Fitness data

Yesterday was a picture perfect summer day on the Island so after the days work was finished Sheryl and I headed to the beach to enjoy some of the clear blue skies while she walked and I went for a run. The Gulfshore parkway is a wonderful stretch of road perfect for a Sunday afternoon run. And if you keep going from the Cavendish boardwalk until New Glasgow, you could enjoy a nice post run feast at the New Glasgow Lobster suppers – something I will consider for later in the season.

While the weather was perfect, my run was less so. The whole 12k was a struggle, not just due to my now chronic Achilles issues, but also a seeming inability to keep going. The blame is in part mental, it can be hard to enter that zen like state where you forget the discomfort of running. 10+k has always been my sweet spot. I’d just put on my shoes and go, with little to no thought. So I was surprised at how difficult the run felt. I shouldn’t have been, as the charts below suggest, for distance running I am completely out of shape.

Running distance – my distances this past year pale in comparison to years past

Time spent on Crossfit

Health data is a wonderful thing. I can track trends and make correlations – like how my BP has taken a surprising spike along with a decrease in sleep and an increase in weight. In the case illustrated above, I can see that despite continuing to spend roughly the same amount of time focusing on fitness, the amount of time I have spent on my feet has decreased dramatically. Having good cardio fitness is only one part of running and CrossFit doesn’t focus enough on endurance.

I can expect more discomfort until my legs adjust to the increase in mileage, and if my Achilles holds, I should be back to my old self in September.

I fought the echo bike, and the echo bike won

It’s been a bit of a challenging week or two. First, persistent chest pains that kept me awake over multiple nights, then a man-cold, and now a sports related injury that has me sitting on the couch with my leg iced and elevated.

Since I became interested in running 6 years ago or so, I’ve suffered a slew of injuries. The most uncomfortable of which was extreme lower back pain that could only be abated by laying on the floor, just before I was to board a 24+ hour flight in economy. My mind, and to a lesser extent my heart and lungs, were far more capable of exercise than my middle aged weak frame. I’ve learned a lot about my body since then, have seen a number specialists, and have been scanned and probed many times.

Most medical advice on injuries aspirational middle aged athletes like myself acquire, almost universally includes the word stop. I have in turn each and every time I have heard that word ignored the advice, and instead replaced it with go harder (but smarter). It’s worked pretty well.

This past year I have despite putting my body through many kilometres of slow runs, intense running workouts, and light CrossFit workouts been injury free. I thought my more measured approach was working, and it seems to be until now.

I switched gyms recently, primarily out of convenience, but also in the belief that I would receive better coaching. That has turned out to be true, and they are far more accommodating towards an adaptive athlete such as myself.

Since joining in January I have ramped up the intensity of my workouts, and started adding more weight. My frequency has increased as well, so that I am there 5x per week. The biggest change was my discovery of the Echo bike above. If there was such a thing as hell, I am almost certain it would have one of these. It’s a torture device, and I have fallen in love with the discomfort and pain it gives me.

I used to always laugh at those who were laying on the floor after a work-out, but now the laugh is on me, because anytime a work-out includes extensive row/bike/run I’m laying on the floor in a fetal recovery position afterwards. It’s fantastic for my mental health.

Unfortunately, seemingly out of the blue this change in intensity, either from the bike, skipping, or box jumps has caused swelling and pain on the inside of my calf. I’m taking a breather for the next few days and off to Physio early next week.

It used to be common for the old folks to say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I’ve found that since the pandemic has restricted our lives I’ve lost much of the routines I used to follow, and some discipline as well. So, I am going to take this opportunity to work harder at living a more healthy lifestyle, and work through whatever injury I am suffering from.

I’ve got a cold

This is only notable because I can’t recall having anything close to resembling a cold or flu since the pandemic started, and for the simple fact that somehow despite following all protocols, I still managed to catch a virus. I suspect, at some point I touched my face prior to washing my hands, likely at the gym.

I slept poorly over the weekend which may explain why I am exhibiting symptoms – which are mild, but being a male, they feel exaggerated and I am left wondering how I will get anything done today.


