Lance Armstrong: A Champion on Two Fronts

If you’ve never heard the name Lance Armstrong, you must have been living under a rock for the last decade. Winning the prestigious Tour de France bicycle race for the seventh consecutive year in 2005 made Armstrong one of the most celebrated athletes in the world. But if this is no easy feat on its own – imagine winning all of these races after recovering from testicular cancer – this is Armstrong’s story and this is why he is a champion on two fronts.

Picture to the right: “David Gerstein Armstrong Bike Rider Free Standing Sculpture
David Gerstein "Armstrong Bike Rider" Free Standing Sculpture
Lance Armstrong was born on September 18, 1971, in Plano, Texas, near the major city of Dallas. His parents were divorced when he was just a small child, and his mother, Linda, who was only seventeen years old when she had Lance, was left to raise her son on her own. When Lance was three, his mother married Terry Armstrong, who adopted him. Later, Linda and Terry were also divorced, and Linda was once again a single mother. Lance often credits his mother for instilling in him the drive and motivation that makes him such a champion.

When he was seven years old, Linda bought Armstrong his first bike. It was a Schwinn Mag Scrambler. When he was in the fifth grade, Lance began running six miles a day after school, and soon was entering long-distance running competitions on weekends. Armstrong also tried team sports like football, baseball, and basketball, but found that he was better at activities which require much endurance. When he joined the local swim club, Lance would ride his bike ten miles to practices early in the morning and then pedal to school. And after school he would jump back on his bike and ride ten miles back to the club to swim more laps.

At age thirteen, Armstrong took home the “If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.” top prize at the IronKids Triathlon, which includes swimming 200 meters, cycling 6.2 miles, and running 1.2 miles.

In 1987, at age sixteen, Armstrong turned professional in the triathlon. In the same year he was invited to be tested by the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Houston, Texas. Researchers measured the amount of oxygen his lungs consumed during exercise and found that Armstrong’s oxygen levels were the highest the clinic ever recorded, which meant that his lung capacity, critical for endurance, made him a natural athlete.

In 1990 Lance became the U.S. National Amateur Champion. In the next year he won Italy’s eleven-day Settimana Bergamasca race, and in 1992, he competed in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He came in 14th place, and immediately turned professional.

Throughout the next few years Lance dominated in the world circuit.

But on October 2, 1996, just a few weeks after his twenty-fifth birthday, tragedy hit. The young cyclist was diagnosed with testicular cancer which had also spread to his lungs, abdomen, lymph nodes, and brain. Doctors predicted a less than 40% chance for recovery.

Well, the champion read everything he could about the disease and changed his diet, giving up coffee, dairy products, and red meat. After consulting his doctors, Armstrong opted to forego the traditional treatment for brain tumors – radiation. Instead doctors performed surgery to remove his tumors, and then administered an alternative and aggressive form of chemotherapy.

Between rounds of chemotherapy Lance continued to ride his bicycle as much as he could. On February of 1997, he was declared cancer-free.

Being dropped by his former sponsors just pushed Armstrong harder upon his return to the circuit – he eventually won the Tour de Luxembourg. And then went on to be victorious in every Tour de France over the next five years. On July 25, 2004, he set a new Tour de France record by taking home the top prize for the sixth consecutive year.

He formed the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) in 1997. He has emerged as a leading spokesman and activist in the fight against cancer. Because of its many fund-raising and education-based initiatives, the foundation has become recognized throughout the world.

Surfing Israel and Ankles Adorned with Love

I love this time of year. As the winter blues roll on-on the east coast, and I’ve squeezed all of the year’s respective joy out of the New England ski slopes; while others around me begin to get that icy depression and look like Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining, I head off to a secret vacation spot.

