“Suddenly We Were Aspiring Gymnasts.”

Craig’s comment from a couple posts ago got me thinking. First the comment:

Interesting to see your followup comments about body weight exercise and injury. After reading the previous post, I looked at the GMB site and saw a lot of gymnastic looking stuff. My first thought was how rough some of those things can be on the shoulders. Shoulders are to gymnasts as low backs are to deadlifters, an endless source of worry.

Thanks Craig. First my original follow up:

I think the GMB guys would say 2 things: 1) They’re not gymnasts, in that they’re not even approaching things that actually count as a Gymnastic move until their level 2 programs. They blend multiple disciplines.

And 2) you have to factor the fact that gymnastics is a full-time job, wrecking the shoulders is a risk because they’re the lynchpin of the movement. It’s a volume issue, not necessarily a modality issue.

Effectively you’re making the inverse association that people make regarding Michael Phelps, swimming, and leanness. Neither are accurate.

I wanted to expand on that point a bit. First, GMB will tell you that they aren’t gymnasts. Sure they’re gymnast inspired, but they combine yoga, calisthenics, and low level gymnastics stuff into their programs. You can learn to do some pretty cool stuff, especially compared to just squatting a bunch of weight to impress gym junkies (if that’s your thing, cool).

But this speaks to a larger point: namely that the moves themselves are inherently dangerous. Some of them have the potential to be more problematic than the others, certainly. This is the cost/benefit analysis that you make when doing anything. For example I want the skill of a bent arm stand, so I accept the increased risk of, say, busting my face compared to a standing press.

It’s also worth noting that the reason gymnasts shoulders are an endless source of worry precisely because of the volume they work with. Twenty plus hours a week of skill work on top of strength work would ruin most shoulders. Further, they’ve proven they can tolerate the volume if they’re at the Collegiate/Olympic level. The problem wasn’t the mere presence of a “gymnastic move” but the volume of its use. The GMB programs might be 3 hours a week, tops, of moves that also include things that aren’t gymnastic in difficulty, again like yoga. As noted, it’s the inverse of people thinking that merely swimming will make them lean like Michael Phelps, not the fact that he’s swimming 8 hours a day at peak training.

But if I’m looking at the industry as a whole, there’s an element of at least including some amount of bodyweight training in routines, both because it’s damn fun, and it’s user friendly/cost effective. The title of this post is from Chris over at Conditioning Research when talking about Coach Sommer’s first articles and how “everyone” became “aspiring gymnasts.” Maybe not, but at least a few cool moves spice up the routine and gain some fun skills.

A Little Bad News/Good News

Remember how in my talk “Resistance Training, Brain Structure, and Brain Function,” I talked about how much of the evidence I was presenting was from my graduate research? I had submitted that paper for publication and was waiting to hear back.

Bad news: My paper was rejected!

Good news: It was rejected because not long prior to my submission, a very similar paper was published covering the very same subject. It’s super-thorough, diving deeper into many of, though not all of, the things I covered in my paper.

So 5 Taiwanese PhD’s versus me in a paper writing contest? I’d bet on them too!

So go here and click the “download now” link to read the whole thing.

More Questions: Supplements and movement

Got another question, and another answer!

Fantastic. I’m considering doing equipment free bodyweight training and being active instead of those draining infrequent sessions. Everybody has 45 minutes a day for “activity”. You don’t mention supplements. I became kind of mentally dependent on creatine 5g/day and would like to drop it, the fear of missing out is there although there is not much evidence it “works” for me. Anyway, you found a nice balance. Is it 3 workouts plus 6 “moving” or 3 plus 3 equals 6?
Thanks
Ondřej

Thanks Ondřej! Really quickly: just because I’ve switched to bodyweight training in my own life does NOT mean that I don’t see value in HIT or infrequent/intense workouts. They’re great: wonderful for creating stimuli that results in health outcomes. If your goal is skill-based, you’ll need more practice, period. I’ve previously discussed how to combine HIT & movement skill work if you’d like to do such a thing here and here.

Supplements

As far as supplements, I take a probiotic and fish oil sporadically. If I was to wager it would be 4 to 5 days per week. Again, no worry about missing out, though I know EXACTLY where you are coming from! Why those supplements? They’re what I recommend all of my clients take, if not daily, on a regular basis.

The only “supplement” I take daily is MCT/C8 oil in the morning with my coffee. I’ve never tested my blood ketones, so I don’t have a “target range” for anything. This is based on what Paul Jaminet has noted for raising HDL, though my HDL last time was 79, so I don’t really need it for that either.

That said there is certainly a cognitive effect after having been away from the MCT’s for a while that quickly becomes the norm. I use it “daily” roughly 60% of the year, if I was to estimate.

