Showing posts with label exercise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label exercise. Show all posts

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Must Read For Serious Lifters--Or Anyone Just Looking For Inspiration

If there's anyone who reads this blog, is into fitness and hasn't heard of Jamie Lewis, you are missing out. He happens to be very much NSFW, so if that's a problem you'll want to skip it--but it'll be your loss.

It's really cool to see hobbyist bloggers with something to say turn into professional authors and/or speakers, and I think that's the direction Jamie is headed. I've ripped on Tim Ferris before because he strikes me as a bullshit artist. Jamie is the real deal. Mr Lewis is, pound for pound, one of the strongest dudes on the planet. And he has just finished writing an ebook that's now available for 12 greenbacks.

Jamie's exercise style is pretty much the opposite of my own, he works out six days a week with very heavy weights, I do bodyweight stuff and mostly sit on my ass. But one can't argue with results and regardless of one's style of exercise he's a very smart guy along with being a very strong guy. Check out the blog and buy the book if you like to move around heavy things.

Note: I've corresponded with Jamie a few times but he didn't ask for an endorsement, this is strictly my own opinion and of my own cognizance. I think he's a blogger to watch and I hope his ebook does well. I'd love to see a world where people can successfully support themselves on the merit of their ideas and their integrity, especially in the arena of exercise which tends to be mostly about hype, trends and bs.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The "Myth" of Persistence Hunting

The starting point, for me at least, was this famous video from BBC Earth of San tribesmen wearing down a kudu using persistence hunting.

David Attenborough could make a documentary about drying paint fascinating.

Outside magazine just did a persistence hunting experiment/article, where they pitted some world class marathoners against a pronghorn on the plains of my native state of New Mexico. Interesting stuff. The marathoners claimed they sort of, kind of won, except the buck was still standing at the end, unlike the kudu in the BBC documentary.

Pronghorns are an intriguing choice in that they are the speed ninjas of the animal kingdom, only cheetahs are faster but the pronghorn can maintain a longer sprint. This is very likely because they co-evolved with the American cheetah. And the American cheetah is interesting because it is most likely a wonderful example of convergent evolution, the American Cheetah and the Old World cheetah independently evolved the same way to do the same thing. Also, the American Cheetah went extinct 11,000 years ago, most likely under pressure from humans.

Damn those pesky humans!

Getting back to the persistence hunting thing . . .

Persistence hunting, assuming it existed, was certainly about more than being in great shape, so these guys were at a disadvantage in that sense. On the other hand, a modern world class marathoner has a hell of a lot of advantages over their ancient ancestors, a knowledge of medicine, diet and vitamins, weight training, easy access to large amounts of calories, massages, gatorade, ice baths, professional trainers, GPS, etc. OK, I joke a little, but if these people who can probably run 26 miles faster than any other humans since the existence of humans can't manage to wear down this animal, then you can color me skeptical on the efficacy of the whole persistence hunting thing.

The thing about long distance running is that it can turn into a religion. Just as vegans try to prove that humans aren't designed to eat meat, long distance fanatics try to prove that humans are Born to Run. If you don't mind strong language and naked pictures (I certainly don't), Jamie Lewis has an excellent series debunking the health aspects of high intensity distance training (parts 1, 2, 3).

If people want to run marathons as a hobby, fine, but let's not fool ourselves that Alberto Salazar, who suffered a heart attack at the age of 48 (three years older than me),

OUCH! Classic heel strike
was ever, in any way, shape or form healthier than Roman Šebrle (pronounced Chevrolet, no I'm not kidding) who has held the points record in the decathlon since 2001.

Those bulges in the midsection ain't love handles
There's already been a lot of ink, real and virtual, spilled on this subject by people much more knowledgeable than I. So I'll just close with this quote from Robb Wolf from The Paleo Solution:
It appears the default mode for our species is the physique of a decathlete. Lean, muscled, and prepared for almost anything nature can unleash. We know this to be true based on the observations of modern HGs and the anthropological evidence: Thick, strong bones and muscle insertions typical of a hard-working athlete. The bones are evidence of relatively large, strong muscles [...]

