RSS

Spark Book Review

"A sound mind in a healthy body"  If you're not sold on this concept yet (or even if you are)... Spark is for you!

“A sound mind in a healthy body”
If you’re not sold on this concept yet (or even if you are)… Spark is for you!

The motto of this book might as well be “Mens sana in corpore sano.” But it’s far more than just a motto.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain is written by John J. Ratey, MD. He’s an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In fact, Ratey has published over 60 peer-review papers! In terms of expertise in the brain-fitness connection, you would be hard pressed to find a person with more comprehensive knowledge.

Despite his academic credentials and background, Spark is really well written and extremely accessible for anyone. Whether you like anecdotes, scientific evidence, or just plain logic, this book will give very compelling arguments for getting your body in shape in order to help out your mind.

The introductory and featured case study in this book is the Naperville Physical Education Program. Naperville, in 1999, scored first in the world in science and sixth in math according to the TIMSS study. In a study which showed America’s STEM education slipping behind other countries, Naperville was the obvious exception. You’ll meet the key players in this PE revolution within the first couple chapters of this book.

Along the journey that Ratey takes you on, you’ll learn about the physical effects of exercise on your brain. The new research that has come out in the last 5-10 years is absolutely incredible. These physical changes are related to people with healthy brains and those with ADHD, depression, and alzheimer’s among other disorders.

This book has encouraged me to get in the habit of starting my day out with running next semester at college. This has to be the most comprehensive book on exercise targeted at the general public. This book may very well change your life, and I mean that in the most serious way. I would encourage everyone from high schoolers to retirees to read this book.

Spark is available on Amazon and as on Audible as an audiobook. I personally listened to the audiobook and it was stellar.

Spark book John Ratey Exercise Brain

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 23, 2013 in College Life, Cycling, Product Reviews, Running

 

Tags: , , ,

This is Water…

Watch this awesome video.

I’m starting to learn just how real the situations presented are. And unfortunately, it’s come at a cost to this blog. So many hours in the field and processing samples has been much more draining than I had initially expected. When I get home, all I want to do is relax, get some basic chores done, and use my brain with some strategy games (Civilization IV!). As a result, I haven’t spent much time writing posts over the last couple weeks. It’s not that I don’t want to do this, quite the opposite actually. However, I am not a natural writer and doing these posts feels like work sometimes, I have to put quite a bit of effort into it.

So, moving forward, I’m planning on focusing on product reviews as that seems to be what most people like. I’ll still get the occasional personal post in (like this one) but I’ll be trying to write at least 1-2 reviews a week. I’m finally settling into a rhythm and hopefully that means you’ll be hearing more from me soon! :) Thanks for bearing with me.

I’d also like to share a couple cool things that have been going on in my life. First of all, currently, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter are all visible in the sky to the naked eye after sunset. In fact, two days ago was the closest grouping of three visible planets in the sky until 2021! Here are a couple of the pictures I took: (excuse the large images, but I think the beauty of the event demands the full resolution)

The sunset before the Dance of the Planets... absolutely beautiful!!

The sunset before the Dance of the Planets… absolutely beautiful!!

 

Jupiter is bottom left, Venus is bottom right, and Mercury is at the top... the Dance of the Planets!

Jupiter is bottom left, Venus is bottom right, and Mercury is at the top… the Dance of the Planets!

I'm so glad the weather was so great for this event! Beautiful colors in the sky!

I’m so glad the weather was so great for this event! Beautiful colors in the sky!

In other news, I’ve started to try the Zombie, Run! app and so far I love it. I’ll be posting a full review of it sometime over the summer but if you’re on the fence about it, definitely go for it!

Thanks for reading everyone! I hope you all are doing well and you’ll be hearing more from me soon! :)

 

 
5 Comments

Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Personal Updates, Running

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Running Thoughts: Infinity

I’ve said before that I end up thinking a lot while I’m exercising. Recently, my mind has always seemed to wander back to the concept of infinity. Maybe it’s because I feel at home with numbers and math. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to using infinity in a mathematical sense. But I really hadn’t actually thought about what infinity is and means. Another thing that got the ball rolling is the fact that I’ve been listening to a lot of episodes of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio Podcast. Side note: if you’ve never heard him, I highly recommend listening to a podcast, his knowledge and intelligence is awesome.

