Exercise Lessons From Animals, Including Frogs, Camels, Meerkats And Triathletes


Hi folks! Thanks for stopping by!

Photo of china frog given as a gift to FitOldDog

Lovely little frog given to me as a present by Jess. Thanks Jess!

I have always liked frogs and toads for some unknown reason. They seem so fragile, but they make it out there in the wilds with all those snakes and things around. I guess they use the high breeding capacity approach combined with camouflage, and an ability to dig down into the mud when things get dry. There are also poisonous toads, I guess, and other tricks used by soft amphibians to put off predators. In spite of their appearance, I find toads endearing. Try watering them with the hose next time you are out in the vegetable garden. They come out and wait for you, with an expression of sheer ecstasy on their little toady faces as you spray them with cold water on a warm summer’s day. They also keep down a number of pests in the garden, so sharing your stuff with toads is a good idea. Clearly, these soft moist creatures are well adapted to life on land and in the water. The study of how they cope on the planet can provide valuable insights for humans.

We have a lot to learn from non-human animals.

Image of a camel.

Camels store energy as fat in their humps, allowing them to travel long distances, but at a plodding pace, with the assistance of food intake. They are fat-adapted.

Take the camels for example. They store energy as fat in their hump(s), allowing them to travel long distances carrying heavy loads with little or no food intake. This reminds me of the issue of fat adaptation. A few months ago, at the prompting of my eldest son, Nick, who quoted Chez Ollie, I decided to undertake a period of fat adaptation. Nick and I were talking about the use of fats versus carbohydrates (carbs) as energy sources in endurance athletes. It makes sense to train your body to burn fats instead of carbs if you undertake low-level exercise for long periods of time, as older athletes do in Ironman races. Having a background in biochemistry (the chemistry of living organisms) and bioenergetics (the handling of energy in biological systems), it made sense for me to become fat-adapted, which can be achieved by essentially cutting out carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, bread, pasta) from one’s daily diet. So I did! The changes have been remarkable. I have since completed a 20-mile run and a 65-mile bike ride, with high energy levels and no need for food, just plenty of water. Last night I was pretty tired, and went to bed early, forgetting to eat dinner. Normally that would result in my awaking with hunger pangs in the night – nope, no problem.

Fat adaptation appears to work for endurance training.

Photo of meerkats

Great posture, don’t you think?

Finally, I have spent great deal of time improving my biomechanics (the way I move), to optimize my swim, bike, run and daily living. I suspect that this becomes increasingly important with age. As your body becomes weaker, in spite of training, you have to find easier ways to do things. For instance, if you are exhausted at the end of a long swim it pays to focus on reducing drag, not trying to pull energy from a body that doesn’t have much to offer. Reduce resistance. That is what body movement work is all about, which I have studied for a while with three great instructors, Karen, Tara and Rebecca, in Feldenkrais, Gyrokinesis, and Continuum, respectively. A critical aspect of body movement is posture. I pays to have good posture, so just take a look at the meerkat. An example of great body position, watching for trouble, mind alert, body relaxed but high enough to spot trouble on the horizon. Improving your posture can certainly enhance your sport, and general mobility as you age.

Learn from the non-human animals, triathletes, boomers, or anyone for that matter, as they certainly seem to know what they are doing.

-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.