I am not participating in the CrossFit Open this year, and feel no great interest in participating in the future, though that may change as the competition has been far more inclusive than I remember in the past. People with all range of challenges are encouraged to participate, from wheelchair bound athletes to people in their 60’s.

Our new gym does include the workouts as a part of their programming and I completed this last Saturday workout “21.2.”

Prior to heading to the gym I watched Tia Clair Toomeycruise through” the workout with seeming ease. Encouraged, I went to the workout without any reservations as to how hard it might be on my body. As evidence that nothing is as easy to accomplish in real life as what you on Youtube, I did not “cruise through” the workout with any of the grace I witnessed with Tia.

I was a complete sweaty mess and it took me 2 days of rest and stretching to recover.

My workout was the scaled version, which I completed in 18 minutes which though half of the Mens Rx winner of 9 minutes was not a bad performance for my first time out.

CrossFit via zoom

I joined a Crossfit class via Zoom at lunch time today and while I appreciated the opportunity to be gently goaded to get out of my chair and move my body, I hope it doesn’t become a habit. It’s essential to do some kind of functional exercise everyday and throwing myself into CrossFit training has helped my mental health immensely. It’s a great diversion from running while the roads remain perilously ‘slippy”.

But more Zoom time is not the answer, for me. It’s just far too impersonal.

Midday break

When I worked in Zhubei I would at each lunch time head out for a walk and at the beginning or the end my hour, enjoy a nice latte at the cafe nearby. My boss thought it was cute, or insane, depending on her mood, but for me it was an essential mental break. Some walking after sitting all morning also helps the body alleviate the damage accrued from sitting for hours.

With that in mind I have recently taken advantage of noon time workouts at a nearby gym to see if it helps break the monotony of the day and help my physical health. I’ve been finding CrossFit at 4:30pm or later less than ideal due to the onset of January. There is something about winter, even in balmy Taiwan, that makes me want to stay inside and hibernate. Maybe I was a bear in my past life.

So far it has been a challenge. This new gym has a faster pace and good coaching but working out midday has the unwanted side effect of making me tired. I come home afterwards, hungry, which leads to eating, and tiredness necessitates a nap. Next thing I know its after 2 and I still have a lot of tasks to accomplish.

A 2 hour lunch seems like a bit of a luxury, but I’m going to give it another couple of weeks and see if I can keep this up until the sunshine returns.

Fitness year in review

I did 405 workouts and ran 1,727kms for the year.

This is a marked improvement over the year before when due to an aversion to cold I stayed indoors and only managed 909kms of running (I worked out more, with 487 workouts in 2019).

Considering how little preparation I did and the lack of stretching and mobility work, which is essential at my age, I was surprised that I suffered no injuries. I think CrossFit and the fact that I build up my weekly mileage slowly over many months kept the injuries at bay. Now that I am restricted from running on the trails, I haven’t figured out a way to do long runs in winter safely. Between ice on the roads and distracted drivers I’m not confident that I won’t suffer some sort of calamity.

While it was a good year, it still pales to the amount of running I was able to enjoy in years past. Hopefully, I will find the will to run 2500 kms for the year, and if people would help us get the pandemic under control, run a few races.

Sometimes slow is best

In his latest blood blog post Peter writes:

Early in the pandemic times, I noticed a small growth on my temple that, given the general sense of entropy in the air, was cause for concern. I made an appointment at my family doctor last week, and while he was pretty sure it was nothing to worry about, he offered to refer me to a dermatologist, cautioning that it might take some time to get an appointment, as we have only one dermatologist serving the entire Island. As it turned out, it took less than a week: my appointment was for this morning

Thankfully as it turns out it wasn’t a cause for concern, he was “simply a victim of age”. Which from my talks with my 87yr old uncle seems to be a common prognosis for those of us over 40 whenever you see a doctor. I think I’ve heard you aren’t 25 anymore at least 3x this year.

Far be it for me to say something nice about the PEI medical system, but sometimes the delay in seeing a professional can have a positive effect. I had a mole near my temple for seemingly forever, but a number of years ago it felt ‘alive’ and seemed to be getting larger (I did write about this but for the life of me I can’t find the post). Taiwan being the cancer Petri dish that it is, I thought the worst and scheduled an appointment with one of the best hospitals to seek this kind of treatment in Taiwan. Upon arrival the doctor looked at it and said that the mole was likely benign, but let’s ‘operate’, slice it off and send the biopsy off for tests. Ok, I said. And then I asked, when? She said, I’ll send you next door and we will do it immediately. Umm, could I have 5 minutes to chill and then make a decision?