Movement

So in regards to my schedule, I tend to to “3+3″ days per week. There have been days that I can manage, through the grace of whatever deity you’re currently praying to, to get a morning “workout” and an afternoon “movement” session, but they’re exceedingly rare. Instead what tends to happen is I rip out a morning “handstand” session between clients and then do my “workout” at home. Normally the handstands are the warmup for the workout but you’ve got to be flexible.

I don’t find that the movement sessions, if planned right, impede progress. If anything, the movement feels good in the face of any soreness I may have from my workout. This is also on top of any minor “movement goals” I have like “hang 7 minutes a day” or “backbend 5 minutes a day” that I can just shove into my training day.

Questions Answered: Parallettes

My last post was well received and generated a few questions. Let’s answer one:

Excellent post Skyler and worth the wait!

I’ve transitioned to more bodyweight style stuff myself (because I enjoy it and it’s where my interests lie). I still do some weighted work but lifting heavier and heavier just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m in my early 40s and want to do this stuff for life and feel good doing it!

My diet has also transitioned to something similar with a 16 hour or so fast and mostly then just two meals. Those two meals are mostly nutrient dense meals (fruits, veggies, lean meats and fish, nuts etc) but life is for living so I am no where near as obsessive as I once was. This suits me and gives me a lot of freedom.

I’m not a fan of high volume training and never have been but I do play with multiple set patterns and like to focus on a few core movements that I just try to get better at over time. Some would find that dull but I like not having too many moving parts and keeping things simple.

It would be good to hear how you’re progressing and training the parallette work in a future post and if you’ve noticed differences in your general strength, conditioning and how you feel compared to weights.

Keep well!

Carl

Thanks for the question, Carl!

I’m glad you mentioned the movement away from weights toward bodyweight stuff because of age. Look, you can lift weights all of your life; they’re a great tool. For your average person, they’re not going to be so strong so as to hurt themselves with weights, especially if they’re starting them later in life.

And the other consideration is: you can’t get stronger to infinity, because either your joints or connective tissue give up the ghost. Part of my decision to move into mostly bodyweight training (at least for now; I still have a lot of life to live!) stems from the fact that I can get very strong and have fun doing it manipulating my own weight. You can hurt yourself, of course, so don’t think that just because it’s bodyweight doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its own risks. There’s a cost to everything; I just think that for my ego, bodyweight possesses less.

But then again, I still deadlift, so maybe that’s just the right blend for me. And Keith Thomas over at Evfit.com let me know recently that he’s deadlifts 2.5x bodyweight

Regarding Parallettes

So I was fortunate to briefly be an Alpha Posse member at GMB Fitness after my son was born. I stopped because a baby takes ALL of your money, but I gained some interesting progressions on the parallettes during that time. I’ve been focusing mostly on getting the bent arm stand and l-sits, mostly to augment my handstand work.

Which is what really kicked all of this off. I couldn’t even kick up into a handstand a year ago. Now I can consistently do 8-10 second “reps” so as not to be a total party trick. Could I have progressed faster? Maybe, but I’m not in a hurry for anything, so I solider on.

Next up I’m likely to move to rings because they’re fun. No iron cross or anything like that, just controlled muscle ups, transitions, and the like. Mostly to show myself that my elbow is (mostly) healed after I gave myself tendonitis getting too aggressive on the rope climb last year. See? Told you that you can hurt yourself with this stuff too!

Diet

Glad you’re enjoying fasting, or that it gives you flexibility in your life. That’s why I use it and have stayed lean year-round without all of the minutia masturbation. Yesterday, for example, I ate a ton of carbs from blueberries, bananas, and potatoes. Today I might not see as many carbs, maybe more protein, I don’t know. I’m certainly not worried about it. Real food, cook as much as I can, eat slowly, stop when satisfied and not stuffed. It’s almost too easy.

It’s about the lifestyle, stupid.

Typical dietary dogmatist, hunkered down in their foxholes waiting to rush the next front.

BLAM! RUNRUNRUNRUNRUN!

That must get tiring, right? Playing “mythbuster,” building straw men to knock down, wearing your “I know nothing more than you” like a suit of armor.

I get it; I’ve been there. Really, this stuff isn’t that hard. If you’re on the bleeding edge of the BMI scale, you likely need some very specialized help. If you’re not, you don’t need daily mental masturbation about minutia that probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. Not in practice.

And that’s really it: things that can be done in the controlled lab environment are very rarely externally valid. Controlled meals and metabolic chambers? Nay. Metabolic carts and a perfectly timed bolus of amino acids? Nope. You get none of these, free-living human.

The fact of the matter is that the leanest, longest-lived cultures on Earth aren’t accounting for any of that crap!

A quick rundown, shall we?

