Saturday, June 26, 2010

Handstand Pushups

My Body by Science-ish bodyweight workout has sort of bottomed out, not getting sore, so I've decided to shoot for a new goal, a handstand pushup. Here's a great place for progressive bodywieght tutorials, including the handstand pushup. Pistol squats and one-armed pushups would be pretty amazing but right now I'm going to focus on the handstand pushup.

So I've started doing tiger pushups and decline (elevated feet) pushups. Tiger pushups are quite difficult right now and hard to regulate, but the decline pushups can be controlled pretty easily to match strength levels. There's the angle of declension, and how much of your body you actually push up. I am starting with our ottoman, pivoting from the knee which makes it a lot easier and saves my knee which is still healing. As I progress, I will move to using my feet as a fulcrum, then increase the elevation of my feet, gradually approaching vertical. Voila, handstand pushups! That's the idea, at least.

'cheating' decline pushup, beware of kitties!

It is harder to make a linear progression with bodyweight only exercise, you can't just slap on 5 lbs a week, but that is also part of the challenge, what can make it more interesting. Handstand pushups also require more balance, proprioception and core muscle strength than pressing one's own weight with barbells. If I ever master these, I will move onto clap handstand pushups. And pigs might learn to fly, and Tom Cruise might come out of the closet, politicians might tell the truth, world peace, etc. If I could do a handstand clap pushup, anything's possible.

With the new regime, I'm increasing the volume (frequency and reps), and now have no problem getting crazy sore once again. Bodyweight exercise can be adapted to any level. of fitness, in my case, slightly above beginner. I'm trying to get the wife interested in strength training, she's added some HIIT training which is halfway there, but I think a pure strength training session at least once a week is important especially as one approaches and passes 40.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Beer: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.

This is why I have to lose 20 more kilos (having lost 10 so far). Fifteen years of Czech beer. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. I will miss you and all your little bubbles too. Parting is such sweet sorrow. Actually, we parted ways back in February but this video reminds me of how I became enamored of this place.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hands-on Physics

Most undergrad lab work in college is a joke. Ok, I learned how to fold a paper towel into a coffee filter in Chem 101 but that was about it. The exception was a modern physics lab. It was twice a week and the experiments were long and involved, not in-n-out and write 'em up, taught by grad students just as bored as the students. We had a real physics prof, did real experiments, got to play around with a big ole spectrometer (and learn how to develop the film), x-ray crystallography, etc. To this day, I have a good understanding of Michelson-Morley, the experiment that toppled classical physics, because of this lab. We cheated and used a laser (and were still off by 3 percent!), but the concept remains firmly rooted. If all those hours wasted in busywork in-n-out EE labs had been concentrated into a few deep and complicated labs with interesting real world experiments, I'd have learned a lot more, and it would probably still be sticking in my brain twenty odd years later.

So what does this have to do with paleo health? Well, nothing really. Except perhaps that the nutrition and exercise world can overwhelm one with ADD, especially the blogosphere. Kettlebells, HIIT, TUL, good carbs/bad carbs, omega 3s, help!!! For most people it is better to understand the basics (like how to measure the speed of light), than to get overly caught up in the latest trend (how many dimensions string theory is up to these days). Food: avoid grains, vegetable oils, sugars, things with labels in general. Exercise: try to do it fairly often, vary it, and include some strength training. Paleo or primal is just a shortcut to thinking about health in a way that was natural to us for most of our existence.

All Injuries are Debilitating

I hyper-extended my knee a few days ago, and I thought, 'wow this is really debilitating.' Then I remembered how much the shoulder injury a few months ago sucked, and breaking a rib a few years ago, ouch (sleep can be difficult). Bad back (thanks UPS) is probably the worst (although that is getting better thanks to recent strength exercises). I was able to do an upper-body workout yesterday, pullups and parallel dips, curls, etc, but any sort of mid-torso exercise: sit ups, dead lifts, anything that involves bracing with the legs, is completely out of the question.

