Saturday, October 12, 2013

A few things I've learned recently

A few things I've been thinking about.  Lots of them incidentally prompted by reading and listening to Dan John.
  • Get off my back – there are times in life when you realise enough is enough. I am strong enough, flexible enough, lean enough. Let’s lose the stress of always trying to improve and just recognise that where we are is actually OK. The challenge is actually maintenance. Can you stay lean, flexible and strong as the years roll by? Can you stay injury free, mobile and capable as you get older?
  • There are seasons – bus bench/park bench whatever. Sometimes life is crappy. Work is hard and long. Your parents get ill. You argue with your girlfriend. You get ill or injured. Those are not the times to go all out balls to the wall in your training. Macho Nietzsche quotes are just stupid. Work hard when the rest of life is smooth push hard. If you are working 12 hour days and stressed about your family, then cool it off. Keep moving but that is enough. This is not the time to deplete all of your reserves – you need them elsewhere.
  • Learn from everywhere – when you listen to Dan John or read his articles and books you pick up quotes and ideas from Ellington Darden, Pavel, Brad Pilon, Josh Hillis, Tim Anderson, Brett Jones and Vladimir Janda. He will reference Dick Notmyer and DeLorne….and so many others. All these people have their own philosophies, their own approaches often that seemingly contradictory..but they can all teach you something. All have something to offer. Exclusive commitment to one guru is for the cults. For the rest of us we need to recognise truth everywhere; test it, play with it and build on it. Use it.
  • Everything works – at times I’ve been pretty committed to HIT training. You know – 1 set to failure, once a week. I still think that a simple whole body HIT routine 1 time per week- like Hillfit – can give huge benefits to the general population with minimal investment of time.  You will get stronger, healthier and more capable.  And it worked for me. I got stronger and maintained my muscle with very little training. But…..I enjoy time in the gym. I like training. It might not be necessary, but more training time, more movement is fun! More training sessions have worked too! Training with several sets not ever to failure works. Sometimes a long slow jog feels great. There is space to do lots of things. 
  • Movements – I read this first in Paul Chek’s book. He had 7 Primal Patterns – Squat, Bend (hinge), Lunge, Push, Pull, Twist and Gait – Dan John has push, pull, squat, hinge, loaded carry and the sixth one - but the idea is the same. There are certain movements that we are built to do and which are fundamental to all human life. It is not about the bench or the squat, the kettlebell snatch or the leg extension. You need to be accomplished at pushing, pulling, squatting, walking, hinging, and rolling/twisting/lunging etc…..Build every workout around these patterns and you will be going in the right direction. I would always choose low skill moves too, so that you limit your chance of injury and messing them up.
  • Eat like an adult – This is a nice little rule from Dan John. Diet is not complicated. We know what is good food. So eat it. IF, low carb, paleo etc are all ultimately pointless. Eat proper food. We get fat because we eat too many calories. This is not rocket science – even though for some years I indoctrinated myself in what I now see as a deception of low carb paleo. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (or breakfast dinner and tea if you are from the north of the UK) with sensible real food choices is enough. Porridge, yoghurt and fruit, toast; a sandwich with meat and salad; meat and 2 veg for an evening meal. You will not go wrong. Get enough protein and enough calories to support your activity.  Add in cakes, cookies, coke, chocolate and a bag of crisps and things get a lot harder.  Grow up.
  • Persistence – so much of the fitness industry overcomplicates things. They prescribe complex routines, difficult diets, intense workouts. We really need patience, consistency and persistence. The more you simplify the less you have to worry about. Nowadays we have too much information. Everyday we are exposed to the latest great routine – this new secret will make all the difference. So change routines each week, like magpies we look for the latest shiny thing hoping it will be the magic bullet. We really just need to commit to something and give it a chance for a few weeks or months.
  • Maturity – there is more to life than your bench or squat or snatch. Your life needs to get bigger, rather than you muscles. As you get older you realise both the extreme value of strength training (maintaining muscle and making everything easier) and pointlessness (family, friends, health and fun are all more important). We need to recognise that health is more important. We need also to realise that we are mortal and this life is short. Training can enhance life…..but life is so much more.


Unknown said...

A timely post, as I sit at home after working the third six-day-week (and Saturday) in a row. I've got an injured shoulder, and my wife and three-year-old are ill, so I've fretted a bit about not being able to train.

After reading your excellent piece, I feel it's all going to be all right in the end.

So thanks, Chris - have a good weekend!

Sandymount said...

May I ask why you gave up on the low carb/paleo thing? I am not a Paelo troll about to start a fight just someone who finds the logic behind Paleo quite convincing but as someone who has no symptoms from eating a normal diet (exactly the type of one you mention), I wonder do I really need to cut out all legumes and grains for benefits that didnt seem to affect ALL the longest lived peoples who were decidedly non paleo.

