Sunday, January 20, 2013

We are not elite....

This blog has been getting a bit quieter of late.  My work has been taking a lot of my focus but also I've been reassessing what I post here and why.   I have been posting fewer of the scientific abstracts that I used to put up.  I have realised that I am not always familiar enough with the science to comment accurately on what I am reading.  There are others who do a great job - Adel at Suppversity or Chris Beardsley for example.  I may still put studies up here, but for the in depth analysis, you need to look elsewhere.

I suppose that one of the themes recently has been my own progress and experience.

Christmas and New Year saw me add about 7 lbs in weight - fat mostly - as I loosened up on my diet for a couple of weeks.   Back into a routine again, things are settling down and I am returning to where I was at the end of December.

My training stays the same:

  • I walk for about 3 miles a day: either to or from work plus time at lunch;
  • I train in the gym once a week - with weights and bodyweight exercises
  • At the weekend I try to get a longer walk in, up in the hills.
  • I try to play a little too - balance work, floor work, crawling, standing up in different ways, squatting etc - each day.
That is all.  

I am also increasingly aware that so much of the stuff that I read is focussed on elite athletes....yet so few of us are elite.  

What most of us need is something simple, straightforward, safe and achievable that fits in among the rest of life.  There are lots of competing priorities wanting our time....  First do no harm - try never to get injured....minimise the risk.

There is so much information out there now on the internet, so many different programmes, ideas and gurus.  So many rabbit holes to get sucked down.  For a while I was sucked deep into the Paleo thing....but I see some flaws in that now (Just Eat Real Food is one thing.... paleo takes it a little far in some respects).  At one point I was a committed low more.      Now I tend to be a bit more moderate in all things.  All of the interent gurus and cults are annoying me too.

I find myself coming back to training and eating how I used to 20 years ago....before I knew so much!

This is all a bit rambling and disconnected, but I wanted to get a few things out there.


Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for some time Chris. Please write a post about what you think of paleo.

Love your work



jkeiffer said...

I can appreciate this. I just told myself I would stop getting sucked into reading about and ordering nutritional things like supplements and more so energy things. I am NOT even close to fit or healthy. So why would those things do anything but waste money for me right now?

I think a good HRM is in order, but beyond that, I should just focus on how much I eat and of what. Ride my bike, walk more etc.

If I looked 1/3rd as fit as you I would be ecstatic!

Chris said...


I will try to draft something on my view of paleo but it may take a while.

I think the movement as such is now a little bit extreme and full of gurus trying to make a buck from ebooks. What "paleo" means is also a bit confused too.

Unknown said...

I currently use a very simple app called "Sooner or later" which has only few sections. Soon, Later, Never, Scheduled and Complete. I incude daily eating and exercise habits in it and tick them off. There are virtually no distractions or sub menus and it allows repeating tasks with various frequencies. This helps immensely with habits.

I'd like to understand realtionship between calorie intake and muscle building to a greater degree.
My current position is that caloric surplus is optimal, but it is necessary only when you are sub 13% bodyfat. Some gurus thing the best thing is to become lean from the beginning and just train, other think this doesn't work. Hard to say which strategy is best for normal guy, whether cycling of slight surplus and cutting in 10-15% BF range(and how long the cycles should be? What about newbie trainees?), or continuous leangaining.

Regarding diet I kind o gave up. I focus only on mostly real food, which is a pretty broad category for me. Now I am tring only 15 hour daily fasts that are pretty comfortable as the gap is wide.

What I think will be a game-changer is daily walking for 40 minutes and sufficient sleep. Somewhat Clarence Bass inspired routine, but without interval rowing.

I take 3g of creatine monohydrate daily. It doesn't do much and many warn me, so we'll see...but 3g is very low in terms of any risk and at the same time it should be enough for alost anybody below 100kg.

