Monday, 28 December 2009

Taubes Getting Mainstream Exposure

Gary Taubes authoritative nutritional tome "The Diet Delusion" continues to make waves in the medical world.

Let's admit it - most popular media is bollocks. By that, I mean what passes for journalism nowadays seems to be largely bollocks. Ever wonder why News International newspapers give superb reviews for films made by 20th Century Fox? News is basically an infommercial where the truth resides in between the extremes of opinion rather than on fact. And news is filtered in response to commercial interests.

I don't put myself above all this - but then this is my little box from which I can spout stuff - and hell, I might be wrong, and I have every right to be wrong. Major news outlets in contrast have some level of social responsibility because they have the veneer of respectability. People trust them to give the truth.

Thus it has fallen to bloggers to expose the truth. For some time now a small select group of bloggers have done a great job doing what the damned media should have been doing. Dr Eades in particular is among the best at cutting through bias on the low carb and nutrition front.

On the wider medical front there are the likes of Ben Goldacre on the Bad Science site and another noteable addition is DC's Improbable Science site. Now for some months the latter has been promising a review of Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories. Finally, it is here.

Ok, so it does not go in to that much detail about Taubes hypothesis, but that a book that is two years old continues to grow in influence, that this same book should be reaching the shores of the BMJ, and that that same book drives firmly against everything we have been told for thirty years and has received a broadly favourable review, well, THAT is something of great significance.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Control Aging

Don at Primal Wisdom has posted a link to a two-part film by Cynthia Kenyon. She looks at the role of hormone controlled aging. The hormone receptor she studied (DAF-2), is similar to two hormone receptors in humans - the insulin receptors and IGF-1 receptors:

  • Once it was thought that aging was just a random and haphazard process. Instead, the rate of aging turns out to be subject to regulation by transcription factors that respond to hormones and other signals. In the nematode C. elegans, in which many key discoveries about aging were first made, the aging process is subject to regulation by food intake, sensory perception, and signals from the reproductive system. Changing genes and cells that affect aging can lengthen lifespan by six fold, and can also delay age-related disease, such as the growth of tumors.
Part 1 : An Evolutionarily-Conserved Regulatory System for Aging (42:46)

Part 2 : The Regulation of Aging by Signals from the Reproductive System, and, also, a Link Between Aging and Tumor Growth (37:16)

The long and the short of it is that elevated insulin and IGF-1 'block' longevity. In mice it was found that if you removed the insulin receptors from the fat tissue in particular, they were healthy, didn't get fat (even on a high fat diet), and lived 20% longer:

  • "What does all this mean? Why should inhibiting insulin and IGF-1 extend lifespan? They are important as insulin and IGF-1 promote growth and food storage. When you lower the level of insulin and IGF-1 you shift the metabolism of the animal from one that favours growth and food storage to one that favours maintenance and resistance to stress."

Looks like ADV is ahead of the game once again!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Monday Climbing

So, Britain has been plunged in to a big freeze. Such conditions preclude me from sprinting or KC work - but on this Winter Solstice night, I was psyched to give it some 'grrrr' in my sub-zero garage.

I was cheered by the knowledge that as of 1747hrs GMT, the sun had reached its lowest southerly position and so the evenings are going to get longer once again!

I ended up walking for a few hours (to the shops and the library). At least one of these journeys involved carrying Flash for time. I also cleared the snow from the paths of a few elderly neighbours. It is all training I guess. But the ice meant that the core of my session was indoors. It was cold but things soon warmed up.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25 mins)
1a) Pistols (3x3)
1b) L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Tuck Lever (1MU wighted to 10kg, 3MU, 3MUs)
1c) Laddering

2a) Ring Splits/Cuts (2x3 each way)
2b) Frog Planche (30s, 30s)

3) Deadhang Repeaters (321, 3a:7r:120s on small rungs)

4) 10 Minute Fingerboarding

I did three passes through 1a-1c and two through 2a-2b. The session was finished with a ten minute hang-fest.

By big gain was with the weighted Muscle Up and ring routine. I put in three inverted pull ups for good measure so the ring routine was tough. I reckon I could have done more weighted MUs but on losing the weight vest for the second set, I could feel how much I had given on the first set.

The three sets of pistols also cheered me up. I really worked the lowering and tried to explode on the positive phase.

Now for those of you who think that snow is a suitable excuse to veg-out. Check out this dude.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

2010 Training Plans

I have been thinking about cutting down on the length of my routines and adding a midweek workout in to the equation. I just feel hungry to do a bit more.

I also want to try to implement a 'grease the groove' as my planche in particular has plateaued. Pistols are also going backwards a bit and might benefit from a GTG approach!

My week should look like like this (sets, reps and rests are all instinctive. For strength the rests will be longer. On occasion I will emphasise aspects such as negatives, or an explosive primary phase of the movement):

Warm Up (5 mins)

Main 1
1a) Sprint (2x10s)/Assisted Pistols (1x6)
1b) Frog Planch (30s, 30s)
1c) Tuck Lever (30s, 30s)

2a) Ring Splits/Cuts (2x6 each way)
2b) Rope Climb to Cirques (2 'laps')

3a) Kill Carry* (5 minutes of walking with a shouldered punch bag - 35kg)

4a) Fingerboarding
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
1a) Sprint (2x10s)/Assisted Pistols (1x6)
1b) L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Tuck Lever (3MUs, 3MUs, 2MUs)
1c) Laddering

2a) Ring Splits/Cuts (2x6 each way)
2b) Frog Planche (30s, 30s)
2c) Tuck Planche (30s, 30s)
2d) Deadhang Repeaters (321, 3a:7r:120s on small rungs)

Main 2
1) Rowing (500m:L8:1'35")

2a) Tuck Planche (6s, 6s)
2b) Tuck Lever (6s, 6s)
2c) Wall Walk (2x4)/BackBridge(2x15s)
2d) BBS Leg Extension (1x120x12s)
2e) BBS Leg Press (1x60sx50kg)

Main 3
1) Figure Eight Shuttles (4x15s)

2a) Straddle RLLs (8)/Deadlift (8x70%RM - 90kg)
2b) Chin Ups

3a) Dumbell Press/Snatch/HSPU
3b) Tucked Lever (30s, 25s)
3c) Frog Planche (20s, 22s)

GTG
1) Pistols (2)
2) Headstand to Handstand Press (1)
3) Finger-Tip Pull Up (5)
4) Tuck Planche (5s)
5) Tuck Lever (5s)

So there are one of a choice of two routines for a Monday (Main 1), then a leg-heavy routine on Wednesday (Main 2), followed by a Friday's routine (Main 3).

The planches and levers are on the GTG list and also feature throughout the week's main training routines. The GTG approach will have a strength emphasis - so slow and controlled and only done if feeling well rested between attempts.

I will also back-off 'to-failure' work to accommodate the increase in volume. I have had some thoughts about the evolutionary perspective of a GTG approach. The increase in strength and the development of all gross motor skills of infants are based around this approach. Makes me think my training should err towards it....at least of a while.

Maybe 2010 will see me embrace volume the way 2009 saw me backtrack on the deadlift. I am starting to love the DL and am aiming for 2xBW. Bread and butter to most lifters, but not something I have ever really focused on.

Outside of the climbing-focused routines (Main 1), the other two routines are pretty much standard, with an emphasis on planes of motion and novelty to maintain interest and motivation.

Got to watch my weight as well. This year saw me settle at about 81kg and I don't want to go much over that or all gymnastic and climbing endeavours will be for nought!