The Aladema Study

The Blue Zones studies attempted to tease out a defacto longevity formula from the longest lived cultures on Earth. I’ll talk more about them in a minute, but if you back the longevity train up a bit further, you’ll find a researcher by the name of Lester Breslow. In 1965, Breslow started a study in Alameda county, California that examined the health habits of 6,928 people, with an eye toward 7 health habits he deemed most important (which is why the study is referred to as the “Alameda 7″). Their behavior was examined over intervals of up to 20 years and the data was parsed with quantitative analysis (which at the time didn’t happen with longevity studies). As a result, Breslow found that a 45 year old who followed at least 6 of the 7 habits had a life expectancy 11 years longer than that of a person who followed 3 or fewer. And these were good, strong, functional years free of major disease or complication, because what does it matter that you live longer if you can’t do anything with it?

What were the habits? Here’s his original list of the Alameda 7:

  1. Avoiding Smoking
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Maintaining a healthy body weight
  4. Sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night
  5. Limiting consumption of alcoholic drinks
  6. Eating Breakfast
  7. Avoiding snacking between meals.

…That’s it. You were expecting some sort of lifestyle calculus? Something only the “chosen few” could accomplish? There’s nothing sexy here and that’s the point: what is done consistently, albeit imperfectly, is what makes changes in the long term. Interventions require rigidity and high effort; lifestyles do not.

Don’t believe that this one study was enough? The good news is that the research has been followed and examined many times over the years. More recently, Dr. Jeff Housman (one of my graduate school professors) and colleague put together a review of the data that came from the study and subsequent reviews. Check this tidbit:

 The linear model supported previous findings, indicating regular exercise, limited alcohol consumption, abstinence from smoking, sleeping 7–8 hours a night, and maintenance of a healthy weight play an important role in promoting longevity and delaying illness and death.

So really the “Alameda 7″ is the “Alameda 5,” meaning that 1-5 on my list above are the big lifestyle “tricks” you need to attempt to do in order to set yourself up for a longer, stronger life.

So what happened to Lester Breslow? He died quietly in his home in 2012…at the age of 97. Maybe there’s something to this stuff after all?

Blue Zones

The main thrust of the Blue Zones starts with a study, known as the Danish Twin Study. This study followed 2872 Danish Twins born between 1870 and 1900. After all of these pairs had died, statistical analysis was performed and determined that ~25% of the variance in longevity can be attributed to genetic factors. Later studies give a slightly larger range, from a high of one-third to a low of 15%. So if we’re pessimistic, only one-third of our longevity is related to genetic factors, thus the remaining 70% is due to lifestyle. This was the thrust of the Alameda 7 study: follow some simple habits and you’ll gain quality years of life.

The book is based on the work of Michel Poulain, who identified a mountainous region of Sardinia where men lived longer than women, but both live longer than the rest of Sardinia. Fun fact: it’s a “Blue Zone” because that’s the color they used to identify the region. Really, take a look:

After the statistical analysis was found to be accurate, that there was in fact a positive longevity outcome, the search for more of these places around the world began.

So after digging and intense statistic analysis, these 5 zones have been confirmed:

bluezonesmap

From these 5 spots, the authors attempted to “tease out” a de facto longevity formula, which is this:

Now I won’t spend time unpacking those, but I would suggest that they’re directionally accurate and very similar to what was found in the Alameda 7 (5?) study. If you were able to follow the above list regularly, then you’d likely be in a good place to maximize your longevity free of chronic diseases.

I have some problems with the conclusions derived from the Blue Zones. Not enough to throw it out (it’s really a great piece of work) but to bring attention to things that I feel are worth reducing the importance of when compared to the authors of the book:

  1. It’s also noted that all of these groups are isolated, which means that there is a significant “Founder Effect” to consider. That is when a population splinters off from a larger population, thus reducing genetic variation. While the Blue Zones demonstrate a founder effect that selects for a genetic maximization of these good habits (e.g. phenotypic expression), other founder effects lead to things like the incredibly high rate of deafness on Martha’s Vineyard, leading to things Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language. Remember that while genes play a relatively small part of longevity, these populations may have the most important reduced genetic variation to maximize the longevity effects of their lifestyles.
  2. It’s hard to prove a negative. In the New York Times article about the Ikarian blue zone, Gary Taubes asks this question: “Are they doing something positive, or is it the absence of something negative?” So while they are eating more vegetables than your average American, they’re also eating very little white flour and sugar compared to your average American. If it’s not there, you can’t see its effect. What is being contributed to veggies might actually be the lack of sugar and flour. It’s especially hard to compare the lifestyle effect; again these are isolated populations. Would the lifestyle-credited longevity benefits remain if sugar and flour were added?
  3. Much of the book is hooked on the dietary component and emphasizes movement, though not “exercise.” Fine, but  a recent analysis showed that the variable that most correlated with the longevity of the Sardinia blue zone men was *drumroll*… physical activity.  Not training, but “pastoralism,” grade of the terrain, and, distance traveled to a place of work. Not magic legumes, not red wine, not cheese, not a super-secret workout…physical activity!

