Thursday, January 27, 2011


One part of living in Los Alamos is getting used to the altitude- approximately 7500 feet above sea level (suck it, Denver.) Santa Fe, the nearest well-known and well-populated city, is at a similar elevation. This is a huge change for someone who was raised in the midwest near sea level -- at least for the first few weeks or so.

Another aspect is isolation. The community is close-knit because it has to be. There are few restaurants unless you want to drive for a half-hour or more each way, and the ones that are in town close early. The end result of this is frequent get-togethers with friends, co-workers, and home-cooked meals. The diversity of the community means that we're not talking burgers and sausage. Authentic ethnic food is commonplace as well as excellent vegetarian dishes (I'm not a vegetarian, but some of these dishes are awesome!) The situation contrasts strongly with a typical urban setting: rather than an easily accessible array of fast, chain, or high end restaurants (e.g. Burger King, Olive Garden, and some local flavor, respectively), you typically eat high-quality, home cooked meals. It's a situation that puts the community in a better position to eat healthier, higher-quality food.

The isolation also takes away sources of entertainment that one grows quite accustomed to while in an urban setting. Movies? Clubs? Expansive shopping complexes? Nope. The region makes it much more convenient to do outdoor activities such as hiking(!), snowboarding(!!!!!), backpacking, etc. Again, the surroundings are a catalyst for a healthier lifestyle. The lab does its part, too, providing free access to their gym for all employees. It's not a fantastic gym, but for the price, it does everything I want it to do.

Part of my grand-blogging-absence (GBA) included an unexpected 3.5 week trip back to Michigan. This was originally a work trip, as I collaborate with the locals. A sudden death in the family pushed the start of the trip forward considerably, and de-acclimation was on in full force. My exercise schedule at altitude was replaced by... driving around a lot at sea level. My regimen of home cooked meals was quashed by my excitement to be in Ann Arbor, where everything from Indian buffets to Tim Horton's was readily available again. The greatest physical labor I experienced was chasing my oldest around the room. I missed the only significant snow that northern New Mexico received, and haven't been able to snowboard at all.
The end result: I gained 15 pounds. Shit.

To be fair, all of this was completely avoidable. Of course, one can find healthy food (and avoid the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl!), exercise, etc. any where they go. It's just that these things are far easier to find in some places as opposed to others.

Last week, I began the process of re-acclimation. I stopped driving to work and started taking the bus. Because the city bus drops people off at the lab's front gate, there is still a short walk to my office. This, of course, left me gasping for air by the time I began checking emails. Mid-week, I kicked it up a notch by biking to work. It's only three miles, but I couldn't make it without stopping for a rest. Today, I made it farther on my bike, but still had to stop and catch some air. I didn't think that the altitude change would get to me, but it is definitely taking a toll- as are my newly acquired saddle bags (not the ones on my bike.)

The ski hill is closed due to lack of snow. I may break out the snow shoes this coming weekend and challenge myself to get to the top. If the coming snow storm delivers as promised, I may even wax the board. It's clear that I have a long way to go, however, before I'm completely back to pre-GBA shape.

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