Saturday, June 7, 2014

Disillusion



I am still here although this blog has gone quiet. My work has been very busy leaving little time or energy for posting things here. 

I've become somewhat disillusioned by much of the drama in the online fitness/health/diet world. The debates are religious in nature with heretics fighting strange arcane battles while 90% of the world just get fatter and less active. 

I am also less inclined to give much attention to the alternative, new or faddish approaches. Ecclesiastes has it right - there is nothing new under the sun. Certainly the science is interesting and is discovering things, but there is little justification for the tabloid excitement about some new diet or exercise.  

I think the mainstream science  is generally right. Conspiracy theory is for the crazies. 

This year I've leaned out for summer by simply cutting calories - no Paleo, IF, high protein. Just being normal.  I lift weights with no special protocol. I walk. I even run sometimes. I stretch too. 

Eat well. Not too much. Move. Lift weights. Sleep. Laugh. Spend time outside. Relax. 

So I have little to contribute. 

Www.hillfit.com sums up most of my thoughts. 

I'll be back when I have more time and energy. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

You hurt but are you really hurt? The science of pain

As someone with a history of chronic back pain and other niggling aches and pains I've had an interest in reading about the science of pain.  There is a lot going on in this area and the understanding that science has of pain is far different from what most people would think is going on.

There is no denying that people have real actual pain,  but the current understanding is that the pain is something that the brain creates as a way of protecting you from threats.  There is a lot out there on this and a lot to reflect on, but here are some good start points:



What recent pain science can do for your chronic pain right now

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Apologies

I am sorry this blog has been so quiet recently.  My work is really busy and leaving little time or energy for much outside of that.

I am still training, still reading and still trying to get into the hills whenever I can but when i get back from a long day at work the last thing I want to do usually is sit here and pop up a blog post.

Hopefully I will post more often in the future, but things may well be quiet here for a while.

A thought to leave you with for now from Coach Stevo:

Dear internet,
It's picking up heavy shit. Save the rocket science for NASA.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dry January

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was taking part in "Dry January".  I didn't make a big song and dance about it, but I decided to go for a calendar month or so with no alcohol.  A few people have asked me about my experience, so here are a few points.

Why take a break from drinking?

Alcohol is an interesting topic.  As a drug it is widely accepted in society, central to so much of our socialising and leisure.  There seem to be lots of health benefits - so we are told - yet there are also a lot of problems in terms of health, relationships and lifestyle that come from drinking.

Over a few years I'd begun to become aware and then concerned that I was drinking too much and too regularly.  I am in a busy and stressful job and sometimes a glass of wine after work to relax is really helpful.  But over time, one glass became two.  Two glasses became ....I might as well finish the bottle.  A habit got established....and was starting to get too entrenched.  

I'd tried to impose a few rules - the glass ceiling for example  - but I usually ended up breaking my own rules.  Realising that I needed to cut back and break the habit, I started reading some "sober blogs" like The Sober Journalist and Gray's Grog Blog  In mid December I cut out alcohol for a couple of weeks and then focussed on cutting it out totally for at least the whole of January.

Dry January

Dry January is a campaign run by Alcohol Concern in the UK with the aim of having a short break from drinking to let you reset your habits.

With Xmas excess gone, banish the booze this January and make a healthy start to the new year.
By taking on the challenge you’re sure to lose a few pounds while saving a few quid. And with no hangovers you’ll find time and energy you never knew you had, oh and your skin will look nicer too.
So go on, take time out, get thinking about your drinking and prove to yourself that you can say no to a tipple or two.
It is a simple little challenge -  no alcohol for a month. I don't like all the martyrdom about it - it shouldn't be a trial -  but I decided to ride on the back of it for my own purposes.

There is a similar movement - Hello Sunday Morning - which has similar aims but more of a hipster feel to it.  Lots of cool dudes being very cool about not drinking.

Benefits

What happened?  I actually found it pretty easy.  Drinking had become a habit.  Yes there is a psychological release from some stresses, but so much was just habitual.  As soon as I decided that I was not a drinker...then I wasn't.  Occasionally a nice glass of red with a meal would have been nice but it was no great sacrifice.

Specific benefits:

  • Better sleep - waking up fresh and rested in the morning.
  • A clearer head - I found my thinking to be getting much sharper, my writing much better, my speech more articulate.
  • Less money spent
  • Less non-specific guilt - those mornings when you wake up feeling like something bad has happened.
I didn't lose any fat which was strange given the reduced calories


What next?

At the end of the month I didn't find myself desperate for a drink.  I didn't rush out on 1 February and get some wine.  I left it until my birthday - 8 February - where we went out for a meal with wine.  Had half a bottle.  Felt fine.

I've had a couple of glass this week, but I am not looking to get back to where I was.  I've considered going totally tea-total but let's try moderation for a while.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Read the Superheroes of Health - Alan Aragon, Leigh Peele, Matt Stone and others......