Adventists & Mormons: It was never about meat

Going back to my whine about isolating small variables and attempting control them, remember that our bodies aren’t these time-dependent output machines. That is, an input will not always give you the same output, in the same amount of time…there’s a constellation of variables all in flux that affect the final outcome.

This is the problem with any self experiment: humans tracking inputs into our biology leaves all sorts to be desired…the margin of error is just too much for any sort of meaningful information to be derived:

nancy-qs

We’re not machines; if we were, we could expect a given input to yield a linear, time-consistent response. X volume of powder A yields Y response in Z minutes. But it doesn’t and we don’t. Not only are we not machines, but some of the greatest advances in phlebotomy and proteomics research have come when we get the human element out of the way, mostly for the “unreliable/distractions/kittens” element mentioned above.  Examples:

So just live all Dionysian and  attempt to not control anything? No, but you must understand that the inputs are signals…they are stimuli. The stimuli is directionally accurate and dose-dependent. Further, the dose will have varying outcomes depending on the state of your physiological milieu at the moment of input. You can be sure ingesting protein will lead to new amino acids being available for protein synthesis, but the standard deviation of the response will vary depending on a variety of factors that you can never hope to control.

Further, the body is directionally set by the stimuli…it doesn’t care nearly as much by the context of delivery as much as by the quality of the content. This is especially true in the “paleo” community, with the idea that “Caveman X was on the savanna, therefore only could lift heavy rocks and get thorns in their ass when they screwed. I must mimic this for maximum health!” Here’s the thing:

The body doesn’t care about concepts; it only cares about stimuli.

The SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demand) referred to the type, quantity, and frequency of a stimuli. So while our hunter-gatherer ancestors trained their posterior chain by hauling an animal, we might dead lift or use a good lumbar extension. The stimuli is similar, no hauling required. The mismatch was never “We’re not hauling bison out of a ditch and eating mongongo nuts”; it was “we’re never exerting to a sufficient intensity while eating lots of processed garbage.” You mimic the stimuli while reducing the risks.

Why mention all of that? Well I think the above is largely the root of why people get hung up on a single dietary variable like meat (for instance). Never mind that so many studies lump meat in with, say, “fatty” foods like potato chips and ice cream (really!); the food stuffs are just one variable in a larger picture, going back to the title of this post. If the totality of the lifestyle is in order, the inputs hold less weight because the whole spinning plate is much more balanced.

Example: Seventh Day Adventists are often credited for their longevity, which is always reduced to diet. However, the most thorough studies never claim it’s just the diet: they’re always looking at the total lifestyle to draw their conclusions.

Similarly, studies that look at a similar population (California Mormons & California Adventists) show similar improvements in longevity due to the totality of the lifestyle:

  • Adventists: 7.28 years in men and by 4.42 years in women from age 30
  • Mormons: 9.8 years in men and by 5.6 years in women from age 25

Now it’s important to note that this isn’t a comparison between groups…or rather, it’s between one religion and the average Californian of the same age. And the statistics used in each study may be slightly different (like which inputs & variables they found most valuable, etc. I have no interest in unpacking them). The point is that if a single variable, meat, was a keystone/linchpin/cornerstone in the longevity equation, then the statistics should indicate some change. And since it’s often cited as “the” culprit, the statistic should jump out and punch you in the face, the same way cancer rates in those who smoke isn’t a tiny statistical anomaly.

Here’s the point: all of the nerding out in service of the big picture, the lifestyle, is great. A regular sanding of the details leads to a better overall picture. However, nerding out in order to replace the big picture is a fools errand, a big distraction that keeps one focused on a “big secret” that simply doesn’t exist.

How’s My Training (etc.) Been?

Just received this comment from Scott M:

Hey Skyler,

How’s it going? Wondering what your training frequency is like these days – still once every 5? Are you still doing mostly SS HIT with some old school weights thrown in? Still doing chaos training? How about diet – still paleo with carb cycling on workout days? or have you added safe starches? Also, how’s the HRV going?

Good to hear from you.

Best,
Scott

Thanks for the question Scott!

The short answer is: I’m not doing any of that, save for the dietary front.

The longer answer is that I’ve been mostly doing hand balancing and calisthenic work with rings and parallettes. Other than deadlifting and some weighted shoulder dislocates, I don’t do too much object manipulation (Save for when I play around with Movnat combos).

There are many reasons for this, but the main factor is that I’ve been lifting a long, long time and wanted to learn how to manipulate my body in space. Further, with the birth of my son, I can’t always grab a workout at the gym, in spite of working at one. When my days are crammed, I leave after my last client to go pick up my son, so having the parallettes at home to train while he plays is always an easy option. Plus, he thinks it is so cool.