In Israel, around this time of year, their winter draws to a close, leaving the desert climate moist and fresh from the rainy season. The beaches are not yet too crowded, so I, knowing this, take a suit case, my surfboard and head for Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

This year my timing was perfect, I arrived one and a half weeks before the Purim holiday, right on the cusp of Israel’s springtime. At the beach, there is still a slight chill in the air, so I wear my long wetsuit; but there was a beautiful girl that I saw on the shore shouting to one of her friend’s, out a few yards in the Mediterranean; her wetsuit was one of those without pants legs. She didn’t seem to mind the hint of chill in the air. She had subtle freckles on her face, brought out by exposure to the sun, and her hair was like the color of the wet sand beneath her bare feet – and there around one of her feet I saw the coolest thing…

… It was an anklet. I did not want to be rude, but I needed to know where she got it and take a closer look,

“perhaps I can get one for my little sister,”

I thought. So I said

“Ma Nishma”

and introduced myself. Then I got down on my knees to take a closer look. What she had around her ankle had three amulets, a red “evil eye from the Kabbalistic tradition, a Hamsa, and a little silver coin with an ancient style Hebrew inscription. I gave her a compliment and asked her where she got the hip anklet. She told me she got it shopping online at Hamsa Jewelry. I smiled and made a mental note: When I get back to my laptop at the hotel, I’m checking this Web store out!
Oh, and the surfing that day at Zvulun Beach was “sababa!”

Rethinking the Term, “Dumb Jock”

runningEveryone knows that exercise can make your inner and outer body healthier, but can it also make you smarter? Well, Professor Charles Hillman from the University of Illinois, says yes.

He has proven, in his recent research that a little bit of physical exercise is in fact good for attention skills and information processing. It also improves the performance in cognitive test taking.

Hillman had volunteers run on treadmills, while wearing funny space-age skull-caps, which monitor brain waves with EEG’S. Before and after the treadmill running, he had the subjects take computer cognition tests.

Here’s what Hillman found:

Just thirty minutes of movement can make a person up to 10% smarter. He discovered that the test participants got more answers right, and more quickly.

The act of exercising increases the size of frontal lobes. This is not only good for attention capability, but it directly improves achievement test results.

Taking a test today or tomorrow? Why not first hit up the gym!

And for those who use the term, “dumb jocks”, you want to think again before it rolls off of your tongue. All of the working out, actually ups regulation of the brain derived neurotrophin factor. What are these? They are a family of proteins that induce the survival, development and function of neurons.

Divorce May Lead to Heart Disease

Divorce Dictionary

Apparently, divorce can be bad for your health. So can being widowed. So says Linda Waite, a sociologist at the University of Chicago. Leave it to sociologists to make such amazingly innovative observations.

But here’s the data she found. Divorced and widowed people have 20 percent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than married people. They even have 23 percent more limitations on their movements, like walking, climbing nonfunctional escalators (or stairs), or doing ballet. Ha ha, that last one was not part of the survey, but I’m guessing it’s true anyway. In all seriousness, though, her survey included the health of 8,652 middle-aged people with different marital histories. There were big differences between those who stayed married and those who divorced.

Though it’s obvious that divorce is just a bit stressful, Waite found that people who remarried still retain the scars of the damage done by the original divorce.

In the surveys, health was assessed in four categories. They are chronic conditions, mobility, symptoms of depression, and what respondents thought of their own state of health.

Here are some more sociological observations Waite made: (Warning: the self-evidence of these may cause temporary blurring of vision.) “Married men have better health habits. They lead a cleaner, healthier life, and less times in bars and eat better. Women tend to manage men’s interactions with the medical system, get him in for a colonoscopy and make sure he gets a flu shot.”

Now that we know, and with Swine Flu on the rise, it’s more important than ever to grab a wife, hold her down, and make her force you go to a proctologist immediately.

Mark Heyward, another sociologist at the University of Texas, found in a similar study that divorce has a lasting impact on cardiovascular disease, even after remarriage, by as much as 60 percent.

Even so, we’ll go out on a limb and make the claim that being stuck in a miserable marriage can also be bad for your arteries. So the best advice is, if your marriage is just boring and you need to revitalize it, try doing that instead of getting divorced. It’ll save you on medical bills and keep your arteries nice and smooth. If you really hate each other’s guts, then you can get out of it if you need to.

Picture a divorce as a guy with a jackhammer drumming on your cardiovascular system as you sit in divorce proceedings and discuss dividing property, visitation rights with kids, and other things that may make you choke. Your system, says Heyward, may never go back to original condition after that.

Something not so obvious is that those who never married are usually better off than people who married, lost a spouse through divorce or death, and didn’t get remarried. I remember seeing 40-year-old cousins of my wife who have never been married looking just a few years older than me, and I’m 25. Though I think that’s more of a function of not having kids and not having to deal with changing soiled diapers several times a day. I’m think that could add decades to your lifespan, at least.