Luckily it did indeed turn out to be nothing, but the speed from which we went from me thinking I had cancer, to being told it was likely benign, to getting my mole frozen and sliced off was disorienting. Sometimes we need time to process.

What I was wearing today

It must be a couple months now, or maybe more, when I was noticing that during some activities at CrossFit my heart rate would spike and sometimes stay above the 200 bpm mark. It was a rare but regular occurrence. 185 bpm was quite common. When I am running regularly my resting heart rate is about 42, which makes getting up quickly a dizzying activity.

On top of that I’ve been suffering from the occasional irregular heartbeat. I at first experienced this on a couple long runs in Taiwan, which when you are out running 15 kilometres from home can be concerning, especially as I never run with a phone or much of anything anymore. I figured at the time it was just another symptom of poor electrolyte balance, something that I struggled with in Taiwan, to the point of almost passing out during one night time race.

Here on the other Island I’ve experienced an irregular heartbeat on a couple of occasions, both when doing burpees after some other extreme exercise. Both times I had to take a knee as the world started to close in around me. Trying to keep up with athletes in their 20’s during CrossFit has taught me just how far my heart and lungs are willing to take me.

Common sense says that someone my age should seek medical advice, especially before starting a more rigorous training plan. Before we entered this lock down, I was planning on continuing CrossFit while I trained for an ultra. Now most of my heart rate increases are a result of the 8 cups of coffee I now drink a day.

But before the world came to a rest, I did manage to see a doctor at the walk in clinic, where he ordered a number of different tests (He didn’t seem as concerned as other people). The last of which is what looks to me as very old tech., a heart rate monitor (Holter monitor) that I must wear for 24hrs. The timing of the test isn’t great, but perhaps the doctor will get some useful data.


My son this month in 2014. I don’t remember what virus was making the rounds then, it seemed non-stop after SARS, but it was suggested that it might have been H5N1.

Mr. Itchy Face

I’ve noted that lately without fail whenever I make a trip to Sobeys or NoFrills my face starts to immediately get itchy leading me to want to rub or scratch my face. Though I don’t knowingly feel stress, apparently we touch our faces as a way to relieve stress and manage our emotions.

Only humans and a few primates (gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees) are known to touch their faces with little or no awareness of the habit. (Most animals touch their faces only to groom or swat away a pest.) German researchers analyzed the brain’s electrical activity before and after spontaneous face touching, and their findings suggested that we touch our faces as a way to relieve stress and manage our emotions.

To break the face-touching habit, try using a tissue if you need to scratch your nose or rub your eyes. Wearing makeup may reduce face touching, since it may make you more mindful of not smudging it. One study found that women touched their faces far less when they wore makeup. Another solution: Try to identify triggers for face touching, like dry skin or itchy eyes, and use moisturizers or eye drops to treat those conditions so you are less likely to rub or scratch your face.

I end up constantly rubbing my face with my sleeve.

Via Nytimes

Keeping heathy

I managed to get out for a run last Saturday when the temperatures managed to climb above zero. It was great to get out and breathe some fresh air and run along the water. Its really the best mental and physical therapy I could ask for.

Hopefully the weather will warm up a bit and I can continue to run, as my CrossFit box, along with all gyms across the Island, has been closed for the foreseeable future. The mat and the weight above are my only tools to keep healthy and strong while stuck inside.

I’m asymptomatic; I assume it’s just a bad chest cold, the kind that keeps you awake all night with incessant coughing, so I’ll be staying home, avoiding the office and practicing social distancing as instructed. Social distancing has from my perspective been the norm this past year, partially due to my introverted ways and partially due to the fact that we don’t know many people here. There are never crowds anywhere, and Charlottetown in winter is bereft of people. It will be an interesting summer without the tourists to fill the streets.