I don't normally use this blog to promote products, but this is different.  Just launched is a new bundle of ebooks and audio interviews from some of the most respected voices of reason in health and fitness.  My Hillfit book is included in the bundle but even without it, I'd be recommending this package. 


Over the last couple of years you will have noticed that I have been preaching a gospel of simplicity, encouraging people to focus on the basics: avoiding stress, getting enough sleep, doing some exercise, walking and eating sensible.  I'm been moving away from the fad diets, the magic bullets, the secret exercises and routines.  Disillusioned with the hype, drama and dogma I've been getting back to patience and just being happy with being lean, strong and fit....enough!  Being satisfied and not pushing for a perfection that will not come.

The voices of reason

In all this journey I've been influenced by some important writers and many of them have books in this package:



Alan Aragon , Amber Rogers / GoKaleo, Evelyn Kocur (Carbsane), James Fell, Antonio Valladares, Leigh Peele,  Matt Stone, Nia Shanks, Sean Bissell, Sean Flanagan

Alan Aragon, Leigh Peele and Matt Stone are three of the leading voices of sense and reason in the weird world of fitness on the internet.  This bundle brings together new works from each of them  PLUS material from a bunch of other great authors. (I am honoured to be included!)


There is over $500 worth of sense and reason within these pages, including original work from each of the heroes. Whether you’ve been following them for years or are only now learning of their exploits, you won’t find these volumes together anywhere else but here.



In the digital age where bad nutrition advice gets passed around like a rumour and called “science”...


where sound, enduring, fitness information gets buried under impossible standards and the latest hokey, hot-selling trend...


where drugs, surgery, and photoshop are used to make “normal” people feel completely ashamed.....


The Superheroes of Health are here to save the day.



The leading independent and unaffiliated voices in the health industry
have come together at long last to create a collection of books,
articles, and exclusive interviews to set you straight.


Nowhere will you find any propaganda from brainwashed vegans, cultists, cavemen, or the remaining seven people who still think the Atkins diet is the solution to all of mankind’s troubles. No dogma, gurus, fads, or fantasy allowed.


Instead, the Superheroes of Health bring you an unprecedented collection of honest, groundbreaking, fundamental truths by the health industry’s most unbiased and well-informed researchers.


These fundamental truths will help you to:
  • Gain strength and muscle safely and efficiently
  • Lose body fat without extreme dietary restriction, macronutrient ping-pong, gnawing hunger, metabolic obliteration, or unsustainable exercise programs
  • Maintain a relentlessly positive body image even in today’s modern environment
  • Learn the ten fundamental principles of a healthy diet (hint: gluten-free isn’t one of them)
  • Improve your sex life
  • Discover the latest and greatest breakthroughs in health technologies
  • Distinguish factual science from guru hype, quackery, and financial agendas
  • Balance your blood sugar for a more stable mood and better sleep
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Master exercise nutrition for better workouts and a higher metabolism
  • Obliterate stress with simple but often forgotten strategies
  • Eliminate binge eating and food addiction—without avoiding the foods you feel hooked on
  • And otherwise help you become master of your own body—no longer dependent on a fickle and flaky diet industry to guide your health decisions



All this can be found in the Superheroes of Health Bundle of Awesome—an extensive collection of books, articles, essays, and audio recordings from the most notorious pioneers and renegades in health, fitness, and nutrition.


Sold individually you would spend over $500 to acquire this extensive collection. Purchase it today for just $67 and save an additional $32.
http://gokaleo.com/superheroes/#/ap/cgh01






Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Taking up space for a brief update

I've a couple of posts in draft that I will get up soon -  an update / reflection on Dry January and some thoughts on the scheduling benefits of short workouts if your life is busy.  Before that though, I am pointing to something else.


Taking Up Space

However, I wanted to highlight something that is coming this weekend that I've been involved in.  Amber Rogers (Gokaleo and author of Taking Up Space) has been pulling together a bundle of books from various authors with a common theme, one that I've been pushing here recently.  Keep it simple, avoid the hype, be patient, be consistent and flee the gurus.  

I've talked before about how we get obsessed with pushing for more and more, when enough is OK.  I've given my view that so much of the health and fitness internet world is more like a gnostic religion than something that will benefit your life.

There are other voices out there saying similar things and I'll be pointing to a bundle of books later this week if you are interested in more similar idea.

Watch this space.

In the meantime, if you want to check out the kind of thing that is coming, you might want to look at Amber's book.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

We don't know it all but we usually know enough


This follows a little from the Enough is Enough post, from last year.  By the way, I've had some comments from people concerned that this blog is not really posting much scientific/conditioning research at the moment.  I've not got the time to search for news and studies at the moment, but I also increasingly recognise my limits.  I am not a scientist.  I skim the papers and for a long time I was only looking for things that confirmed my biases.  That is not good.  If you want more of the science perhaps you should check out Suppversity or subscribe to Chris Beardsley's Research Review or Alan Aragon's Research Review.

