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.

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9 thoughts on “How’s My Training (etc.) Been?

  1. Skyler,

    Yes!!! Great post – I’ll admit I was hoping you would reply in a full post. It’s sad to hear you’ve gone all hippy-dippy vegan on us! (kidding).

    This approach sounds very holistic and it makes total sense to take a break from intense HIT after all the years you’ve done it and research supports that you won’t lose anything. I agree that the HIT purists (not naming names!) can be kind of off-putting. Same thing with paleo – you’ve seem to have found the 80/20 that works best for you – IF every day and mostly paleo with a variety of macronutrient mixes from day to day. Again, the purists would have you burned at the stake, but so be it!

    I’m definitely going to look further into MovNat. It looks great and I definitely don’t move enough sitting / standing at a desk all day. Reminds me a lot of Foundation Training that Michael Allen Smith has been promoting (see http://criticalmas.com/2014/08/merging-foundation-training-hillfit/ and http://criticalmas.com/2013/08/foundation-training-is-highly-effective/).

    My only criticism is it sounds like all this activity you’re doing would be very difficult for a person (like me) who works in a very urban city, with little time on his hands outside of work (the grand appeal of HIT for me). Then again, who am I to complain when you have a full-time job AND a newborn on your hands?

    Anyway, it’s awesome that you’re thinking so much about holistic health, your ecological perspective, and sustainability with your son in mind. You’re going to make a great father and best of luck to you!

    Thanks again for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Scott

    1. Scott,

      Thanks for the follow up!

      As far as my training goes, understand that the time element is rather small. More than HIT, yes, but not hugely intensive. The “move 6 days per week” thing is really wild-card like; a Movnat combo might take me 15 minutes; the yoga might be an ad hoc flow for a few rounds, there might be a longish walk at the end of the day (it puts my son to sleep). Most of the activity is unstructured, as long or as short as I feel it needs to be.

      I couple that with trying to alter my body position during computer work (and there’s plenty of that). I have a standing desk at work and alternate between sitting and kneeling at home. I also accumulate squat and hang time at work between clients. I can do that and understand that it can be hard for someone who has a desk job or works in an office. Do the best you can; more than you’re doing now to shore up those weak areas is better than nothing if it’s safe.

      Again, nothing against HIT, it’s great and works for a variety of instances. I’m sure I’ll use the odd HIT workout here and there…it’s a tool in the box. 🙂

      And though I totally get your meaning by using “80/20,” I’m not sure there’s really a “20” in the whole thing. I’m just doing my thing; that thing is inclusive enough of all of the stuff that the 20 normally includes. 😉

      Finally, the foundation training would be a good addition if Movnat doesn’t appeal to you (or whatever).

  2. Glad the general balance in favor of whole foods, movement etc. is working well for you, especially with demands of being a new father (congratulations!). An all or nothing type mindset in any field tends to make for a rigid, unhappy, tightrope balancing game.

  3. Great post, Skyler! I was wondering if you don’t miss out on the sleep benefits of more consistent moderate/vigorous exercise. I know that I don’t sleep quite as well when i’m moving consistently through the day compared to designated sessions of vigorous exercise. I know the literature also supports more intense exercise as a way of improving sleep quality. Wondering what your thoughts on this are.

    1. Hey Lenny,

      I’m not sure where it was implied that none of this stuff was intense, but I can assure you that it’s plenty difficult and I sleep just fine. Typically out in less than 10 minutes.

      Yes I’m not lying on the floor about to die after my workout, but it’s not by any means easy just because it’s bodyweight only.

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. Great post! Exactly what I am going through. The birth of my son coupled with my job schedule, has had me incorporate parallete training (thanks to GMB fitness) and intermittent fasting that lets me spend some quality time with my son and also help me help my wife to get him ready in the morning. This schedule also allows me to get my quota of exercise while IF helps me stay lean. I also try to find some time to hit the gym once a week and do some heavy deadlifts and overhead presses. If I miss a session of weight training, I don’t overly worry about it as I would have done earlier. Thanks a lot for the post.

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