Taking a one week break from blogging. Wake me up if I miss some important new camera or lens launch. Otherwise I'll be at the pool and the trail. See you there/then.

Enchanted Rock. Outward Bound for Grown-ups.

Nothing fun to write about in photography right now. I think I'll just concentrate on swimming and eating instead. OT/OT/OT !!!

The Western Hills Athletic Club Pool at Six a.m. 

I shot this image before sunrise a couple of weeks ago. The pandemic had cut off swimming for our masters group entirely for about two months. When we finally got the chance to resume our heart-pounding and highly disciplined workouts the big problem was and continues to be the need for social distancing. When the club published a sign up for workouts I noticed that very few people were signing up for the 6am to 7am swim slots so I decided I'd take advantage of that time frame, three days a week, to get back in shape without having to struggle with finding the right balance of lane partners. I didn't want to discover that I'd forfeited all of my swim fitness and get lapped by younger, faster swimmers but I also didn't want to spend time in a lane with people much slower than me. 

For the first two weeks of six a.m. workouts attendance was low enough that I could have a lane all to myself. I worried I might not be disciplined without other people in the lane to push me but I soon learned that a good coach, a hard set, a set time interval and a pace clock provide their own disciplines. 

We're three weeks back in the pool now and I'm just starting to feel like I'm making up for the lost time. 

The first day back I noticed how beautiful the pool looked with just the underwater lights to illuminate it. I thought of bringing a camera into the pool area with me but I was trying to streamline my time on the deck. I wondered if my iPhone could take an image that would make me happy. I brought it to the next day's workout and shot photographs (including the one above) just before I hopped into the water and started swimming. I also took a shot of the the pool an hour later, when the sunrise was in progress. 

It can be daunting on some days to get up at 5:30 a.m. and rush to the pool. On cool mornings you know the water will also be colder and you hesitate to plunge in. But after the first few days you realize that your one hour slot is inflexible. With the new social distancing rules we need to leave a five minute time gap between our exiting of the pool and the next group's entry into the pool. That means every minute of that first 55 minutes of pool time is more valuable than it used to be. 

I find that I like editing photos I've taken on the phone in the phone's internal software. It's easy to get good tweaks into the files and it's actually cool to take a photo and then edit it with the actual subject right in front of you for reference. You match color by immediate comparison which is a strength of human perception. I feel like I'm getting pretty good at it. And sometimes, at least at Instagram size, the files from the phone look as good or better than stuff from my much bigger and more expensive cameras. 

It's enlightening to see how much more time there seems to be in a day on those three days I get up earlier. By 7:15 am I'm already home making coffee and eating breakfast. By 9 a.m. we're on task and ready; life has already been fired up and stuff has gotten done. The days seem much more productive.  By 10:30 pm I'm ready to sleep through the night.

There is a reason I swim or run or exercise everyday. I have a fear of getting fat as I age. Of losing mobility. Of having to buy bigger, uglier clothes. Many of the people around me appear to keep putting on weight over the years and along with the weight seems to come health problems galore. It seems that the best predictor of aging in a healthy way is to stay very active and get lots of good, hard, exercise. Hours, not minutes, every day. 

Many people would love to believe that changing their diet alone will be their fountain of youth but studies bear out that exercise is far more important a component in weight maintenance than exactly what you put in your mouth. 

I have a friend who created a vegan diet. It's so strict. It even eliminates nuts and pretty much anything with oils. On this diet you can only eat plants and you can't even cook with oils. I tried it, and sure, you can lose weight if you can stick to eating that way but the diet alone does absolutely nothing for your physical fitness. I define overall fitness as having good endurance, a low resting heart rate, perfect blood pressure and the ability to do hard, physical work = running, swimming, rowing, biking or vigorous, hill intensive walking. You also need good muscle tone and good flexibility. None of which any diet will provide. Your diet may help you cut out cholesterol and that might improve your cardiovascular system but... the science in that regard is still a moving target.

People who desperately want to believe in diet as a cure all point to my friend (the one who writes extensively about his vegan diet) and point out that he is in exemplary physical condition. He should be! He works out in the pool for at least an hour a day, and at a world class level. He bikes everywhere. He runs a lot. But there's even more to it than that. Some of it is genetics; his dad was an Olympic athlete. His parents are in great shape. He has a job he absolutely loves and believes in.

But here's what the diet addicted don't want to hear: my friend was a world class triathlete for at least a decade (think: Iron Man/Kona) and before that he was an NCAA championship swimmer. But those were both true long before he began his journey into the diet world. The secret of his fitness is something I think he would readily admit: He stays in great shape (mentally and physically) largely because he has never slowed down his exercise schedule or lost hthe discipline required to step up his performance. 

I'm certainly not suggesting that we can all go out and eat pizzas, burgers and french fries at every meal and stay healthy. Eating a sustainable and fun diet along the lines of the Mediterranean Diet, with lots of fish, vegetables, fruits and the like is a great start. Paired with vigorous exercise it's the basis for a healthy lifestyle. But the diet is only a partner with exercise; neither is a stand alone component of a healthy life. You really can't make one work for you without the other.

Swim, run, lift, bike, yoga, and eat well. Everything else is just a silly mess. And no, golf is not exercise. Neither is bowling. Those are games. Fun to play but meaningless when it comes to fitness. 

See you on the trail or see you in the pool. But probably not at that joint that serves BBQ wings...

The best time to start getting healthier was twenty years ago. The second best time is today.

Riots across America. Protests right here in Austin, Texas.

But then the classic response might just be: "What the hell? Let's go paddle boarding."