Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Evolution: good but not perfect

progress? that's funny
photo: DailyMail
As we move forward into a new year, I thought we might talk a bit about our evolutionary progress.

Since the time of our early humanoid ancestors, we've evolved big brains that we can thank for helping us develop languages, space flight, the polio vaccine, and television.

Our evolved ability to walk on 2 legs frees our arms to carry food, water, children, weapons or, of course, a tennis racquet or golf club. We are the only mammals to do this.

These abilities helped our ancestors survive and reproduce, so the related genetic traits have remained in the population - that's natural selection.

While evolution has, on the whole, been good to us, it isn't perfect.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fast, furious... family? Your holiday workout.

'tis the season for family home workouts!
For those of you in unknown turf – visiting friends or relatives, for instance – and uncertain where you can work out in the midst of holiday feasting, fear not!

From the CrossFit group of Workouts Of the Day, here are 10 quickies that you can do with just no equipment, just a little space and some gravity. You should be able to find both in your relatives' den, basement or garage, or, if the temperature is reasonable, their backyard, side street, or park.

Each workout is short, but doing it repeatedly, and fast, makes it hurt; then the next time you do it, you try to beat your old time. So the speed is up to you, though the idea is to make it short but intensive.

Good news: if you can get through it this week, it's very likely you'll do better next time!!

Make it fast, and you might get your family to join in. Note to CrossFit fans: no vomiting when staying at Grandma's house.

it's one way to get your workout
and still be the life of the party
image: CrossFitEasternHills
It's probably not proper CrossFit protocol, but if you are like me and enjoy variety, you can mix and match these instead of completing the suggest number of reps. If the workout is fun, you and I will be more likely to do it!

Have a go at some of these below or a few more from this mega- list of WODs, from CrossFit. You'll thank me when dinner time comes around.

"Rounds for time" means you time yourself from the beginning to the end of the workout, completing all the rounds as quickly as possible, and air squats are squats* without holding a weight (my favorite type!).

1. 3 rounds for time: Run 800 meters + 50 air squats
(Measure out 800 m ahead of time if you’re running down a street, or use a treadmill)

2. 10 rounds for time: 10 pushups + 10 sit-ups +10 air squats

3. For time: 200 air squats

4. 21-15-9 air squats + pushups
(Do 21 reps of each air squats and pushups, then 15 of each, then 9.)

5. 8 rounds for time: 10 situps + 10 burpees

6. 10 rounds for time: 10 pushups, 10 squats, 10 tuck jumps
(Lift knees as high as possible when you jump, ‘tucking’ into your chest)

7. 3 rounds: 50 sit-ups + 400 m run

8. For time: 100 jumping jacks + 75 air squats + 50 pushups + 25 burpees

9. 5 rounds for time: ten vertical jumps (jump as high as you can) + 10 pushups

10. For time: Run 1 mile, stopping to do 10 pushups for every minute that elapses during the run

(these 10 compiled by K. Martinko @ TreeHugger)

* Here's a quick video demonstrating proper squat technique, and here are some dos and don'ts for doing some basic CrossFit moves correctly, with and without weights.

* Here's an endless stream of quick-change WODs, with a timer, for an instant workout.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thank you and have a happy and safe Holiday!

dogs don't care if you've been naughty or nice!

To everyone who's read and enjoyed this blog for the past year, Thank You for your support and a Merry Christmas / Happy Holiday to you and your family!

It has been a hectic month for me, and I've been posting a lot less than I'd like but should have more time again soon (once I finish writing this darned scientific paper, which is already overdue!).

I might have to turn some of my papers into blog posts!

Also, some more holiday fitness ideas coming soon (better late than never)! Until then, here are some holiday funnies ---

Sound familiar?  Yep.

benefits of herbivory!  And being a walking stick.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

We're not so different from each other

In the spirit of the Christmas holiday and in honor of Nelson Mandela's vision for a rainbow nation, and, perhaps even a rainbow world...here are some findings from genetic research on how genetically similar humans across the globe actually are.

Research by Dr. Luca Cavalli-Sforza at Stanford University in the US on a variety of genes in a broad range of human populations highlights our common humanity, rather than our differences.

There's more difference among your state or province than
between you all and people across the globe
image: The Economist

The graph shows how patterns in the differences among people in well-studied genes rarely match our understanding of races. Most (around 85%) of the dissimilarity in genes is between individuals in a single population (such as a province or country), and less than 10% of our genetic differences are primarily between populations on different continents.

While there are still genetic tendencies among populations and ethnic groups, we humans are, apparently, really homogeneous. One group of 55 chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, in West Africa shows more genetic diversity than our whole species. In other words, some chimps in that group are more different from each other than you or I are from any other person on Earth.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Clever crocs and alligators stick around to hunt birds

I'm waaiiiting...alligator
photo: GinnysFriends
Crocodiles and alligators are tough. Not much going on upstairs, we've always thought, but crocodilians (the generic name for all 22 species) have lasted on this Earth for longer than most animals have because they are strong, solid, and patient. With big teeth.

If biological fitness is the sum of survival and reproduction, then crocs and gators have clearly shown they are FIT.

Apparently, they are also more clever than we've given them credit for.

They are now the first reptiles recorded to use tools, and they join a few birds, one monkey genus, one insect species, and us in using tools to lure other (prey) animals to them.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mandela: a great statesman who did fingertip push-ups

Nelson Mandela's ability to champion the message of unity and forgiveness – despite mistreatment he and his people suffered under Apartheid and any negative inner feelings he may have held – is unparalleled.

Mandela, who just passed away at age 95, was a freedom fighter, statesman, writer, survivor, and hero to South Africa. He was also a fitness buff, who believed that staying physically, as well as mentally, strong was essential to being able to influence and to serve others.

Not a guy that gives up: Mandela's physical
and mental strength kept him active all his life

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Not all species need it (8 hrs of sleep, that is)

So I mentioned in a recent post that this past month's Bangkok Marathon started at 2 a.m. (yes, it's true), making a good night's sleep impossible for the participants (although they probably had a great night's sleep after the race!).

The physical and cognitive benefits of sleeping allow us to work and play harder and more effectively. Sleep scientists have developed several ideas on why and how sleeping for long periods became such a key part of daily human life.

But why did humans and some animals evolve to sleep for long periods, while other species either rest periodically throughout the day or night but never conk out completely?

In other words, if sleeping is so good for us and for some other animals, including mice, why don't all animals sleep for 7-8 hours at a time each night like we do? (yes, I know, we don't all get 8 hours either...but read on!)