This chest cold is a good reminder of the ferocity of viruses. We have been through so many different outbreaks over the years, developed excellent preventative methods, and live as healthy a lifestyle as one can. Yet, a virus may spare no one. Hence our whole household is suffering.

My son get sick first and I’m sure I said some stupid remark that the rest of us were unaffected because we have been eating better, or some such nonsense I say to goad my son to make better food choices.

I should have learned this lesson years ago. When the kids were still little and we were living in a house located in a dank alley in Hsinchu downtown, a virus swept through the house. It was unbelievably horrible, with uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by high fever. Each one us succumbed in order, like falling dominoes. At one time I was the last one standing when I foolishly joked that I must be the strongest in the family. Shortly after, I got sick, it hit you so hard and fast you could feel the transformation, and I was practically unconscious in bed for 15 hours, leaving Sheryl, the one who is truly strongest, alone to care for the recovery of the kids.

Kerim’s COVID-19 Potpourri

I’m quoting liberally here from Kerim’s excellent article on COVID-9, from his perspective living in Taiwan.

COVID-19 Potpourri

First of all, Taiwan was able to learn from experience, despite the fact that the political party in charge has changed since the SARS epidemic. This is a far cry from the US where Trump fired all the staff Obama had hired in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. One area where these differences can be seen in stark contrast is in the different rates of testing in each country.


One area which has been a matter of some debate is whether or not we should wear face masks. First of all, it is important to know when and how to wear masks correctly. I recommend this WHO website designed to provide exactly such information. Because many people wear face masks incorrectly, some experts (including those at the WHO, the Singapore CDC, and the CDCs of several other countries) have argued that one shouldn’t wear a face mask unless you are sick or are caring for infected patients.

However, in East Asia it is common to wear masks even if you aren’t sick and some experts have argued that this might be a good model to follow. This is especially true due to the risk of asymptomatic transmission. Moreover, as the article points out, everyone wearing masks in public helps remove the stigma associated with such behavior. Such stigma might prevent people who are sick from wearing masks.

Wearing a mask is also a “symbol and a tool of protection and solidarity”:

Race Prep.

I signed up for the PEI Marathon recently, leaving it to the last possible moment due to my uncertainty that I could actually finish the race. A part of me is glad when it will be over as following a 14+ week running regime tests my propensity for boredom.

The route itself takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of the Island which makes the somewhat gruelling experience worthwhile (You don’t realize how hilly Charlottetown is until hit the arterial road after running 30k).

My inactivity all winter hasn’t positioned me for an entirely pain free run. Last winter was the coldest I’ve experienced in over 20 years and looking back over my activity data for that period it would appear I did nothing more than walk to and from the car. This has made for a maddenly slow return to fitness with no time to improve upon what I had built before. Fitness, especially with the slow recovery times brought on by middle age, is an investment which must always be paid.

For this training cycle I tried some different approaches. I eased up on the milage considerably, giving my body more time to rest. I averaged about 56km per week, topping out at 70, which is considerably less than I attempted in the past. When you include the stretching, body weight workouts and CrossFit, I devoted about 15+ hours a week to training. Generally, I follow a regime that doesn’t take in consideration my age, and I would push myself with both milage and speed. Often resulting in an injury of some sort. So far, other than some recent tightness in my achilles, I have had no long lasting issues. This may in part be due to the fact that I started this training cycle not by running but by going to CrossFit.

If I had to describe Crossfit in a word, I would describe it as humbling. Working with athletes, and being the beginner, has that effect.

Standing on the sidelines watching people, somewhat in concert, throw around metal bars, falling on the floor in exhaustion, with all the resultant cacophony of sound, makes it look like some kind of industrial ballet. The whole routine seems a bit ridiculous to me at times but it has forced me to address some problems head on that I haven’t dealt with since elementary school. Rope climbing, olympic style lifting, and some of the other movements require not only the development of a strong core (it’s done amazing things for my hip strength and mobility), they also require the development of grip strength. I’ve long since accepted my hard limits, missing the digits on my left hand means there are some things I will never be able to do, but I don’t ever remember testing those limits until now. In my childhood my inability to do strict pull-ups and rope climbing was an embarrassment, now I see it as a challenge. Luckily the coaching and community at Court6 make meeting challenges easier.

