Winter walk

It was only about one degree below freezing when I set out for the grocery shop this afternoon, a fairly reasonable temperature as I saw it. But I had not gone far before the howling wind from the north convinced me that thermometers are not telling the whole truth. Still, I felt fine, so I continued walking the half-hour road to the shop, even though there was nothing I urgently needed. I just wanted some yogurt and such, I had eaten the last of my yogurt during the weekend.

After about 20 minutes, I started to realize that I had underestimated the power of wind chill. But by then I was most of the way there, so I kept walking. By the time I arrived, I could only apologize silently for being an idiot.  I felt strangely weak, and was still cold after walking for half an hour, something that is rare. Walking briskly produces a good deal of heat.

The walk home was easier, as I had the wind at my back, but it was still chilly and I felt stiff and strangely weak, as if the northern wind somehow leeched my strength. That seems an unreasonable allegation, but a little while after I came home I sat down on the exercise bike, just sitting there for a while without pedaling, and my pulse was quite a bit higher than usual. Like 30 beats or more above normal.

When your pulse remains higher than usual for a while after training, it is because of what I call “body alchemy”, the changing of stuff into other stuff. Your muscles and liver rebuild their stock of glycogen, a molecule that very easily dissolves back into glucose. Glucose is used in the beginning of any physical activity, as it gives a quick clean energy and can even be used without extra oxygen for a little while.  When the body rebuilds this, the opposite happens:  You burn more fat while the sugar in your blood is used to build up these sugar spirals for next time. Burning fat is a much more complex task and requires plenty of oxygen, so your lungs and heart work a little more than usual.

So anyway, I have known for years that old people can get heart problems in the winter and die. That’s quite common actually. So I have a problem with the global warming journalists who count all the people who die during heat waves, but forget all the people who would have died if not for the mild winters. We are a tropical species after all.  But I used to assume these folks all died while shoveling snow. It certainly is hard work! But I wonder if even that is necessary.  My heart was definitely working harder than during a walk in summer or spring or fall.  I did not wear a pulse watch (it is out of batteries, which may well have been a good thing) but my pulse was quite high for a while. I could feel that.

So, a bit of a learning experience there. Now having eaten a pasta meal, I will definitely restore all my lost glycogen – and probably a little extra for just in case I do such a dumb thing again in the near future.  After all, doing dumb things is a habit with us humans.