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.

Grand Unified Training Spectrum 2.0

Since posting a couple weeks ago, I’ve received some good feedback and had a few “duh” moments myself regarding how this should look. As much, I’ve already updated and improved the design, which now looks like this:

GUT 3.0So one of the things I’ve done is expanded the “general” section because there is more leeway in avoiding creating dysfunction or injury when your movements are biomechanically congruent. Second I expanded the purple dysfunction areas to be larger when specializing or rehabilitating, as the more specialized you become the greater your risk of injury. It seems funny to “specialize” in general movements or movement patterns, but you can. This is seen a lot in the HIT crowd where the range of motion that is best loaded (from a force output perspective) is the “only” range of motion that these people venture. Stretching and mobility are dirty words; however if you can’t get into that range of motion voluntarily, and you have to venture there for some reason in real life, you’ll end up injured. Again, this is what I referred to in the first post as improving your boundary conditions and if you’re a HIT practitioner it would be wise to spend a little time here each week.

Next, this doesn’t account for modalities within each spectrum, which was a comment I received: “This doesn’t account for X’s work.” This was not a comprehensive spectrum of technique modalities because A) the distinctions can be arbitrary and B) modalities that may be the cornerstone of a bodybuilder might only see minor, but valuable, use by those in rehab or movement specialization (if they’re paying attention to what I wrote in the first paragraph). Modalities are a bit more fluid because their use is specific to the individual you’re training; remember, this is a global view of how training endeavors fit together, not the techniques you’d use in those endeavors.

Further if you’re healthy, the directionality would be from left to right or center toward the edges. Only if injured (or are on the verge of injury because you’ve ignored boundary conditions), should you regress back to the left as you primary focus. What happens as you move from left to right is that you transcend and include the previous level. Think about it: if you’re healthy, you’re likely using physical therapy exercises as “prehab” for your joints and muscles. Or if you’re venturing into a specific sport or movement activity, you’re likely using basic strength drills to “activate” muscles for your complex movement patterns, especially when they’re new to you. This does not mean that everyone needs to ever reach the movement or sport performance stage as some sort of “zenith” to your ability. Rather, it’s important to understand that though I’ve delineated these overarching themes, the reality is that the lower levels are part of the upper levels, though serving a different purpose in the scope of training goals.

Finally, I’ve added some examples to the spaces so that people understand what might “fit” each section. Clearly not an exhaustive list, merely a jumping off point for categorization and recognition.

GUT Examples

Lessons From Grad School

Last week I officially graduated. I’m not finished with my final project for publication, but that happens independent of getting my degree…it’s icing on the cake.

Having a week of doing nothing school related allowed space to reflect on some of the take-away lessons from school. In no particular order:

  • You get out what you put in. Totally cliche but totally true, you’re going to get a lot of new information and you can just remember it or attempt to integrate it into your current understanding. Allowing it to actually change what you think you know allows you to be a better practitioner in whatever you’re going to school for when you’re finished.
  • To that end, there are some people who let the information wash over them like water off a duck’s back. They want the credentials, not the intangibles that come with hard work.
  • Academic writing is a giant pain in the ass, but I understand and appreciate why. I’d rather just apply what I know. As a result, any other degrees I get will likely be clinical or “applied”-type degrees.
  • Your core curriculum serves to deepen your silos of knowledge; the electives serve to add silos. Take advantage of this.
  • As a result, the class I found most interesting, and most applicable in tying everything together, was a class I was least looking forward to taking (as I’ll explain in a later post).
  • Academia is not glamorous. There are no more Indiana Jones-type professors and I’m not sure there ever will be again. It is a job, period.
  • There is not cathartic moment with graduation; you’re still you. Only now you get some letters after your name signifying a modicum of expertise. I think if you didn’t come from money or privilege, this is a very big deal on a personal level. I know it was for me.
  • Your standard internet fitness guru can dig up a mess of information about content without having any idea as to how to contextualize it. This is the difference between a kid with a new toy and a master with a box of tools.
  • It is very easy to develop a type of Stockholm syndrome while in the deepest bowels of a degree program. “I’ll just stay in school forever!” as some sort of distraction from the daily slog. Once finished, this disappears.
  • Most of what people refer to as “exercise” is really just gussied up recreation. Without a good way to measure what’s going on at the physiological level (what you’re attempting to “exercise” for health outcomes), you’re just guessing which part of the noise is actually the signal. Most are terrible at this.
  • On the other hand, the value of recreation cannot be denied. However, only recreation often leads to injuries in trying to take something that should be “fun” and push it to “exercise.” Just leave it fun.
  • Being able to read journal articles like a scientist has value that cannot be understated.

