Exercise Science is a Translational Science

My wife likes to take the piss out of me. While I’ve been working through my graduate degree, and people ask her what I’m studying, she likes to say, “Exercise science. I know, it sounds like a made up degree.”

She’s not wrong; “exercise science” does sound a bit nebulous to the point of gnostic wisdom. However it’s important to understand that most people think they have a clue about exercise and they simply do not. It’s a bit like Parkinson’s Law of Triviality: people have bodies, therefore they think they know how to exercise said body. Given the state of health in the United States, it should be clear that we have little in the way of cultural norms to maintain fitness, and even less cultural wisdom to get people on the right track.

Frankly, exercise is complicated stuff by the simple fact that you have to account for so many variables in so many subjects (body of knowledge subject, not human being subject). This is why exercise science is actually a translational science, a cross disciplinary, scientific research driven by the need for practical applications of science.  This type of science is often used in medicine and pharmaceuticals, because you need people to figure out how to take lab discoveries to trial as quickly as possible, and also to take these discoveries into best practice perhaps even faster. This came about because it takes an average of 24 years for a lab discovery to primary care setting, so long that “breakthroughs” that can save many lives leave so many dying before they can be applied.

The same seed is what has created a movement in health and human performance departments at universities to move away from terms like “exercise physiologist/biomechanist/kinisiologist” toward a unifying umbrella of “Exercise science.” This is because those are all part of what you study at the graduate level and then some. I made a picture with a mouse to illustrate the breadth of subject matter I learned in my studies (click for full size):

Exercise Science DIagram

Now if I walked into a lab that was devoted to any of those pursuits, I’d be dangerous. In the context of the human body and how it responds to an exercise stimulus, I’m better than any of those experts. I’m taking what they’re studying, mixing it with what others from totally different fields are studying, and attempting to mold a best practice that gets at the good stuff as efficiently as possible. I’ve been trained to be the ultimate generalist when it comes to understanding the human body and its response to exercise, which is exactly what an exercise science curriculum should do.

Yes, it sounds made up, but it’s really the shortest description of what it is we do!

Examine.Com Fire Sale – Last Chance For A Steep Discount On The “Supplement Goals Reference Guide”

My buddy Sol is celebrating a couple things this week:

  • He has established an amazing team over at Examine.com to help further improve his product and to give you more confidence in the information you’re getting that influences your supplement buying choices. These additions include:

-Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, a primary care physician
- Kamal Patel, MBA MPH PhD(c)
- Gregory Lopez, pharmD
- Bill Willis, PhD (biomedical)

  • He previously funded the website with Amazon affiliate links from the supplements being reviewed. This has been eliminated; the supplement guide is what they do and how they support themselves.

In celebration of this, he’s dropped the price of the Supplement Goals Reference Guide from $39 to $29. Here’s the thing: the sale ends tonight at midnight!

If you’ve been on the fence about picking up this incredible tool, now is the time. You’re not going to find a lower price, as it goes back up tonight.

Pick up your reference guide today!

More Lessons from Health Education: Leverage your Strengths

In Health Education, there is a set of principles and methods called Community Organizing. This is where a community is helped to identify problems within a community, mobilize resources, and implement strategies for reaching the collectively-set goals. Now, often this process is similar to how a consultant works in a business: they come in, determine what the “problems” are, and drop that on your desk for you to figure out. You can imagine how helpful that is.

However, there’s a flipside version where a person acts not as an outside “other” but rather engages the community, asking questions and seeing what they identify as the “problem.” Often, this is not what it seems to be, and an outsider would not peg the problem as such. Further, this person engaging the community is a facilitator, helping people to help themselves with resources identification, and community representation. But more than that, the facilitator aims not to problem solve but to leverage strength. Often, when a community can identify what they are good at and aim to get even better, things that were “problems” organically work themselves out.

There is a lesson here. So often in our drive for more “health and fitness and function” we look at all the things we aren’t doing or aren’t doing well. There is some good in this (see my last post about the low hanging fruit). However, if you only go around inside your head looking for all the things you’re not good at, you’re not going to think you’re good at anything. Instead, why not look for the things you do well and look to maximize that?