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I Want to Tea Bag Tim Ferris

Robb Wolf is a guy who just brims with information. Listen to his podcasts, the guy knows a lot about a lot (yeah, I know that's tautological), and he shares his knowledgeable take on all things high-n-low without bullshit or pretension. Robb has gained a lot of attention in and out of the paleo world with his new book, which I haven't read but given his scope of knowledge, I'm sure it kicks ass.

Then there's Tim Ferris. Tim Ferris is the polar opposite of Robb Wolff and he's also about to release a new book.

Tim Ferris used to beat up ninjas in China whilst being a famous actor and discovering the cure for cancer. He did all of this by working four hours a week. Does any of this sound incredibly ridiculous? THAT'S BECAUSE IT IS!!!

I wouldn't mind, or even be bothered to post any of this except for the fact that Chris Masterjohn is gushing over it like a pre-teen girl watching Twilight for the first time, apparently just because he received an advance copy and was mentioned in the index. Way to keep your integrity, dude.

Chris, I had a big man-crush on you for your great insights into nutrition and health, but now you are dead to me.

Great video, high production value, total bullshit:

Guys with fake tatoos on their fingers. Really? Slo-mo jumps. My bullshit detector just blew a fuse.

I prefer Tim Ferris in his natural element:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Jump Sucks

I just noticed I can't touch the ceiling in our flat which is 292 cm (9' 7"). I'm pretty close but definitely not there. Considering I could dunk a volleyball in college--not much of a feat considering I'm almost 6'4"--that's a hell of a difference. Heavy squats with a toe raise are a great way to increase jump height but I don't do any gym work so I'm going to add more box jumps and other explosive bodyweight leg work in an effort to increase my jump.

And of course losing more weight would help a lot. Still got a ways to go on that front.

Having a specific goal is a good motivator in exercise especially when one only does bodyweight stuff.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Hate Pushups

But this morning I did 150 of them. Oh yeah. Not all at once, mind you, but in sets of ten. A couple of months ago I switched to pushups from doing isometric exercise. Isometric is interesting but it is difficult to gauge progress. I started by doing 100 pushups and the first time was very difficult, on the last 20 I was only able to do two or three at a time. Afterwords I was crazy sore, serratus (ribs), back, and of course pecs and triceps. Maybe if I get good enough, I will start to love doing pushups.

Strange thing, after doing all those pushups I got an intense craving for tuna salad. Maybe my body was craving protein and n-3 or maybe I just wanted tuna salad. I only had a tin of sardines around so I mashed them up added some mayo (not good but it goes so well) and lettuce.

The result wasn't exactly visually stunning, but it totally hit the spot. I was craving this so bad it was difficult forcing myself to take a picture first.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Give me a carrot and a copy of 1984 please.

Michelle Obama thinks we need to be reprogrammed to eat healthier.

... substituting wheat pasta for white pasta in your regular recipes, or taking out an existing -- taking an existing dish and cutting the amount of butter or cream -- not enough to sacrifice flavor -- we all like flavor -- but just enough to make a meaningful difference in the amount of calories and fat.

It could mean serving 1 percent or skim milk. Or you could make healthy sides like apple slices or carrots the default choice in a menu and make fries something customers have to request
Wow. I had to shotgun a pint of heavy cream just to calm down after reading this.

This is so patently absurd that I'm not even going to bother to comment on it. But I felt it was my patriotic duty to order Good Calories Bad Calories and Mark Sisson's book from Amazon and have them sent to the White House by express mail. Maybe the First Lady will read them and get a clue before we all end up locked away in health gulags and force fed carrots and skim milk by jackbooted soldiers.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tabata Sprints and the Beauty All Around

My knee has mostly healed so I've started sprinting again. Yesterday morning I went at 5 am. This was no Rocky thing - set the alarm for 4:30 and drink raw eggs stuff - I just woke up early and I really enjoy running extremely early when there is no one around. This is tough to do in this town, Czechs take masochistic pride in being early birds, but 5 am will usually do the trick. So when I do wake up early and feel good, I get amped up thinking about getting out there before anyone else.