Those are off the top of my head, I’m sure there are tons more in there. But that should give you a taste of some of the “intangible” knowledge acquisitions you’ll gain if you’re about to venture down the graduate school path.

Put In The Work

One of the things I stress with clients is that the low hanging fruit should be picked first. It’s fairly standards in this field for clients and trainers to “go for broke” and set up really complicated programming to reach their goal. To keep running with the metaphor, that’s like climbing to the top of the tree to pick fruit. Sure there might be better fruit up there but wasn’t the goal to eat?

Recently I’ve been dabbling in doing handstands. Sure I found all sorts of complicated programming and poorly written tutorials. After getting them I didn’t use them. When I finally came back to the goal I decided that I’d just practice every day. Even if that meant just one attempt upside-down, that was enough.

After a couple weeks of this I can kick up into a 5 second handstand. I can’t do this every time but I can certainly do it every day. And every day that I do it I get a little better at it. So there was no magic routine, just a bit of consistent “imperfection” toward the goal. Often, by the time a person needs a routine tune-up, they’ve surpassed their peers and need far less coaching all because they were consistent with something appropriate and intelligent but perhaps imperfect.

Consistent imperfection beats inconsistent perfection in this game.

Here’s a shake idea

From the “holy crap this thing is loaded to the gills with nutrition” file:

-1/3 cup coconut milk

-3 raw eggs

-2 level tablespoons of cocoa powder

-1 tablespoon of almond butter

-1 tablespoon of resistant starch (I used tapioca flour)

-1 banana

-8 ice cubes

Load into a blender and HIT PUREE!

You could replace bananas with blueberries if you want the nutrition to go to infinity and beyond, but I have a lot of bananas on hand so they get called up.

 

Added: A New Testimonial

Last weekend I had the opportunity to have a chat with local physical therapist Brad. We talked Body By Science, physical therapy, went on like total exercise nerds about unique equipment I have in my studio, and after all of that he got a workout out of the whole thing. He was kind enough to write about his experience and you can read that in the testimonial button to the top right.

I’m noting this because I really like helping facilitate quality changes in their lifestyle/training style. Sometimes people need specific suggestions, which I have no problem doing. Other times, people have a good idea of what they might do to move toward their intended goals and want to bounce ideas off of someone to help them zero in on their most effective next move.

Basically, if it falls in the realm of exercise or health science. I can help and I’d love to help you, too.

Random Thoughts

Since I’m in the last semester for my grad program and currently living the life of having a newborn (read: lots of interrupted sleep) I thought I’d put a few things down that, while too small for a full blog post, might be nice for my readers to dig on.

1. Lessons from my Health Education class

I’ve been trying to work on a health ed post for some time but I think I can put things together in a way that makes sense. Health Education and Public Health are two sides of the same coin. Specifically, Health Ed aims to work on health habit change at the Intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, and organizational level, To compare, Public Health is largely driven by policy change efforts (though there are proxy wars over who is “qualified” to do what in this sphere). Health Ed does this using theories derived from experience to help make subsequent interventions better for the population being treated. The problem is that practitioners and academics exist largely in opposition to one another, with the practitioners doing “what works” (and being able to explain that internal logic even if the research is spotty for their reasoning), while the academics continue to hone the theory so that practitioners, who should be using it, can save themselves a lot of time and get better results. So what should be a two-way street of communication amounts to two-way disdain.

Stop me if you’ve heard of this happening in YOUR field.

Practitioners are using a lot of deductive reasoning, while academics are using a lot of inductive reasoning. This is good and the commingling leads to a better product, but only if both sides belly up to the table and quit acting like either the other side is too stupid to cooperate or the other side is condescending and thus not worth the hassle.

In a related discussion, my friend Jeannette posted this article, titled “Why Can’t the Sciences and the Humanities Get Along?” though “humanities” in this case means “social sciences and humanities.” It’s a really solid read, and if you’ve been very “hard” science all of your life, you might come away at least beginning to appreciate the social sciences, which is what I’ve started to do as a result of the previously mentioned health education class.