Lets start with some weird things about infinity. Infinity is a concept, not a number. However, in some ways, mathematics treats infinity as a number (This is not true strictly speaking. However, one can use mathematical operators on it). There are multiple types of infinity: countable and uncountable. If you take infinity and multiply it by infinity, it’s still infinity. But that’s all things you can do with infinity. It doesn’t tell you what it is though.

The thing that really got me thinking about it was a quote from Tyson: “In an infinite multiverse, there is no such thing as fiction.”

Stargazing and watching meteor showers such as this can also lead me to thinking about infinity.

Stargazing and watching meteor showers such as this can also lead me to thinking about infinity.

When I first heard it, it seemed profound, yet intuitive. I was fairly used to infinity. But then that seed started to germinate in my mind. I started thinking about what that really meant. Nothing is fiction, everything is fact. Dragons exist in infinitely many universes. No life at all exists in infinitely many universes. Humans are silicone based life forms in many universes. Humans have driven themselves to extinction in infinitely many universes. Humans have saved themselves from extinction and become masters of space and time in infinitely many universes. I could keep going on, but there are infinitely many scenarios and for each one, an infinitely many number of universes meet those qualifications. And there are infinitely many scenarios which I won’t even imagine.

Even turning to really, really big numbers doesn’t help. First of all, a googolplex isn’t closer to infinity than 1 is. But thinking about these massive numbers might be able to help the mind ease into grasping infinity. Let’s take a googolplex. How large is a googolplex? well it’s a 1 with a googol zeros after it (A googol is a 1 with 100 zeros after it). Unfortunately, the upper estimate for the number of atoms in the universe is 10^82. So if you were able to express numbers with only one atom somehow, you still couldn’t express a googolplex without scientific notation. And a googolplex still isn’t close to infinity.

I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll probably never be able to fully grasp infinity. But I like to think about these things. It always pushes my comfort zone. It can even push my concept of reality and life. But I think that’s the only way to grow as a person. It’s also a reminder of how much I don’t know.

So what do you think about during runs? Have you ever really thought about infinity?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 11, 2013 in College Life, Cycling, Running, Triathlon

 

Tags: , , , ,

54 Miles of Commuting

Well, today was my first day of work for my summer job at a Duke research lab! My job includes collecting data in the forest and working in the lab processing samples and data entry. So far, I really like it. I’ve been working in the lab for the past couple months, but the field work seems really interesting. But anyway, I’ve decided to commute by bike as much as possible. Today, the field site was 27 miles away from my house which means that I rode 54 miles today.

Here's the elevation profile for my commute out to the site... Didn't know about all those hills when I went out. My legs were feeling it by the time I got in. If it weren't for those hills I could probably manage the 50 miles a day.

Here’s the elevation profile for my commute out to the site… Didn’t know about all those hills when I went out. My legs were feeling it by the time I got in. If it weren’t for those hills I could probably manage the 50 miles a day.

I actually really enjoyed the ride, the scenery was great and traffic wasn’t too bad. Carrboro is awesome, so many bike lanes!

However, I did learn that my legs are not in shape right now to do 54 miles daily. I’ll carpool some days and drive about 10 miles closer to the site some days as well. Hopefully I’ll still get over 100 miles a week. Sorry for the short post today, but I’m tired and want to get some sleep! The good news is that finals are over and therefore I should be able to post much more than I was able to during this semester! Hope everyone is doing well!

 
9 Comments

Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Cycling, Personal Updates

 

Pacific Shaving Company Review

So, now you know a way  to save loads of money on shaving through using Dorco razors instead of your current brand. But now you’re still buying a decent amount of shaving cream and other products on a regular basis. Shaving your legs can be rough, can’t it? As an environmental science minor, one of my major qualms with shaving products was the wastefulness of them. After all, metal shaving cream cans aren’t exactly the eco-product of the decade. There’s a lot of waste in the industry and very little movement towards a greener way of shaving.

