Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Super quick update

Okay, I'm still in my relaxation phase of overcoming what I believe to be a case of overtraining syndrome. I'm still training (well, I took one day off following a neck adjustment), but skipping the gym until at least late in the week.

The two newest Big 5ers are having mixed results. One claims that he's lost "at least 10 pounds" as a result of cutting out the sugar and flour from his diet. The other says he hasn't lost a single ounce, and we're going to take a look at what he's eaten later on tonight to check if there's anything sneaking into his diet that shouldn't be.

That's all for now...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Big 5ers

A couple updates. First of all, 2 of my Jiu Jitsu training partners have taken up the Big 5. They've both  been working on it for about a week, and the transition seems to be going well for both of them. I know there have been a couple snafus with things like BBQ beef having a ton of sugary sauce, and meatloaf being full of bread crumbs, but nothing to jeopardize the major forward progress that I know they'll see, and about which I will be posting in the future (while maintaining their anonymity, of course). One of them is planning to compete in a major tournament in April, the other is simply looking to drop some pounds and have more energy. They are both already excellent athletes, so it will be interesting to see if the Big 5 takes them to another level.

Personally, I'm suffering from a bit of overtraining syndrome. I'll be taking a few days off from the gym, and training Jiu Jitsu with a bit less intensity than is typical for me. I've really pushed myself to get back from the injury, and probably went a little too hard right away. Listening to your body is definitely a Big 5 principle, and when you feel like you're pushing against a brick wall when you try to do anything physical, and when you sleep for 10 or 12 hours straight when you aren't setting an alarm, your body is asking for a little extended recovery time.

I'm also going through some extra stress factors at the moment that aren't related to my diet or fitness routines. This isn't the place to vent about them, but viewing these matters as being entirely separate from physical well-being would be naive at best.

As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Busy, busy

Been very busy lately, but getting my eats on and my workouts in. For the past few weeks, I've been eating nearly all my calories (most of which come from animal fat) during 2 big means during the day (one around noon, one around 5 p.m.). At least during the week. Weekends have been less regimented. I've lost a significant amount of weight. Somewhere in the 7 pounds range, putting my body fat probably near or just into the single digits. My exercise regimen has been good, but not the most intense I've put myself through by a long shot.

Climbing the TreadWall seemed easy last week, when I stayed on continuously for nearly 22 minutes with the height set slightly worse than vertical and the speed on 4 and a half. This week, I think they moved some of the holds (and a few were loose), and I wasn't able to stay on continuously for quite as long, but I broke a hard sweat, burned 225 kCal according to the machine (which I don't trust) in just over 25 minutes.

Been doing box jumps even more since my shoulder (which is nearly 100%) was injured. I'm not sure how high each of the risers are that I put underneath the step upon which I jump, but I've recently graduated to using 16 of them for 5 sets of ten jumps. This comes up to my waist, right around where the belt loops on my jeans would be. This resulted in me scraping up both shins, but a lot of awe-stricken comments from other gym members in the locker room. I do this in my Vibram Fivefingers, of course, so I'm jumping with an anatomically correct posture, shoulders over hips, knees over ankles, and all that.

Dr. Loren Cordain, the guy who wrote the original "Paleo diet" has published a new paper with a few colleagues. It basically re-states the "Paleo Principle," which says that what we evolved doing is what works best for us, and references a bunch of data from some other papers that have studied the dietary and fitness habits of several extant tribal peoples. I highly recommend reading it. See if your diet and fitness habits line up more with heart-disease, diabetes, atherosclerotic modern agricultural man, or tall, strapping, ripped-abs, buffalo-stabbing paleolithic man. Then adjust accordingly. By following the Big 5.

I have also found a relatively local source for raw milk, farm-fresh eggs, and some other less-processed versions of beef and dairy products. I'm currently weighing the cost-benefit analysis of skipping a workout or skipping a nap one day a week to go food shopping. The rule of 80/20 is pushing me towards losing one of the workouts. Now that I can lift heavy again, I really like the idea of 1 day heavy pushes/pulls with the upper body, 1 day heavy lower body (which has to include Glute-Hamstring Raises, or at least Good Mornings to bvalance out Squats and/or Farmer's Walks), and one day full-body split after at least one recovery (nap) day, to include "climbing," muscle-ups, box jumps, and a clean or snatch. In addition to 7 days a week of Jiu Jitsu training, which I know I should be better about taking days off from.

Questions and comments continue to not pour in. You know who you aren't...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Not a correction to anything I have said here so far (although I am sure those will come in plentiful supply if I keep up), but rather to something I hear all the time. As I've mentioned, I started this blog for people who know me in real life and ask me nutrition and fitness advice. While I hope people jump on the "primal" or high-fat diet bandwagon (for their own sake), it's not really my intention to act as a missionary.

That being said, my diet habits are often the subject of conversation from people who are merely curious (i.e. co-workers around the lunch table). I have no problem explaining without preaching. It's something I've become very accustomed to. But inevitably, someone will utter the phrase "But I couldn't live without _______," with the blank inevitably filled by either the word "bread" or the word "pasta." Sometimes, "I couldn't live without pasta" is prefaced with the very scientific fact of "I'm Italian." Despite the apparent logic to these statements, it becomes very hard for me to bite my tongue at that point.