My somewhat more gentle approach to this cycle is with an eye to the future. I take my time during CrossFit and never lift heavy. If finances will allow I hope to run the NorthFace Ultra in Thailand this coming winter and have in mind either the Capes 100 in the summer or one of the many in the American Midwest.

A visit to Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei

Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei

One of the final major items on my “before I leave Taiwan” todo list was checked this past Tuesday when I booked a half-day physical at Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei.

Since they wanted me there at 8am in the morning I decided to stay over in a nearby hotel, as the possibility of our car dying on the highway due to these extreme temperatures we have been having was very likely. I hate driving in Taiwan anyway. Unfortunately the hotel, though cheap, was noisy as hell, they only installed those cheap single pane windows that many apartments have here, and as such I arrived at the hospital half asleep.

As far as I know, you can get a physical at any hospital in Taiwan, at a time of your choosing. National Health Insurance covers the basics but the “extras” are the responsibility of the patient. Generally, most employers of a reasonable size arrange yearly physicals for their employees which include tests that go beyond what is provided for by NHI. I chose Tzu Chi because the last physical I had at a health center in China was laughably lax, especially the psychological evaluation, and while any hospital can give you a check-up, most can’t match the convenience of a dedicated facility. Tzu Chi offered the best range of tests for the most reasonable costs.

It’s very interesting being a consumer of medical services and receiving all the data from the tests so that you can make your own informed decisions about your health. It’s a shame that we will not have access to anything near equivalency when we move to Canada, a fact that was very surprising to all the staff at the health center.

The only improvement I wish was available was the ability to have this data off paper and into a device of my choosing. Coupling this data with whats available in HealthKit would be a pretty powerful tool for giving a decent overall picture of your health over a long period of time. Taiwan has digital records but I believe has yet to bring this to the patient.

I arrived early on Tuesday, signed in at the desk, and was given a key to my locker which had a comfortable tracksuit for me to wear through-out my stay. The health center is a bit difficult to find as like many hospitals TZU has a labyrinth of different places to get lost.

When I arrived there were approximately 20 or more other patients beginning the day of health checks. The nurses were joyfully complaining of being too busy but everything was handled courteously and efficiently. You generally just sit and wait for someone to come and take you to the next test, all of which were in close proximity to each other.

One pain point which might have been a concern. No one on staff spoke English. Though I haven’t been communicating in Chinese much at all this past year, I was fine, but things would have been much easier if their staff would learn to use terms outside the medical dictionary. But there was only a couple times that I had to get them to rephrase their explanations.

Some of the results from the battery of tests I received were available when I had my doctor consult, some blood work will take an extra day, with the full report sent to me within 4 business days. The doctor consult was like many doctor visits in Taiwan. Brief and as much a conversation with their computer monitor as one with the patient. They are willing to talk with you if you disagree with their recommendations, which I did, and if you have some questions, which I had a few. They are good people doing the best they can within the system that they operate, just like doctors in Canada.

As I have been informed that getting regular physicals in Prince Edward Island will not be possible, we hope to make regular trips abroad for similar check-ups. The price is reasonable and the quality comparable to what you might experience elsewhere.

Calling my inner Jocko

Since finishing my last marathon 3 months ago I’ve had an almost impossible time getting up and out the door for further training. I still get on my feet and move, but it’s nothing like the commitment of the past.

In preparation for the marathon, and to overcome injuries I seem to consistently suffer through, I was training in excess of 3 hours everyday. Despite plenty of work and study, exercising would seem to have been my primary focus over the winter.

No amount of listening to the non-dulcet tones of Jocko Willink’s voice, or his commands to “go get some” seem to set me in motion. It could be a lack of sleep, change induced anxiety or a shift in focus, but I’m suffering from some kind of aversion to physical training. I’m hoping the clear blue skies and fresh clean air of Prince Edward Island might reenergize me.

Taichung Port Hero’s Marathon Results

Results from last Sunday’s marathon. Generally I am more than pleased with the results.