I love companies not afraid to break away from the majority. Companies looking out for their customers and which earns your loyalty through their practices. When I came across Pacific Shaving Company, this was exactly the impression they gave me. I suppose their logo was the first thing to catch my eye. Trees on the logo of a company which has nothing to do with wood products is a very good sign. Each product also proudly states, “Good for the skin. Good for the wallet. Good for the earth.” One company wide policy which validates their last claim is the fact that they plant a tree for every purchase.

Meet Pacific Shaving Company! Great logo!

Meet Pacific Shaving Company! Great logo!

In January, I bought three products to try from them, Men’s Shaving Cream, Shaving Oil, and Blade Oil. If you buy two products at a local retailer, they’ll send you a third for free so the total for these three items was a whopping $15.98+tax. Not too shabby, huh?

Here's the Men's Shaving Cream... awesome shave!

Here’s the Men’s Shaving Cream… awesome shave!

I’ll start with the Men’s Shaving Cream since that’s the product I use on my legs the most. First of all, this shaving cream is most likely much different than any you are used to. This product is not foaming. So it’s a little bit weird to put on at first. It also doesn’t provide much visual feedback on where you’ve already shaved. My solution for this is running my hand along my leg right before taking a stroke with the razor. It seems to work very well for me. At first, you may be skeptical about how well it works since we’re all used to the foaming stuff. However, I’ve found that it works better than the shaving creams I had been using. The shave is more comfortable than any other product I’ve used. Very smooth shave and happy skin afterwards! I really haven’t had any issues with irritation or razor bumps after shaves with this cream. I’d highly recommend this cream for shaving. I’ve used on my face once or twice with great results as well, so it is versatile.

Shaving Oil.. If you've never tried it, go for it! It's really great!

Shaving Oil.. If you’ve never tried it, go for it! It’s really great!

The next product is the Pacific Coast Shaving Oil. If you’ve never heard of shaving oil, it’s an oil which gets massaged into your skin before shaving. It actually can replace shaving cream, and recently that’s what has happened for me for my face. I currently only use shaving oil instead of shaving cream. Again, I was rather skeptical of the effectiveness before using it. However, I couldn’t believe how smooth the shave was once I started. So much better than the cream I had been using. And get this, the .5 oz size lasts for over 100 shaves. I started in mid-January and I’m only about halfway through the oil (I don’t shave every day). Crazy, right? That means when I’m out, I’ll buy a 2 oz unit which, based on this experience should last me well over a year! I’ve used this on my legs several times as well, usually when I went on a trip and didn’t want to bring both oil and cream. The results on my legs has been great, but it’s even harder than the cream to tell if you’ve missed a spot when rubbing it in. This is really the only reason why I don’t use the oil regularly on my legs.

Unfortunately haven't had much to test with the blade oil... But it seems to be effective

Unfortunately haven’t had much to test with the blade oil… But it seems to be effective

Last up is the Blade Oil. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get into a routine of applying this every time I shave so I haven’t been able to fully test it in that respect. However, even with the occasional application (about every other time) the blades do seem to last about 30-50% longer. Therefore, it definitely works, but I can’t really give an opinion right now on how much extra life you can get by applying it every time.

So what about the product line as a whole, what’s special about it? Well, the packaging is much more environmentally friendly than standard packaging. There is much less material needed for a year’s worth of shave oil than a year’s worth of standard, aerosol cream cans. The ingredients in them are all given and are easy to pronounce. Their source is given as well in most cases. You’ll also save money using their products. As I said, my three products came out to under $17 including tax. That means that, assuming they last about 8 months, I’m spending about $2 per month on shaving products… Can you beat me?

.5 oz oil and shaving cream both last 100 shaves! And they're small enough to be TSA approved!

.5 oz oil and shaving cream both last 100 shaves! And they’re small enough to be TSA approved!