Oh yeah, and that indoor rower - 500m:L8:1'35" - I am not happy about that 5 at the end so either I go to Level 10 or start crushing the time to under 1'30". I am not going to train physically for this, I am just going to push myself mentally and try to stick to 29spm.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Greasing the Groove

Christmas will be spent in Dublin. I will be there for about two weeks and so I get a break from training....well, from the training routines listed down the side of this page.

I have been toying with the idea of a Greasing the Groove (GTG) routine for some time and this looks like a suitable opportunity. So each day I am currently looking at something like this:

Warm Up (5 mins) - It's a good warm-up so no point in not using it!
1) Pistols (2)
2) Handstand Press Up (1)
3) Pull Up (10)
4) Frog Planche (12s)
5) Tuck Lever (12s)
6) Wall Walk (1)
7) Splits (5s)
8) Cuts (5s)
9) Handstand (Freestanding - 5s)

I reckon that the main workout will take about five minutes maximum. The whole workout should be done in ten minutes.

I could easily dispense with seven and eight. The dynamic nature of the warm up seems to be sufficient to maintain much of my flexibility. But the rest of it should be feasible to maintain each morning for at least five days of each week I am away.

And looking over the list, maybe I am trying to do too much? Maybe I could split it up throughout the day. I could focus on one exercise - for example crank out a pull up every time I go take a leak.

There are lots of ways of implementing a GTG approach. Whatever my implementation, it will be instinctive and lead by how I feel from day to day.

Of course I might just toss it all off and wash cake down my neck with Guinness for a fortnight.....!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

High Rep Shoulder Workout

The intention here is 'greater than eight, but less than fifteen' reps each. I aimed for two sets each (unless specified otherwise) of 2a-2e and one set of .

Look to create 'heat and light' with your movements. Emphasis here is on shoulder work.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25 mins)
1) Rowing (500m:L8:1'35")

2a) Dumbell Press (10kg x 15, 12)
2b) Tucked Lever (30s, 25s)
2c) Wall Walk (2x2)
2d) Straddle RLLs (8)/Deadlift (8x70%RM - 90kg)
2e) Frog Planche (20s, 22s)

3a) BBS Leg Extension (120x12s)
3b) BBS Leg Press (60sx50kg)
3c) Back Roll to Handstand (BRtH) (1x10)
3d) Sl0w Chins to 'just short of failure' (12)

Watch the BRtH as you'll be fatigued although this is largely skill-based so tired shoulders should not be too much of a problem and will force you to use your legs more (remember to kick upwards with your legs) . Don't worry if you cannot hold the handstand at the end of the roll (I can't either!).

Bad Luck

  1. Sunday 13/12/09. Damaged my left hand thumb by trying to jump a childs scooter down some wet, green steps. I made the jump but on landing, put my foot down to brake. The foot skidded sending me on to my butt, bending my wrist and thumb in the process. The thumb is heavily bruised.
  2. Monday 14/12/09.The car was parked in a bay and I was actually outside the vehicle. A car reversed out of a neighbouring parking slot, the front bumper of which crashed in to my rear bumper. Totally NOT my fault.
  3. Wednesday 16/12/09.Fell down a man-hole whilst carrying my sleeping child and have absolutely stripped my left shin of skin!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Animal Workouts

I find myself drawn more and more to Parkour. My climbing and more recently my gymnastic and martial arts background should (I guess), give me a pretty good basis. Plenty of drunken escapades on the building of Nottingham in my youth (late 80s), give me a bit of 'previous' not too far removed from modern Urban Freeflow.

Whilst on the Urban Freeflow site I came across this article on training. It is very similar in places to my own workouts and as a general approach to training, I cannot fault it. In addition there is a recommended exercises post.

Well worth reading. Both posts were produced by Will Wayland who has runs a blog here.

As an aside, at the bottom of the recommended exercises post is a list of Parkour Techniques that are pretty usefule. This guy below demonstrates a handstand, that is pretty rock solid. From a gymnastic perspective is technique is a wee bit dodgy - given the big arch in his back, but his dismount is cool-as!

The God Helmet

The God Helmet refers to an experimental apparatus in neurotheology. The apparatus, placed on the head of an experimental subject, stimulates the temporal lobes with magnetic fields. The result is a 'supernatural experience' the nature of which is correlated with the subjects cultural background.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Best Bodybuilding Diet Plan Revealed!

The way-honed Mark McManus at Muscle Hack might just have the strategy to allow me to enjoy Christmas in a more...ahem...'traditional' manner. Figgy pudding all round (for 36 hours in the week anyway).

Best Bodybuilding Diet Plan Revealed!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Hustle

I am a big fan of 'hustle' (NOT 'Hustler!') . Hustle is simply an expression of focus, application and drive. I have posted several times about Damien Walters. His showreels are awesome and his 2009 one can be found here.

This post is to highlight another phenomenal parkour athlete showing serious hustle. His name is Daniel Ilabaca. I watched these films with a smile on my face throughout and limited myself to about seven expletives. Seriously good viewing.



Friday, 11 December 2009

Ninja Assassin

Rain, the star of Ninja Assassin, gets it together for his new film. Credit where credit is due. This is an impressive transformation.



MunFitnessBlog lists the 300-based workout Rain apparently which Rain also incorporated:

25 pull-ups
50 deadlifts at 135 pounds
50 push-ups
50 box jumps with a 24-inch box
50 “floor wipers” (a core and shoulders exercise at 135 pounds)
50 “clean and press” at 36 pounds kettle bell (a weight-lifting exercise)
25 more pull-ups

Although the results are impressive, the volume of work and the frequency required for Rain to achieve this kind of physique would not appear to be appropriate for him as a 'lifestyle choice' as it involved "four months of every day six days a week, twelve hour days" training. (This will include skill and strength work).
Rain himself said he will never workout like this again unless the film is a hit (in which case he will be expected to turn up for a sequal way-honed again).

His diet was largely low carb ("Rain hasn’t eaten rice since the end of last year and has been living on chicken breast, raw fish, sweet potatoes and salad.") - and further details can be found on Ninja Assassin's official blog site here.

Negatives Session

As the title suggests, the emphasis here is on the negative side of the exercise. I normally concentrate on this phase of the exercise anyway, but in this session it is EVERYTHING.

Make two passes through 2a to 2d. On the vertical jumps, focus on minimal ground contact time.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25 mins)
1a) Rowing (500m, L8, 1'35", 27spm)

2a) Deadlift (5 reps @ 85-95% 1RM - 110kg) to Vertical Jumps (8)/BBS Leg Press (120:1'50") to BBS Leg Extension (25:55").
2b) Planche (15s) to "Hand Stand Lowers or One Arm Dumbell Press (8x16kg)"
2c) Lever (15s) to "Chin-Up Alternate One Arm Lowers (2x5 per side)"
2d) BackBridge (15s)

The big change here has been the introduction of a Body by Science single leg press followed by a leg extension. The are introduced in place of the deadlift to vertical jump performed on the first pass through. The extensions should see you thigh rippling in anguish after the presses!

There is some debate as to the danger to the knee of performing leg extensions - hence my use of the BBS protocol. The reason for the inclusion of this exercise? I want a devastating turning kick (yeun tak).

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Robson Green: Wild Swim

'Housewife's favourite' Robson Green features in a new program called 'Robson Green's Wild Swimming Adventure'.

