November 2014


It’s national Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. (I discovered this by accident, so I’m sharing it widely.)  Appropriate too, as we’re moving into cold and flu season AND about to celebrate Thanksgiving. Did your Thanksgiving turkey take any antibiotics?  Unfortunately unless you’ve sought out a drug-free bird, you’ll never know.

Earlier this week I participated in a twitter chat with Center for Disease Control (CDC) experts Dr. Tom Chiller, Dr. Lauri Hicks, and Dr. Loria Pollack (#SaveAbx), and if I could communicate just one thing from that chat it would be this:

I view antibiotics as a resource like fisheries or a forest. If we don’t protect them, they will be gone.    –Dr. Daniel Uslan

antibiotics get smart

We haven’t discovered any significant new antibiotics in over 20 years. Antibiotic resistance leads to infections that have limited or no treatment options.

Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine (and also among the most commonly counterfeited drugs, so don’t even think about buying them on the internet). Most people do not understand how antibiotics work, yet the way we use antibiotics today directly affects how effective they will be in the future. Because they have been around for our whole lives and are relatively safe drugs—by which I mean few people die or suffer very bad side effects from taking them—the perceived risks of antibiotics are overlooked by the general public. We easily forget that antibiotics are a “social drug.” Each time you use an antibiotic, it becomes less effective for you AND for others.

Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic Resistance

Essentially it’s like bacteria evolution: the strongest (most drug-resistant) survive and reproduce, populating the world with eve more drug-resistant bacteria. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them, or failing to finish a course of antibiotics, promotes growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria (sometimes called “superbugs”). The Capital and Coast DHB in New Zealand reported that the risk of contracting EBSL (an antibiotic resistant superbug) in Singapore increases from 6.3% to a whopping 29.4% with hospitalization and antibiotic use. The CDC estimates that antibiotic resistance causes at least 2,049,442 illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the US alone. (In contrast, leukemia causes 22,569 deaths and homicide causes 16,259.) Of those, approximately 410,000 illnesses are caused by antibiotic resistant germs in food.

antibiotics animals

Antibiotic use isn’t just out of control in human medicine, but also in agriculture. Approximately 80% of antibiotics used in the US are given to food animals, not people. That we can protect people from getting infections from eating animal meat is a wonderful thing for public health; that most feedlots use antibiotics like cow-treats due to overcrowded and unsanitary conditions is not. Meat producers also pump antibiotics into all kinds of healthy animals to cause the animals to grow faster and bigger (which is good for their bottom line, but bad for the future use of antibiotics).

antibiotics cows

Antibiotics are an important tool we have to fight infections and maintain/protect health, but in order to keep them effective, we need to make sure they doctors and patients are making the right decisions about antibiotic use. Essentially, we need to use the right medicine for the right patient at the right time—this includes promptly identifying the specific disease-causing pathogen so that doctors can match the right drug to the right bug, prescribing antibiotics only when they are necessary and will be effective, and finishing the entire prescribed course of treatment.

antibiotics recommendations



Preventing infections is the first step towards reducing antibiotic overuse.

  1. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands. Clean and cover cuts and scrapes.
  2. Follow best practices when cooking meat. Immediately clean surfaces and tools that touch raw meat. Keep raw meat separated from other ingredients (until cooking).
  3. Get a flu shot.

Be a responsible patient when seeking medical treatment.

  1. Don’t insist your doctor prescribe an antibiotic.
  2. If prescribed an antibiotic, take ALL the medication as directed.

Choose your food wisely.

  1. Buy meat from companies that pledge to use antibiotics responsibly.
  2. If you have the storage space, consider buying a share of an organically raised animal. Many farms offer “co-op” style buying.
  3. A few sources for turkeys: Diestel, D’Artagnan, Plainville Farms, Harvestland brand, Mary’s Free Range Turkeys. Check for turkey farmers in your area (a Google search is actually quite helpful)
  4. “The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world.” Michael Pollan


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work”

“Get Smart for Healthcare”

“Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work on the Farm”

“Get Smart About Antibiotics Week”

Antibiotic Resistance and Food Safety, Center for Disease Control website.

“Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Cost the U.S. Healthcare System in Excess of $20 Billion Annually.” PR Newswire.

Sydney Baldwin, “You’ve Got Questions About Antibiotic Resistance; We’ve Got Answers” at the Food & Water Watch blog.

Eliza Barclay. “Did Your Thanksgiving Turkey Take Any Antibiotics?” NPR.

“Bibliogaphy on Antibiotic Resistance and Food Animal Production: Scientific Studies (1969-2014). Pre Charitable Trusts.