The habits:
Creatine 3g daily
Food 9-18
Sleep 22:30-7:00
Walk 40 minutes daily
HIT once a week(dumbbell full body)

I still struggle with completing this, especially sleep, as other duties come in.

Bill DeSimone said...

Another good one, Chris.
My week looks similar. A daily dog "intervals" (when the dog runs, I chase him, otherwise it's a walk).
Yoga 3x/week, 20-30 minutes, because I feel it helps my back and joints.
Gracie jiu jitsu once/week, talk about rolling on the floor.
One thing I am going to try is once/week workouts on the X-Force negative accentuated equipment. So far I've had the complete opposite experience with it than others have reported (and reported, and reported, etc.): mine has been completely positive.
Very curious to see at 54 what a couple of months plus tightening up the diet will look like.

Stuart Gilbert said...

This is fast becoming my favourite blog, simply because of the things you have commented on in this post. For so many years ( probably wasted years..if only I knew then what I know now... )I trained like an elite athlete ( or my approximation of one ) because that is what I thought was necessary for health and fitness. Yes there was always the small lingering hope that I could turn myself into a star performer, even though common sense screamed at me that genetics were against me. But despite my wasted efforts, like yourself, this search for knowledge, and a personal truth, hasn't been a bad thing, because it has ( despite much money being spent on literature...fortunately NOT supplements ...I was never that committed )eventually brought me to a point where I can exercise and feel comfortable and happy in what I'm doing, not constantly stressed nad pressured to beat PB's every workout.
Thanks Chris, for being a contributory factor in helping me reach this point. I like the direction you are taking. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

"This is fast becoming my favourite blog, simply because of the things you have commented on in this post."


Henry said...

"I find myself coming back to training and eating how I used to 20 years ago....before I knew so much!"

This is the secret the "dietsphere" doesn't want you to discover :P How would they profit off you then?

Anonymous said...

All things are wearisome To wearisome for words The eye is not satisfied by seeing Nor is the ear enough of hearing What has been that will be what has been done will be done Nothing is new under the sun Even the things of which we say See this is new! Has already existed in the ages that preceded us There is no remembrance of past generations Nor will future Generations Be remembered by those who come after them Though I said to myself See I have greatly increased my wisdom beyond all Who were before me And my mind has broad experience of wisdom and knowledge yet when I applied my mind to know wisdom And knowledge , madness, and folly I learned That this also is a chase after the wind

Øyvind said...

Really good post, Chris!

I have been training for 14 years (I'm 39), careening between training modes and gurus, and have recently come to a very similar conclusion. However much I'd like it to be different, I am not, nor will I ever be elite.

Being mediocre has always scared me, but a recent case of the flu brought something home to me. I felt so weak, so out of shape, I could barely climb stairs - and I realized that I used to feel like that almost all the time before I started training. I'd merely forgotten, since being in shape had become my new baseline.

Trying for elite has either burned me out or led to injuries (or both..), but I have found that I can maintain my base level of fitness very well by just being more moderate/sensible about exercise and diet. I believe that if I can be patient enough to be sensible over the long haul, gains will come.

Bottom line? Sensible exercise (type, frequency, intensity), sensible diet (real food) and patience.

JamesSteeleII said...

Øyvind makes a very valuable point. We often get caught chasing the dream of uber elite performance whilst forgetting that our baseline already is elite compared to people not employing the behaviours we are.

A bout of food poisoning before xmas brought this home to me. I couldn't believe how good it felt to be back to baseline afterwards. The contrast was so extreme, yet without the ability to experience that contrast we sometimes lose sight that it exists.

Chris said...

Thanks for the comments.

Oyvind and James make good points. It is perhaps true that we are "elite" compared those who do not train and we sometimes lose that perspective. It is increasingly apparent as we get older. I am almost 45 now and next to some people of my age I look and perform a lot better.

I suppose what is good is that those benefits can actually come without the stress and constant worry about training.

Chris said...

Anonymous - nice use of Ecclesiastes!

