A visit to Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei

Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei

One of the final major items on my “before I leave Taiwan” todo list was checked this past Tuesday when I booked a half-day physical at Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei.

Since they wanted me there at 8am in the morning I decided to stay over in a nearby hotel, as the possibility of our car dying on the highway due to these extreme temperatures we have been having was very likely. I hate driving in Taiwan anyway. Unfortunately the hotel, though cheap, was noisy as hell, they only installed those cheap single pane windows that many apartments have here, and as such I arrived at the hospital half asleep.

As far as I know, you can get a physical at any hospital in Taiwan, at a time of your choosing. National Health Insurance covers the basics but the “extras” are the responsibility of the patient. Generally, most employers of a reasonable size arrange yearly physicals for their employees which include tests that go beyond what is provided for by NHI. I chose Tzu Chi because the last physical I had at a health center in China was laughably lax, especially the psychological evaluation, and while any hospital can give you a check-up, most can’t match the convenience of a dedicated facility. Tzu Chi offered the best range of tests for the most reasonable costs.

It’s very interesting being a consumer of medical services and receiving all the data from the tests so that you can make your own informed decisions about your health. It’s a shame that we will not have access to anything near equivalency when we move to Canada, a fact that was very surprising to all the staff at the health center.

The only improvement I wish was available was the ability to have this data off paper and into a device of my choosing. Coupling this data with whats available in HealthKit would be a pretty powerful tool for giving a decent overall picture of your health over a long period of time. Taiwan has digital records but I believe has yet to bring this to the patient.

I arrived early on Tuesday, signed in at the desk, and was given a key to my locker which had a comfortable tracksuit for me to wear through-out my stay. The health center is a bit difficult to find as like many hospitals TZU has a labyrinth of different places to get lost.

When I arrived there were approximately 20 or more other patients beginning the day of health checks. The nurses were joyfully complaining of being too busy but everything was handled courteously and efficiently. You generally just sit and wait for someone to come and take you to the next test, all of which were in close proximity to each other.

One pain point which might have been a concern. No one on staff spoke English. Though I haven’t been communicating in Chinese much at all this past year, I was fine, but things would have been much easier if their staff would learn to use terms outside the medical dictionary. But there was only a couple times that I had to get them to rephrase their explanations.

Some of the results from the battery of tests I received were available when I had my doctor consult, some blood work will take an extra day, with the full report sent to me within 4 business days. The doctor consult was like many doctor visits in Taiwan. Brief and as much a conversation with their computer monitor as one with the patient. They are willing to talk with you if you disagree with their recommendations, which I did, and if you have some questions, which I had a few. They are good people doing the best they can within the system that they operate, just like doctors in Canada.

As I have been informed that getting regular physicals in Prince Edward Island will not be possible, we hope to make regular trips abroad for similar check-ups. The price is reasonable and the quality comparable to what you might experience elsewhere.


Calling my inner Jocko

Since finishing my last marathon 3 months ago I’ve had an almost impossible time getting up and out the door for further training. I still get on my feet and move, but it’s nothing like the commitment of the past.

In preparation for the marathon, and to overcome injuries I seem to consistently suffer through, I was training in excess of 3 hours everyday. Despite plenty of work and study, exercising would seem to have been my primary focus over the winter.

No amount of listening to the non-dulcet tones of Jocko Willink’s voice, or his commands to “go get some” seem to set me in motion. It could be a lack of sleep, change induced anxiety or a shift in focus, but I’m suffering from some kind of aversion to physical training. I’m hoping the clear blue skies and fresh clean air of Prince Edward Island might reenergize me.


Taichung Port Hero’s Marathon Results

Results from last Sunday’s marathon. Generally I am more than pleased with the results.

It had been over a year since I ran a marathon, the last one was in Xiamen and while I managed to complete with body intact I suffered due to heat and pain in my feet. I haven’t been able to run seriously in any races since. The winter I spent training for a race in Thailand, but understandably my training was lackluster and I backed out at the last minute. Other races scheduled throughout last fall had to be cancelled or trotted through due to injury.