Check out Pacific Shaving Company and see what they have to offer. I would (and do) highly recommend trying out their products. I’ve been extremely pleased with them.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

*I bought these products of my own accord and paid full price for them. All opinions stated in this review are solely mine and unbiased.*

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Cycling, Products, Swimming, Triathlon

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Dorco Razors Review

“Give ‘em the razor; sell ‘em the blades” ~ King Camp Gillette

Dorco Pace Razors... up for review!

Dorco Pace Razors… up for review!

So now that we know why cyclists (and triathletes) shave their legs, let’s talk about what we use to do so. (Plus, you’ll get a discount/referral code at the end!) This will be the first of about 3 shaving related reviews. They’ll focus on their ability to shave legs, but I’ll throw in some comments about face shaving as well (especially with the next one). One thing that frustrates a lot of people is how much some companies charge for the blades of razors. This is why when I found Dorco USA, I actually thought it might be too good to be true. What if I told you that you could spend less than $150 on blades a year while changing them every week? What about less than $100? $50? Believe it.

Over the past two months or so I’ve been testing out Dorco’s 3 major offerings for men: Pace 3, Pace 4, and Pace 6 (both with the trimmer and without). For those of you who don’t know, Dorco is a company which makes razors. It started in 1955 in Asia. In Asia, Dorco is still the market leader for razors. Later, Dorco USA was able to bring this system to the US. Dorco chooses to only sell online and effectively cuts out the middleman. This is a huge factor in their price.

Here's the Dorco Pace 6 blade cartridge!

Here’s the Dorco Pace 6 blade cartridge!

Dorco Pace 3 blade cartridge. (Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the 4 blade cartridge, but it's basically like these two)

Dorco Pace 3 blade cartridge. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the 4 blade cartridge, but it’s basically like these two)

As I said, I really thought that this was going to be too good to be true. After all, there’s no way that they could actually be quality without me having ever heard of them, right? Wrong. I tried the Pace 6+ system first. I used it on my face first which hadn’t been shaved in a couple days. It handled it with ease. The blades gave me a very smooth shave and performed just as well as the more popular and more expensive Gillette Fusion Proglide (review coming soon) I had been using previously. Rinsing the blades in between strokes took a little extra time, it looks like there may be less room between the blades so it takes a bit more time for the hair to come out. Overall though, I was very happy with it. However, the trimmer is somewhat awkwardly positioned and thus I couldn’t get as much around my nostrils as I could with other brands. Nothing noticeable though. In general, these were my feelings for all three systems. I never had any issues with ingrown hairs, razor burn, or cuts on my face. All three systems function very well, it’s just personal preference on which you like best. I will say that I like the handle for the Pace 6+ the best by far. The other handles just felt a bit bulky and blocky to me. They have a Pace Trial Pack which is a great way to figure out which blades are your favorite for your face.

Dorco Pace 4 Handle.. I find this to be the most awkward handle to use.

Dorco Pace 4 Handle.. I find this to be the most awkward handle to use.

Dorco Pace 3 Razor Handle... better than the 4 but still not great in my opinion.

Dorco Pace 3 Razor Handle… better than the 4 but still not great in my opinion.

 

Dorco Pace 6 handle... by far the best. I really like using this handle.

Dorco Pace 6 handle… by far the best. I really like using this handle.