A personal example: I am an exceptionally elastic human being. That is I have always been very, very good at jumping, sprinting (once I get going), and the like. I had a 39″ vertical leap in high school in spite being rather weak. After realizing I was “weak” I spent 12 years trying to become brute-strong and, though I am stronger, I am also less explosive than I once was. In an effort to turn a weakness into a strength, I diluted the strength. I’ll paraphrase a Charlie Francis quote:

You don’t plow a field with a Ferrari

Learn from my mistake! If you’re good at something, push that “thing” as far as you can go. If you’re good at not eating after 6pm and are reasonably lean, don’t worry about some dietician who says you “need” to eat 6 meals a day. If you’re an explosive athlete, keep pushing that instead of what some bald, goatee’d powerlifter thinks of your deadlift strength. Find your strength and focus on that rather than anything you may be “weak” in!

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.

The Supplement-Goals Guide: 6 Week Follow-up




My friend Sol Orwell released his beastly, totally useful, no-nonsense “The Supplement Goals Reference Guide” 6 weeks ago. So far the guide has been a big success; I caught up with him to inquire about any behind the scenes happenings of the launch, how the guide is only going to get better, and why he pays so well for statisticians:

Sol, it’s been about 6 weeks now since you launched the supplement goals reference guide. We know the experts in the copy love the book, but how has the feedback been from those who have purchased the  guide?

The feedback has been quite gratifying. I’ve had random people reach out via twitter, email, even Facebook to say how much they love what we are doing and how much they love what we’ve built. A common theme has been people telling us how much money they are saving – how they no longer buy X Y Z supplements. They no longer wonder “maybe it’s working and I don’t know” – now they know. 4500+ sales now, so it’s continuing to sell strongly!

So people easily cover the cost with their next supplement order; time to add that to the copy! No launch goes off without a hitch; did you hit any sort of barriers in the launch of this that you did not expect?
Honestly – it was a pretty easy and smooth experience. We’ve been around for a while (2.5 years), so there are a few things that surprise us. We know what supplements people care for, and what they don’t, and pretty much had most of them covered.
This puts you in rarefied air: a launch that goes off smoothly! Congratulations on that. Now that the book is out and you’ve had feedback from thousands, what changes might you make going forward to make it even better?
Thanks – it’s been awesome.

There are two areas we really need to expand on:

1. We need to make our product more accessible. This means both language and also access. We are working on both – hiring an editor to help clean up our language, and also working on smartphone apps that will be part of access.

2. We need to help clarify and quantify what minor vs notable vs strongly notable is. There is an element of subjectiveness, but we can do a much much better job in making it more observational. The #1 priority of our new hire will be bringing this level of normalization to our data across our site (in fact, we may end up hiring two people to help this happen faster!)

In case those who read my blog are recent PhD’s with a strong statistical background, I’ll tell them to contact you. Based on the email you put out, you’re paying way more for this skill-set than even some tier 1 research universities. When starting all of this, did you fully appreciate the need to really interpret the data? Is this where people miss the forest for the trees in interpreting studies? Is that why you’re compensating accordingly?

There was an appreciation, but that appreciation has definitely grown. A lot.The reality is that our body is extremely complex (it’s stunning how much of it we still don’t understand), and when it comes to understanding what effects supplementation and nutrition can have, you need a vast domain of knowledge to draw from to give context to what you are reading.

For example, it’s easy to have “fat burners” work on obese persons which then fail in more lean people. The domain of knowledge I mention then comes into play with the “why” – what is happening here? How can we make sense of this and apply what we know about obese people and fat loss and then apply it to the general population?

Of course, losing fat is an easy one. When you start involving stuff like blood sugar (for example, berberine is fantastic at lowering it, but what happens if you’ve worked out and then you consume food and your insulin spikes?) and other hormones, you can’t just focus. You need to know 50 other factors that come into play.

Now – going back to research, you need to realize that just because X happens in Y and Z conditions does not mean it applies in general. You need to be able to sift out the edge-cases and figure out how it can be applied in a generalized manner. People are incredibly reactive (just see how we process news). You see one study and everyone starts running around screaming. A calm, calculated, contextual approach requires hiring the best!

Thanks Sol and good luck!


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!

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.