I don't really watch much TV and can't say I would feature in Robson's natural demographic, but this program, the first episode of two which was shown this evening, actually proved quite interesting:
  • Actor Robson Green undertakes an aquatic journey through the wild waters of Britain in this new two part documentary series for ITV1. From a decidedly shaky start in the Tyne to his ultimate goal to swim to Holy Island off the coast of his native North East, the programme charts Robson’s adventures as he swims his way through lidos, tidal pools, lakes, rivers and seas.
Taking its lead from The Outdoor Swimming Association founder Kate Rew's book, Wild Swim, Green goes for a dunk in various locations in an around the UK.

Of particular note are his swims around Burgh Island in Devon - which I have always wanted to do ever since visiting the place back in 1996 (I didn't have my cold water 'hustle' on back then) and Llynn LLydaw, in the Snowdonia National Park (my spiritual home). Whilst next weeks' episode features a swim in the mighty Corryvreckan. A feature that I have sailed passed - and it scared the Jesus out of me. I never thought you could swim it - but now I know better, my next visit to Scotland will be with real purpose!

Until then I have my annual St. Stephen's Day/Boxing Day dip in the Irish Sea to look forwards to. I initially prepared for this by finishing my morning shower with two minutes or so under the cold tap. That was about three years ago and is something I have done just about this every day since and continue to do so.

I will try to post up a photo this year!

Diet Trends for 2010

I think MSN are on to me. They seem to bombard me with fast-car porn and diet/fitness items on my home page. I am like a candle to a flame....

The reality is that I'd take a pair of climbing shoes and big crag, or a snowboard and powder snow black-run over ANY fast car any day....but there are some nice cars out there which I find aesthetically pleasing!

As for the diet stuff - I get reeled in by 'The Next Big Thing' - which invariably turns out to contradict the last 'Next Big Thing'.

This item however, does seem to have a heavy paleo bias:
  1. Bare foot running
  2. Matcha Lattes
  3. Clubbells
  4. The every other day diet (IF'ing)
  5. High intensity training
  6. Cinefit
  7. Anti-energy food
  8. Group training

Number four comes with this particularly piece of 'fuckwittery' (my emphasis):

  • "While fasting is not something health experts would ever recommend, there is a - rather worrying - trend that suggests more and more people are turning to it as a way to lose pounds.

    Gwyneth Paltrow has written on her blog that she "likes to do fasts and detoxes a couple of times during the year", despite the fact that several studies have shown that fasting actually slows your metabolism to prevent the burning up of your body's fuel supplies.

    More extreme is the alternate-day-diet, whereby you starve yourself for one day and then eat whatever you want the next.

    This regime was shown in a very, very small study to help obese people lose weight and could become this year's version of the ludicrous maple syrup and cabbage soup diets we have seen in recent years. Our advice, stay well clear!"

So while we can all appreciate the inroads paleo tenets are making in to the mainstream, we can safely ignore and feedback thusly generated.

Number seven is already amongst us in the form of highly refined carbohydrate and fructose laden food.

Baise moi!

The Great Tantra Challenge

An oldie but goodie. (Nothing to do with paleo, but EVERYTHING to do with superstition).

Feed your mind. Free your mind.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Monday Climbing Session

I wanted to have some time off, but having rested Friday, I am itching for some work! The ritual of unlocking and preparing the garage gym in winter is becoming quite a source of inspiration...Much needed on a cold night.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25* mins)
1a) Sprint (2x10s)/Assisted Pistols (1x6)
1b) Frog Planch (30s, 30s)
1c) Tuck Lever (30s, 30s)

2a) Ring Cuts (3x6 each way)
2b) Rope Climb to Cirques (2 'laps')

3a) Kill Carry* (5 minutes of walking with a shouldered punch bag - 35kg)

4a) Fingerboarding

  • 1st minute 15 second hang, 3 pull-ups, Large Edge
  • 2nd minute 2 pull ups, Round Sloper 20 second hang, Medium Edge
  • 3rd minute 20 second hang, Small Edge 15 second 90ยบ bent arm hang, Pocket
  • 4th minute 30 second hang, Round Sloper
  • 5th minute 20 second hang, Large Edge 4 pull-ups, Pocket
  • 6th minute 3 offset pulls each arm (high arm jug, low arm small hold), Jug/Small Edge Change hands and repeat
  • 7th minute 15 knee raises, Jug 15 second hang, Medium Edge
  • 8th minute 25 second hang, Medium Edge
  • 9th minute 15 second hang, Slope 3 pull-ups, Jug
  • 10th minute Hang as long as you can, Round Sloper
I made two passes through 1a - 1c, although I finished with an additional set of pistols. I made three laps of 2a-2b. Then there was a Kill Carry and to finish, a fingerboard session.

With the Cirques, emphasis is on the 'lock-off' and the gradual lowering with one arm. Take care as 'brutal' is the name of the game.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Those Crazy Japanese

The Japanese seem to specialise in game shows based upon human suffering. In the 1980's several UK programs (usually hosted by Chris 'Bonkers' Tarrant), were based upon excerpts from several Japanese game shows. I think the main one was called 'Endurance'. "Oh how we laughed..."

I enjoy two current Japansese-gameshow guilty pleasures at the moment; Ninja Warrior and Unbeatable Banzuke. Of the former, several Olympic gymnasts have entered the competition and done quite well (including the Hamm Brothers and Jordan Jovtec). The latter seems to be a little more niche and has some incredible bike-skill based events although for me 'Hand Walk' is king.



Finally Olympian Paul Terek showing his hustle:



Enjoy....

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Captain Kid Swims Like a Fish

How time flies! I remember clearly when Captain Kid was born (five and half years ago). That half-decade has flown by. There are times when I reckon I have learned as much from her as she has from her mother and I.

There are loads of things she has had to learn in that time - all to do with her development but which would come 'naturally'. I am thinking of gross motor skills and social skills. But there are the 'big five' abstract skills I want/wanted her to learn:
  1. Swimming
  2. Cycling
  3. Reading
  4. Writing
  5. Arithmetic

Sure there are other important skills, but the above are quite significant skills that many adults never master. (The last three are more academic and I see no need to emphasise them just yet - there is plenty of time for that. Also, her simple love of books and stories is her gateway to academia. She is something of a bibliophile and her love of "Calvin & Hobbes" - which she occasionally reads on her own, seems to be encouraging her to pursue these skills further.)

Last July, CK nailed cycling. It was a big day for me. Now, five months later, I am proud to report that she has nailed swimming ("he wrote all misty eyed and weeping"). She completed a width of the pool (all five meters of it), totally unassisted.

She is heavily motivated my the reward of the certificate which underlines this achievement - but for me it is her realisation that a willingness to try, enthusiasm, focus, persistence, challenging and overcoming fear - these are the real skills needed in life.

I try to praise the effort rather than the achievement - she can never repeat the achievement, but if she repeats the effort, greater achievements will come.

Hmmm - I wonder if she is ready to join me on my annual festive 'wild swim'/paleo-dip in the Irish Sea?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Taubes Interview

Might well have been posted before, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Fatigue

Phew - just finished a tough Lau Gar session. I was tripping over the skipping rope and failing to hit my usual 200 skips per minute. Danger! Danger.

"When the student is ready, the teacher arrives."

This is a classic 'leak'. I need to rest. More. I need to expend less. I don't need to go to failure. Looking back over some recent posts I notice other 'leaks'. Sometimes you can't hear for listening. A schedule or program can make us deaf.

It could be the time of year - winter blues - that kind of thing. It could simply be the product of a few hard weeks.