Further, the HIT jihadists are just so damn annoying. For every level-headed practitioner of HIT there is a wake of believers flowing behind him. It’s a bit like Ghandi’s saying:

I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians; they are so unlike your Christ.

And since Efficient Exercise isn’t a “HIT gym” per se, I’m not required to toe the party line because there isn’t one. I can train however and train clients in a way that keeps them training and gets them results, safely. This happens to be very HIT influenced because they’re busy and want the largest bang for their buck.

An Ecological Worldview

So it’s both about wanting to try different things and because of all of the reading I’ve been doing. Given my education, I can argue for or against any approach, but I do like a more “wholistic” (intentional misspelling to emphasize “whole”) point of view. To take into account as many variables that may change the health and well being of a human animal. For a brief primer on human ecology, read this. Sounds familiar, no? All the way back in 1973, no less!

With that in mind, a real game-changer for me has been the book “Human Frontiers, Environments, and Diseases” by Tony McMichael. I originally read about this on Evfit.com, which belongs to Keith Thomas. Long (long!) story short, it’s an academic volume with accessible writing that manages to tie all of the strings together. While a “paleo” perspective is almost only about diet, an Ecological perspective accounts of every aspect of human interaction that can have a positive or negative effect on health or well being. I’m still digesting the book but so far it’s been a great read. You might not find it as such, but if you want a nice review see Keith’s here.

That said, it wasn’t this book that made me change my training: it was fatherhood. The deep components of my psyche that I didn’t know was altered or influenced by relatively benign aspects of my childhood bubbled up to the surface. For example, my father contracted gangrene in his leg during his late 20’s after an operation to remove a bone spur. Fortunately he still has his leg after some confident surgeons and cutting-edge (at the time) use of hyperbaric chambers to heal after the fact. That said, my father was not able to be particularly athletic as a result: hiking has been the long and short of his physical activity save for HIT. I didn’t realize how much this was kind of engrained until my son was born. I see him and I want to not just keep up with him, but I want him to be super-impressed by his father’s physical capability. Not making a weight go up and down, but what I can actually do with myself. It’s not a competition; I want to be the role model for his vitality, ya dig?

And that reminds me: how many old weightlifter do you know that aren’t fat or beat up? Not many. Correlation is not causation, and I can’t help but think that constant striving for an external variable to define “success” or “progress” might let the ego take the wheel and drive to injury sooner than later. I also can’t help but account for the longest lived cultures on Earth and how they don’t do any specific training, not generally. They have lifestyles that dictate lots of physical activity and they maintain their vitality through a huge lifespan. In fact a recent analysis showed that the variable that most correlated with the longevity of the Sardinia blue zone men was *drumroll*… physical activity.  Not training, but “pastoralism,” grade of the terrain, and, distance traveled to a place of work. Not magic legumes, not red wine, not cheese, not a super-secret workout…physical activity!

Diet

This of course segues into diet, which as noted above really hasn’t changed. I typically fast 16 to 18 hours each day and then eat in the remaining window of the 24 hours. My work schedule dictates such, though I’ve been doing some form of IF for 7 years now so it’s really a lifestyle for me. My bodyweight has been within 2 pounds of 175lbs for 4 years now, which pegs me right at 12% body fat according to DEXA scan. I’ll see you at 11o.

Further, no counting of any macronutrient. Some days I’m basically a damned protein-chowing carnivore; others a raw vegan, others still an Inuit on a bobsled. Some days huge carbohydrate loads, others almost zilch. The foods remain the same though:

Eat-Real-Food-What-is-Paleo-620x481Do I think, you know, legumes or the like will kill you? No, especially when cooked. Do I enjoy good bread from time-to-time? I do, with a crapton of butter on top. Or olive oil.

But for my internal calculus, they’re not regulars in my diet for this reason: are they giving me something I can’t get elsewhere? No. Do they pose potentially problematic components that I’d rather not have regularly? Yes. Ergo I avoid them. I’m not freaking out if the salad I bought came with croutons, or if the chili that’s available has some beans in it. I live in the real world and can control very little. But in my house, where I have control, it’s the above.

That calculus might not work for you; maybe you grew up loving legumes and just can’t think to get rid of them, nor do they cause you problems. Great! I came to this perspective through a Blue Zones perspective, so I’m certain legumes are generally fine. But I never liked legumes, so I don’t buy either side of the coin: yes they’re consumed regularly in these longevity cultures, but I don’t think they’re magic, AND they have potentially problematic compounds, but I don’t think they’ll kill you and they have good nutrition value if that’s your thing.

It’s a bit of the “Jeet Kune Do” or “Wei Wu Wei” of diet. It just is.

Oh, about HRV. I still use it, but not to track my workouts. I use it during my breath meditation to play with different breathing patterns and see how that changes my HRV. Great tech and once you know where you best benefit from a certain type of mindfulness practice (as measured by HRV), you can stop measuring. However, you might also see changes in your HRV in spite of the “known” breathing pattern because of life stressors. Still a good indicator, no longer use it for my training.