Martin Blaser, “Why antibiotics are making us all ill” on the Guardian,

“Getting Smarter: A Year of Action on Antibiotics” via the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria.” (video) PBS Frontline.
“Overuse of antibiotics in animals is dangerous for people.” (video) Consumer Reports.

Sharing Antimicrobial Reports for Pediatric Stewardship (SHARPS) collaborative.

Lydia Zuraw, “FDA: Antibiotics Sales to Farms Up 16 Percent Between 2009-12”

(Photo above by Las Vegas News Bureau and used with permission)

This is my second year running the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon.  Even though I wasn’t running it for the ultimate Rock n Roll bling (the Rock Idol “Heavy Medal”) I had so much fun last year that I almost immediately signed up to run it again.  Seriously, who doesn’t want to run down The Strip at night?  (Where else can you run after sunset and still be able to read your Garmin without using the backlight?)

Some of the festivities were the same, but 2014 brought some new twists to the race.  For example, this year there were a ton of running options: 5k, “half of the half,” half marathon, and full marathon, plus the Remix Challenge (5k Saturday night plus the half of marathon on Sunday night).  (Yeah, I was going to do the remix…but when it was time to register for the 5k I had no cash, and when I had cash the 5k had sold out. Boo.) Like last year, there were a ridiculous number of really great discounts and freebies for runners, including VIP club admissions and special drink menus, and discounts on massage and spa services. Next year, I swear I am planning ahead so I can go run the Remix, go clubbing, and make it to the spa.

I started the weekend by arriving just over an hour early for my flight. At the wrong airport. Oops. Fortunately I am loyal to Southwest, and they took good care of me, ensuring that I made it to Las Vegas even though I apparently can’t read my own reservations. The flight was blissfully uneventful, and I met Jeanne and Debbie in the airport. Initially we thought we’d hit the expo Friday, but since my boo-boo had me arrive an hour later we decided to skip that plan and go straight to our hotel, the Mandalay Bay. Jeanne scored a great deal on a room, and I was glad to be staying right next to the starting line (since last year I literally ran through the race to jump into my corral before it started).

Dinner started with the most amazing garlic fries, fries so deliciously garlicky that I thought I might still be sweating garlic when I hit the pavement Sunday night.  Thank you, Slice of Vegas!!  If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it.  Not only does it feature the garlickiest fries and a menu with salads, sandwiches, and other fare, it also has a full vegan menu, including pizza (topped with delicious Daiya) and a meatless meatball sandwich. Of course they have a full bar–it IS Vegas–and I finally got to try an Ace pineapple cider (technically a melomel, but who’s really paying attention?). A quick trip to Lush followed dinner, and Jeanne and I were fully stocked with all the DIY spa treats we needed for a race weekend, including bubble bars for Jeanne and a cupcake face mask and slice of snow cake soap for me.

Saturday we slept in, ate breakfast foodage at Raffles (one of the Mandalay Bay restaurants). Not creative, but by that point we were starving. After some lazing around we met up with Debbie and her husband Mark and headed to the expo by way of Aria to pick up tickets for “Zarkana.”  (FYI, the Aria is not really on the way.)

The expo featured the usual wide selection of products and services for runners, and had booths for upcoming running events.  (Phoenix Marathon, I’m really, really tempted.) Terryberry, official jewelry of the Rock n Roll series, now has Heavy Medal charms for Rock Star and Rock Legend, so I had those added to the bracelet I made last year, which has charms from each Rock n Roll race I ran to get to Rock Idol.  (No word on a Rock Idol charm yet, which is just as well–there are no more open links on my bracelet.)


Rock Star is on the left, Rock Idol on the right
Rock Star is on the left, Rock Legend on the right

I was glad to see Trigger Point Therapy and CorePower, two of my favorite Austin, Texas businesses, representing. There were also some relative newcomers like Lorna Jane, and contests and freebies from race sponsors like Geico, Chocolate Milk, and Transamerica. After stocking up on Handanas–one of mine had an unfortunate run-in with the grate on my floor furnace–and slurping down a Mama Chia, I ran into my friend from the Spartan Race series and we caught up a little. Mark was very tolerant of my yammering on about different kinds of compression and why The Grid is the best foam roller, among other nerdalicious topics. There was just enough time to meander down the last aisle before we had to head off to “Zarkana.”

I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, and have been following them since before they had resident shows. I try to hit one each time I come to Vegas, so I was thrilled to see “Zarkana.” It’s hard to pick a favorite act, since each featured stunts and tricks I’d never seen in any other show. I particularly enjoyed the dual-level trapeze team, and the depth and richness added by the extensive use of projections. After the show it was off to bed.

Since we sort of skipped dinner, Sunday we hit up Raffles for breakfast.  Not original, but the line was shorter there than at the other options serving breakfast food. Sure, I know carb-loading has been debunked as a useful practice for us athletes-with-a-day-job, but that did not stop me from eating French toast (aka birthday cake for breakfast). Afterwards I lazed around for a few hours and then it was time to throw on the running duds.