"Fitness is not a load to me moved or a muscle to be grown, it is a fire to be lit."

I am still inspired - or rather I have been prior to each recent workout. It is just some aspects of performance during my workouts that suggest I need a bit more recovery. I am going to engage is some light and very short sessions for the coming weeks. Keeping it random and instinctive.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Talent Code

I have just finished reading Daniel Coyle's 'The Talent Code'. It adds some biology to the idea that 'you are what you do' and '(deep) practice makes perfect'. It is no revelation that our brains are plastic and can adapt throughout life - but Coyle digs a little deeper.

Myelin is a waxy substance that can be prompted to insulate neural networks. The significance of this is that:
  1. All human thought and deed is simply an electrical pulse between neurons,
  2. Myelin wraps around these circuits, the insulating effect of which is to boost signal "strength, speed and accuracy",
  3. Increased firing of a circuit promotes myelination of that circuit and so it fires with increased efficiency and fluidity.
This manifests as 'skill'. The general idea is to engage with 'deep practice' - which is driven by passion and persistence, but which is 'mistake focused' - a situation where you push yourself to the borderline of your ability, where mistakes will occur, but at a point where you can self-correct. The challenging nature of this approach, the novelty of random error, forces us to learn, prompting myelination which makes us remember.

Broadly, Coyle advises us to:
  1. Break the skill up in to manageable chunks, and,
  2. Repeat.
As electrical impulses are sent down the nerve fibres, the chain of fibres is wrapped in myelin. This process of myelination is paramount. It insulates this neural circuit and optimises the impulse:
  • "Neural traffic...with myelin's help [can] accelerate to two hundred miles and hour. The refactory time (the wait required between one signal and the next), decreases by a factor of 30"
The combined effect of this is "...to boost overall information-processing capability by 3000 times". He goes on to note that "...myelin has the capacity to regulate velocity, speeding or occasionally even slowing signals to they hit synapses at the optimal time".
Finally, Coyle gives us the four fundamentals of myelin:
  1. The firing of a circuit is paramount. Myelin responds to the 'urgent-firing' of electrical impulses along a circuit.
  2. Myelin is universal. It doesn't care what you are doing, it responds to what you do! Coyle describes it as 'meritocratic'. Those circuits fired most get priority myelination. (Those of you inclined to watch soap operas or daytime talk-shows on TV for large amounts of your time might want to reflect upon this!)
  3. Myelin wraps - it doesn't unwrap. This is why habits are hard to break! Myelinating a new habit will change behaviour! Only disease or aging removes myelin.
  4. Age matters. We net-gain myelin until about 50 years of age (although after this time we can still myelinate).
Fascinating subject.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Climbing Workout

A real cold night - but I find the ritual of unlocking the garage and hanging the rings builds the excitement and anticipation of the hard work to come!

I was up for this session, but fatigue came quickly in the reps. Still, better to back off and adjust accordingly. I pushed closer in to failure last week, so am happy to back of tonight.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25 mins)
1a) Sprint (12s, 12s)/Pistols* (6 per leg)
1b) L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Tuck Lever (3MUs, 3MUs, 2MUs)
1c) Fingerboard Laddering

2a) Ring Cuts to Splits Combination (4, 4, 4)
2b) Frog/Tuck Planche (14s, 7s, 7s)
2c) Deadhang Repeaters (3a:7r:120s on small rungs)

The reps were done quite slowly, particular cut/split exercises. I have modified my basic ring routine to put a few inverted pull ups in to the exercise and with more emphasis on my pretty poor back-lever. (Damn those long legs)

The sprints were tonight's surprise advance. I really felt like I had fast-feet and pushed on a few extra strides with ease. The tuck planche felt more locked-in than usual as well.

Looking back over my training log it is great to see the ebb and flow of performance. Sometimes I hit a new high out of nowhere, other times I just don't seem to fire on a particular exercise. But I roll with it. When these highs fail to come I will show more concern.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Theory to Practice got me thinking about why we train. For most of us it is probably to get back some 'hustle' having fallen in to poor physical state having followed:

1) a path of diet and exercise as prescribed by modern life (ie refined carbohydrate foods and minimal exercise), or,

2) from having followed a path of diet and exercise as prescribed by modern ideas of diet and exercise (ie low fat/complex carb eating along with chronic exercise of high volume)

We see a picture of some well-honed dude or some lean woman and we think "I want to look like that". Maybe we are going on holiday and the shame of what we might look like on the beach spurs us on similarly.

This is actually quite a limited case when it comes to those 'drivers' which push us to train and is suggestive of quite a poor state of health - much poorer than simply physical degradation would suggest. Let's be honest, if you are driven to train as a result of simple disgust at your appearance then, bloody hell, you MUST be in bad shape.

Early Drivers
The reason for my thinking can be illustrated thus. Look at infants. They are two weak to do much - but over time, instinctively, they reach a little further, roll over, learn to hold their head up, stand, walk and then run. The train 'each day', pushing themselves - and if tired, do less/rest more. Other days they play longer and harder.

This progress requires an increase in strength. No one comes up with a training program or meso- cycle for these little dudes. It is all instinctive. We are wired to move.

Now maybe this is the predator factor ("If you are being chased by a lion, you don't have to be faster than the lion, only faster than your mate!"). Maybe it is something to do with hunting - the freshest and richest food is big, strong and dangerous.

Whatever it is, for me, here is the lesson. Once again it is about listening to your body. Ignoring peer pressure or slavishly following some training plan. Sure you have to have some kind of handle on what you are doing and where you are going, but we have all become damn strong and skilled simply by responding to innate cues.

When you see an infant learning to walk, what is compelling it to keep pushing on? There is some innate desire. The TTP article illustrated a similar compulsion to do more than what was prescribed by a particular training protocol.

Those cues always seem to exist in some form. We are drawn towards physical pursuits as spectator if not participants. Think about the draw of a major football match, the Olympic 100m final, the Rumble in the Jungle. Team sports may have a tribal element that attracts, but watching Usain Bolt?

When you think of training like this, you realise how one dimensional 'shame' is as a driver for fitness. The corollary is that if you want to flip like Damien Walters, sprint like Usain Bold or hit a tennis ball like Roger Federer then make some space for this in your life. Don't be chained to some schedule or program, respond to these cues.

Remember to keep listening - if you remain healthy, injury free and motivated, then keep it up. Forcing yourself to train should be an extraordinary thing.

If you are still subject to these forces, if you still have an energy that makes you want to squeeze a bit more from life, then you are in a good place!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Get It On

It must be the time of year, but I have noticed the arrival of winter blues around me. Folks complaining of aching, of it being to cold, of being too old, of targets unmet and objectives unfulfilled. And then, the BIG question; "What's the point?"

First some basics:
A little reminder from one of my earlier posts on why I think we should train - "if we take care of ourselves it means we travel first class. If we abuse our bodies....well, we are going to find it pretty uncomfortable in cattle-class and the journey is long enough!"

Travelling first class is your birthright. Your ancestors did it. Outside of first class you travelled by digestive system. Modern life allows you to travel below first-class. Waaaay below. The destination is the same - although travelling in one of the lower classes may get your there quicker - if you are lucky. You don't want to be travelling in cattle-class for long.

Now some pointers:
1) F**k the scales. Get rid of them.
2) F**k sets and reps - just see them as a means of 'broadly directing' your training, but don't be a slave to them.

