The Casual Blog

Tag: Lifetime Fitness

Going to a new gym, the battle for truth in Trumpworld, and intelligent animals

Sunrise at Monument Valley, Navaho Nation

Sunrise at Monument Valley, Navaho Nation

Last week I got a new gym membership at Lifetime Fitness at Six Forks. Why? I needed to get out of a workout rut and push forward. The cardio and weight equipment at Lifetime is more plentiful than at O2, and the space is larger. It also has a pool. It’s a little farther, but still easy to get to. I think I will like it.

My usual early morning workout starts with 10 minutes on the stairs machine, then 10 on the treadmill. Then I do core work (planks, leg lifts, etc.), balance, and flexion for 10-15. The next 25 is for resistance training, doing upper body and lower body on alternating days. Then 10 intense minutes of intervals on the elliptical or bike. At the end I stretch for 5-10 minutes. The numbers don’t quite add up, but it covers a lot of systems, and takes about an hour and a half.

Speaking of exercise, I want to give a little shout out to my new heart rate monitor, the Polar M400. Keeping track of my cardio effort level when exercising sometimes inspires me to work harder, and at least shows something is happening. The new device has a chest strap with a small snap-on Blue Tooth transmitter that signals a wrist monitor. In addition to showing current heart rate, it calculates average and maximum heart rate, steps, calories burned, and (with GPS) speed and distance traveled. It comes with some easy-to-use software for saving results on a smart phone or a laptop. There’s a little stick figure salutes you and congratulates you enthusiastically. My former device, a low-end Garmin, was less reliable, less entertaining, and more costly, so in hindsight I’m glad it finally broke down and needed replacing.

Waiging for sunrise at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Before sunrise at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

While working out, I’ve been listening to various podcasts, including the latest This American Life. This show just keeps getting better – taking on some big subjects, with insight and dark humor. This week Ira Glass looked at Trumpworld, where lying is non-stop and shameless. We know this now, but we’re still struggling with something even more disturbing than pathological lying: that in Trumpworld, truth has no force.

It doesn’t matter that clearly indisputable facts show that crime is down, immigration is under control, our military is by far the strongest in the world, election fraud is incredibly rare, and the President is not a Muslim who founded ISIS – the true believers will not believe it. Until recently, I thought that these bad ideas were a problem of ignorance – just not having the right facts – but it turns out that that’s not it. For these folks, if evidence contradicts their beliefs, the evidence must be disregarded. We know that some of these people are intelligent, generous, and well-meaning, but they live in an alternative reality.

Sunset at Horseshoe Bend, Navaho Nation

Sunset at Horseshoe Bend, Navaho Nation

Speaking of unconventional psychology, I finished reading Jonathan Balcombe’s recent book What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins. I liked it. Balcombe challenges the conventional wisdom regarding fish intelligence, which has it that their lives are largely automatic and instinctual, without consciousness or creativity. There’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. Some species have astonishing memories, the ability to plan, and to use tools. They experience fear and pain, and also pleasure. They have complex social relationships, and form groups both for hunting and protection. And they have an incredible range of skills in sensing and responding to their environment.

I also recommend Frans de Waal’s new book, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? De Waal, a primatologist at Emory University, debunks with overwhelming evidence the old chestnuts that only humans use tools, cooperate in social groups, and recognize individual identity. He presents an array of fascinating examples of non-human cognition, and invites us to use our imaginations to enter those other worlds. After reading De Waal, it is hard to view humans as entirely distinct from other animals and inherently privileged to exploit them. The gifts of other creatures are awe-inspiring.

Sunset at Balanced Rock, Arches National Park, Utah

Sunset at Balanced Rock, Arches National Park, Utah

So long, Krispy Kreme, and hello health

It was bittersweet to learn last week that the Krispy Kreme store in downtown Raleigh was closing due to lack of business. When a business fails, individuals suffer hardships. As a downtown Raleigh resident, I’m particularly eager to see businesses here succeed.

And Krispy Kreme and I go way back. As a boy I was a patron of the first Krispy Kreme store, in Winston-Salem. There you could sit at the counter and eat hot glazed doughnuts while watching more fresh ones coming off the conveyer belt. It was one of the few places in town open 24 hours. After finishing my paper route at 5:30 a.m., I’d sometimes stop in there for a delicious sugary treat. It was also a favorite late night spot for teenage munchie runs. Good times.

But in recent years I’ve come to associate Krispy Kreme doughnuts and similar sweet products with less cheerful things, like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and death. The products are more like cigarettes than food. The nutritional content is minimal, and the high sugar and fat content are unhealthy. This is not exactly big news. In a sense, everyone knows that too much fat and sugar are bad for you. But it continues to be a difficult fact for people to face and do something about. That much is obvious from our obesity epidemic.

We’ve made slow but meaningful progress in the last 50 years addressing the deadly public health effects of smoking. We’ve substantially reduced smoking rates, and therefore smoking deaths. The basic facts about smoking and cancer are now common knowledge, as a result of government requirements for warnings on cigarette labeling and restrictions on cigarette advertising. We have not done anything like this with risky sweet food products that kill people.

If anything, we’ve headed in the opposite direction. Information about nutrition is obscured by industry and federal agencies. Our government transfers our tax dollars to agribusinesses as large subsidies for production of excess corn, which is processed into high fructose corn syrup and added to many common food items. Thus healthy unprocessed food seems unusual and, by comparison, expensive. Thousands of advertisements have convinced us that sweet, fatty food products produce good feelings of love and fun.

Sure, it’s possible to get sound nutrition information and it’s possible to eat in a healthy way, but our culture makes it quite challenging. People who make a point of trying to avoid unhealthy food are viewed with puzzlement and sometimes anger. It’s no fun being ridiculed as a food nut. It’s easier to go along with the crowd.

Lifetime Fitness gym recently published an article by Pilar Gerasimo titled “Being Healthy is a Revolutionary Act,” That’s putting it too strongly, but it is certainly an act that defies settled conventions. The related web site does a good job of putting in bumper-sticker form some home truths about health and nutrition. The first home truth gets down to business: “The Way We are Live Is Crazy,” based on our rates of obesity and chronic illness. But, it says, we can change.

Maybe so. If Krispy Kreme is doing less business, it probably isn’t because their doughnuts don’t taste good. They taste too good! It’s possible that more people are facing the fact that we can’t go on eating like this.