Being amped up and totally alone on the sidewalks, I was doing a lot of looking up and gawking at the fantastic architecture that is all around me every day, yet I tend to take for granted. This what entranced me about Prague all those many years ago (ok, the beer and beautiful women didn't hurt). We just don't have this kind of stuff in New Mexico where I grew up. Although we don't live in the center of Prague, where the really amazing stuff is, there is plenty of fascinating architecture around my own hood. Later on, I went back to take some pictures. Unfortunately, I'm a lousy photographer, and the middle of the day doesn't capture the early morning misty light, but I'm going to post my lousy pics anyway.

Who is this couple? No idea, probably the original owners of the house. There is something captivating about these serene faces.

I love this small pentagonal balcony and all the detailed stonework. I also love the tall skinny window arched at the top. I want arched windows, damnit!

This building has recently been restored to its First Republic glory.The wrought iron work, the statues, the gloriously useless tiny balcony, it really is stunning.

This was the first thing I noticed walking to the park. I must've walked by this building a thousand times, but I don't think I ever craned my neck up far enough to see this attic framed by huge statues. The shot I took just didn't do it justice so I ran it through a BW filter to try and add a bit of dramatic flair. It's probably time to read the owner's manual for my camera.

Anyway, the thing about being primal/paleo is to break out of routines: don't jog, fractal run, don't count calories, just eat real food when your body wants it. In so doing, one might help reawaken the respect for beauty that is all around us in our daily lives. At least is did for me. Walking back was a different story, Tabata sprints are just brutal. But after some recovery I was on a good endorphin high the rest of the day. I can really feel my metabolism shift into high gear on sprint days.

And, of course, there's always things like this: 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Running is, like, totally healthy.

"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." - Richard Feynman

This two year old article about running supposedly slowing the aging process came to my attention as it just popped up in the most read article list on BBC's news website. Here's the abstract. What this emeritus professor of medicine at Stanford did was recruit a bunch of people from a running club (!) and compare them some normal people, ie old fat lazy chain-smoking slobs for 20 years:
At baseline, runners were younger, leaner, and less likely to smoke compared with controls . . . At 19 years, 15% of runners had died compared with 34% of controls.
The runners obviously lived healthier lifestyles, they were younger and leaner for one thing, and we all know that that is a very healthy lifestyle choice, although I myself have chosen to be older and fatter for tax reasons. But why even pretend to control for other variables? Let's come right out and list the uncontrolled variables right up front. This is known as the purloined letter tactic, or it could just be the we have no idea what we are doing but they pay us good money to do it tactic. And what is the obvious conclusion, as if we didn't know? Lead author Professor James Fries helpfully informs us that:
The study has a very pro-exercise message. If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise.
The health benefits of exercise are greater than we thought.
The only thing that is obvious to me is that one can become an emeritus professor of medicine at Stanford and engage in research that will faithfully be parroted in the media without having a clue about the scientific method (or even worse, willfully ignoring it). This isn't research, it is toeing the party line. To paraphrase the old communist joke: we pretend to do science and they pretend to do journalism.

Did they compare aerobic exercise to other forms of exercise, like lifting weights? No. But that doesn't stop it from being the single greatest thing one can do to extend life and hold disease at bay. I was gonna give up smoking, but I think I'll take up jogging instead.

Now I believe that exercise does make one healthier and probably extends life. It certainly makes life more enjoyable to be in decent shape. The exercise should probably consist of a variety of things like strength training, walking, sprinting, playing soccer with your kids, and perhaps even a little steady state cardio. So these are the kinds of things I try and do nowadays. People who exercise regularly also tend to live healthier lifestyles, smoke less, have lower BMI, eat less sugar, etc. Do I need some big shot from Stanford to prove I'm living healthier by doing some crap longitudinal study? No. But one thing I will do is stay away from marathon running, (not that it was ever a huge risk, honestly).

Friday, July 09, 2010

Keeping up with the Toeses

Barefoot running is becoming all the rage nowadays, something I'd like to check out as soon as I'm injury free. It got me thinking about that most amazing of running creatures, the horse. The main problem with running in fancy shoes is that one tends to hit the ground with the heel, transmitting the shock right up the leg and causing all sorts of injuries to knees, shins, hips etc. A barefoot runner is forced to land on their toes, the ankle flexing to act as a shock absorber. Now take a look at the horse. They essentially run all the time on one big toe, or actually one big toenail.