When we have an objective of lifting a given load, achieving a certain weight or completing certain sets and reps it is easy to set yourself up for 'negative feedback' where you end up focusing on your shortcoming against that target.

Survival in the wild had no such targets or goals apart from (and in no particular order):

1) Escape
2) Eat
3) Shag

Now lets look at that list - most of us can ignore objective one. We have all ticked objective two, and most of us should be nailing rule three at least some of the time (and to the non-monogamous of you, depending on how you are achieving '3', this might be related to '1').

So in terms of paleo goals - the goals that REALLY matter, we're all winners! And why wouldn't you be a winner - your parents were, as were ALL your ancestors. That is REAL feedback, NOT some negativity based upon the fact that you wanted to complete 10 reps and you only did 9.

Armed with this world view, you should now see that sets and reps are just a means of trying to ensure the randomness and variation in exertions that fate would bring simply in fulfilling those three paleo objectives. Nice and simple eh?

Now sure there is a time and a place to look at loads, RM Max, weight and stuff like that (without the visceral feedback of "Phew that was close/I've escaped" you need some handle on your efforts), but personally I think as long as you have discharged a bit of "grrrrrr" once or twice a week using a few basic lifts and sprints, you are getting it right.

Removing indicators suggestive of a kind of failure (sets and reps), you remove at least one source of negativity from your life. Such measures make it hard for you not to focus on some perceived notion of shortcoming, rather than allowing you to just 'be' and 'do'.

Of course outside of sets and reps, there are other forms of paleo feedback - these are to do with chronic measures such as "am I injured", "am I continually sick have prolonged colds" or "do I have my 'training mojo'"?

In this state you are not trying to micro-manage your body. You couldn't if you wanted to anyway. You are simply trying to recreate key signals from our evolutionary past and delegating the rest to the body below. We might not know explicitly what these signals are or were but if you have health and can fast comfortably for 24 hours on a workout day, then from a nutrition point of view I'd wager you are heading in the right direction.

For me, the ability to fast for 24 hours and train fasted is the single most plausible and credible support for paleo eating and how it should be defined.

This same paleo philosophy should encourage you to introduce novelty in to your workouts. By this, I don't mean to jump on to the latest fat-burning/hypertrophy workout using some crappy plastic ab-training kit. Simply think of the basic planes of motion and how you can engage them. This could mean replacing a military press with throwing rocks or handstands.

I will also mention the gaps between 1, 2 and 3. These are very important and should be filled with play, socialising and relaxing pursuits. Progress is rooted in health which necessitates patience. Grow your mind. Feed your soul.

Great Grandma Asclepius says that when I look at her I see an old woman, but inside, she still feels 18. As I get older I can appreciate this more an more. But whereas that 18 year old would sprint for a bus, leap a wall or climb a tree, and although in her mind Great Grandma Asclepius still wants to run for a bus or swim in a river, she is trapped in an un-able body.

That difference between that ambition/will, and what you are physically capable of, should be YOUR measure of your own physical health.

ADV expresses it best:"When the difference between the most you can do and the least you can do merges, you're dead."

Reverse Pyramid Workout

Maaaan - those Lau Gar session are definitley a-hurting. I like them but have to take it careful with my other workouts.

I have stripped this workout right back in response. It is still hard, fucking hard, as I am using reverse pyramid training (championed by Mike Mentzer no less), but the whole routine is short!

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (15mins)
1) Rowing (L7, 500m, 1'40")
2) Weighted Chins (4 reps)
3) Deadlift (3x90%RM)
4) Kneel Backs (60s)
5) Weighted Chins (6 reps with 10% less weight than in the last set)
6) Deadlift (4 reps with 10% less weight than in the last set)
7) Kneel Backs (60s)
8) Chin Ups ('just short of failure')

Just go from 1 to 8! This means the whole workout has two sets of deadlifts and three sets of chins. The kneel backs are rests. Shimples.

I had intended to do sprints but as it was very wet (which makes running outdoors in Vibram 5ingers uncomfortable - especially when you come back indoors), I opted for the rower.

I might do a bit more climbing specific stuff in the evening - but it will be fingers only. No gymnastics until next week!

Hot Air

Here is story to set the paleo alarm bells ringing! Driving in to work this morning I caught a news item about how a government think-tank had been asked to think laterally and solve two key problems. I pissed myself laughing .... until I realised that it was 'factual'.

Before I give you the 'problem', let me give you the 'solution'. The problem was to kill 30% of all sheep and cows in Britain. The effect of this was to save the environment and to make us healthier.

The reasoning? Well, the reasoning was as follows:
  • The theory goes like this: if you have less ruminant livestock, you emit less climate-damaging methane into the atmosphere.
    You also have less meat to eat, which means less saturated fat in our diets and thus less heart disease.
Next time you see Gordon Brown climbing out of his chauffeur driven Jaguar, you might want to reflect on both the notion of ill health and pollution.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Climbing Specific Routine

I am still trying to balance out and adjust my training in the face of the demands of Lau Gar. Short and hard is the training mantra of the moment - oh, and listening to my body. But the Lau Gar session comes AFTER this workout - so tonight could be interesting!

The aim is three passes through 1a-1c and then three sets of 2a-2c. Reps are not absolute - but best not go much above them. Move slower on the negative phase to ensure you tire before hitting the target - except for the MUs where you should aim for 5-8 reps on each set.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (20 mins)
1a) Sprint (10s, 10s)/Pistols* (6 per leg)
1b) L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Tuck Lever (3MUs, 3MUs, 3MUs)
1c) Fingerboard Laddering

2a) Ring Cuts to Splits Combination (6, 6, 6)
2b) Tuck Planche (6s, 6s, 5s)
2c) Deadhang Repeaters (3a:7r:120s on small rungs)

*Notice the move from sprints for two sets to pistols on the final set

It was a cold, wet night so the prospect of completing a workout was not that appealing. But after the first sprint I felt like it was 'game-on!". At the risk of repeating myself, for me there is no better statement of intent to your body than a sprint ("un-corking the champagne")!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Superdiets

Diet. The very word is loaded with debilitating baggage. Of all the burdened terms, none goes as heavily laden as Atkins. Sadly for the paleo crowd, we get lumped in with Atkins.

Today's Observer has an interesting article titled "Superdiets? They're just a fairytale, says top doctor". Now believe that paleo eating is deemed faddish by the wider population but check out what our 'top doctor' (Professor Chris Hawkey, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology), has to say about the Atkins diet which he concedes '...is one of the few that carries at least a small amount of evidence':
  • "It is not terribly healthy in the sense that you are going to have a lot of fat, but if you lose weight then it is a good thing," he said. "The theory is that it resets the metabolic rate and there is some science to back that up."
So although he makes recourse to mainstream fat phobia, and although he implies that eating fat does not make us fat, he can at least see the benefit of this approach. It would be nice to ask him why eating a lot of fat is 'not terribly healthy'.

He does favour the 'balanced diet' developed by nutritionist Esther Blum, who '...advocates eating full-fat foods in moderation to help metabolise cholesterol and to improve sex drive'.

So clearly when Esther Blum recommends eating full-fat foods, it is good. But Atkins' endorsement of fat is bad. Blum suggests that the fitness industry is premised on failure (I blogged about this same idea over a year ago), and suggests we should not look at foods as good and bad, and to accepts some fat in our lives.

Reading between the line I still think she sees fat as bad, but reckons we can have success by allowing ourselves to enjoy it.