Summed up

That’s a longish winding answer; I like bullet points so let’s do that:

  • Currently I’m “training” 3 days per week with parallettes or rings (think GMB Fitness-type stuff) plus trap bar deadlifts
  • And I’m “moving” 6 days per week (Movnat, hiking, yoga, the odd trail run[!])
  • I do this because the activities are fun at fit the whole “ecological” paradigm without being silly. Plus they’re portable given my schedule. And my son thinks they’re great.
  • I fast daily.
  • I eat real food, avoiding problematic compounds without being dogmatic. I feel best on this form of eating.I don’t make fake fill-ins; if I want bread or ice cream, I eat bread or ice cream, not fucking “paleo bread” or “low carb ice cream.” Fuck that noise.
  • Do the best you can given your circumstances; it’s more than enough. What matters is that it’s consistent. Consistent imperfection trumps inconsistent perfection. What, you thought the longest, healthiest, and leanest cultures on Earth count their macros? Aim for the “perfect” exercise stimuli? Fuck. No. They. Did. Not.
  • Ironically, doing the above resembles magic when done for a long enough period of time.

In a strange turn of events, I’m going to leave the comments open on this one. Make me proud, Internets.

Ancestral Health Symposium 2014

This is an expanded version of my chat about AHS2014 over at the Efficient Exercise blog. Go read that now if you haven’t yet…I’ll wait.

…Good? Good.

If you haven’t seen the video, you can take a look at that too:

So in addition to everything I wrote over there and said in my talk, there are a few small additions I’d like to make about the event. First of all, the thing that is readily apparent from year one (2011) to year four is that the organizers have started to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. For example, Year one featured talks about the topic of violence in the course of human evolutionary history, which is actually not an unrelated or topic lacking in discussion (for example, see Ned’s exploration of the War of Canudos and the unexpected longevity of the survivors). However, from the perspective things a person can control or influence, famine and war are so far away from either. So AHS has moved from the total umbrella of things that have influenced evolutionary outcomes to the things that we can control or influence that lead to larger health & healthcare outcomes. Further, you had to present your evidence for your conclusions. It wasn’t enough to present a just so description, but rather people gave guided tours of the science and how it doesn’t fit perfectly with what is currently recommended, either in the ancestral health community or in the mainstream community. As I said before: You had to show your work.

So what would I have added? Well, the one point I forgot to expand upon was something I was actually criticized for: it kinda looks like a HIT protocol is the “best” for achieving these outcomes. The point I wanted to make, and simply forgot, is that like the rest of the evidence base, there is no “base protocol” for testing to see if certain putative markers or clinically significant outcomes are even seen in humans (based on animal studies).

This exists for cardiorespiratory training. Are you familiar with the Bruce protocol? On a treadmill, you increase the speed and grade until a person taps out or a true VO2 max is reached:

Bruce GraphSo this is normally used as a stress test (“Graded Exercise Test”) to determine some amount of metabolic fitness. As we learned in school, it’s also a dismissal test that is done with EKG so if the person kicks in the parking lot, you have data to show that they were great on the treadmill!

Anyway, when a novel marker of something is discovered in animal models, a standardized test like this is helpful to see if said marker is seen in humans. For example, here’s a clinical trial in which the Bruce will be used to see if BDNF is increased in those with spinal cord injury. What I’d like to see is someone put together, based on the literature, the resistance training equivalent to the Bruce, one that can be used to determine physiological responses to a particular training modality. This does not imply that it is the only protocol that elicits the response; it’s only there to test the feasibility of response.

In other words, the exercise physiologists had to go through the Bruce before getting to Tabata as far as determining changes in lactate threshold (for example). The same thing needs to occur for resistance training: a base protocol that determines IF a change can occur before the variables are tweaked as to how to MAXIMIZE the change that occurs.

So, you know, if that looks like HIT currently, so be it. I can’t turn an ought into an is, no matter how confident you are that it’s sub-optimal. That’s why we do research, folks, but you gotta start at square one.

The 21 Convention 2014

21 convention banner

It’s back! The #1 men’s conference in the known universe (and perhaps beyond) will be in Tampa this year from October 24th-26th, so Friday-Sunday . Take a look at the trailer:

I spoke at the 21 Convention three years ago in an off-the-cuff version of my “Six Year Itch” post. I added some life lessons, some discussions of mortality & exercise (namely you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone so don’t fuck it up doing joint-risky movements), and basically called it a day. I can talk for a LONG time, but quickly realized that a little more prep work was going to be needed if I was to be as eloquent as my friend Doug.