Natural health personalities hold Longevity Conference in Vilcabamba Ecuador

Many of you will recall our article about a region in the South American country Ecuador known as Vilcabamba or the Valley of Longevity. This modern day Shangri-la is once again being featured in natural and environmental news sources due to a recent conference on longevity held there by the Natural News health website, under the organization by their editor Mike Adams. The conference included 25 health and fitness advocates who met in Vilcabamba’s beautiful settings and experienced for themselves the truly abundant and fresh fruits and vegetables that this place had already become world famous for the amazing longevity of it’s inhabitants, with ages past 100 being very common.

There must be something magical about this place to induce people such as Edwin Veelo, founder of, makers of one of the most potent anti-viral extracts on the market today, and Steve Sinclair, co-founder of the super food supplements company Enerfood to go all the way to this remote place, located in a mountainous region of southern Equador, bordering with Peru. Historically, Vilcabamba was a favorite resort location for Incan royal families, who must have known about the benefits of this region as early as 600 years ago.

Not everyone agrees that Vilcabamba is a modern version of Shangri-la however, and many scientists who have gone there to study the place, and it’s people, have come back saying that older people who claim to be well over age 100 may be exaggerating their age (and due to a lack of official birth certificates). Other scientists have confirmed that a combination of a year-round non-variable climate and a diet of healthy naturally grown organic fruits and vegetables; and eye tissue of 100 year old residents have been compared to those of persons living cities who are less than half their age.

Not everyone may go for the simple life styles and vegetarian diets (including juices from raw foods), but many people from modern Western societies have given up a life of electronic gadgetry and prepared food products to live the simple life. And if it means living to the ripe old age of 120, there might something to eating mani butter pudding (from a plant related to the peanut) and exotic cocktails of organic herbs fresh from the garden – all year round.

Thinking Outside the School Lunch Box

School lunches for kids in America these days need to be more creative as well as health oriented. Many public schools still serve their students lunches that are heavily loaded down with carbohydrates and saturated fats; with many foods being those that are simply available from USDA commodities warehouses. While this is probably better than turning all this surplus food into bio-fuels, it doesn’t do much to reduce overweight problems brought on by too much starches and fats.

While many schools have had salad bars available for their students, cafeterias also have lunch menus which closely resemble those found in fast food places like McDonalds or Burger King complete with processed French fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, and other junk foods that are loaded with “CARBS”, “SATS” and heavy amounts of sodium and other food preservatives. For this reason, many parents are once again sending their children to school with lunch boxes containing salads and sandwiches made with whole grain breads and other healthier food items. These new “school foods” are much healthier than the school lunches brought from home a generation or two ago when a typical box or sack lunch consisted of a baloney sandwich or hot dog , a piece of fruit, and maybe some cookies.

Lunch Bag

Trying to convince most kids to eat some forms of exotic menus found in whole foods stores won’t really work, unless they already eat these kinds of food at home anyway. What is interesting is that European schools have much healthier school lunch menus, and some schools in countries like France and Belgium even hire chefs to prepare more interesting as well as healthy diets for school children.

It’s not likely that American schools will go this route. But more nutritious, as well as appetizing meals can be made, even it they prepared beforehand at a central kitchen and sent to schools and reheated there. Children who must have special menus, either for health or religious reasons, are more likely to bring their lunches from home. But one thing is for sure; a child’s success in school is either helped or hindered by the type of diet during the day. As U.S. President Harry Truman said back in 1946, “In the long view, no nation is healthier than its children”.

Using a bit of creativity for school meals is far better than serving “high-carb” fast foods or baloney sandwiches.

Daredevil’s Fall

Natural landscape is awe-striking! Look at this woman, lying on the edge of the waterfall shelf, held back by only a single hand.


Photo by nandminafrica via flickr
Photo by nandminafrica via flickr

A big pussycat

A golden tiger is a big pussycat. But would you dare telling this in its face?
This Indian tiger is also referred to as a Strawberry Tiger. I think that’s amazing, and I wanted to share this useless piece of information with you all. 🙂

With great power comes great responsibility

The robots they’re making at Boston are so freaky. Will this be the ultimate soldier of the future?

No more horse riding in the forest, camel hopping in the desert, or mule handling in the snow — simply buy a BigDog and you’re set to go.