Debbie looked just as good after the race. I was quite a bit more wilted!
Debbie looked just as good after the race. I was quite a bit more wilted!

Unlike last year, and unlike pretty much the rest of the year in Vegas, it was COLD.  I’m so glad I checked the weather before I packed!

Jeanne and me (before I "borrowed" the sweatshirt)
Jeanne and me (before I “borrowed” the sweatshirt)

Last year I wore a Sparkle Skirt and a singlet, with a long-sleeved run shirt for just part of the race. This year I wore full-length tights, a long-sleeved run shirt, and a running pullover.  I was still so cold at the starting line that I snagged a zip up hoodie from the fence at the starting line and wore it for the first two miles (after which I put it back on the fence as I passed by). The cold was exacerbated by gusts of chilled wind that made me wish I’d packed my polar fleece Run Happy beanie instead of my Berkeley Half Ambassador hat.

A little identity crisis, Corral 40/36? Or is that a pant size?
A little identity crisis, Corral 40/36? Or is that a pant size?

Since I started in corral 41–not the end of the corrals!–I waited in the corral for over an hour before starting. During that time the sun went down, and the temperature dropped noticeably.  Even though I’m prepared for the temperature to drop at a night race, I wasn’t expecting the cold. The switchback after the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign meant that I got to watch at least the first 35 corrals run past on their way down The Strip. When we finally got to start, I ran the first mile with Jeanne and Debbie, and then mostly ran with some walk breaks for the next few. Around mile 3 it seemed clear to me that they were pushing for a faster time than I was, so I told them to go on and stop waiting for me (since my usual pace is “stop and pet the cute puppies” pace). I was still trying to push for more running time though, as it seemed to help keep me from freezing up again and my legs didn’t feel as “dead” as they often do mid-race.  I’m attributing that to the CW-X tights, since I’ve run cold races before and not had the same fresh legs experience.


It isn’t every course where you get to see a volcano explode.

Volcano to the left!
Volcano to the left!

Around mile 6 I realized I hadn’t taken any Energy Bits, and knew I’d be sad if I didn’t eat the serving in my belt. At the next water stop I stepped off the course to the sidewalk so I could set my cup down and get my Bits out.  As I was gulping down the bits, Lisa saw my flower and ran over. (Lisa and I belong to the same running club but live half a country apart from each other, so I only see her at big races. We last crossed paths at Nike DC.) Lisa, badass that she is, is one of the runners who ran the new Disney Avengers-themed races at Disneyland this weekend. Sunday morning she ran the Avengers half, then hopped a plane and landed in Vegas in time to do the Rock n Roll Half. Oh, and she did the Avengers 5k on Saturday.  Pretty amazing if you ask me. We passed the praying mantis at the container park, but I didn’t manage to get a shot of it shooting flames.

A Bug Lfe
A Bug’s Life

We finished out the race together, mostly walking but with run breaks (every time we saw a photographer, of course!). At the second-to-last chip timing mat we both sprinted to the finish line. I imagine I looked like a total dork, arms flailing to propel me forward without hitting anyone with the giant orange flower I was carrying.  I ran as hard as I could bust it out at that point and Lisa Ms. Two-Half-Marathons-Today beat me!

[adorable selfie forthcoming]

I finished in 3:12 (says my Bia), just in time for my iPhone to die. Thankfully Woot! had a special on the Urge rechargers earlier this year, so I had one waiting for me in my bag. (Why don’t any of the running magazines recommend these things?) So while Nike+ (which hasn’t sync-ed since they updated their website/app integration this spring, to my great annoyance) now thinks I ran 23 miles, at least my Bia collected the right data.

Orange Flower is getting ready to retire, but I think Orange Flower II will launch for my role in MS Run the US. Perhaps I’ll sell petal-naming rights to help raise the $10,000 I committed to bring to fund research for a cure.

Orange Flower and the glow-in-the-dark bling
Orange Flower and the glow-in-the-dark bling

Did YOU run the #StripAtNight?  What was your favorite part? Are you going to run with me next year??

Part of my goal with this blog is to help YOU lead your best life. To me, that includes finding out what makes your body work well, and how to keep yourself healthy and uninjured. This is the first in a series of posts on injury prevention.

Most yoga injuries are not caused by a sudden fall or snap. Instead, they are caused by hundreds or thousands of repetitions of movements or poses with poor alignment. Eventually, that leads to pain. The American Chronic Pain Association estimates that one in three Americans suffers from some kind of chronic pain.  My own experience, as well as reading up on the research, indicates that two very specific things within your control have an impact on whether you end up in pain: (1) daily and habitual posture, and (2) repetitive motions or activities. Calvin’s mom was onto something when she told him not to make those faces all the time.

Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s the media inundated every office with warnings about repetitive stress injury (RSI). Suddenly offices were awash with ergonomic gizmos, and consultants made a killing (as did some injured workers); carpal tunnel syndrome caused by constantly scanning thousands of coupons and groceries became a potential motive for murder on TV. Unfortunately, a large percentage of us spend most of our work hours seated, and encouraged to sit (not move).  Also unfortunately, the vast majority of us are going to work with less than ideal furniture, chair and desk combos, or other body-unfriendly equipment. I can’t really blame the employers, as it’s expensive to replace office furniture, and impossible to create a uniform, professional look when everyone “needs” a different chair. As a result, I think lots of people think about how to move (e.g. where to put the mouse so  your wrist doesn’t get smushed) but not many think about how to sit and how often to get up and take breaks.

Even though I teach yoga and recognize poor postural habits as the majority of my students’ woes, I have to admit I am just as guilty as they are of sins against posture: the laptop hunch, the computer lean, and the iPhone fold sneak into my office practices every day. During the months of September and October, a company called BackJoy sponsored the #PainFreePledge and I agreed to test their signature product, the SitSmart Posture Plus, to see if it could help me adopt better sitting habits at work. (I’m a little behind on this post, but I spent a bunch of time out of my office and I wanted to make sure I had used the SitSmart enough to give it a knowledgeable review.)

BackJoy launched the #PainFreePledge with the following suggested actions:

1.) Understand the cause of your back pain, don’t just treat the condition.
2.) Keep a pain journal.
3.) Use natural alternatives when it comes to treating/preventing back pain (no meds)!
4.) Avoid skinny jeans for the month (or too tight of clothes).
5.) Do a spine-strengthening stretch.
6.) Eat anti-inflammatory foods (nuts, seeds, fish).
7.) Try to avoid carrying a purse, heavy backpack or child in one arm.
8.) Be aware of your sitting posture/don’t cross your legs!
9.) Don’t sleep on your stomach.
10.) Move more!

Each of these little actions has the potential to make a big impact–I know, because I worked on #7 and #9, and both improved how I move and feel. For the #PainFreePledge I pledged to pay attention to how I sit, and specifically when I tend to cross my legs (#8). I didn’t really think about it much, but over time the default at my desk had become “sit on top of left foot, lurch forward over keyboard.”  Not ideal.  Please note that I’ve got a fantastically expensive office chair (one of those Herman Miller Aeron chairs).  It adjusts up and down, it adjusts the tilt of the backrest, it adjusts the tilt of the sitting surface. It’s not a bad chair at all but it IS very, very easy to take on a slouchy posture while sitting in it–especially if (like me) you have the tendency to cross one ankle over your leg or (worse!) sit on top of one foot. That might be a function of how my desk and chair interact, but it is NOT good for me.

The SitSmart is a foam and plastic gadget that goes on your chair. Unlike many better posture devices, this one does not go behind your back, but under your butt.  It is not a lumbar support, but more of a…butt rest. The SitSmart works by keeping your buttocks from rolling underneath you which, in turn, prevents your pelvis from tilting backwards (which leads to your low back reversing the natural curve–rolling out backwards instead of maintaining the neutral-posture curve into your body–and your upper back becoming more rounded).  The illustration below should help you visualize it.

Backjoy with and without

After about a month of sitting on the SitSmart, not only is it quite comfortable, but I feel “off” sitting in my chair without it. After two months of paying attention to my seated posture in a variety of settings, I believe it is helping me to maintain better body memory of my posture even when I am not sitting in my office chair.  I notice immediately when I slouch, or when my pelvis starts to tip backwards or I begin to slouch. (I spent a lot of time sitting in hotel conference chairs, which are clearly designed to be the least comfortable.  Or maybe the design is purely about stacking them, with no thought at all to comfort.) I didn’t expect to feel as much of a difference as I do.  I’m going to continue to use BackJoy’s SitSmart in my office.  Since I’m preparing to do some crazy running as part of the MS Run the US relay in 2015, I might just have to check out some of BackJoy’s other products, like the PostureWear Elite shirt and sports bra.

BackJoy’s #PainFreePledge is over, but it is never too late for you to develop more body-friendly habits.  Change your posture, change your life!

I have one red BackJoy to give away. (If you really, really want the yellow one I’ve been sitting on, I’ll let you have that one instead.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow the BackJoy page on facebook for tips and practices, and join in their sponsored twitter chats with #GiveBackJoy.


American Chronic Pain Association

BackJoy on Facebook

The BackJoy Website and Store Locator