Monday, January 11, 2010


Excellent piece here by Nassim Taleb - Why I do all this Walking, or How Systems become Fragile

This is another application of the barbell strategy: plenty of idleness, some high intensity. The data shows that long, very long walks combined with high intensity exercise outperforms just running.
After my Aha! flash, under guidance from Art de Vany, I embarked on an Extremistan barbell lifestyle: long, very long, slow meditative (or conversational) walks in a stimulating urban setting, but with occasional (and random) very short sprints, making myself angry imagining I were chasing the bankster Robert Rubin with a big stick trying to catch him to bring him to human justice. I went to the weight lifting rooms in a random way for a completely stochastic workout --typically in a hotel when I was on the road.

Like the Grey Swan event, these were very, very rare, but highly consequential weight lifting periods, after a day of semi- starvation, leaving me completely exhausted, then I would be totally sedentary for weeks and hang around cafés. Even the duration of the workouts remained random --but most often very short, less than fifteen minutes.

hat tip to Seth


John Sifferman said...

This reminds me of something I read over on Frank Forencich's blog about the value of randomness in training:

I've found in my own practice that a specific skill is better learned when the scope of the skill is varied. I noticed this most obviously when practicing jumping.

I had done box jumps fairly regularly in the past, and had programmed that skill into my body (effectively mastering a 24" box jump where I could perform it with nearly perfect technique every time). However, when I would try a different type of jump (distance or depth, etc.), my technique would be poor.

Now, after I've spent time learning how to jump, just jump, my movement became much smoother and more efficient. This is because I was taught with planned spontaneity. My instructor varied the distances, heights, depths, surfaces, and targets among other things. And today I make much more efficient jumps than I did before.

SerialSinner said...

Thanks a lot for the post and the link to N. N. Taleb's very interesting excerpt.

Anonymous said...

NTT is the man! Black Swan should be required reading.

donny said...

I tried morning walking for about four days after reading your post on the article about exercise and jet lag. I had less of a tendency to hit the snooze button in the morning, and also less of a tendency to play "one more turn" of a strategy video game I play before going to bed. I stopped walking to see what happened, and it's back to the snooze button. So I guess it's back to the walking.
Social anxiety usually keeps me from peeing in smaller public washrooms unless I'm the only one in the whole place. I'm not just talking the urinals, I can't even pee in a stall if there's someone in the next stall. Over the last week I've managed to pee without having to look for an entirely vacant public washroom. This is just anecdote, but it's my anecdote, so I give it some weight. You don't have to. But I really feel that there might be something to this sleep consolidation, being asleep when you're supposed to be asleep, awake when you're supposed to be awake, having a strong effect on day to day mental health.
I guess this doesn't really fit in as a comment to a post about randomness. Some things in our environment, like sun up and sun down don't vary all that much on a day to day basis, so I guess it might make sense that some things like sleep maybe shouldn't either.