Neil running with coach Smith
A few months ago Jenny and I signed the boys up for a 3 day track camp that would be taught by the UNC track coaches along with help from several team members. Neither of us thought that Neil and Evan would suddenly be transformed into 8 year old track stars, but rather our hope was that they would be inspired by being part of that setting. After three days of hard work, my kids blew me and my expectations away.
I had assumed that there would be a wide range of ages represented at the camp (the reality was a bit different). After Neil and Evan, all but one of the campers were in high school. Initially I was concerned; however it turned out to be a huge advantage. A coach or track team member was CONSTANTLYgiving the boys one-on-one help and encouragement.
Evan preparing to jump
With Father’s Day as a backdrop, I can honestly say that I have NEVER had a better parenting moment (or moments) than watching my kids in this environment. This isn’t to say that they were or became gifted athletes, but instead their attitude and enthusiasm were absolutely infectious. The love and genuine appreciation that was shown by the coaches, team members, and other campers toward Neil and Evan was powerful and palpable. When I thanked one of the coaches for the special attention he gave the boys, he remarked, “Are you kidding – they made the camp.”
My ongoing heart rate variability (HRV) measurements continued to show a modest improvement during the month of May. As background, if you don’t know about HRV, you can read this post Do You Have a Healthy Heart? to learn what I am measuring and why it matters. You can also refer to my previous readings here: Baseline, March, and April.
The primary HRV measurement I am evaluating (RMSSD) increased from 28.1 up to 29.6 (and an increase is a positive improvement). In addition, the trend over the second half of the month was dramatically better, so I expect that next month’s reading will be substantially better.
The Central Nervous System and Brain
I continue to find interesting articles and books about the nervous system as well as the brain, and I recently completed reading The New Brain by Dr. Richard Restak.
In his book Dr. Restak writes about sensory adaptations made by the brain when a person loses the ability to see (enhanced hearing is but one example). Another example relates to how a blind person learns to read Braille; however not everyone who learns Braille does so in the same manner.
Some people read Braille using a single finger, and some people use three fingers treating them as a single unit. “Those who read Braille for several hours a day and use several fingers simultaneously develop a kind of merged, giant, large finger,” says Thomas Elbert, a brain researcher in Germany. This “merged finger” phenomenon often leads to the person losing the ability to determine which of the three fingers is actually receiving the stimulus (and not just while reading).
Try the following experiment: Take off your shoes and socks, close your eyes, and have someone lightly touch different toes. Can you correctly identify which toe was touched?
I did pretty well when my wife touched either my big toe or my little toe; however I did no better than random chance when trying to identify between toes two, three, and four. Given how we trap our toes inside of sensory-limiting shoes most of the day, it isn’t that surprising that our brain begins to look at them as a single unit.
There is a lively debate occurring at all levels of government about how we need to cut spending in order to be more fiscally responsible. Without turning this into a political discussion, I think most of us can identify areas where OUR money is being wasted without having to strain our eyes very hard.
Case in point – Last week the USDA gave us a new guide to healthy eating, the colorful food plate shown above. Granted it is simpler than the food pyramid, but is it really going to motivate anyone to eat a better diet? And why should the obvious work product of big, commodity agriculture be the standard for what is a healthy diet? Clearly it isn’t.
Personally I think the food plate as advocated by the folks at Nom Nom Paleo makes a lot more sense.
1) We harvested our first “new” potatoes yesterday (a mixture of La Ratte fingerlings, Cranberry Red’s, and Arran Victory). They should make a great side dish tonight to go along with our Spice Rub Slow-Cooked Chicken from Everyday Paleo.
2) The NIH has halted a major trial of a combination drug (a statin and Niacin) that was expected to have benefits to people with cardiovascular risk. “The lack of effect on cardiovascular events is unexpected and a striking contrast to the results of previous trials and observational studies….” Here is a link to more information.
3) Yesterday our family sampled the burgers (grass fed beef) and fries (cooked in duck fat) from Bull City Burger and Brewery. Highly recommended!
4) What do you think about these two? Separated at birth?
Thanks to everyone who entered the June Fitness Challenge by posting a goal for the month and also to Sarah Fragoso for providing a signed copy of her book, Everyday Paleo. As promised a winner was selected on June 1 (congratulations to Donovan, my buddy from CrossFit Local Boot Camp). Honestly it is somewhat surprising that we were able to pick a winner given that we were pulling the names from a Chicago Cubs baseball hat.
For those of you that didn’t win, seriously consider purchasing Sarah’s book – it is a great resource for folks new to eating a Paleo diet or for encouraging family members to get on board, especially kids. There are suggestions on what foods to stock your pantry with, color photographs of each recipe, and a 30 day family meal planner to get you over the initial hump.
My family has already sampled the “Pecan-Crusted Chicken” recipe and it got thumbs up from everyone. This week we are planning to try the “Spice Rub Slow-Cooked Chicken” and also the “Marvelous Meatballs.” Yum!
And Everyday Paleo isn’t just an outstanding cookbook. It contains an introduction to Paleo from Sarah’s point of view, including her personal struggles and challenges. For me, Sarah sharing her story (both the good and the bad) is what makes the book so compelling.
Lastly, the book contains about 70 pages of basic fitness routines. By basic, I don’t necessarily mean easy, but rather exercises that can be done in your home with little, if any, additional equipment. And like the section of the book focused on food, the fitness section is geared toward family participation. Getting family buy-in on things like food and fitness can be incredibility challenging, but Sarah definitely has some excellent tips for making this easier.