Hi, I’m Matt. Welcome to Steady Beats: a newsletter about building the middle-aged life you want in small and steady beats.
It was a wild week as we kicked off training for the Write of Passage Cohort 10 Student Success Team.
Can’t wait to see what this all-star team of alumni does for our students.
The benefits of learning a language
I wrote previously about deciding to work on my Spanish. And so far, so good. I’ve dipped in to practice 88 days in a row:
I usually practice at lunchtime, on my iPhone. My daughter calls this “Speaking Spanish to my food,” which sounds inelegant, but is also accurate.
I use three iPhone apps to practice and record daily progress, including:
Performing 1-2 lessons on Babbel
Learning five new vocab words and review previous learnings in reword
Recording the day’s work in the Streaks app.
It takes about 20 minutes a day, but why bother?
Primarily, it’s handy to know! I want to reach basic fluency.
But also, learning a second language might benefit our aging brains in a variety of ways.
The psychologist Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues obtained the histories of 184 individuals who had made use of a memory clinic in Toronto. For those who showed signs of dementia, the monolinguals in the sample had an average age at time of onset of 71.4 years. The bilinguals, in contrast, received their diagnosis at 75.5 years, on average.
Participants underwent an intensive course of German and were examined at the beginning of the stay and approximately five months later. Researchers demonstrated that participants underwent an increase in the grey matter, which did not correlate with the degree of language proficiency. This indicated that this effect was directly attributable to second language acquisition.
Grey matter is comprised of the cell bodies of neurons, and this area is generally associated with intelligence, attention, memory, and language processing.
Research from Penn State found bilingual speakers have enhanced cognitive flexibility, which facilitates new learning. This follows a study at the same university that discovered juggling multiple languages affords the speaker greater cognitive control, allowing the speaker to code-switch with ease.
A key to realizing these benefits is to speak the language every day (to humans, not to your lunch), and I need to find time to do that, through italki or another service.
I’m in no rush to achieve fluency. As always, let’s play long games and enjoy the trip. Steady Beats.
As we age, recovery from workouts becomes more important. It takes longer for our muscles to repair themselves and grow after strength training, and for our batteries to recharge after a long Zone 2 cardio session.
But let’s think of recovery as a set of regular habits and not just chilling on the couch after a workout. Smart routines help us climb that ever-steepening recovery hill more easily.
Drink enough (it varies, but roughly 13 cups for men and 9 for women)
Focus on “topping off the tank” before exercise
And don’t over-hydrate: hyponatremia is a real danger
Get enough protein so your body can repair itself (at least ~.7 grams per pound of bodyweight)
You already know this, but sugar and alcohol make recovery harder
7 hours seems to be sweet spot for middle age
Here’s a bonus tip: chocolate milk might help:
The protein it contains will kick-start said muscle recovery. Also, actual studies have found that those chocolaty carbs can decrease muscle soreness and the amount of time it takes for the body to get ready for its next challenge.
It seems paradoxical, but optimal recovery requires diligence and steady habits.
A Simpler Life
At 163 pages, “A Simpler Life,” is a quick-and-breezy read with the ability to force you to question what you presume to value.
The book examines many areas of life, such as careers, marriage, friendships, finances, and more. Reading it is an exercise in reframing and questioning our supposed beliefs.
I really enjoyed it, and it has my wheels spinning around what I truly value and the real motivation behind some of my actions.
You can read a full book review and browse my Kindle notes here.
Why do the throwaway songs often become chart-toppers?
“Don’t You Want Me”, by the Human League, was the 4th single released off their 1981 album “Dare.” Lead singer Philip Oakley thought the single was “filler” and didn’t want it released, relenting only after the record company agreed to include a poster with the release. Oakley thought fans would feel ripped off otherwise.
“Don’t You Want Me” spent three weeks at number one in the US in 1982.
So many of the 80s biggest hits were hated by the artists, or quickly written as throwaway songs. It goes to show that with creative work, you never know what will work. So keep making stuff and just as importantly—keep sharing stuff.
Thank you for reading.
Let’s keep the Steady Beats going. 💚
If you enjoyed this edition, would you mind giving the heart below a click?
What a team! Excited for the next few months 🏼
the chocolate milk as a sports drink study was funded by the dairy industry :p I do love drinking it ...but pretty sure it just makes me happy and fat