Category Archives: Health

Building Volume in the Shoulder Season

September is the beginning of the shoulder season.  That is to say, September represents the descent of days spent in the saddle and an increase in the number of workouts to get prepared for the upcoming ski season.  Snow may not have fallen on the slopes yet, but September is when a successful ski season begins.  It does help to have put on over 2,500 miles on my bike this summer so I am starting with an excellent aerobic base.

Switching from long rides on gravel to a high intensity interval training (HIIT) regime that emphasizes explosive movements requires some planning.  If one were to just jump right in you might find yourself spending the better part of a week walking around sore.  Never mind the chance of injury that comes from not properly executing lifts when fatigue sets in.

The key is to build volume over a period of time.  Most people like to focus on adding weight as a benchmark of progress, but if there is not a base of volume to work from injury will likely result.  Matt Owen, a St. Louis based trainer, was quoted in Outside Magazine:

We need to really build that base of general physical preparedness in order to build other stuff on top of it—strength, power, sport-specific movement. We’re going to value volume—one to two hours of work every day—over anything else at first. It’s a lot easier to get strong when you’re able to tolerate more work, more time lifting weights, and you’re able to recover faster than if we just pull you in and make you start lifting heavy.

I am not over fifty years old…yet.  Nonetheless, this advice is sound for anyone who values long term fitness across multiple physical disciplines without experiencing injury.  Once the base is set through a series of workouts a person can focus on the stuff that will really allow them to excel on the slopes.  The same thing can be said in the spring.  No one should jump on the bike and grind out a fifty mile day without first putting on some miles via series of shorter rides.

During the shoulder season, as I watch the early season snowfall reports with anticipation of deep powder days, I am working in three to four HIIT sessions a week while maintaining three or four long rides on my bicycle.  The difference from my HIIT sessions later in the year is that I have lessened the weight on most movements and focused on keeping the repetitions high.

By October I should be ready to transition into four or five longer HIIT sessions with heaver weights and more time on the rowing machine.  By December my body should be ready for the slopes.  Of course, I will be sore after my first day of bombing and ready to soak in the hot tub.  It’s tradition!

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Books I Read in 2019…So Far

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to read twenty five books.  Here is what I read in the first three months of the year:

Thirteen down leaves twelve to go.  Twenty five books seems like a light goal, but I have some monster books to finish that will slow down my completion rate.

The best aspect of this, in my opinion, is that all of these books were borrowed from my local public libraries.  Yes, I said “libraries.”  I am one of those weird people who has a library card for three different library networks in the area—Cedar Rapids Metro Library Network, Iowa City Library, and the University of Iowa Library.

Note: The links to buy the books from Powell’s yield me no benefit.  I would encourage you to find these books at your local library, but if you must buy a book do not buy it from Amazon.

Do You Have a Little Ninja?

No, this is not the lead in to the feel good children’s movie of the winter.  Although “A Little Ninja” could be a great children’s movie.  Rather, it’s a question I ask of anyone who has a child who loves American Ninja Warrior?

Does your child love Daniel Gil or name drop Jessie Graff?  My six year old does that and a whole lot more.  Does any piece of furniture of built-up area become some kind of obstacle?  My six year old has turned just about anything into a pseudo-parkour course.

Have terms like “flying squirrel,” “wing nut,” and “floating steps” become part of your everyday vernacular?  If so, you have a little ninja.

Thankfully the ninja craze has led to the creation of so-called ninja gyms throughout the country.  One class a week, however, is not enough for some little ninjas.  What to do?

If you live in my house that question is answered with trips to the lumber yard and a weekend spent tearing up an unfinished room in your basement.  Merry Christmas little ninja:

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Rather than just bolt some eye hooks to the floor joists, which I do not recommend, I chose to build a pair of beams running the width of the room.  The span is just under 12’6” so the 2×10 is actually rated to carry the load.  A 2×8 probably would have been sufficient but I felt the extra strength provided by the larger lumber was worth the slight extra expense.  Once you are bringing home a pair of fourteen foot boards it is not really much of an additional hassle to go big.

The 2x10s span the entirety of the room without any additional support and are locked into place at either end in a load bearing wall.  At either end the 2×10 is supported by a jack stud and sandwiched between two other wall studs that run the height of the wall.  Four bolts through the entire thickness secure all of the boards together.  It’s a fairly beefy piece of construction:

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In this configuration the setup is fairly stout but there is some wobble in the boards.  To alleviate this flex several 2x6s were attached between the 2x10s to increase rigidity. Here is what things look like along the length of the span:

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It is difficult to tell from the pictures, but the 2×10 does not touch the floor joists above.  It is a free span.

To give you an idea of how rigid I can hang and swing from the approximate middle with little or no noticeable flex between the boards.  There is no noticeable flex I the vertical orientation.  Oh yeah, I weigh in at over 200 pounds so my 50 pound little ninja should be able to do regrips to his heart’s content.