Personally I think any success comes from the fact that 'animal fat' is NOT bad and that as it is pleasurable and satiating, allowing people to eat it is the REASON Blum's diet works for some - rather than her idea that “A little self-acceptance goes a long way to softening our own critical voice, which can serve as a barrier to helping us reach our goals.” She does nail it on the exercise front though, viewing it as “an opportunity, not a punishment.”

Amen to that!

So now we have growing acceptance that eating fat can make us thinner. All we need do now is tackle the notion that eating fat will NOT clog up our arteries.

Round two. Ding! Ding!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Static Dynamic Routine

This workout is perhaps my favourite....I mean I like ALL my workouts - they contain variety, novelty and a good general challenge. But this workout has that 'tension' as I make the move from the static exercise to the dynamic.

I know during that transition that I am a few seconds away from SERIOUS physical demand that requires real focus and application.

Wam Up (5 mins)
Main (25 mins)
1a) Rowing (1x500m, level 7, 28spm: 1'35")

2a) Chair Sit (60s) to Pillar Jumps (2x10)
2b) Handstand (2x60s) to Alternate One Arm 3kg Medicine Ball Throws (2x10 - 20 in total per rep)

3a) Lever (5s) to Chin Ups (3 x to failure - 12, 8, 6)
3b) RLLs (Straight Leg - 1x5)/Deadlift (1x5 RM to 'almost failure' with > BW weights)

The rowing is really an extension of the warm up. The 'meat & potatoes' occurs in parts 2 and 3.

Section two, performed as a pair, involves three lots of 2a and two sets of 2b. The same goes for section three. So for example, for section three I start with the Lever and Pull Up (L2PU) combination, and then move to RLLs. Second time through I do L2PUs and then move to Deadlifts. I complete with a set of L2PUs only.

Rest as necessary between groups of exercises (so between 1 and 2, and 2 and 3). But no excessive intra-set rests!

As always the emphasis is on the negative phase of the exercise - particularly with pull ups. Also with PUs, you need to pull up so your neck is well above the bar and lower to almost straight arms. Use that full range of motion. Oh yeah - and NO kipping or wild swinging.

With the Medicine Ball throws, explode that ball upwards on EVERY throw with everything you have. Try to catch it one handed as well - with the same hand. You should experience failure by the 10th rep - if not then first, throw harder and higher, and if that does not work, use a heavier weight.

The planches have been pushed to the climbing/sport specific workouts but reckon I should move them to part of my Lau Gar warm up.

Brutal!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Shopping List

There is an old drinking game I used to play as a student which involved sitting in a circle with a group of friends. It was called 'The Shopping List'. One person names an item of shopping such as "Butter". The person to his/her left would then repeat the list thus-far and then name an additional item ("milk"), and so it would go on around the circle - where each person in turn had to repeat the list correctly and add an additional item.

Failure to repeat the list would involve a drink related punishment and the task of repeating the list once again would fall to the previous participant. If s/he failed the process was repeated.

My Lau Gar instructor has recently adopted a similar approach to training which is based upon the Shopping List game above. If you need a short, tough workout, then try this:

The Exercise

Select five exercises. I suggest 1) Skipping, 2) Crunches, 3) Press Ups, 4) Burpees, 5)Pull Ups.

The aim is to do exercise one for 30s and then rest 30s. The repeat exercise one for 30s, move straight to exercise two and then rest for a further 30s. Round three means repeating exercise one for 30s, exercise two for 30s, exercise three for 30s and then rest for 30s. And so it goes on until you have completed all five exercises.

This should be the hardest ten minutes of your life. You can vary the exercise choice to emphasise a body part, or you can shorten the rests, extend the duration of the exercise or add another iteration of exercise - as long as you maintain intensity throughout.

Changes

Given the nature of current Lau Gar workouts I think I might have to re-plan my training to allow rest and recovery but also to allow me to achieve my goals - particularly the gymnastic ones, AND allow me to climb and fight.

Calvin advised some time ago that I try a form of synaptic facilitation (Clarence Bass covers this in detail here), which is a form of Pavel's 'greasing the groove' approach to training. I think now might be the time for me to try this approach. I need to put some time in to accommodating the demands I make upon my body.

As always I know that I am trying to cover many bases, but confident of how I understand feedback, I should be able to pull something effective together!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The 'Stupid', it Burns!

So, anyone out there following government nutritional guidelines would appear to have been eating 400 less calories than appropriate!
  • The recommended daily intake of calories could be increased by up to 16%, a draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition said.

It just drives me crazy that anyone would realistically think you can simply 'choose' to stop short or over shoot your body's daily requirement of calories without some kind of compensatory factor kicking in.

Bit of Bouldering

Just did some bouldering at the local wall today. I have definitely maintained much of my strength even thought the volume of climbing I have been doing this year has fallen rapidly.

My strength felt good but I was not pulling on holds as small as usual for as long as usual. I thinkthat this might be as much to do with my increased weight over the past year. Bigger thighs are no use in the vertical!

I felt tired yesterday so skipped the planned workout. Monday's rope-climbing was clearly brutal. I could feel it in my back and shoulders for the following two days and knew even on Friday that I was below baseline. I should be stoked for something next week - reckon I might train on a different day and see what happens. As always, I will try to listen to my body and let it guide me.

Importantly, today was all about 'play'. Mixing with friends with some good natured banter.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Hospital

The last post enclosed this quote:
  • Anyone who caught Channel 4’s ‘The Hospital’ will probably never eat carbohydrates again. At one point, the lead doctor in the show – who spends his days fixing gastric bands to supersized patients - belted out an inspired tirade against ‘beige’ foods; crisps, potatoes and bread among other things.
I went in search of the actual program which you can see here. It is quite funny that despite a room full of experts (doctors, surgeons, nutritionists), meeting streams of people who are fat despite dieting and pursuing lots of exercise, they still think it is "calories in vs calories out" and a lack of self discipline that is the problem.

The quote about beige kicks in at 12'30" but even this doctor responsible for this incisive comment seems to believe you can simply restrict calories or increase calories out to lose fat. Hmmm - can these guys prove this approach works? Are they sure that reducing 'calories in' in a complex biological organism will NOT cause a compensatory and involuntary reduction in calories out?

It does sound controversial that a fat person is, at a cellular level, in calorific balance, but they are. If you can't access your fat stores then you can be fat and starving. Starving people will eat. Hunger is a powerful driver. From an evolutionary perspective those that did not respond to this signal died. Simple as.

At 23' comes a really nasty part where the 'experts' just CANNOT believe that at least one of the patients is lying about her diet and exercise (they are accused of lying by the narrator). The whole thing is pushed largely in to the realm of psychology.

Where exercise is found to work there is no conclusion drawn beyond the idea that calories out were increased and so burned off the fat. Such an explanation ignores the consequence of exercise on insulin sensitivity....

The broad advice is to follow our old friend "the balanced diet". N'owt worse than a mistake repeated eh?

Beige

My default Homepage on my home PC is to MSN. I often cast a casual eye over it, but every so often I get drawn in - usually to the health news. Today I got pulled in to this article on aging and nutrition.

As (the few) regular readers will kwow, I am sucked in by confirmation bias! This article is no exception, ticking all the paleo boxes including inferences to AGEs and so forth.

What is significant, and the reason I post, are the two sections copied below. They really go to illustrate the wider and growing awareness of the 'tenets of paleo'.

