Archive for July, 2010

Client Numero Uno – First Month

Well I’ve got the first month of client numero uno’s training program set up.  It will be a 3 week build up with a 4th week pull back on volume.  The simple part is two days a week of rock climbing and 5 mornings a week a very short 1 mile run with the dog.  This will help a little with just improving activity level over all and general cardiovascular fitness.

I’m adding in some core work in the form of toes to rings and L-Sit holds.  CNU’s suffering from a little lower back discomfort and this should help with that.  Also I’m adding in some squat work to help improve leg strength.  CNU is lacking in leg strength a little bit and it’s hurting his rock climbing especially moves that are basically pistols.

CNU’s training period will officially start 8-1-10.  We’re going to get some body measurements and record starting personal records in climbing.  This will be our way of judging progress and training effectiveness.  I’m posting CNU’s training calendar for reference.

Training Calendar


Client Numero Uno – Goals

I have posited that monomania* is a key characteristic of really successful people.  These types of folks cannot stop focusing on their chosen focus.  Lance Armstrong may be a good example.  It seems that despite his getting older and his peak condition perhaps behind him, he has a tough time letting go of the sport by cycling.  I think this is true of many elite professionals, whose down right obsession with their profession is a key element in their success.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I am many thing, monomaniacal isn’t one of them.  If anything I’ve got a history of being the opposite, unable to focus on any one thing for very long at all.  You know how kids want to be every imaginable profession when they “grow up”?  Well I”m 30 and still feel that way. (*I use this term as focus at the expense of most other things in a person’s life, not the psychotic disorder.)

I’m wildly jealous of such irretrievably focused people.  I would never want to be one.  Yeah that’s right, I’m jealous of the outcome that such focus brings, but frankly I don’t care to focus my life into one narrow area.  The question, I suppose, is how to balance between wanting to do it all and wanting to do only one thing.  The one nice thing about being older is being closer to death.  This is nice as it finally pushes you to value your time.  I’ve never really valued my time nearly enough.  I’ve spent most of my life waiting for something, though never sure what that something was.  I’ve started about half a dozen blogs and never stuck with them for instance.  This blog already has more content than they did.  It is with this knowledge of my history of failure to achieve fleeting goals that I try to separate myself from a responsibility as my trainer.  I know it likely sounds schizo, but I’m really hoping it will produce results.  With that, I will now look at Client Numero Uno’s goals.

CNU has been indoor rock climbing for the past few months and has really enjoyed it.  He’s been flirting with 5.10a top rope climbs and V0+ bouldering problems.  CNU would like to get better at climbing in hopes of climbing 5.9+ routes on outdoor climbs in the fall and spring.  CNU has some history of back packing and would like to get in shape to do some long haul (3 or more day) trips in the early fall when things here in Arizona finally cool down.

Like anyone, CNU is interested in “looking good naked”.  CNU has significant fat around the midsection.  This is both problematic from the matter of appearance as well as being a risk factor for health problems in the future.

CNU has listed a number of other goals such as getting back on his mountain bike, getting some self-defense or martial arts training, trail running, olympic weightlifting and other areas of interest.  Since the list is so very long it’s necessary to pair it back to some reasonable and complimentary goals that will keep the client engaged and excited as well as move forward into other areas of interest as his capacity builds.

The first sport specific area we’re going to focus on is rock climbing.  CNU has a good group of climbing partners and a regular schedule.  This commitment helps to support ongoing adherence and improvement.  To help push that adherence, we’ll keep his current two day per week climbing schedule, though the focus of each session may change.  In addition to the focus of rock climbing, we’ll focus on improving body composition.  This is important from a general health and fitness standpoint as well as aiding in rock climbing; less fat to haul of the rock.

So the next post in this series will lay out the baseline points for CNU.  We’ll get best effort climbing capabilities as well as detailed body measurements.  These will be used to help rate the effectiveness of the training and nutrition protocols that we’ll be using on down the line.  I’m pretty excited about what I’m going to be able to do for this, my first client.  I’m hoping that improving diet and exercise will prove to help motivate and improve CNU’s capabilities and push him towards his goals.

Nutrition Counter Culture – Part II

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Sadly, little more than hilarious British satire remains to document the dawn of the universe.  Even still, I’d go far as to suggest that the Hitchhiker’s Guide got it right given what I know about things that have happened hence.  To paraphrase Douglas Adams

About 12,000 years ago, human beings began to stop collecting from the bounty of nature at large and decided rather to plant, tend and harvest their food.  This, the dawn of agriculture and civilization, was a bad move.