That said, I was surprised at the depth of character of the attendees. They weren’t just horndogs trying to pickup women; rather, that was the tip of the spear as to attempt to define what “manhood” means in reality. Juxtapose this was the “oughts” that society can level against any young person and you can start to see why this is nearly radical. It’s a bit like Steve Jobs quote: the “rules” of the society your were thrust into were built by people, people no smarter than you. Understanding that, you can change your direction, making your own path.

The next year, I spoke on the topic of Biomarkers of Aging, which was an early project in my graduate school career that eventually led to a research review that’s currently in submission review. This talk was much better received, as I had some slides that were humorous and illustrative for some of the larger concepts as to how training helps you get more than swole, brah. My wife still maintains that it was my best talk ever. It eventually ended up on Dr. Mercola’s website, which no matter how you feel about his recommendations, is pretty neat to have access to such a wide audience.

After a year hiatus, Anthony has tightened the focus and reduced the speaker load: better access for attendees, better experience for all. Instead of talking about exercise, I’m going to discuss something else that I think becomes the end game for most of these guys: fatherhood. Namely, all of the stuff I would have liked to have known about the first year plus of fatherhood that I had never seen candidly discussed on the internet. Most of the resources are aimed at women OR they’re in some far corner of the internet that doesn’t have the audience to help guys along. I’m really looking forward to having fun with this one!

As noted above, the shorter set list allows for hour-long talks and greater interaction. Here’s the lineup:

  1. Anthony Dream Johnson (unannounced)
  2. Socrates – keynote speaker (relationships)
  3. Brent Smith (dating/lifestyle)
  4. Greg Swann (philosophy)
  5. James Marshall (dating/lifestyle)
  6. Steve Mayeda (dating/lifestyle)
  7. Bill DeSimone (exercise)
  8. Skyler Tanner (fatherhood)
  9. Sasha Daygame (dating/lifestyle)
  10. James Maclane (dating/lifestyle)
  11. Nick Sparks (dating/lifestyle)
  12. Dr. Doug McGuff M.D. (health/philosophy)
  13. Drew Baye (exercise)
  14. Don Watkins (philosophy)
  15. James Steele II Ph.D. (exercise)
  16. Dr. Eric Daniels Ph.D. (philosophy)
  17. Ed Aiken (self defense)
  18. Dr. Ellington Darden Ph.D. (exercise)
  19. Edward Druce (career/entrepreneurship)
  20. Dr. Paul Jaminet Ph.D. (health/nutrition)
  21. Damien Diecke (dating/lifestyle)
  22. Robbie Kramer (dating/lifestyle)

It’s going to be a rockin’ good time.

If this interests you, register below. I’ll receive a small kickback if you do, which would be nice, but I’m more interested in getting this great information out to guys everywhere. Remember: there’s a hard cap at 55 attendees, so don’t lollygag if you’re interested.

You know what else not lollygagging will get you? $150 dollars off but only through June 29th at 9pm est. That’s a pretty sweet deal on a conference with those speakers at a 4 star hotel that includes a 5 star dinner. Plus these are BIG days, think 9am – 7pm daily.

Go get a ticket! You won’t regret it!

Register

 

HIT + Movement Training: The Ultimate Health Protocol?

erwan-kneelingtoliftlog

Nothing like a hyperbolic title to get a person’s attention!

That said, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Though in my early 30’s, I think a great deal about the notion of sustainable training. That is, what are modalities that a person can take up in their life to improve their health that have long shelf lives? Though something like powerlifting is very useful, you’ll find many more people participating in their teens through their thirties than you would in their sixties and seventies. I find the odd 80 year old hugely inspiring, but you don’t see the graveyard of the people who trained in basically the same manner who are just beat up old weightlifters or quit training after a gnarly injury. Remember, our joints are meant for millions of movement cycles and the wear is cumulative assuming no acute injury. Those years of junky muscle ups may turn into a “mysterious” frozen shoulder in your 50’s, that you’ll be dealing with in some capacity until you die.

Which is to say, I’m aiming to avoid that.

BUT I’ve been spending a lot of time lately doing some handbalancing. Prior to ~9 months ago, I had never stood on my hands or even attempted it. Now my best handstand is 20 seconds and long term I’d like to build up to a press handstand and a one arm handstand. These are my hobbies, but I’ve also enjoyed some minor acrobatics and other stuff just for fun.

This brings me to something I discussed in my “Grand Unified Training Spectrum” post, namely that HIT guys are super narrow unless prodded to do more movement. They generally find flexibility useless (I used to, but now I disagree), mobility work unnecessary (it has great value), and from those I’ve met they suggest that people live in a hyperbaric chamber between workouts (To quote Dr. Ben Bocchicchio). Can you imagine how much “fun” that would be?