Anyone who has visited the legendary Arthur De Vany's website will be aware of his caveats about eating 'beige' food. Well this very term cropped up on MSN:
  • "Anyone who caught Channel 4’s ‘The Hospital’ will probably never eat carbohydrates again. At one point, the lead doctor in the show – who spends his days fixing gastric bands to supersized patients - belted out an inspired tirade against ‘beige’ foods; crisps, potatoes and bread among other things. Carbohydrates are an essential part of your diet, but they do make you put on weight (especially if you do little exercise) so do not overdo it and always go for natural rather than processed sources, which contain more sugar. Too many carbs also make you feel – and appear – drowsy: never a good look."
The MSN article goes on to kick soya:
  • "Once hailed as a food with a long list of superpowers, health experts are now questioning whether soya could in fact pose a serious health risk. Research in Japan (a country which should know a thing or too about soya) suggests that high levels of soy-based products can play havoc with your thyroid gland, leading to major weight gain and fatigue. Soya apparently blocks the uptake of the chemical iodine, which keeps your thyroid healthy. And it is not as easy to avoid as you would think; it is estimated that soya is found in 60% of processed foods, including breakfast cereals, cheese, cakes, noodles, soups, and sandwich spreads. Experts recommend limiting intake and eating natural, unprocessed foods to avoid any problems."
I get the 'piss' taken out of me more than most for my paleo philosophy. I have quite a few critics who trot out the old 'balanced diet' shite and think that because they are thin (skinny fat in reality), they must be 'OK'. But, it should not escape us that the 'consensus' is definitely coming round to our way of thinking in all but name.

Let them mock...I am not for turning.

Post-HG Lifestyle

Ever wondered what happens when a hunter-gatherer (HG), stops hunting? Sure you could read the works of Weston Price or Vilhjalmur Stefansson, but I think I have found a better example:

Monday, 9 November 2009

Monday Climbing Focus

Friday evenings finger training didn't materialise. But I was psyched for this session. I like the kill carry work and rope climbing is always challenge which can force you to 'writhe' upwards working much of your torso.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25* mins)
1a) Sprint (3x10s)
1b) Tuck Planch (6s, 6s, failure)
1c) Lever (6s, 6s, failure)

2a) Ring Cuts (3x6 each way)
2b) Rope Climb to Cirques (2 'laps')

3a) Kill Carry* (5 minutes of walking with a shouldered punch bag - 35kg)

4a) Fingerboarding

I made three passes through each group of exercises (except '3a' and '4a' of which I completed one pass of each), completing the exercises in one group before moving on to the next.

Rope climbing involved steady climbing both up and down the rope with the legs extended in an L-Sit fashion. The lowering involved Cirques. Such 'locking off' can really 'bone' your elbow joint - so take it steady with these! I felt a slight ache in my right forearm and so eased things as neccessary.

The sprinting and planche/lever work was ably assisted by Captain Kid - estending this phase by some time, but it was a good laugh. I give her a head start on the sprints but will have to look at shortening her advantage!

I can really feel this session. The rope climbing was particularly tough - but this may be due to my increased weight.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Dynamic Workout

So this was one of my first gym workouts with the intention of pushing in to failure on the last rep. I usually walk out of the gym with enough gas to 'escape a predator' but the pistols and rows to failure ensured that I would probably end up as tiger food today - although wit and wisdom might just save me.

Warm Up (5 Mins)
Main (20 Mins)
1a) Row (500m, level 7, 1min 35)

2a) Alternate One-Arm Dumbell Snatch/Assisted Pistol + Dumbell Press (18kg 2x15 - last set to failure, 1x15 + 16kg x 8)
2b) Back Bridge (3x15s)

3a) One Arm Dumbell Rows (15, 10, 10 x 18kg)

I am once again trying to cover too many bases and need to reorganise how I label my routines! As the main workout was pretty taxing, the evening workout will just focus on training the fingers with some supplementary stretch/strength work on the legs.

The main workout is now devoid of planche and lever work as this now features in my Monday session. The leg exercise in this workout now involves planching to failure in less than 20 reps - a la Mike Mentzer (but with a few more sets). I have also dropped 'walking on hands' as this whole routine is pretty shoulder intensive and I want to maintain that focus on intensity!

I couldn't wait for this workout! I was TOTALLY stoked. It lived up to its billing as it was brief, hard and had enough variety to keep me entertained ;)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Climbing Workout (Growth)

My climbing workout has evolved once again - this time, to allow me on occasion to push myself in to physical exhaustion. At the moment I want to intersperse this kind of workout with my Hunt-oriented workouts.

I completed three sets through each group of exercises. Form was maintained throughout. The first two sets were completed to a point of where mentally I felt I could not complete another complete rep. The third and final set was completed to momentary muscular failure.

The negative portion of each exercise was always done under strict control and slower than the positive phase.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (20 mins)

1a) Sprint (10s, 10s, 15s)
1b) L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Tuck Lever (6MUs, 4MUs, 3MUs)
1c) Fingerboard Laddering

2a) Ring Splits (6, 6, 5)
2b) Tuck Planche (6s, 6s, 5s)
2c) Deadhang Repeaters (3a:7r:120s on small rungs)

The shorter grouping allowed me to mentally REALLY focus on each exercise - and working on the final sets to a point of failure gave me firm feedback of my level of exertion.

Shoving all the gymnastic stuff in to this workout feels good - and as long as I alternate between my hunt workout (which I might tweak further), I look forwards to how this change of approach will manifest itself.

Certainly I am aching deeply today from this new intensity. I am also hungry for Fridays dabble with resistance. Both are good indicators.

These workouts are often completed fasted. On a Monday I don't eat until 2200hrs - and I manage both the workout above and my Lau Gar session in complete comfort with regards to my appetite. Mentally I feel it gives me an edge.

Variety eh? The spice of life.

Growth - Plan B

So our ancestors were shaped by 'wild' forces. Unpredictable by nature. There was no program to follow, no 'meso-cycle' or 'progression' - just the unpredictable demands of survival married to to and ability to adapt.

I try to keep variety in my workouts. Over the course of a week I hit the basic planes of motion (vertical pull/press, horizontal row/press, leg press), coupled with a few static holds and some sprints. Add in a few big lifts (including those that go above your head, and some carry work and "job's a good-un".

Your body does not really know the difference between many of the exercises used - a Military Press or a HSPU...the body just knows it is having to work and which muscles are required to do that work.

But your body is shrewd. It does not want the overhead of growing bigger with its associated increase in metabolic expense. Its first line of adaption is to increase efficiency - to make better use of what it has. Growth is at best best your body's plan B. Your body will only grow so if it is challenged appropriately - if it HAS to.

Although I have kept away from 'going to failure', in retrospect I think I am too often stopping well short of where the most gains can be made. I like working out in a short and intense fashion, but it is often a kind of aerobic exhaustion that gets me (the traditional 'cardio' idea), as much as anything approaching muscular failure.

Now this has made me pretty lean and mean (IMHO), but I am curious as to whether I could get a bit bigger. In going paleo I have grown some - I sit at about 80kg most of the time from a pre-paleo mode of 77kg, but most of this is probably to do with the increase in muscle in my legs and butt from sprinting.

So in the interests of experimentation, I am going to push a bit harder towards muscular failure and see where that takes me....of course function remains my primary goal!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Omega3 and Omega6

BBC Four's 'Food Program' explores the balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the diet:
  • According to scientists, we need to dramatically increase our intake of omega 3 fatty acids and reduce our intake of omega 6 fatty acids to achieve a healthy balance. It is a controversial debate with all sorts of vested interests at stake.
    As manufacturers add omega 3 to a whole host of products, consumers can be left confused in the face of claim and counter claim. What can they believe? What is in the products we buy anyway, and how much does it matter?
There is a broad check of the usual paleo tick boxes - 'omega 3 and 6 ratios', 'margarine not so good', 'omega 3 good', 'inflammation', 'omega 3 changes cell membranes', 'omega 6 and obesity' etc....