A ninja gym is just not a ninja gym without some sort of obstacle.  To provide a multi-point training environment I installed monkey bars—eleven in total—at one foot intervals across the length of the span.  At one end the monkey bars—assembled from ¾” galvanized pipe—are attached to the beam with a pipe flange and at the other end a whole is drilled for the bar to pass through.  On the opposite side of the beam is a “hook” assembled from an elbow, nipple, and cap.  This will allow for the use of loose gymnastics rings to be hooked up and over in a favorite ninja obstacle:

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The whole kit and caboodle is waiting for my son to “discover” his new ninja gym on Christmas morning.  Scratch that, a few days before Christmas morning because that day is reserved for skiing.

Life is a Pre-Existing Condition

Afford me a moment to ramble about health insurance and pre-existing conditions.

My mother died from terminal lung cancer almost eight years ago.  She fought her disease with a fierceness and dignity that I find almost unimaginable.  The greatest insult during her entire ordeal was with her health insurance.

After more than two years of purchasing a health care policy on the individual market in pre-Obamacare days she was denied coverage when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  The functionary on the phone told my father that her cancer was a pre-existing condition.  It was as if they were telling him that she waited to get diagnosed with cancer after more than two years of paying premiums.  As if she waited to deal with her cancer because…reasons?

My mother probably started her path toward lung cancer taking her first drag of a cigarette as a sixteen year old in East Moline Illinois in the 1960s.  Based on health insurance company logic she had a pre-existing condition going back almost forty years.

In truth, we all have a pre-existing condition.  We are alive and we will die.  This might be a little bit of hyperbole, but after dealing with health insurance companies I do not feel that anything is beyond the pale.  When you are at your lowest these people will step on your throat.  When you have lost family members these people will drop a letter detailing their refusal to honor the policy you dutifully paid upon for two years.  These are the people that Republicans in the House of Representatives have sided with instead of actual human beings.

If you think that things will be fine you need to wake the fuck up.  Health insurance companies will drop your ass from your policy for any of the following reasons:

 

  • Breast cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Pregnancy or expectant parent
  • A Cesarean delivery
  • Being a survivor of domestic violence
  • Medical treatment for sexual assault
  • Mental disorders (severe, e.g., bipolar, eating disorder)
  • AIDS/HIV
  • Lupus
  • Alcohol abuse/drug abuse with recent treatment
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis (rheumatoid), fibromyalgia, other inflammatory joint disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Any cancer within some period of time (e.g., 10 years, often other than basal skin cancer)
  • Obesity, severe
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Organ transplant
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Paraplegia
  • Coronary artery/heart disease, bypass surgery
  • Paralysis
  • Crohn’s disease/ ulcerative colitis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)/emphysema
  • Pending surgery or hospitalization
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Pneumocystic pneumonia
  • Epilepsy
  • Hemophilia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hepatitis (hep C)
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease, renal failure
  • Transsexualism

That’s right, if you survived an abusive domestic situation you have a pre-existing condition for which a health insurance company could deny you coverage.  Born with cerebal palsy?  Hell, that is almost the definition of pre-existing condition in the eyes of a health insurance company.  Paul Ryan came for your health care and he succeeded.

So, basically Republicans want to punish us for having the gall to live and to expect more than a Hobbesian existence.   The ethos in Republican circles is “Fuck you if you are not rich and powerful.”

Paul Ryan came for your health care.  Paul Ryan is coming for your retirement.

The Right Wing Health Care Shell Game

Republicans in Congress, with the House leading the charge under the guidance of Paul Ryan, are conducting a great game of three card Monte with the American public.

The proposed American Health Care Act is a joke.  It’s like Diet Obamacare and everyone with half a brain understands that fact.  It is also the type of bill that is so neutered yet destructive enough that it is finding strange bedfellows in opposition like the entirety of the Democrats in Congress and Rand Paul.  If you ever thought Rand Paul would be a dissenting vote on Republicans’ attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act raise your hand?

Now the spin begins.  Republicans and Donald Trump are trying to sell the idea that the goal is cheaper health insurance.  This is a farce because cheaper health insurance generally does not cover any health care.  If something is cheaper it usually means one of two things: someone else is picking up the tab or you are getting less coverage.  It is a zero sum game.

Under the Affordable Care Act the federal government was subsidizing your health insurance if you were so qualified to receive subsidies on the individual market.  Under the American Health Care Act you will just receive less coverage.  “But it is cheaper!” Paul Ryan will scream with Ayn Rand-esque shrillness.  Yes, just like a regular cab rear wheel drive F-150 is less expensive than a crew cab four wheel drive F-150.  Both trucks are F-150s, but one is cheaper because it has less content.  Everyone understands why those two trucks are priced differently and people will understand why health insurance is cheaper under Paul Ryan’s plan when they discover it covers no actual health care.