Chris said...

@Sandymount - this was a gradual thing. Partly about the science and partly my increasing unhappiness with the who diet guru atmosphere.

With respect to the science I began to realise that while the "eat what you were designed to eat/evolved to eat" sounds convincing, it is not as simple as it seems. Humans are healthy eating all sorts of diets.

We are in fact built to eat carbs - the enzyme amylase in our saliva is there to digest them. Why would we have amylase if we were not supposed to eat carbs? That realisation got me thinking.

The science on all this is best summed up by Alan Aragon's presentation here

I also tired of the contrarian internet atmosphere where we assume that bloggers are more expert than scientists and medical doctors.

If grains/beans/dairy cause you a problem then don't eat them. Otherwise eat them.

Just eat real food. Like an adult.

Unknown said...

Sensible resistance training (HIT or more volume/less intensity, matter of preference), real food, sleep, general activity. It is not a compromise, it is the best we have, because our body can't fit in a spreadsheet. Humans don't like the idea of not being that much in control, though.

Chris said...

@Ondrej - truth!

Chris said...

@sandymount this interview with Antonio explains some of my thinking too

Fred said...

No doubt, these are very wise and reasonable ideas about training, diet and life. But ideas, attitudes and approaches change with the time, the more we learn through science.
Each generation will go their own way and it will always remain differently. Other people will bring and sell your own ideas.
But basics will remain basics at least for the next some 10 or 100 years as evolution is not too fast.

Anonymous said...

big ups chris. it seems like there is a common thread that some folks are tapped into that evolves. I remember finding your blog a few years ago when i first got into VLCPaleo and read body by science and i went hardcore and got really dogmatic. i even went to AHS12. but like you logic and common sense got the better of me and over time I began to drift and question. it culminated this year when my 2nd child was born and i fell off a cliff metabolically. i had a come to moment and found evil sugar radio and was truly humbled. ive noticed that folks like you, melissa mcewen, armi legge, the evil sugar dudes, danny roddy and a lot of the Peaties have all been having very similar situational realizations. to me it is very comforting. i have completely recessed from the internet and bloggershpere (save a handful of folks who are putting out good, level headed, honest info, such as those you have named) and i have been taking a much needed wide angle view about diet, fitness and lifestyle and i have come to the temporary conclusion that the more i learn the less i know. it is obvious to me now that anyone who is purporting to have it figured out is highly suspect as a marketing wizard and solely looking to cash in on the fad. anyway just wanted to send a massive kudos to you for being transparent in your journey. i rarely comment on blogs but i felt compelled to for this post because I have been having an extremely parallel experience as you, so thank you for that.

Chris said...

Anon - thanks for that. I really appreciate your words. I like the Evil Sugar guys too. Scott Kustes was deep into this stuff years ago too - the Modern Forager blog. We've all come to our senses! I am now dogmatic about very little. There is so much that we don't know.

Sifter said...

"If grains/beans/dairy cause you a problem then don't eat them. Otherwise eat them."

I don't think it's so much about causing a problem than it is about creating or adding to arterial plaque. I keep reading that legumes are a good source of fiber for clearing cholesterol, and possibly plaque. Grains and dairy, according to some, seem to add to plaque accumulation over time.

Chris said... are in danger of getting caught in the internet diet scare-mongering.

What is healthy? I read XXX. Some say YYYY. If you believe the internet, nothing is safe

Stuart Gilbert said...

Another great post. I truly count you up there with some of the relatively few sane people in the health and fitness world. You are, to me, one of my few recommendations for a sensible perspective in the health and fitness world, alongside the likes of Richard Winett, Bill DeSimone and Clarence Bass.
" Sometimes a long slow jog feels great"...just out of interest...are you jogging as well as walking now? I do both ( as well as strength training and some interval work.....but like yourself, I've found that age has given me a fresher and more mature perspective on this fitness thing...instead of hammering it out at a gym every night, like I used to...gave up my gym membership....I actually ENJOY a relaxing 30 minute jog with some walking either RELAXES me).....what do you consider a long slow jog?
Keep up the good work these posts.

Chris said...

Thanks Stuart. I'm not running a lot, just an occasional jog when I feel like it for the relaxation of it. Maybe 1 or 2 times a week. Often less.

Stuart Gilbert said...

one of the reasons I like this blog....and love these recent posts, is that I feel that we have been on similar journeys ( at least in terms of fitness.... I could never get into the Paleo thing, I like my carbs too much, and don't seem to suffer because of them )..and have arrived at the same current destination.
Although in hindsight I wished that I had saved time, money and my two arthritic knees, I suppose the journey was, in a way necessary in order to arrive at this point. A case of acquiring knowledge and experience, then stripping away what was no longer useful, interesting or common sense.