Then there's the cat, that most amazing of jumpers. Their foot is extremely long giving them tons of jumping power. Some people might think that a cat's paws are the same as our feet, but they are really just her toes. The ankle joint is a natural spring, acting as a shock absorber when we run and a giant slingshot for a pouncing cat. The heel juts out and attaches to the large elastic Achilles tendon, which is why it is a lot easier it is to bounce on one's toes than on one's knees.

And just like cats we don't have the equivalent of a heel on our wrists to give us lots of springy torque. The wrists are for playing with string or playing Beethoven sonatas, the extended heels and Achilles tendons of the rear legs are for pouncing or absorbing the shock of running. Horses, as hardcore runners, do have extended bones on their front 'wrists', front springs, along with fused bones. No playing with string or Mozart sonatas for the horse. This is an animal designed for one thing: to carry cowboys.

So it makes sense that bypassing these natural shock absorbers, this springy heel/tendon combination by wearing a pair of padded Nikes and pounding the ground with the heel and long strides will lead to long term joint problems. I suspect that flat feet are also linked to our constant use of shoes.

One advantage we humans have over horses, with our long flexible feet we can really jump a lot better than them.

Well, maybe not. But it does allow us to use a ladder and stuff, let's see you try that mister overly-adapted-to-running horse.

What really got me thinking about this was some disagreement about orthopedic shoes. My son was born quite bowlegged, and is still somewhat pigeon-toed at 3 1/2. The doctor said he'd probably have to wear orthopedic shoes, so I did some research and found that there is little evidence that these things work. It is the stress of walking and running that straightens out baby's legs and feet. The body responds to the stress by strengthening and straightening the bones (unless that is made impossible by something like rickets, get plenty of Vit D, preferably from sunlight). It is amazing to me just how adaptable our bones are. I used to picture them as sticks that our muscles hung off of, but of course they are a dynamic, living organ. Astronauts' bones weaken quite dramatically after just a few weeks in zero gravity. Likewise, rugby players have some of the strongest bones. So my plan is to let my son run as much as possible in bare feet - he naturally runs on his toes already - and let nature hopefully take care of the rest. If that doesn't work, he's gonna have to play under-5 rugby.

Which reminds me of something else: American football. Just as bare-knuckle boxing is safer, albeit bloodier than boxing with gloves, I'd be willing to bet American football is more dangerous than rugby. A combination of the Peltzman effect and interfering with natural feedback mechanisms, like a natural reluctance to smash into one another. This may also apply to bike helmets.

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.

Friday, June 11, 2010

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).

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.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Muscle Fiber Composition, Exercise and Learning

I hate push-ups but I like the bench press - essentially the same exercise. Now that I only do bodyweight exercises I've come to re-examine the push-up but I doubt it will ever be something I look forward to. I attribute this to learning, since I did a lot of benching in high school and college - starting in the early eighties when the bench seemed to replace the overhead press as the macho gym benchmark.

My wife's family are endurance ninjas, I'm convinced they are all 98 percent slow twitch fiber. When I go hiking with them it just sucks, I'm always the straggler, and I grew up at 6000 feet damnit! I think Slavs in general have a high composition of slow twitch fiber. There are lots of different types of muscle fiber, and the categories still seem to be in flux. My composition seems to be biased towards speed and certainly not strength or endurance. I ran 200 and 400 meters in high school and seem to have inherited much of this from my Father who was a world class quarter-miler in his day although he can put on muscle much easier than I.

So where is this all going? Well, I'm wondering what natural inclination, i.e. fiber composition has to do with preferred exercise. I like to bench press because I spent (i.e. wasted) plenty of hours of my youth laying on a sweaty, red plastic bench (usually with sparkles - yeah the 80s). But I also like sprinting a lot more than jogging. I did a lot of interval training in high school so that could be a big factor. Or it could just be that I prefer exercises that match my fiber composition, certainly it is some combination of the two. But what is the proportional contribution of learning and inclination?

When I switched from jogging to sprints, mostly thanks to Mark Sisson, running seemed like less of a chore, was reduced in frequency, and I tended to feel better afterwords (which I mostly attribute to the fact that sprints are more difficult to overdo, at least at my age, so intensity tends to fluctuate according to what the bod is ready for). 