2. Take a coffee break

Prior to the birth of my son, I took a ~15 day fast from caffeine. I didn’t do this for reasons of “purifying” or “giving my adrenals a break” (because we can actually diagnose “adrenal fatigue,” it’s called addisons disease and doesn’t require hippy bullshit supplements); rather, I did this so that my sensitivity to my normal intake was heightened. I drink ~2 twelve ounce mugs of coffee per day, so I didn’t want that my be my “level” with a newborn, thus requiring a jump to 3 or 4 cups to create a nice caffeine buzz. By dialing back, I now require only 1 (sometimes 2) mugs to have the same feeling, depending on how interrupted my sleep was the night before. If you’ve not done this I suggest you consider it; I may even post how I “reduced” my intake to avoid headaches and feeling like death without the stuff.

3. My post over at Dadlifts.com: “The Kind of Father I want to be.”

I recently wrote a post about the existential angst that I had preceding the birth of my son, both in how I wanted to be a father and how being a father would affect my own psyche and self-identity. This post can be found here.

4. If you can, try Longhorn beef.

Sarah and I have been spending roughly all of our income on food; it’s really the choice we make in our lives: we like to eat well and would rather spend money on great steak and wine than a concert (for instance). Our local farmer’s market is fortunate enough to have a rancher who only raises Longhorn cattle, which are leaner than other cattle by a wide margin. Last night we had the chance to try Longhorn tenderloin, which was so sweet and tender, with no “gamey” flavor (though I don’t taste “gamey” flavor in even wild game). If you can, give it a try.

5. Project: Kratos

Drew Baye recently released a manual that bridges the gap between high intensity training principles and body weight training. The manual is titled “Project: Kratos” because while Adonis was all show and no go, Kratos was the badass who got shit done. You can purchase the manual here.

Added: Testimonials Page

If you take a look to the top right of the bar you’ll see I’ve added a testimonials page. I’ve not heavily advertised my services because my survival doesn’t depend on them: my primary job is training people here in Austin, Texas. However, I do offer services for those who are motivated to change and willing to accept to outside coaching. This is where I come in and use my wealth of experience and education to move a person in the direction they’d like to go.

I’m not a drill sergeant; I meet people where they are at by teasing out the low-hanging fruit that are keeping them from moving toward their goals. Thus while I gather a fair bit of background, most of my work as a consultant is questioning, probing, educating, and adapting. Because it is a process rather than a path, I’ve had good success with people from wildly different training backgrounds.

If any of this sound appealing, take a look at my page above and contact me.

Social Media and Its Unexpected Surprises

A total folly post; if you’re looking for health/fitness/exercise physiology, go read my other stuff!

My wife and I have discussed out social media allows us to constantly judge others without waiting around for the high school reunion. Some of this is merely confirmation bias: yes, that asshole from high school still dresses like he’s hardcore even though he grew up in a low-crime, high-GDP community. You were right all along! Big back pat for being accurate in you judgy judgement!

But this isn’t about that; this is about all of the people who I was absolutely wrong about. How people I was sure I had pegged when I “knew everything” continue to enrapture me in the unfolding of their life. Even if social media is a neatly manicured lawn that hides a messy, messy house, you can still be surprised by the glimpses through the front door and windows that you occasionally get.

For example, a girl I went to high school with, the most supremely talented artist in our class, still makes amazing art. That was a judgement confirmed (INTERNET HIGH FIVE FOR ME!). However, she was, and is, extremely devout. My youthful militant atheist high-offensive push-backs against faith, and all of the the negatives it represents, bled over into things like the culture between her four walls. I expected faithful hand-raising rock and instead see her writing about listening to Macklemore with her son. I see hip clothing, stylish haircuts, language and thoughts that I would have never guessed from such a “devout” person. I put devout in quotes because it wasn’t her definition of being devout that I had judged her on; it was my own.  A judgement of an impression formed in an imperfect moment, in an imperfect class, in a perfectly imperfect time of our lives set the stage for any other judgement I may have had about her in any other imperfect setting, namely a high school reunion. If I forget that she believes in god (whatever that means [not being antagonistic; not everyone believes the same, even if they use the same language in an attempt to describe that belief]), our lives and attitudes bear a striking resemblance. And her son is adorable as is her newborn girl.

So for all of its warts (the time suck, manicured-image, lonelier-the-more-friends-you-have nature of it), sometimes social media can surprise you if you let it. For this I am thankful.