Now, let’s get to the legs… After all, you can find innumerable razor reviews in regards to shaving your face online. However, finding reviews from guys for legs is a different story. (I should mention that any women are more than welcome to read this if you like to use mens razors for shaving) That’s mainly relegated to cycling, triathlon, and swimming forums. And there you often don’t get too much detail. Personally, I use the same razor for shaving my face and legs. In regards to that, let’s clear some things up. First of all, doing a casual search online may lead you to believe that you shouldn’t use the same razor for both. Some claim that leg hair is thicker and causes your razor to go dull more quickly (even as far as saying shaving your legs once is equivalent to shaving your face 5 times for the razor). Many people say shaving your legs with the same razor causes you to cut your face afterwards. Etc. These, in general simply aren’t true. Yes, your legs are a larger area so you blade will dull more quickly than if you were only shaving your face (isn’t this common sense?). However, men’s facial hair is much more corse and has a much larger diameter than leg hair. You can even tell this just by feeling. The notion that one use on your legs will dull it to the point where nicks are inevitable on your face is equally absurd. In terms of hygiene… I don’t know about you, but I usually shave with warm water and soap. Therefore there are two lessons: 1. Society needs to take a step back and use common sense sometimes. 2. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Anyway, let’s move on to their performances on my legs. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Pace 3 blade system for my legs. It tends to be a lot less forgiving when it comes to giving yourself nicks. I always seemed to have a bit of blood somewhere on my knees or (usually) near one of my Achilles’ tendons. I had to really make sure that the skin didn’t have any creases in it which ended up adding a couple of minutes to my shave time (which is still pitiful compared to most females). I also noticed that the areas of my skin which were more sensitive (inside of my thighs mainly) tended to get a bit irritated after using this blade system. It wasn’t a huge deal since I always use moisturizer afterwards which would calm down the skin, but it was rather annoying… especially if I was wearing jeans right after. One thing to note is that I probably use a bit more pressure than I should when I shave, so that might have something to do with it. Especially since some places recommend less blades for sensitive skin.

Next step up: Dorco Pace 4. My comments for this system are really just the echo of the previous paragraph: same comments, less intensity. Still had more nicks than I would have liked. I should take more time with my legs, but with my days starting at 8:30 or 8 for class or work every day, that usually doesn’t happen. This starting time wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t get to bed at 12 or (usually) 1 every night. Unfortunately, going to sleep and waking up on different calendar dates is an uncommon experience for me.

Fortunately, the Pace 6 and Pace 6+ systems are great for me and my legs. Gives a very smooth feel with just one stroke and I barely ever get nicks. Any time I get a nick, I know it’s truly my own fault. I have a few issues with my knees, but I think that’s really just something that I’ll get better at with time. It’s not nicks, just not getting all the hair, once again, my fault. I also have very little irritation using this razor. I really can’t think of anything I dislike about this razor. If I had to pick the thing I like the least is how stiff the pivoting mechanism is on it, but again, this a minor detail and really not that bad.

In fact, if you’ve ever doubted my honesty on these reviews here’s proof of how much I like these: I received the complementary promotional samples to try out in February. About a month ago, I purchased about 11-12 months worth of the Pace 6 blades. There, you have it.

In case you need picture proof, here you go.

In case you need picture proof, here you go.

These blades also have a good life too. Personally, I don’t feel the need to throw out blades as soon as they get slightly dull, I use any blade for quite awhile. It seems that these blades tend to last about 2 weeks for face and legs shaving combined. If you change blades every 2 weeks and use the Dorco Pace 6+ shaving system, your yearly total for razors and blades is… ready for this? $26.24 considering that each replacement blade costs about 1.01 when you buy 6 packs. How does that sound for you?

Still not convinced? Fine, click here for 15% off. You have no excuse to not try these. Once you have that code, I’d suggest trying one of these: Pace Trial Pack (Try Pace 3, 4, 6, and 6+ with this pack), Frugal Dude Pack (combination of 4 and 6 blade systems which lasts a year), Pace 6+ razor, and razor refills.

Come on, give them a try!

Come on, give them a try!

It’s a shame that more people don’t know about Dorco. Great razors, great prices. Go ahead and try it, you’ve got nothing to lose and a lot of money to save. :)

*The original shaving systems were provided for free for review purposes. I have since become a customer.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Cycling, Product Reviews, Swimming, Triathlon

 

Tags: , , , ,

Why Shave Your Legs?

Triathletes and cyclists, I’m looking at you.

Or you could say I’m looking at myself as well.

Cyclists begin as liars. They don’t know it at the time, but they are. You get a bike for exercise and you say “I have a bike, but I’ll never wear all that tight lycra clothing.” A month later, you’re in full lycra kits. Then you say “Well, okay, I’m wearing Lycra, but I’ll never shave my legs.” Then, between 6 months and 2 years later, you’re standing in a shower trying to make sure you don’t slice open your leg. I really think it’s inevitable. It’s something that no one really thinks about, but I bet you can’t think of ever seeing a pro cyclist with hair on their legs. And go to any amateur race, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone without shaved legs.