Chris said...

Stuart - thanks!

Anonymous said...


Thanks much for continuing to speak what is on so many of our minds. When we complicate the basics, we just screw ourselves up...and it is hard to get back to where we need to be, where we were healthy and free of spirit, and living the lives we were meant to live.

There might be another aspect to this, and I might be opening myself to some criticism in saying this. Here goes...I think the "elitist" part is as much for the food as for the workouts.

I spend a boatload more money on free-range eggs, pastured butter, and organic veggies (although I don't always go for the organics) and such when we really don't know that they are any better. Animal treatment aside, do we honestly know for certain that cage-free eggs are any better than those generally found in stores?

In the States, we are still dealing with some serious unemployment, and while I make a good income, I have very close family members barely scraping by Every time I pick up the more expensive version of something - because it is supposed to be "better" for me - I am washed with guilt.

Maybe I need to let go of that part as well as trying for uber fitness. A regular potato over an organic is still a real potato. And in the big picture, does it REALLY matter? And would my life be freer and easier, more in line with my values if I just let go of the elitist diet/fitness ideology? I am thinking ABSOLUTELY.

Thanks for shaking thing up, Chris. Your routine is sane, sound, and very much like what I hope to achieve for myself.


Chris said...


you say it very well. I am all for eating real food, but it can indeed become a source of pride, a vanity for us, an obsession. I like to eat well but wonder how important it is in the bigger scheme of things. We can never achieve "perfection" because there is no such thing, so we need to stop constantly striving for it. Good enough is generally good enough.

Chris said...


you might like some of the ideas at

Unknown said...
This is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

The more data we have the less we know what's going on we are drowning in toxic info

Anonymous said...

Thanks much for the link, Chris! Just glanced over a few titles of the posts...looks like I have some good reading ahead of me tonight. :-)

Best of luck to you and all your readers. These tweaks - based on empirical evidence, not what some scientist or guru said - to how I live will eventually get me (us?) to where i want to go: a light, free life, emphasis on the LIFE part.



Chris said...

Brad Pilon just put a good post on Facebook that is relevant to this discussion:

"In my mind your life goal should be the accumulation of wealth..only it's up to you to define 'wealth'.

So in a sense you are planning for retirement.. but not just with money, with your body and your health.

For me wealth = stability. I am not a gambler or a risk taker.

I find maintaining low levels of body fat to be a form of stability, kind of like having a zero balance on your credit cards. There's less risk in momentary lapses of judgement because you are not simply adding debt (fat) on top of debt (fat).

I train with the goal of adding muscle slowly and mitigating injury risk. I'm not interested in strength at all costs or size at all costs.

But that's just me and other people are different. Other people like to gamble. Sometimes it a calculated gamble, others is just blind guessing. For these people strength is the measure of Wealth, or overall muscle. And this is not wrong, just different.

The key is to have your own definition and stick with it. It's a good practice to ask yourself "What is wealth to me?" and revisit your answer every couple years.

And don't just think money and health, friends, family, it all plays into your own definition of wealth."

Stuart Gilbert said...

The one overwhelming point that supports your stance on this topic Chris, is that elite athletes train for a peak, a career that lasts 10 to 15 years max. In essence they end up burning out, not fading away. How many top level athletes from their peak competitive years of late teens to mid thirties, then carry on competing (and training to compete, without at least severely modifying their training )? Not many to my knowledge. Most top athletes become a shadow of their former competitive selves. Brendan Foster springs to mind, plus countless ex professional football players. Paula Radclyffe looks as though her relentless training will have lasting negative effects on her body.
The approach that you propose, and which I fully endorse, is for those of us who still hope to be moving without wincing, until they nail the lid shut.
I only wish that I'd come to this realisation much earlier. I groan at the countless opportunities and events I've missed because I always put training first, because I so mistakenly thought that was what was necessary for ultimate health and fitness. ( Face palm...)