The Supplement Goals Reference Guide

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My friend Sol Orwell is a persistent mofo and I’ve previously written about just how hard a worker he is, even in a communication vacuum. His website, examine.com, is my go-to guide for peer reviewed data on supplements and their human effect. While some people like to get caught in hours of researched data on supplements (raises hand), sometimes you need to get to the point: I want to do X, does Y help me with that?” That’s where Sol’s new product, “The Supplement Goals Reference Guide” comes into play.

Specifically, So sent me an email and asked if I thought there’d be any market for the product. I reviewed it and liked it so much that I offered to interview and this is what we came up with:

Sol, I’ve previously noted you’re at least very, very persistent. What is the motivation to undertake this massive tome? Burned by supplement claims? Looking to fix an ailment without the doctor’s prescription pad?

Hahaha. I have to be honest – your blog post made me happier than any other blog post on Examine.com/me ever.

Here’s my quick story: I am the immigrant dream. I moved to Canada in my mid-teens, and immediately started dabbling with websites. By university I had incorporated my first company, and a few years later, I retired.
The rat race was not for me. VCs (venture capitalists-Skyler) came after me, but I had a comfortable base of revenue. I wanted to travel (which I did), and just relax in life.

About 3-4 years ago, I finally started taking my health seriously. Being a very analytical person, I started writing notes, learning, researching, and so forth.

And it was frustrating. There was all this brilliant information across the web – on a disparate network of forums, on blogs, and so forth, and that knowledge was (essentially) lost within the week.
I wanted to create a reference that would become a centralized place for this information. A place for people to submit studies, question conclusions, have discussions, and so forth. And I found supplementation and nutrition to be fascinating, and thus … supplements J

It was also a place I think that was more ripe for exposure in an evidence-based manner. We have a lot of smart brilliant guys doing it in exercise, but in supplementation and nutrition? Not many.
And so we created our own niche. And we’ve expanded the niche. We started from roughly 50 visitors a day to 12,500+/day now (and we are only getting started!)

I really like what you’ve done with this new product. I really like examine.com as a concept but I’m likely to treat it a bit like Wikipedia: I’d go in looking for information on creatine and 4 hours later I’m seeing if Curcumin has clinical efficacy for post-workout stank. Is this what lead you to flip the script with the Supplement Goals Reference Guide?

One of my greatest sources of pride is when someone tells me how they opened up the site, clicked on a link, and then looked up and time had just sunk away. If we can be the TV tropes of nutrition and supplementation, I couldn’t be happier.

Getting to the point was definitely an impetus of mine. I’ve reached the stage now where if I’m hanging out, my friends will often badger me with questions about supplements. I was recently on a podcast, and I answered one of their questions with “I was taught that if you don’t have to remember it, don’t. Look it up.”

And that’s what the reference lets me do. My buddies ask me a question, I pop it open, search (I am admittedly a terrible terrible typer), and viola – they have their answer.

In making this product, what supplement-goal relationship were you most surprised to see? For instance, given my understanding of how, mechanistically, coconut oil should raise HDL but your research found that not only does it not seem to raise HDL, but it lowered it and rather poorly at that. What relationships most surprised you?

Oooh – that’s a tough one.

I’m going to go with Inositol. It’s a beast. It *notably* helps with PCOS, decreases panic attacks, and decreases anxiety.

Hell – I’ve been trumpeting berberine and it’s anti-diabetic effects for a while now. I may hae to add inositol and its anti-PCOS effects on that list.

I’d also add it was kinda cool seeing spirulina, one of the most beloved supplements of hippies, turn out to be pretty bad ass. If you are a middle-aged person, it’s one to seriously consider (I make my mom take it).

A funny one was that l-carnitine seems to have a notable effect in improving your sperm’s quality. Not mobility, but the actual sperm themselves. The things you know!

One last thing: updates. Studies are constantly being published. Is this product static or will there be updates?

Buying it in gives you lifetime access. Every day at roughly 5am, the system extracts human studies (excluding rat studies, petri-dish, etc), and re-generates the PDF. So as we update our internal database, the PDF stays up to date.
I should note that the price will be increasing to $39 as of Saturday, noon EST. We wanted to create some buzz to start, and thus introduced it with an introductory price!

Sol has put a lot of sweat into this, doing what some of us used to do when younger but can’t anymore because of other responsibilities or interests: taken the best human studies on various supplements, categorized them based on effect power on real, live human beings, and made it into an easy to search product.

To put it another way: save yourself time, save yourself money, and spend more time training and recovering than looking at the newest, latest, and greatest supplements. Get your Supplement-Review Reference Guide today!