I started running a bit over 4 years ago, run 4 marathons and numerous other races, and have consistently suffered through a host of injuries ever since. My mind, heart and lungs have been willing, but the rest of my body not. This summer past with extremely painful feet, and pain near my knee (platter fasciitis and IT band injuries) I decided to stop running and fix my problems once and for all. I developed a program after consulting a physiotherapist and after over 6 months of almost daily training it paid off.

I couldn’t have asked for much better conditions for race day – cold at start, clear skies and a generally flat course. My goal for this race was simply to finish without injury or pain, and it went exactly as planned. Slow pace but it was comfortable until the last 5k which required some mental gymnastics. Unfortunately I had my first bought of stomach issues forcing a 5+ minute pitstop at a normally I wouldn’t enter toilet.

Otherwise I didn’t experience the common lack of energy that occurs during the tail end of a long run. The whole race was fueled by fat and I wasn’t hungry after the race. Carb loading not required. Recovery time was quick.

Now that I know what is required for me to get strong and continue running faster and longer events, I’m looking forward to participating in other races. The challenge will be to try and pair down the often 3+ hours of training into something more manageable with my upcoming schedule.


In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he’s tired. Everyone is. That’s not the point. The point is to run.
Seth Godin


On working out

I wrote this in a locally themed forum in response to some discussion about using machines or free weights for resistance training. As is often the case the person who posted the topic hadn’t wanted this discussion, but people wanted to educate her to the proper way to gain strength and form. As is also often the case my response didn’t directly address the topic at hand, was uninteresting, and was more suited to a personal blog post.

I think it’s great to do any exercise routine using whatever tools you feel comfortable with and/or have at your disposal. In terms of time and effect, I think most people I see in gyms would be better served with body weight training, but perhaps they like having a place to go and hang out.

I’m 50 and recovering from injuries due to over-training. I’m thin, “in-shape”, but certain areas of my body are far weaker than the others due to age and the effects of sitting at a desk for 20+ years. At the time of my injury one side of my body reportedly was stronger than the other – out of balance in physiotherapy parlance. I constructed my current training regime on the advice of my physiotherapist and consulting with coaches. I currently spend about 2 – 3 or more hours everyday training.

I spend the majority of this time running, followed very closely by body weight training, then flexibility and weight training.

When I started with weight training I focused entirely with machines. I wanted to take things slow and be cautious. Free weights bring in to play a whole range of muscles which I chose to focus first with simple body weight movements. Yoga moves strengthen stabilizing muscles far better than any machine I have at my disposal. Now as I have spent the past months focusing on technique I spend my time at the gym with the bar, or adding weight to BWM. When doing leg presses with a machine I was moving a tremendous amount of weight. With correct form I was getting a decent workout with little or no weight on the bar with squats. For me, I can instantly feel the difference. Doing a simple squat feels almost like a complete workout for me, and in many ways is the perfect exercise. I started working out at the same time as another group of people. They took it slow and supported each other. Their gains are impressive, with some of the women squatting serious weight. They look great.

I still use machines, one gym provides equipment for a decent hip abduction/adduction set, but most machines I find provide for completely unnatural movements. Natural movements are key to achieve my goals.


Researchers from John Moores University in the UK tested the effects of afternoon napping on sleep-deprived people. The subjects napped for half an hour just after lunch and then researchers measured their alertness. There have been numerous studies into the effects of power napping, but this one measured heart rates and reflexes as opposed to surveying participants. As per their hypothesis, alertness was significantly higher compared to the non-nappers.

From The complete guide to sleeping at work


Sleep plays an important role in the brain’s ability to consolidate learning when two new potentially competing tasks are learned in the same day, research at the University of Chicago demonstrates.

Other studies have shown that sleep consolidates learning for a new task. The new study, which measured starlings’ ability to recognize new songs, shows that learning a second task can undermine the performance of a previously learned task. But this study is the first to show that a good night’s sleep helps the brain retain both new memories.New research from the University of Chicago