The Economics Professors

I was at an event this week in which four economics professors were speaking in Edinburgh.  They were talking currency and banking options in a potential independent Scotland.  I did Economics at university so I could follow what was being said most of the time....but some times it was beyond me.  The overall impression was of how complicated, interrelated and volatile the issues were.  Economic systems are notoriously complex.  There are so many factors at play, each of which can influence part or even the whole of the system.  Predictions of what will happen in an economic system are usually abject failures.

As I say I was struck by the complexities of what might appear to be a simple topic - what currency should a country use - and by the far reaching consequences of any decision.  However, given all that complexity I was aware that I can balance my bank account without knowing any of that.  I can understand how a change in exchange rate or interest rate will affect me.  There are incredible complexities, and we will never know it all, but we can usually know enough to get by and make sensible decisions for ourselves and our own money.  Basic principles - supply, demand, prices as signals - etc still hold and allow us to get by.

The body is an economic system

This I think is similar to the complexities of health, fitness and exercise science.  The body is an immensely complex system.  Like an economic system there are mechanisms for allocating resources across various areas with decisions based on signals that come via various inputs.  The complexity is stunning and mind-blowing.

However despite all that complexity there are again basic principles.  You do not need to have a PhD in nutrition or exercise physiology in order to get stronger, build muscle or lose fat.  There are professors who study and get lost in the complexity.  We need those experts to push the knowledge forward and to address specific problems.  But the basic issues can be addressed with the simple tools.


  • Safe, progressive resistance strength training will build strength, grow muscle, make you more resilient and improve cardiovascular fitness.
  • Consuming fewer calories than you burn will mean that you lose weight (strength training and maintaining protein intake will help to ensure that most of that loss is fat)
  • Sleep is good for you.

You do not need to read economics journals and take sides in arguments between various schools of thought to avoid an overdraft.  You need to make sure, consistently, that  your income is greater than your expenditure.  

More Soap Opera and Drama

In the same way, you do not need to pore over nutrition or physiology studies in order to get fitter, leaner and stronger.  You need to train sensibly, consistently and to eat appropriately.  So much of what we (I) obsess about it not really important.

It is interesting but often is just soap opera and drama, watching various gurus and their followers argue with each other.  There is usually an agreement about the basics, but we do not see that.  We are captivated by the differences.

Don't get obsessed by the drama.  Just train sensibly and patiently.




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pissing in the wind - are you drinking too much?

I want to talk about alcohol.  This post was prompted by a number of things:

Rearranging the Deck-chairs

Tom Furman had a good post recently which hit a nerve with me.  He spoke about how too often we major on the minors.  We ignore the really important stuff and fiddle with minutiae.  We might have everything right, all the right things in place.....but then we sabotage it with something else we are doing.

You might be eating well and training well.....but are you also smoking?  Are you watching your diet, counting calories and macros....but drinking a bottle of wine a night?  Are you training hard, eating well but not getting more than 5 hours sleep a night?


You get the picture. By avoiding the real problem, you can pretend to be courageous. You perhaps act as if you are uninformed, but you are mimicking a child who closes his eyes and believes he is invisible. You really aren’t fooling anyone. Not even yourself. - See more at: http://www.tomfurman.com/rearrange-the-deck-chairs/



Then there was this post on Suppversity.  

Alcohol is a killer: According to WHO, morbidity attributable to alcohol in countries with an established market economy (10.3% of disability adjusted life years) comes second only to that of tobacco (11.7%; Murray. 1997). According to a very recent study by published in the scientific journal Addiction by the Pan American Health Organization, a branch of the World Health Organization alcohol was a 'necessary' cause of death (i.e., death would not have occurred in the absence of alcohol consumption) in an average of 79,456 cases per year in 16 North and Latin American countries (Gawryszewski. 2014). 
Alcohol is not good for you.  And there are a lot more statistics out there if you want to look for them.

Dry January

These posts both came at a time when I've decided to give up alcohol for a while.   I'm going along with Dry January   I realised that I was drinking too much.  I'll not get into details but there was far too much wine going down my neck most nights.....to relax.  Much of it was a habit, but I was finding myself looking forward to the drink and the habit was getting too ingrained, so I wanted to cut right back.

Obsessing over diet, exercise, sleep and attitude are all fine.....but I was sabotaging things by drinking.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Pain Face

In 2012  I pointed to the research of Samuele Marcora on how facial expression impacts on fatigue in his psychobiological model of fatigue.


 His study here showed how the onset of frowning indicated the point at which things were starting to feel hard, but in discussions by email we chatted about the possibility that things could work the other way - smiling might make everything feel easier and ward off fatigue.

I was reminded of this when I saw this video from Eric Cobb


It is a simple trick but I think it is worth trying.