The Reenlightenment Blog

Agriculture lead to food surpluses and allowed for people to put down “roots” in a fixed geographic space.  Villages, towns, cities, states, countries all arose out of this ability.  This ultimately resulted in expansion of written communication, learning, industrialization, and technology.  These advantages, and they are advantages, have a cost.  Our current system has the ability to support many thousands of times as many people in at least moderate comfort than it did 12,000 years ago.  Our improved knowledge has helped us to conquer many diseases and develop life saving drugs.  It even produced fancy machines that allow me to write articles and spread them to…well, no one, but someone COULD read them.

So with all those advantages, why was agriculture a bad idea?  Agriculture is killing us.  The resultant civilization isn’t doing anything for our health either.  The high population density that our civilization requires and drives increases the prevalence of communicable diseases.  In fact, one could look at a hospital as a microcosm of civilization.  Hospitals are repositories of great knowledge and technology as well as disease and “superbugs.”

What made agriculture and it’s attendant issues possible is the annual plant.  Annuals are plants that have a one year life cycle, or less.  Some plants live a few growing seasons, and others (perennials) live for many years.  The annual, with it’s brief existence, is forced to do it’s all to produce seed and plant another generation the next spring.  A result of this is the seeds are well protected and carry a lot of food for the plant that they will produce.  This is critical to agriculture as the seed does not spoil easily and they are energy dense allowing agriculturists to store these calories away long after the harvest.  These seeds are the part of wheat, corn, barley, rye, beans, peas, and other plants that are eaten.

Over time the agriculturists determined that they could select particular plants with the most desirable traits, such as larger seeds, leading to what we know as modern grains.  Aside from grains it should be noted this same selective breeding has been done with most every modern plant.  Taking the tomato as an example; the heirloom varieties one can grow or find at the farmer’s market are dramatically different in flavor and structure than the tomato available at the supermarket and these varieties are only decades old as opposed to 1000’s of years.  If you were to find the wild variety of any common food (an apple for instance) you will not find it at all pleasant to eat.  I think this is an important point to make, as many people are prone to think of fruits and vegetables as “natural.”  As we know and eat them they are almost as man made as your car and probably took more petroleum to be made than your car.  That is a discussion for another time however.

So that is the very short version of how we came to consume annuals (primarily grains and legumes).  As I mentioned in Part I, the paleo diet excludes grains and legumes, and the reason is the same as why they have been the choice of agriculture and civilization for thousands of years, STORAGE!  Grains and legumes in a dry state are very stable and not prone to spoilage.  This is critical to the seed so that it does not sprout prematurely and if eaten gives the grain a chance of passing through undigested with a chance for becoming a plant.  The seed protection mechanisms, which are a wide variety of chemicals, are contained largely in the bran of the seed.  These chemicals, such as Phytates and Lectins.  Phytates are antinutrients and can lead to micronutrient deficiencies such as Pellagra.  Lectins are proteins found in some seeds and have the ability to bind to and damage a wide variety of human tissues.  It is even theorized that lectins may cause leptin resistance.  Leptin is a hormone in the human body which circulates in levels proportional to the amount of adipose tissue (fat) in the body.  This hormone helps to regulate hunger.  Lectins may interfere with the bodies ability to respond to Leptin resulting in uncontrolled hunger despite large amounts of fat.  While of no particular nutritional significance, one infamous Lectin is Ricin, which is derived from the seed of the Castor plant and is used as a biological warfare agent.

So all those healthy whole grains you hear about are, in short, non-existent.  Sadly I am just not enough of an expert to explain to you the many reasons, increasing in number each day, why grains and legumes should not be part of your diet.  For that reason here are some people smarter than me.

Categories: Nutrition

Coconut Thai Curry Eggs

In an attempt to make my morning eggs more exciting I’m constantly adding something.  I am also trying to replace other things with coconut milk, for two reasons; first, it’s good for you and second, it goes bad in the fridge once opened pretty quick and I hate to waste it.

So for my first attempt I had mixed coconut milk, eggs and hatch chilies.  This wasn’t bad but I could have used hotter chilies, and the sweetness of the coconut milk was a little distracting.

