Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Boiling the Frog

A frog can be boiled alive if the water is heated slowly enough — it is said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will never jump out.


What probably saved me after the heart attack was walking as much as I could.

I set up a computer so that I could surf the Internet (or do drawings and writing) and walk at the same time; it is possible to type up to a treadmill speed of three miles an hour. (Raising the incline increases the workout, without decreasing the ability to type.)

However, knowing that exercise is good for you and exercising are two different things.

There were many days when I just did not feel like walking; I told myself that all I had to do begin walking at two miles per hour and surf internet; this did not take much effort, and was something I could easily talk myself into.

I would play songs along with the walking on the treadmill; every time a song ended, I would increase the speed by .1 mph and the incline by a degree. By the end of an hour I was walking at 3 mph with a 10 percent incline. I inevitably felt better after walking than before I had started. It got so that I enjoyed walking for three hours at time (thought not at this pace), once I got started.

This incremental and slow change made it much easier to get started, and I suspect it is much easier on the heart; starting at a higher speed would have been like putting that frog in boiling water.

Much of the blog about surviving the heart attack was composed on the treadmill; the best ideas seemed to come after walking for more than two hours. (There is a Latin motto my carpenter friend Mark likes to quote: Solvitur ambulando: It is solved by walking.)

When I went to the Mayo Clinic for treadmill stress testing, they were amazed at how long I could walk, given the damage that had been done and that my heart. (“If we had known you were going to walk so long, we would have brought tea and cookies.”)

I have a theory that we were evolved to walk ten to twenty miles a day in search of food or to elude predators; our bodies are geared to expect lots of walking. Walking also establishes a rhythm so that all the parts of the body are working in unison. Walking three hours a day may seem like a lot; it was probably almost a day off for my Neanderthal ancestors, a walk in the park.

Boiling the Frog
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