Thankfully, after seven years of claiming to work on a replacement for Obamacare and despite Donald Trump’s promise of amazing coverage for everyone Republicans have shown their utter lack of vision and leadership on the issue by producing a piece of crap bill.  Furthermore, provisions in the bill that would be windfalls to multi-millionaire CEOs and other rich people just show who the paymaster of the Republican Party really is in 2017.

Paul Ryan is Coming for Your Health Care

Paul Ryan, the wunderkind of the right wing, finally saw fit to release his proposed “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act.  Let me sum it up for you:

  1. If you relied on the individual market or Medicaid for health coverage you will get less. According to Paul Ryan you will like it because the free market will warm your insides with the fiery glow of Ayn Rand’s ridiculous ideology.
  2. If you relied on Planned Parenthood for any health services you are screwed because Paul Ryan hates Planned Parenthood. This is red meat thrown to a conservative base that might have a hard time supporting the bill, but can now hide behind the fact that it defunds Planned Parenthood.  Imagine the member of Congress going back to angry constituents, “I realize you are getting less health care, paying more, and even being denied coverage but we defunded evil Planned Parenthood.”  Look for this to be Ted Cruz’s defense when the human blobfish eventually goes along with passage.
  3. If you are wealthy you like this bill. Why?  You will pay less in taxes.  It is the right wing salve for the soul.  Got an HAS?  You will get to sock away more money under this plan.  The problem with this part of the plan is that poor people are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to fund an HAS for future health obligations.
  4. The bill keeps the popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act that deal with keeping your children on your insurance until age 26 among others, but I suspect that these provisions will be weakened or removed entirely as the bill works its way through committee and reconciliation assuming it gets that far in the process.

Republicans do not understand how people actually live.  Asshats like Jason Chaffetz subscribe to the old Ronald Reagan “Cadillac driving welfare queen” when saying bullshit like this:

Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.

This is the first shot in a war that Paul Ryan intends to fight over the government providing any sort of assistance to anyone other than the rich and corporations.  Remember, Paul Ryan only has eyes for…

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Having “Access” to Health Insurance is the Latest Right Wing Bait and Switch

Over the next few weeks you are going to hear a lot of right wing talking heads spout off about ensuring “access to health insurance” in whatever plan they happen to be promoting at the time.  However, access to health insurance is not the same thing as being able to obtain health insurance.

Bear with a thought exercise for a moment.  Everyone in the United States has access to a Chevrolet Corvette.  However, only a small percentage of the population of the United States can actually afford a Chevrolet Corvette.  Access does not equal the ability to obtain.

The example is facetious and it does not go far enough.  No one needs a Chevrolet Corvette for transportation when a Chevrolet Sonic will do just fine in most cases.  Yes, it is a completely different car but it provides basic transportation.  Again, a large segment of the population cannot obtain a Chevrolet Sonic even though they have access.

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act millions of Americans were denied access to health care based on pre-existing conditions.  Now, Republicans are likely to not totally scrap the prohibition of denial based on pre-existing conditions but it is likely to be modified in a way that benefits health insurance companies in denying you coverage.  Therefore, Republicans will have preserved “access to health insurance.”  See, they are looking out for the little guy.  Aren’t you relieved?

Beyond accessibility is the issue of affordability.  Under the current system, which again is defined by the Affordable Care Act, health insurance for lower income individuals is subsidized.  Makes less money and you qualify for a larger subsidy.  According to Republican logic this is evil.

Under Republican plans the current menu of subsidies would disappear and be replaced with…you got it, tax credits.  These tax credits are not based on income, but age so even if you are rich you get the same tax credit as someone who is poor.  Furthermore, these tax credits will do nothing for the segment of the population that cannot afford health insurance and does not pay taxes because they make too little income.

Make no mistake that the right wing of the right wing, known to most in Washington D.C. as the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” will probably support none of this tax credit nonsense.  The reasoning will be a word salad including the terms “socialism, communism, fascism, Obama, market based solutions, capitalism, Ronald Reagan, America, freedom, and Jesus.”  You can feel free to rearrange the words to match whatever particular politician from the Republican Party happens to be speaking.

In practice this means that whatever mechanism to ensure affordability that survives the gauntlet of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul will likely be so meaningless as to make health insurance as unaffordable as it was prior to the Affordable Care Act.  Therefore, “access to health insurance” has been limited because affordability is central to accessibility.  Do not fall for this madness.

Under Republican plans prices for plans will go up, the ability of health insurance companies to screw you over will increase, and the ability of people to actually afford health insurance will erode considerably.  However, you will have “access to health insurance” and that should make you feel all warm inside as you read that dog eared copy of Atlas Shrugged.