Injuring any part of the body pretty much messes with all of it; functionally, the whole body is screwed up. Not to belabor the obvious, but I am reminded once again how important all our body parts are, how they are all needed to do pretty much any activity (even typing at a keyboard, yeah I can feel my knee as I sit here typing).

Monday, June 07, 2010

Musings on Paleo, Doctors, and Being a Snob

I have a feeling that the term 'paleo' is soon to become diluted and commercialized. Not because Richard Nikoley eats potatoes, but because of NYT articles about John Durant, et. al. When the NY Times has reduced this to guys with stubble posing in front of Neandertals, you know things are starting to go south. I have this recurring nightmare, from which I wake up drenched in cold sweat, where paleo has become the jazzercise of the current decade.

Paleo already has a lengthy Wikipedia entry, with plenty of criticisms and criticisms, and I view this as a good thing. Compare this to the shorter and milder criticisms on the vegan page despite the apparent drawbacks of a vegan diet. When critical thinking is suppressed truth takes a back seat to ideology.

The basic idea of paleo is to try and look at diet from an evolutionary perspective. Although this seems like a blindingly obvious thing to do, it has been sorely neglected. What drew me to paleo in the first place was the Science (with a capital S). I come from a science/engineering background and I think an education in rigorous problem solving is superior to one that consists of mostly memorization. Critical thinking is not a skill easily taught, not really taught at all, but one doesn’t solve a problem in quantum physics by regurgitating memorized material. It is solved by understanding the problem, and applying the tools one has acquired in a logical manner.

Ok, I am a science snob. I think that we scientific types are better (in general) at critical thinking than your average doctor or lawyer. I've known plenty of doctors (my wife's family is lousy with them), and I've never been impressed with their thinking. Add in the arrogance they tend to acquire over the years and it just gets ugly. My sister-in-law tells her patients who say they eat less but still can't lose weight, "Have you seen Auschwitz, those people didn't have a problem losing weight!" Good luck explaining to her the role of insulin in weight loss and hunger.

So who is the intellectual leader of the paleo movement? In my mind it is Kurt Harris (yeah I know, he's a doctor), because he is all about the science. There are many other great blogs that jam on the science, but Kurt has best unified it under the paleo umbrella, and he’s not afraid to wave his freak flag high. He seems to have fallen off the radar in the last few months, perhaps because he's working on a book, but for me at least, Kurt is the face of paleo.

Meat vs. Sugar

Does this mean paleo/primal living is going mainstream?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Thick Bar Dumbells and Fasting Day.

Today is a fasting day. I tend to eat only one meal a day since dropping the processed carbs and sugar, but haven't tried a real bona fide fast before, so I won't eat anything today, and (hopefully) break it some time tomorrow afternoon. This morning I already felt a bit peckish and rather lousy in general after coming off the 300th cold of the year (hooray for preschool!), so I figured I'd just do a bit of light cardio to get the juices flowing. Not up to any sort of HIT workout. If I don't feel like leaving the flat (and when do I?), I will do some trampoline work with "dumbbells" - a couple of 1.5 kg water bottles - jumping jacks and mock running. Actually with the dumbbells, it isn't really light or cardio.

Now many 'real' trainers will tell you that girly 3 lb (3.2 actually) dumbbells are worse than useless. But doing fast jumping jacks with these is plenty tough for me and doing them on the trampoline, well that makes them easier on the, uhm, leg joints, you know, low impact, ok ok, a lot more fun (and what's wrong with making jumping jacks fun?). After reading Rusty's excellent post on Thick Bar Training, I decided to add some heavy rope to my dumbbells and try to really squeeze hard to 'irradiate' the muscles (I had the rope lying around in case my wife tried to make me watch Sex and the City 2).

The difference was huge! I Really felt it in the forearms and it generated more overall intensity in the flyes. I think that gripping hard on the wide radius surface might cause the muscles to fight against each other more. So if you want to beef up your dumbbells (whether store bought or made from found items) give some nice thick rope a try. Dumbbell jumping jacks on a trampoline sounds pretty wimpy, I must admit. Actually, I was doing dumbbell shoulder flyes kipped on an extreme flexi-surface.