Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fitness takes six minutes a week

http://edition.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/06/06/sprint.training/

Of course, this is total nonsense. If six minutes a week was all it took to get fit, we could just devote one minute a day, six days a week to working out, and take Sunday off.

This report is a pretty good example of people taking research and interpreting the results really badly.

They have taken 16 people, 8 of whom have done nothing, and 8 of whom have worked out. Of the sixteen, the eight who worked out showed improvements over the eight who didn't. Well, we don't need research to show that any kind of working out is better than not working out at all.

The workout they are talking about is interval sprints, which by the way is a very good way of improving your stamina. When you do long bouts of cardio, your body adapts really quickly to the routines and you start getting diminishing returns both in terms of weight loss and also in terms of endurance gains. That is why you see many people in the gym running and biking on the machines and not seeming to get very far fitnes wise. Your body will sooner or later figure out the efficient way of doing these activities.

What happens in interval sprints is that you do short bursts (say 30 seconds) of the workout (biking/running/whatever) at very high intensity (hence sprint), and then recover by doing the same activity at a lower intensity. So, for instance, if you were to apply this to running, a typical routine would look like this
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds
jog : 90 seconds
sprint : 30 seconds

This whole workout woud total only 8 minutes but packs quite a punch. The sprints kill you, and the jogs ensure that you cannot just stop. This sort of workout really shocks your body and forces it to perform. This leads to positive improvements in your stamina and overall fitness.

Now, the researchers have had the subjects do four 30 second sprints followed by 4 minute recovery times. The writer of the article has added up the sprint times for each day (2 minutes), multiplied that by 3 (since they workout 3 times a week) and come up with the magic time of six minutes of working out per week.

But, when you do four 30-second sprints, with four minutes of recovery, in reality, you are working out for 18 minutes, and done 3 times a week, comes to 54 minutes per week, which is nine times the time that the article claims.

Mind you, I think that interval sprints are great to improve stamina and get fit. They are my preferred mode of cardio (when I do cardio, that is :-) ). I find that these sprints really challenge me and keep me from getting bored. After all, running on the treadmill for 25-30 minutes does get old fast.

But, I think that this article is grossly misleading in terms of what it promises. If you want to do interval training, you better be willing to devote more than six minutes a week for your fitness regimen.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Return of the Sith

I finally saw Return of the Sith. Saw it on an giant screen no less. I figured if I was getting shafted, I would get shafted big :-)

What people say is true. It's certainly better than The Phantom Menace and the Attack of the Clones. But those movies have set the bar so low that crossing it is no big deal.

Ok, so did I enjoy it? I rather enjoyed the action scenes. As long as no one was talking or was trying to justify their actions, the movie was cool. Some of the scenes were just brilliant. For instance, Yoda walks in a room, two arbit guys point some thingamajigs at him, Yoda carelessly waves his hand, slams them into the wall and they collapse in a heap. Cool scenes like this are few and far between, but they are there.

The plot is hopelessly riddled with holes. The Jedi are super-kickass-fighters, apparently, but they seem to die pretty tamely. Oh, some separatists have taken our chancellor prisoner. Ok, we will send two people to rescue him. How about sending a few more? Maybe they were too busy meditating or teaching Yoda grammar or something.

I found the conversion of Anakin into the dark side particularly unconvincing.

Join the Dark Side
No
Join the Dark Side
No
Join the Dark Side
Oh, ok.

C'mon!

The supposed reason that Anakin flirts with the dark side is to keep his babe from dying at childbirth.You can't tell me that a princess of a realm can't command enough resources to make sure that her pregnancy is safe. Yeah, we got light-sabers,faster-than-light-travel, battle cruisers, cool levitational tech, but, no, we still lose women tochild-birth. Oh, I am getting premonitions that my wife's going to die of childbirth, I would consult her ob-gyn specialist, not try to figure out how to revive her *after* she dies.

This is a pity because Anakin's conversion is the pivotal point of the whole movie. And it looks so weak thanks to the build-up (or the lack thereof). Having just had a hand in Mace Windu's death (hand, get it?), Anakin was pretty much screwed at that point. He could either surrender to the Jedi council, commit suicide or join Palpy at his little taking-over-the-galaxy scheme. The story was never built up to the point where his reasons for his actions were made clear.

If his joining the dark side was to protect Padme, then, why didn't he kill himself when he was told she was dead? Clearly, he must have felt that the Sith had something going for them, other than a nebulous promise to be able to create life. If they had built up the story properly, the viewers would have atleast felt that his conversion was genuine.

Would it have killed Georgie boy to have a few minutes where the Palpatine says 'this is why I think the Sith rock and the Jedi suck'? Clearly, that time was spent on showing some pointless CGI thingummy.

Oh, and the few times that people actually talk, you cringe. Especially the scenes where Anakin and Padme talk. Oh man! That sucked.

The pity of it all is that the prequels actually havea cool story arc. It's about how a republic is perverted into an empire by manufacturing a war. The senator has played his cards brilliantly,played both sides against each other, used the natural impatience that people have with the process of democracy to destroy democracy itself. Interesting story. There's no such backbone to the original series.

But, the execution of this story has been pathetic.

When you step back and look at it, you can see that this had what it took to be a true masterpiece. Pathetic screenplay, poor direction and acting has ensured that it will never happen. The devil is indeed in the details :-) Like, Psmith says so often.. For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, "It might have been."