So it dawned on me this morning that I had some red thai curry paste hanging out in the fridge.  I added that to the same concoction as before and voila! a yummy breakfast with a little kick.  My only additional recommendation is mixing the curry paste and coconut milk before adding to the eggs, it makes the curry paste easier to mix in.

Good eats!

Categories: Food

Client Numero Uno

As an editorial note, I will be getting back to the “Nutrition Counter Culture” series, but not today.

One of the things I hope I’ve made obvious is that the process of self-interrogation (not the CIA kind) and personal improvement is important to me. This goes back to the concept of enlightenment and going beyond “self-incurred immaturity.” Kant’s word choice is a bit antique and maybe a bit vague. I take it to mean that there is a highest level of development that we are each able to achieve, when were aren’t their were still not fully matured.

Ability if a funny thing. If a mother lifts a car off her child under dire circumstances would it be reasonable to say that she is capable of lifting cars? I suppose the answer is yes, under the right circumstances, she is capable of lifting a car. So, two questions face us, “What are we capable of?” and “What the our ideal circumstances to make us the most capable?”

Client Numero Uno is me. I am my first training client. I intended to take this client to his goals by pushing him towards his maximum capability and finding what circumstances get him to that capability. I’m talking all third person here because if I have any chance of success as a “life coach” I must maintain a distance and objectivity to my subject. Can I do that with myself? Excellent question.

I am going to address the client (hereinafter CNU for Client Numero Uno) in a systematic building block way. The first stage is to figure out what CNU’s goals are and if those are reasonable and appropriate goals. The second stage is to see where CNU is relative to those goals. The last part of the planning stage is prioritizing CNU’s goals and developing a map for achieving them. After that it’s likely to be a lot of tweaking, learning, unlearning and rethinking.

I think that CNU’s starting point and goals will be familiar to a lot of people and it’ll be useful to look at his goals, legitimate and otherwise and see if I can find a path for him that might just work for you.

Categories: Fitness, Nutrition, Philosophy

Nutrition Counter Culture – Part I

Disclaimer:  In the event that you know me personally and can account for my not doing everything I’m going to claim I do; shut up, it’s artistic license.  We’ve all got to have goals and ideals.

I eat fat.  I like fat.  I like it in many forms.  I like fat that comes from animals fed their ancestral diet or from the seed of a large tropical palm.  That I like fat so much may make me a foodie, which is coincidentally true, or it may make me part of a burgeoning nutrition counter culture, this is also true.  This particular strain of counter culture goes by the name paleo, primal, cave man, or hunter-gatherer.  I happen to like Paleo, but these are often used interchangeably.  Paleo is a reference to the Paleolithic era.  This is the 2million plus year period before the dawn of human agriculture and the seeds of modern civilization, but more about that later.

Now first, in fairness, Paleo isn’t solely about fat, but, and this is critically important, it isn’t fat-phobic.  Paleo is a diet of exclusion.  It, ideally, excludes all grains, legumes (beans), dairy, and meat from any animal not feed it’s ancestral diet.  This is very different from the diet that the US government and most doctors will recommend to you for health and longevity.  Let’s take a quick look at the latest government food pyramid.

So looking at the options across the bottom, the old fat/oil category isn’t even listed.  If you look closely you’ll see a bottle of oil at the base of the yellow pyramid segment.  This is the governments recommendation for fat…not much.  Looking at meat (and the apparently equivalent bean) you aren’t needing much of that either as a percentage of your diet.  So how and why can I disagree with billions of dollars of studies and the brightest minds in the medical community?  Well first they aren’t the brightest minds if they’re working for the government, frankly the government doesn’t pay too well relative to private industry, but that’s not why.

About a year ago I read through what I believe will be known some day as one of the most important medical books of all time.  Gary Taubes isn’t a scientist, or a clinician, he’s a science writer, and a pretty smart guy.  The only thing he discovered is that we already knew we got it wrong and we would not admit it.  Let me stop for a moment and say that you really should read Good Calories, Bad Calories, it is not a diet book, it is however seriously eye opening and very lengthy.

I will summarize a very good book very badly, and briefly.  Taubes looked at the history of scientific thought on why people get fat, heart attacks and other so called diseases of civilization.  So what did the history say?  It said fat isn’t to blame; the “fat hypothesis” didn’t bear out.  It turns out that for the better part of 200 years we’ve known that carbohydrates, especially the refined varieties, are very likely responsible for these diseases.  Now Taubes wasn’t the first to believe this, but rather he was the outside objective and extremely detailed person who put it together in a digestible package for the layman.