The point is to take the strength you build and apply it in your life. This is the “Active Phenotype” that amazing mutant researchers like Frank Booth talk about. It helps if your macroenvironment supports lots of physical activity, rather than just exercising within your microenvironment. A culture of activity furthers the active phenotype through avenues of physical activity. But if you live in a city that does not support this, what are you to do? No matter how perfect the program, an otherwise sedentary life is going to hamstring health and longevity.

So HIT is very efficient, is sustainable, is joint friendly, focuses on stimulating new muscle tissue and all of its endocrine-altering effects. What do you do the rest of the time? Patrick Diver had it right when he was interviewed at Conditioning Research:

My take on it goes like this:  do a HIT session once a week to cover your bases, and then go jump, roll, fight, climb, cycle or whatever else that seems like fun to you. 

From a learning perspective, you’d be hard pressed not to learn to move better from participating in Movnat. I used to think Erwan was a crazy French hippy but after many discussions with him, his point that physical activity should make one more adaptable, should be in line with natural human movements (“phylogenetic movement patterns” in motor learning lingo), and should be an expression of the human animal (e.g. “active phenotype”) is true. I agree 100%. The thing is that too many people confuse exercise for physical activity. They’re not the same: exercise is akin to a flu shot that necessitates a long recovery interval to manifest a measurable improvement in what you’re exercising. Physical activity should be done with a greater frequency, as practice for the sake of bettering the movement quality requires such. Further, one should not be trying to quantify the exercise benefit of physical activity, as getting better can often mean diluting the exercise benefit. This is why you have fitness tourists: after they suck, they move on because it got “easier.” So Movnat is great and it’s even better when combined with HIT or a time efficient program looking to make the muscles stronger. Win-win.
What can you do if you don’t a have some sort of Movnat practitioner near you or you simply don’t want to pay for it? You could do the MODs from Movnat if you have the space and facility, but what if you wanted more structure? There’s something that fills the gap: Floor 1 from GMB Fitness. They’ve distilled everything I’ve discussed earlier into a program that builds you from the ground up for higher quality movement, dexterity, and body control. This is the “gap” that just lifting misses: you WILL go out of alignment in the real world. Giving yourself “Biomechanical Headroom” will go a long way toward keeping you injury free while also having a good time just movement and learning what you can do with your body.
I’m not an affiliate of GMB, nor have they given me anything. It’s just the only program I know of that can fill the gap if you have no interest in doing a sport or are not otherwise improving general movement quality (at least until Erwan’s book comes out).
Remember: the body gets better at doing or not doing the things you regularly do. Pay attention to your movement quality and you’ll be keeping that movement quality for the large majority of your life.

 

 

 

Inputs and Biological Responses

Michael Allen Smith, who writes entirely too much, recently wrote this about the messy  notion of “Quantified Self.” The link he provides gives you all you need to know about why humans tracking inputs into our biology leaves all sorts to be desired…the margin of error is just too much for any sort of meaningful information to be derived:

nancy-qs

We’re not machines; if we were, we could expect a given input to yield a linear, time-consistent response. X volume of powder A yields Y response in Z minutes. But it doesn’t and we don’t. Not only are we not machines, but some of the greatest advances in phlebotomy and proteomics research have come when we get the human element out of the way, mostly for the “unreliable/distractions/kittens” element mentioned above.  Examples:

So just live all Dionysian and  attempt to not control anything? No, but you must understand that the inputs are signals…they are stimuli. The stimuli is directionally accurate and dose-dependent. Further, the dose will have varying outcomes depending on the state of your physiological milieu at the moment of input. You can be sure ingesting protein will lead to new amino acids being available for protein synthesis, but the standard deviation of the response will vary depending on a variety of factors that you can never hope to control.

Further, the body is directionally set by the stimuli…it doesn’t care nearly as much by the context of delivery as much as by the quality of the content. This is especially true in the “paleo” community, with the idea that “Caveman X was on the savanna, therefore only could lift heavy rocks and get thorns in their ass when they screwed. I must mimic this for maximum health!” Here’s the thing:

The body doesn’t care about concepts; it only cares about stimuli.

The SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demand) referred to the type, quantity, and frequency of a stimuli. So while our hunter-gatherer ancestors trained their posterior chain by hauling an animal, we might dead lift or use a good lumbar extension. The stimuli is similar, no hauling required. The mismatch was never “We’re not hauling bison out of a ditch and eating mongongo nuts”; it was “we’re never exerting to a sufficient intensity while eating lots of processed garbage.” You mimic the stimuli while reducing the risks.

Coming full circle, once you do that, don’t go looking for a tightly defined output that repeats with the same input. You’ve narrowed the possible conclusions, but you’ve not selected any one of them. Your body will do that arithmetic in a way you can’t rationally understand based on milieu you cannot control. Your stimuli influences the possible outcome, nothing more.  To attempt to track everything and be sure you “found” a definite outcome is akin to reading tea leaves and predicting Harry Potter will die.