Don't be that guy. 'Nuff said.

Don’t be that guy. ‘Nuff said.

It’s been like this for a long time. Cyclists have been shaving their legs for over 140 years in fact! I find this quite ironic in today’s American society since women are expected to shave their legs while me and my fellow smooth-legged two-wheeled pedal pushers are given a hard time about it. It wasn’t til about 1915 when most women started shaving their armpits. However, during this time and into the early ’20s, ladies didn’t often shave their legs, rather they wore flesh colored stockings. In 1927 though marketers started targeting the legs in female fashion and hair removal ads. As a result, this is when american women began shaving their legs in earnest. So women, while it is much more common for you to shave your legs in modern society, we have you beat on tradition.

Ask a cyclist why they shave their legs and you’ll most likely receive a myriad of answers which really aren’t completely truthful. You see, professional cyclists have a legitimate reason for shaving their legs. In order to ride about a hundred miles a day for three weeks straight, nightly intense massage is basically a necessary. Hair just gets in the way of these massages, so for the sake of the masseur and cyclist, the legs are kept smooth. In the winter, smooth legs is extremely helpful for embrocation application. (In fact, this is why the All Seasons Cyclist started shaving) For the rest of the reasons, I’l go in order of least to greatest credibility.

So pros have a real reason for shaving their legs (and any serious cyclist using embrocation regularly). But what about everyone else? I think my favorite response to hear is “Shaving my legs makes me more aerodynamic.” Now, scientifically speaking, there is a measurable effect on aerodynamics. The best estimate I’ve seen is a difference of 2 seconds over a 40k time trial. However, unless said cyclist always wears skin suits, has the most aero helmet possible, and no extra fat on their body, this reasoning is BS. Plain and simple.

Now one reason I use when really pressed, so I give it a little more credence than aerodynamics, is ease of changing bandages. When you spend a lot of time on a bike, it’s really not a question of if you’re going to crash, it’s when. Pulling a large bandage off of hairy legs one or two times a day would not be fun at all. However, the easy way to pick apart this reasoning is the fact we don’t shave our arms which will also most likely have road rash on them.

Next up is ease of cleaning your legs. If you’re on roads which are quite dirty (for instance if you have tar on your legs after rides) or you do a lot of mountain biking, this is completely a good reason. I wouldn’t want to have to regularly pull out hair in the process of cleaning my legs after a ride. However, I really can’t use this.

That brings me to the last reason, and I believe the main reason: tradition. Amateur cyclists shave their legs because professionals shave their legs. Have you ever seen a picture of a decent cyclist with hairy legs? I bet not. We shave our legs because that’s what the guys at the top of our sport do. It’s a tradition that goes back almost a century and a half. It’s become a part of our culture. Hairy legs are the mark of a new guy or even a sign of weakness.

Shaved legs feel faster. Keeping the outside of a sports car clean has almost no effect on the performance of the car, but people still keep the bodies spotless. Why? Because it looks faster. It looks cooler. Guess what? My muscles are my engine and keeping my legs smooth is like polishing a sports car. No one wants to be that guy in the pack with hairy legs.

I’ve learned saying it’s tradition is also one of the easiest ways to justify basically anything to someone. “Why pine tree that’s been cut down into your house in December?” “It’s tradition.” “Why do you put on crazy costumes and go around collecting candy as a child on the last day of October?” “It’s tradition.”

So, there you have it. The real reason why cyclists and triathletes shave their legs. Well at least us amateurs anyway. Oh, and I suppose I should mention that vanity probably has something to do with it too. When you spend hours a week running and cycling, your calves get some definition to them.

Cyclists are Awesome Meme

Even cyclists in memes don’t have hair on their legs.

Anyway, if you’re wondering this post is actually first of several which will pertain to shaving. I have a couple product reviews and hopefully a guide for anyone thinking about trying it out.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Cycling, Swimming, Triathlon

 

Tags: , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers