Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for July, 2018

Sunday musings 7/22/18

Sunday musings…

1) Open. Tiger is in the hunt.

That is all.

2) Reprehensible. Descriptor for the behavior of a small subset of youth sports parents who feel it’s OK to scream at the refs and other officials who manage the games played by their children. Seriously, the whole thing is nuts. Now anyone who knew me in the days that my boys played lacrosse is probably gearing up for a “glass houses” response, but I’m calling BS. All of my sideline noise was directed at the coaches and refs who failed to protect players on both teams from dangerous plays, head shots mostly. As I’ve written on my blog (The Role of Adults in Youth Sports), the primary and most important role that every adult plays in the youth sports world MUST be to provide the safest possible experience for the athletes.

All of my own sideline “commentary” was directed as such.

What is patently ridiculous is the pervasive view that it is OK for spectators at youth sports events to offer commentary about the quality of the officiating from the sidelines. Seriously, why do that? At any given event at any level the likelihood that a single player on either team will leverage their athleticism into a spot on a collegiate team at any level is in the single digits. That includes all divisions and all sports. Taken to the next ridiculous extreme, the notion that a single debatable call will have an effect on one of those same athletes getting a D1 scholarship is ludicrous. What do you possibly have to gain by commenting on a call, let alone harassing the official who made the call.

Making this all the more reprehensible is the fact that the age of both the players and the officials involved makes absolutely no difference when it comes to this kind of parental behavior. 6 yo soccer players have 12yo officials. Little League games are often officiated by teenage umpires. Jr. High JV basketball games pull from a pool of college kids looking to make a few bucks and maybe get good enough to have a little side gig that lets them stay involved in a sport they might have once played. You’re gonna scream at a 12yo making an offsides call that nullifies your 6yo’s header?

STFU. You’re a nutcase. And who let’s their 6yo head the ball, anyway?

3) Time. Time is the most valuable commodity. For each individual it is a finite item. Precisely 24 hours in each day, thank you very much, at least a couple of which you must spend sleeping. It has been called the ultimate luxury, spawning a new class of individuals for people to be jealous of: the time affluent.

It seems that there are two diametrically opposed camps when it comes to time. There are those who feel that the proper approach to the finite nature of time is efficiency; one must develop the ability to utilize each waking moment to its fullest, most productive limits. This group includes both multi-tasckers who try to do lots of things simultaneously, and power workers who have preternatural powers of concentration and just motor through one task after another. For the record, bosses love this kind of producer, right up until they crash that is.

On the other side of the coin is a group that cherishes the freedom that unassigned time provides. Time, that is, in which one can choose to be “productive” in a way that can be measured (e.g. practice bending notes on a harmonica) or not (play along to Wammer Jammer). Knowing the difference between the two is the first step toward this type of freedom. I have professional friends who simply can’t get enough of our particular medical specialty. They work all week, every week, and in their “free time” they attend conferences at which our specialties nuances and science are discussed and debated. Some of them are very serious about all of it. They have each day mapped out to the minute and race from one session to another. They are productive. Others approach it differently; they are exploring.

Each of us has that same 24 hours each day, and we all have some version of the same things that must be accomplished over the course of those hours. The aforementioned sleep, eat, earn a living…almost all of us have this going on. One can choose to “invest” in time, though. If someone else mows your lawn that frees you up to go to the gym, for example. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, stuff like that can be offloaded or batched so that extra aliquots of time are available for other stuff. This is what it means to be “time affluent”. There are choices that can be made, sacrifices in one area that gives you more time in another.

As is my wont I will offer an example from life Chez bingo. Many of my close professional friends spent last weekend in the mountains of Utah at a conference. All of the stuff that I like to do and all of the colleagues I like to hang out with were there. Me? Stayed home. The lake was flat and the Man Cub was available to hang out. Going to the conference would undoubtedly have brought me consulting and writing gigs, but I have more of those than I have minutes to spend with a water-loving 2yo. A really interesting business opportunity is circling my day job, looking for a place to land in my schedule. Frankly, it’s great business. But it will take time. Time that I have gotten accustomed to using in other ways.

While I have more freedom than most I am not “time affluent” enough to walk away from that joint venture; Monday morning will find me in meetings about how to make it fly. It’s actually interesting and intellectually engaging enough that I might have done the same thing even if I didn’t have such a compelling business prerogative involved. Still, the thought did cross my mind that maybe, in the end, I was actually better off letting it pass me by in favor of owning those minutes that will now be jointly owned by our venture.

Like money, no matter who much you have, someone always has more free time than you do.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

 

Update on Death of the Three Sport Athlete: Sully’s Take

One of my older pieces on the Death of the Three Sport Athlete brought a brilliant response from Sully, a friendly acquaintance with whom I share 170 single degrees of separation. You see, Sully was/is a much more talented athlete than I, but like most of us back in the day he was a three sport athlete through high school. Also, like many of us, he shares a certain disdain for those who would push youngsters to specialize in a single athletic pursuit as a child.

“Intelligent movement, Intelligent thinking and intelligent emotion are all learned behaviors as a child develops into an adult. Development requires committed adults to teach a child each of these qualities. What parent or educator would consider signing their child up for ONLY math classes beginning in 9th grade?”

That’s about as good a response to the decision as I’ve ever heard.

 

DNA Always Wins

DNA always wins.

In the fitness world, and sometimes even at that tiny intersection where fitness and health or healthcare cross paths, there is a recurring theme: you can’t out-train a bad diet. For whatever it’s worth, I think that’s true. Having said so there is a dangling little assumption that hangs off the back end of our axiom, that if you are fit and follow an evidence-based nutrition program that you will inevitably be healthy. Indeed, every worthwhile fitness program I’ve ever encountered pretty much says just that. “Fitness in 100 Words” on CrossFit.com was my first exposure to this as a mission statement. Loads of folks from the substantive (The Brand X Method) to the frivolous (The Biggest Loser) support this logic as the foundation of health-based fitness. For the most part it is true, and for most people the combination of general physical fitness and solid nutritional strategy results in health.

Except, you know, the whole Jim Fixx thing.

For all of you puppies and kittens out there Jim Fixx was the original running guru in the United States, the author of The Joy Of Running. You could make a case that only the late, great Jack Lalanne was a more influential historical figure when it comes to promoting health through exercise in the U.S. Jim Fixx was responsible for the surge in interest in running as both exercise and as sport, and his writing launched an era in which U.S. runners were competitive on the international stage in ALL distances from the mile all the way to the marathon.

As it turns out Jim Fixx may also be the single most influential non-medical individual in the history of the cholesterol theory of heart disease. You see, Fixx had hereditary hyperlipidemia. Despite his epic running history he was found one day in his running shorts at the side of the road, dead from a massive heart attack. Blood work at the time of his autopsy revealed a cholesterol of 750 or something like that, as well as other elevated serum lipids. His healthy diet, his outsized VO2 Max, and his prodigious training schedule were no match for his DNA. He died with epic fitness numbers, a single-digit bodyweight fat %, and coronary arteries that were so clogged red blood cells had to pass single-file. You can trace many of the USDA dietary guidelines and literally billions of dollars in research to the death of Jim Fixx.

Why bring up Jim Fixx now, in 2018, when we know that hyperlipidemia is a significant part of the cardiac risk story, albeit not the whole story? Well, we should harken back to the beginning of my thoughts: DNA always wins. While you can reduce your health risks by adopting a healthy, evidence-based diet and couple that with an exercise program that produces a comprehensive degree of fitness, you cannot escape genetics. Why at this particular moment? Yours truly just got all of his lab work back and despite 13+ years of a clean Zone diet and varying degrees of devotion to functional fitness, most of my serum lipid numbers have continued on their ever-upward march and have now reached a level where they simply must be addressed by modern medicine.

To do else wise would be madness.

I must confess that this is deeply disappointing. Quite frankly it feels like failure. At 58 I am relatively lean and strong, albeit a bit under-trained in the aerobic domain. Why didn’t this inoculate me from the need to take medication to lower my LDL? In the last couple of days I have chatted with my docs locally (both of whom are close friends who care about me) as well as really significant, nationally recognized experts in the science of health and cardiac risk mitigation. There is a consensus; nay, the voting was unanimous across the board. Don’t be stupid. Continue my program of fitness and nutrition and take the meds. We’ve now moved on the the minutia of choosing which one, a not-trivial discussion to be sure, but one that is less than earth-moving, you know?

Some years ago while proposing a unified theory of health on my personal blog I received an advance copy of Coach Greg Glassman’s definition: if fitness is WCABTMD then health is Fitness Over Time. As a physician and scientist I readily saw the value of this concept. However, I also saw and pointed out the deficiencies inherent in such a narrow definition. For example, any definition of health must explicitly address mental health. Over the years I have championed the term “well-being” and have suggested several metrics that can be used to measure this state of mental and emotional health. Mind you, I was openly mocked at the time for this, here and elsewhere. If you have followed the conversation in the CrossFit world since you will see an evolution of thought along this line, though. “Well-being” has been openly discussed in various ways as an integral part of health in most medical, health, and fitness communities. I like to think I played a small role in that.

I wrote before, then, and subsequently over the years that any definition of health must be more than a snapshot of how “healthy” you may be at any given moment. You may have a 2.5X body weight deadlift and squat, run a sub 5:00 mile and do “Fran” in under 3:00, but can you truly be declared “healthy” if you also harbor a malignant tumor in your gut or are running around with an LDL of 175? Like it or not, any comprehensive definition of health must be able to provide some degree of probability that you will remain healthy in the future. It must have some predictive value. Traditional health metrics–blood pressure, lipid levels, family history, etc.–added to a measurement of fitness and well-being do just that.

In practice such a value has proven elusive for a number of reasons, none the leasts of which is the difficulty in designing a truly measurable variable for fitness that would be accessible to the masses. Once such a measure exists the rest is just math, right? It will be necessary to determine the relative value of our three variables–fitness, well-being, and risk predictors–and then plug them into a formula to kick out something that we might call “True Health”. While this is still “pie-in-the-sky” stuff I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before it is a reality. To do my part I have tried to enlist new “partners” like my brother-in-law Pete, the cardiology savant, and others.

But for now there are lessons to be learned from Jim Fixx, and yes, once again there is a teachable moment in my little epiphany and “Sunday musings” this week. You can’t out-train a poor diet. A healthy diet of any type combined with a program of functional fitness meant to produce general physical preparedness that includes both strength and metabolic conditioning is the optimal strategy. Even here, though, you cannot escape genetics. DNA always wins. Good, bad, or in between, your DNA talks to you in the language of traditional health risk metrics.

Your DNA doesn’t care how fast you can run a mile or how much you can bench. I start my new meds tomorrow.

 

Effective Ownership

Over the years Beth, the smart one in our couple, has emphasized a couple of really basic philosophical pillars upon which she’s built her life and taught her offspring and “extras”. In the midst of conflict or upset of any kind the first thing she counsels is to determine “who owns the problem”. Of course the follow-up is obvious: if the answer to that question isn’t “you” then let it pass. In general the more people who claim ownership of a problem the larger that problem becomes.

Lovely Daughter Megan also has some thoughts about ownership, and hers applies when a problem really is yours: “own your own shit.” If it’s yours step up, claim ownership, and fix it. Straightforward and direct, my Lovely Daughter. Don’t look for someone to take the blame, or someone to lay off responsibility. Own it and make it right. The sooner the actual owner of a problem does so the smaller that problem remains.

Both of my girls are much more empathetic than this makes them seem. They are kind women, merciful and caring. Each one is known for their habit of saving all manner of creatures in need, including people. There are limits, though, and each acknowledges this in their approaches to problems. If you don’t own a problem you may be most helpful by not claiming it by trying to fix it. On the other hand, if it is actually yours, claim it and get about the business of solving it.

Let’s call it “effective ownership”.

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