of combining a shaved head with the nastiest beard on the internet. He inspires me to shave my face more than my head. Unfortunately, he has motivated his channel followers and who knows who else to combine the shaved head with a disgusting beard.

I have no issue with men who grow beards along with letting their hair grow up top. Guys with a horseshoe often do this, and I respect it. They may tidy it up a bit, but they don't waste time shaving the head. The effect of this style is to present a warm appearance. My wife tells me that I look warmer and friendlier when I neglect to shave. She calls this look the "Sailor Man." When I shave the face and melon, I turn into the meaner looking "Snakehead." (Now, you know the origin of my CB handle.)

Being the Snakehead feels better than being the Sailor Man. I hate the beard of neglect because it begins to become itchy and painful by the end of the week. I have been told to try dandruff shampoo on the beard and hair, and I remember using that stuff when I had hair. It never worked. The blade cured my dandruff. But I digress. . .

I hate the look of bald + beard. A fellow in my parish goes for this look, and it isn't flattering. He was a total shaved head guy like me but opted to let his grayish white beard grow while still shaving the head. He looks terrible in my opinion. I don't pay attention to looks on myself or anyone else, but I can't get over the bald + beard thing. Baldness happens, but the beard is a choice. I also include the mustache and the goatee in my derision. If you're going to shave the dome, you need to clean it up in the front while you're at it.

I know of no one who looks good going with bald + beard. NO ONE. I don't think anyone has the stones to tell these guys that they look really bad with this style. It probably doesn't help that these dudes look like they belong to a biker gang or a death metal group. That brings me back to Telly Savalas.

Telly Savalas got it exactly right. He cleaned up that melon and maintained it to the absolute end. And he knew that a spiffy hat and a pair of cool shades finished the look. Looking at pictures of him always motivates me to get a shave. Telly made the bald look very cool.

My final verdict on this is to either clean it up or let it go. Bald + Beard is simply the worst of both worlds. Why would anyone want this?