It had been over a year since I ran a marathon, the last one was in Xiamen and while I managed to complete with body intact I suffered due to heat and pain in my feet. I haven’t been able to run seriously in any races since. The winter I spent training for a race in Thailand, but understandably my training was lackluster and I backed out at the last minute. Other races scheduled throughout last fall had to be cancelled or trotted through due to injury.

I started running a bit over 4 years ago, run 4 marathons and numerous other races, and have consistently suffered through a host of injuries ever since. My mind, heart and lungs have been willing, but the rest of my body not. This summer past with extremely painful feet, and pain near my knee (platter fasciitis and IT band injuries) I decided to stop running and fix my problems once and for all. I developed a program after consulting a physiotherapist and after over 6 months of almost daily training it paid off.

I couldn’t have asked for much better conditions for race day – cold at start, clear skies and a generally flat course. My goal for this race was simply to finish without injury or pain, and it went exactly as planned. Slow pace but it was comfortable until the last 5k which required some mental gymnastics. Unfortunately I had my first bought of stomach issues forcing a 5+ minute pitstop at a normally I wouldn’t enter toilet.

Otherwise I didn’t experience the common lack of energy that occurs during the tail end of a long run. The whole race was fueled by fat and I wasn’t hungry after the race. Carb loading not required. Recovery time was quick.

Now that I know what is required for me to get strong and continue running faster and longer events, I’m looking forward to participating in other races. The challenge will be to try and pair down the often 3+ hours of training into something more manageable with my upcoming schedule.

In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he’s tired. Everyone is. That’s not the point. The point is to run.
Seth Godin

On working out

I wrote this in a locally themed forum in response to some discussion about using machines or free weights for resistance training. As is often the case the person who posted the topic hadn’t wanted this discussion, but people wanted to educate her to the proper way to gain strength and form. As is also often the case my response didn’t directly address the topic at hand, was uninteresting, and was more suited to a personal blog post.

I think it’s great to do any exercise routine using whatever tools you feel comfortable with and/or have at your disposal. In terms of time and effect, I think most people I see in gyms would be better served with body weight training, but perhaps they like having a place to go and hang out.

I’m 50 and recovering from injuries due to over-training. I’m thin, “in-shape”, but certain areas of my body are far weaker than the others due to age and the effects of sitting at a desk for 20+ years. At the time of my injury one side of my body reportedly was stronger than the other – out of balance in physiotherapy parlance. I constructed my current training regime on the advice of my physiotherapist and consulting with coaches. I currently spend about 2 – 3 or more hours everyday training.

I spend the majority of this time running, followed very closely by body weight training, then flexibility and weight training.

When I started with weight training I focused entirely with machines. I wanted to take things slow and be cautious. Free weights bring in to play a whole range of muscles which I chose to focus first with simple body weight movements. Yoga moves strengthen stabilizing muscles far better than any machine I have at my disposal. Now as I have spent the past months focusing on technique I spend my time at the gym with the bar, or adding weight to BWM. When doing leg presses with a machine I was moving a tremendous amount of weight. With correct form I was getting a decent workout with little or no weight on the bar with squats. For me, I can instantly feel the difference. Doing a simple squat feels almost like a complete workout for me, and in many ways is the perfect exercise. I started working out at the same time as another group of people. They took it slow and supported each other. Their gains are impressive, with some of the women squatting serious weight. They look great.

I still use machines, one gym provides equipment for a decent hip abduction/adduction set, but most machines I find provide for completely unnatural movements. Natural movements are key to achieve my goals.

Researchers from John Moores University in the UK tested the effects of afternoon napping on sleep-deprived people. The subjects napped for half an hour just after lunch and then researchers measured their alertness. There have been numerous studies into the effects of power napping, but this one measured heart rates and reflexes as opposed to surveying participants. As per their hypothesis, alertness was significantly higher compared to the non-nappers.

From The complete guide to sleeping at work

Sleep plays an important role in the brain’s ability to consolidate learning when two new potentially competing tasks are learned in the same day, research at the University of Chicago demonstrates.

Other studies have shown that sleep consolidates learning for a new task. The new study, which measured starlings’ ability to recognize new songs, shows that learning a second task can undermine the performance of a previously learned task. But this study is the first to show that a good night’s sleep helps the brain retain both new memories.New research from the University of Chicago