I've been subtly trying to get my wife to add sprints to her jogging routine ("Cardio sucks, it is making you less healthy"). She's been fiercely resisting my sage advice ("Could you change the cat box while I am gone?"). So I've begun wondering whether she likes endurance exercise more than me because that's what she's designed for (and the opposite for me), and how much early experience of specific types of exercise influence one's exercise decisions later in life.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Box Jumps and Balance

Supposedly, just standing on one foot whilst brushing one's teeth is a great way to increase proprioception. I haven't tried this but I do think exercises that challenge our ability to balance and be aware of our surroundings (especially the ground) can really increase agility and reaction, not to mention our ability to balance and be aware of our surroundings.

I typically do one or two crossfit-ish workouts a week and I usually start out with box jumps. Check out this video of people making them look ridiculously easy - turns out they aren't, at least not for me. I started doing box jumps as a sort of 'explosive' exercise, but I think they are even better at honing balance and proprioception. I do a slight variation: jump onto an exercise trampoline/kid's favorite toy and back, trying for continuous smooth movement, landing on my toes and bouncing right back (I'm also trying to acclimate myself to higher box jumps - onto a chair against the wall - but I'm fighting this nagging vision that starts with the chair collapsing and ends with me losing all my teeth). It takes a lot of coordination, especially when one is tired (so pretty much all of them), but I think it has really helped my overall balance and body awareness.

Unlike most Central Europeans, I usually have bare feet around the house. This has typically led to a lot of lego-foot and other assorted toy-foot mishaps. I'm a total wimp about getting even a stubbed toe, which is why this video sends shivers up my spine, but I seem to be more agile recently. I haven't had a toy-foot mishap for a while, and I think it might be attributable in large part to the box jumps.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Muscle Fiber Recruitment and Religious Wars.

Anyone who has ever perused the many exercise blogs and websites we have on the wonderful Interwebs nowadays knows how quickly seemingly small differences in principles (SuperSlow vs Slow Burn vs Body by Science vs No-Work Workout™) can lead to extreme religious clashes that usually end up with millions of dead and maimed workout fanatics, or even more tragic, a generation of gym rats who bench press 10 kg less than their genetic potential. 

I’ve decided to gift the world with my own exercise philosophy, culled from many, many minutes of heavy immersion in the exersphere™ and the ability to run about our flat at least four times with my 3 ½ year old son on my shoulders playing horsey. I may not have abs like Mark Sisson, but I have something even more powerful: the ability to use the smudge tool in Photoshop.

I really, really like the ideas presented in Body by Science (BBS). Specifically, the recruitment of ‘emergency’ fibers like FFG, etc, and the long rest periods (typically 7 days) needed to regenerate those fibers. This has been working wonders for me, but…

It seems to me this approach sidelines other muscle fibers.

We have lots of different types of muscle fibers, in different proportions (depending on our genetics), with different recovery rates. Surely the best approach would be to stimulate them all and allow them all to recover at their appropriate rates? Ideally, this might mean a daily slow-twitch workout, a twice-weekly intermediate workout, and a weekly or less, ‘to failure and beyond’ workout. These ratios being adjusted based on body feedback probably related to individual fiber ratios.

Paleo reenactment is fine, ‘real’ exercises like throwing around a bag of sand (or in my case, kitty litter, or a young child). Doing isolation exercise is fine also, although more time consuming and linked with the tendency to concentrate on mirror muscles. Everything in between is also fine. My philosophy is that it doesn’t matter as long as we stimulate our various muscle fibers in an optimal way.

The No-Work Workout.

I'm going to make a fortune off of this.

In physics work is defined as force times distance. If you carry a heavy piece of luggage through an airport you aren't performing any work on it (this is more clear now that most luggage comes with wheels these days). In fact, if you lift a 1000 kg barbell up in the air then set it back down, you haven't performed any work. See where I'm going with this?

Pretty much any workout doesn't perform actual work from a physics standpoint. I will use this fact to cash in on the world's insatiable lust for magical workout solutions by publishing the No Work Workout (tm).

I've already pre-ordered a 600 foot yacht.