Before you think that all I’ve done is channel Dr. Atkins via many more pages, hold tight.  As I explore the this nutritional paradigm shift I’ll point out that there is much more to the story than carbohydrates.  As I unfold this onion, I hope that it’ll push you to research further and maybe come around to the Paleo view of nutrition.

Categories: Nutrition

My Travels In Fitness

So if you’re like me, you’re not going to find yourself on the cover a fitness magazine by accident in the grocery store one day.  I was a generally athletic and skinny kid and I could easily get by through college with a modicum of effort, by as my 20’s flew by me I never really stuck to much of any sort of fitness regimen.  I worked out, even trained for stuff like a half marathon, but it never really stuck.  It never drove me to be fit and healthy.

I did things like eat ‘better’ and exercise more just like they tell you.  Being an engineer I even developed ultra-detailed Excel spreadsheets and weighed everything I ate.  Despite all this, I was never again the fit kid I once was on the high school track team.  So one day as I lamented my late 20’s gut I recalled a link someone sent me some videos of the workout used to get the cast of the movie 300 in shape.  If you’ve seen the movie I think you could see the appeal of looking like you were ready to repel the Persian horde.  In that search I came upon something called Crossfit.  At first I found it passingly curious and I decided to start reading up on the articles they put up as part of their “journal.”  While I went on to read huge amounts of information from Crossfit and even subscribed the to Crossfit Journal, I think the best thing I ever read was free.  This is Greg Glassman’s article giving a definition of Fitness.  I let you read it for the details, but the take away for me is the concept that fitness, as defined, is broad and inclusive.  Crossfit has gone on to try to refine that definition in the apparent goal of determining the relative fitness of various competitors in a “sport of fitness.”

I decided back in 2009 to join a Crossfit gym myself along with my wife.  I did have some road bumps in the beginning; I was hospitalized for about 36 hours with exertional Rhabdomyolysis, but I was undaunted.  I continued with Crossfit for 4 months.  The culture of my particular Crossfit affiliate was cordial, friendly, and competitive.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have formed a lot of lasting relationships with the people I attended with and I’m all the happier for it.  Sadly aft 4 months finances would not support the endeavor any longer.  For those among you looking for a great environment check out your local Crossfit affiliate, there are thousands, and see if it suits you.  I will warn you though, don’t let anyone push you too far, too fast, or too long as unfortunately many affiliates don’t do an adequate job of watching the dosage.

So my time with Crossfit, which due to my lasting friendships  is not likely to ever end, taught me quite a few important lessons.  First, even the novice tubby 30 year old is capable of building a shocking athletic capacity in short time.  It also taught me, by mere chance, that there is an entire fitness counter culture, and it is calling your name.

While folks look at the triathletes, the marathoners and bicyclists as the pinnacle of fitness, the average Hadza likely has far greater strength and similar stamina to most elites in any of those sports.  I say this because of the inclusive nature of the hunter gatherer’s life style (“The Hadza”) and the cost of failure.  As a species we have tended over time to specialize.  This is a unique trait amongst animals and one that has brought us great comfort and many problems, which I’ll talk about in more detail as time goes by.  For my story here I’ll point out how poor adapted the human body is at repetitive labor (think carpal tunnel and lower back problems) as well as how my numbing such repetition is.  I think this is no accident.  The general tendency to bore at a single task and the ability to do many complex tasks is a key to our evolution and our survival as a species.  A bear may be able to fish and a Cheetah take down a gazelle, but our ancestors could do both.  This is more than a quaint anecdote of evolution, this is a critical element to our fitness and health.  To drive home this point, consider Lance Armstrong’s first attempt at the NYC marathon, he described it as the “hardest physical thing” he’d ever done and that “even the worst days on the Tours — nothing was as hard as that.”  While Lance had a very admirable sub 3hr time and has come back since 2007 to make less anguished attempts at the NYC marathon and others it’s obvious that the world-class fitness he developed in 7 Tour De France victories was not directly applicable to running a marathon.  This then begs the question of what additional tasks that others excel at would those commonly held to be “fit” not perform well at?

So am I fit like the Hadza?  Well no, not yet, but I’ve got goals.  I’ll talk more, way more, about those goals and how I’m going about getting after them in future posts, but I think it’s important to start this with the baseline belief that fitness for the average schmo like me should be broad and inclusive.

Categories: Fitness