There is some discussion of omega 6 and endo-canabinoid receptors - leading to munchies. There is even talk of saturated fat not being that bad and that you need long-chain (sea-food) omega threes rather than short chain (plant) omega threes! Sadly we get a bit of cholesterol scaring....oh well, it is a step in the right direction I guess. Dr Alex Richardson features on the program and offers some robust comment.

You can listen to the program here.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Bodyfat

My original motivation to question conventional wisdom on diet and exercise was down to the pursuit of 'abs'. Well - in fact I just wanted a low level of body fat (BF), all the time to improve my strength to weight ratio. Visible abs are a good indication of BF. ('Abs' are also the cheapest and most reliable method of determining BF IMHO.)

My abs have been reasonably visible since my youth and as a rough guide they indicated BF levels of around 10%. But over the course of a year their visibility would phase in and out.
My program at the time was of three or four gym sessions a week lifting weights for up to an hour at a time (and involving endless crunches, curls and 'the Plank'), three distance runs of around thirty minutes to an hour and a diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrate. I didn't really 'do' hunger, so not much in the way of calorie counting....but when I did go without food (sometimes I would forget to have lunch due to pressures of work), I would get that regular carb-crash and the dreaded shakes! I would also spend several hours climbing a week... I won't mention the stresses of maintaining this program, nor the mood swings.

This was in effect the 'eat less and do more' approach coupled with a good dose of 'eat fat = get fat' dogma to boot.

So after today's workout I was struck by the realisation that my abs are probably in their most visible state ever and to be honest, have been for some time - we are talking years!

I want to stress, 'abs' are not my goal. Having a low BF is NOT my goal. This is simply a consequence/by product of my implementation of paleo living.

I know many people 'go paleo' to lose BF and this blog is about my personal experience of paleo living (along with rants on religion, the Media etc...), so I want to share with you exactly WHAT I have been doing to get this way.

YOU CAN GET THIS LEAN, and you can do it without supplements and vitamin pills, gainer drinks, endurance or cardio circuits on foot/bike or rower, chronic and intense ab-isolation, exercises, ab-gizmos (including electrodes or passive machinery of any kind), diet books, ab training books etc... Oh - and this won't cost you a penny.

Paleo: High Fat Diet = Low Fat Body
Read my top 10 nutrition tips here. Basically eat lots of fresh meat, seasonal veggies, nuts and occasional dairy if you want. Moderate fruit (try to stay seasonal). Never avoid animal fat. Do not calorie count. Eat until full. You may progress to fasting after a time - but the fasts should feel intuitive and not become a fight against hunger.

Paleo: High Intensity Workouts = Low Fat Body
First of all - check out my workouts. They are listed 1-11 and contain no ab isolation work. The abs are engaged in the lever and ring work and in stuff like the Kill Carry. My workouts sum to about two 30 minute workouts a week.

Paleo: Playful & Functional Workouts = Low Fat Body
You will see that I 'play'. This could be wild swimming, climbing (getting rarer due to family commitments, hence the second weekly workout is climbing specific), and two one hour sessions of martial arts.

The martial arts start with a warm up of press ups (3x5), and then some sit ups/crunches or V-ups (usually a total of 15 reps in all), followed a saw-tooth pattern of activity, with short intense skipping drills and some sparring. The time under load is brief but intense. Some session are solely skill or form-based so are of a very low intensity for most of the whole hour of the class.

I would also point out that others in my class do these same exercises but have no where near my definition. I know this sounds a bit narcissistic, but I just want to point out that it is not necessarily this ab work which is revealing my abs!

My formal workouts feature sprinting and pull ups, handstands and rows. I work the major planes of movement.

Total workout times then, sum to about three hours a week - which is easily half the amount of 'formal' exercise I used to do - and less oriented around 'cardio' (the traditional fat burning stuff), and much less ab-centric.

In summary I am doing less work using basic exercises with great intensity. I reckon it is the 'formal' gym sessions that in exercise terms are of the biggest benefit. For me THE big change is that of diet. Low carb means less insulin, means lipolysis. Obviously I have not got the best abs ever - genetics plays a part - but they are as good as I have ever got them to look. All achieved without really trying to do anything other than live like a wild man.

So there you have it! If only I had known all this twenty years ago.....Meh!

High Tempo Power Session

It was all about the explosive movements today! I dropped the sets to three and skinned the rests and pauses to the bare minimum. I always lowered under control, and the positive phases of the exercises were fast. Wow this hurt me - but I kept short of failure.

Warm Up (5 Mins)
Main (15 Mins)
1) 2 Mins rowing at 70% intensity and 30 SPM.

2a) Alternate One-Arm Dumbell Snatch (18kg 3x7)
2b) Chin Ups (3x7)
2c) Kneel Backs (3x15s)
2d) Frog Planche (3x15s)
2e) Tuck Lever (3x15s)

I was in and out of the gym in about 30 minutes. The grey weather meant that I worked out indoors.

On completion I had some gas in the tank and felt that 'warmed throughout' feeling. I feel I could go and do something else - some other activity now, such as play a game of football or go for a climb.

Hopefully my body is receiving these positive messages of success at the metabolic level! Certainly my head is in a VERY good place after that bit of exertion! It is not often I smile as I type....

Monday, 19 October 2009

Climbing (Migratory) Workout

The nights are drawing in. It is getting colder. Winter is nearly upon us. Thus, I move to a greater emphasis on the 'hunting' elements of my workout. The paleo model mandates seasonal food - and I mandate seasonal exercise.

So if there is snow on the ground, you ain't doing much running. If there is snow on the ground you ain't eating much fruit. If there is snow on the ground you are hunting big game - and hauling its carcass back to camp! Time to head north and work the Kill Carry!

Ok - this is all romantic BS - but seasonal change is as good a reason as any to jazz up your workouts with whatever it takes to keep your enthusiasm stoked!

Warm Up (5 mins)

Main (25* mins)
1a) Sprint (The Chase - 15s) - I said 'much', not none!
1b) Ring Splits (6)
1c) Five L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to 5s Lever
1d) Laddering (3-grip)

2a) Pistols (five per leg - The Fight)
2b) Ring Splits (6)
2c) Four L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to 5s Lever
2d) Laddering (3-grip)

3a) Weighted 10kg Vest Kill Carry* (5 minutes of walking with a shouldered punch bag - 35kg)3b) Ring Splits (6)
3c) Four L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to 5s Lever

4a) Assorted 10 min dead hanging routine

The big news was the five unassisted pistols on each leg. I reckon I could have done at least another one on each leg but held back a bit knowing that the Kill Carry (KC) would be done with a weighted vest as well as the punch bag.

I headed off on the KC at a brisk pace and walked with purpose. I returned to 'camp' blowing quite hard, but psyched for that last little section of the routine.

I am looking forwards to doing a Kill Carry in the cold nights and during the snow. One of THE best workouts of last year involved just such an event - light snow and the shouldering of a burden (not too heavy though)!

The whole session was about 45 minutes I guess - but you could knock at least 10 minutes off if you ignored the specialised deadhanging exercises at the end....unless you want to climb!