So I just want to make a correction. This isn't written to anyone in particular, it's for posterity and to get it off my chest. Here is the correction:

You have no idea how well you could live without bread and pasta.

Just ask me if you really want to know, I'll tell you.

Here's a promised update, while I'm at it: Workouts are going well. Finally getting to the point where swimming isn't so much a clumsy splash that happens to move me through the water in a sometimes horizontal position, but rather occasionally I break into a gliding movement where I'm actually meaningfully propelling myself in the top 18 inches of water. This simply means I have to swim harder and/or longer now to reach the same intensity. Or use it for hypoxic training, which I've not been doing lately.  Haven't been to the gym with a TreadWall this week, and tomorrow's a scheduled recovery/nap day, so it looks like Friday. I'll make a note of whether I'm able to stay on the wall for a longer period of time.

One other addition to my lifting is the "Farmer's Walk." This isn't technically a lift as much as an exercise, but one I'm really planning to see benefits from. You simply hold heavy dumbbells and walk with good posture. Like the deadlift, my grips seem to be the first point of fatigue. Not sure if this means my hand/wrist/forearm complex is weak or that my legs and core are strong. Also, played around with parallel squats today, with the bar across my shoulder blades, rather than my usual ass-to-the-ground squats with the bar up on my traps. I can basically add 35-40 pounds to the lift this way, but I'm still a fan of the increased range of motion of the high-bar ATG version.

My books and documentary are yet to arrive. Prepare for many, many posts in the days following their arrival. That's all for now.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Evidence to back the Big 5...

I can't remember where I saw the link to this summary of the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, but I immediately ordered 3 copies upon reading it. If you aren't sure about the hypothesis that man should eat what he evolved eating (un-trimmed meat from freely roaming animal sources, some plants, very few or no grains), you really should at least skim the notes. It seems like the kind of work that will leave no doubt in the minds of former fence-sitters, if not completely turn around proponents of the conventional wisdom.

Also, I was alerted to another article about the dangers of running shoes on Vibram Fivefingers's Facebook page. It starts out "Knee osteoarthritis (OA) accounts for more disability in the elderly than any other disease." If that's not enough to make you rethink your Reebok's, I don't know what is.

Suggestions and comments aren't exactly pouring in, but I'm determined to keep putting my thoughts out there, with the hope that it benefits at least a couple people who might have otherwise been led down the dirty back alley of false health food (whole grain bread, HFCS-loaded fat-free yogurt, etc...) and harmful exercises that are supposed to be good for them...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Update/What I read/Some thoughts on why I blog

Well, today I got to the gym and found that I didn't have my goggles, so swimming, which I had planned as the 4th element to my rehab workout, was out of the question. So I climbed the TreadWall for just about 20 minutes, at which point grip fatigue had pretty much set in completely and I couldn't stay on the wall for an extended period any more without really dialing down the intensity of the workout.

Then I went to do some lateral jumps with Tabata-esque interval timing and intensity. For those unfamiliar, Tabata intervals are when you do front squats as fast as you can for 20 seconds at a time, with 10 second rests in between, for 4 minutes. The goal is to get your heart rate way up and then give it inadequate time to come back to normal before making it work all over again. It's an awesomely crushing 2 minutes and 40 seconds of actual work, even when applied to other exercises. I put 5 supports under one of those 80's-style ladies step aerobics things and stood on one side of it, and started up my interval timer. I got halfway through the 4th 20-second work interval when I had to call it quits. And I was truly pushing myself. I can't wait to work up to a full Tabata protocol and finish the 4 minutes.

Next, I decided to fulfill the Tabata protocol on the rowing machine. I had a few intervals where I was having a hard time really pushing myself because my Vibram fivefingers shoes tend to loosen the straps and I was coming undone. In any case, I broke a hard sweat and finished the 4 minutes.

Then, in place of the swimming, I decided to do some more interval work by running. The location I was at today has a 1/28th mile track. It's tiny. I did ten laps at a full sprint with ten laps at a jog separating them. More high intensity interval work.

So I'm going to consider where I'm at today the starting point. I'm still doing some of my heavy lifts (squats, hang cleans, glute-hamstring raises), but those are a control anyway. We'll see how my "primal" workout compares to the other stuff I normally do.

Mark Sisson over at Mark's Daily Apple recently posted a "What I read" list. It got me thinking about a few things. One was doing a "What I read" list of my own. The other is "Why do I exist if all this good stuff is already out there?"

First, the list. These are the things I check out on a near daily basis:

Hyperlipid - I admit that I don't understand a lot of it, but what I muddle through very much informs me on matters of diet and saturated fat vs. carbohydrate intake)

Conditioning Research - This is a great blog on its own, but also a source where I find myself following a ton of links

Free The Animal - Even after toning down the seething vernacular, Richard Nikoley is proving that he can still effectively debunk conventional wisdom. Here's an awesome example

Mark's Daily Apple - Already mentioned. Sisson is one of the gods of the primal lifestyle movement.

So, the next question is this: If all this information is out there, why am I necessary? Well, in a nutshell, I'm not. I started this blog for some friends, family, and acquaintances who were always asking me to "write down my diet" and then "come up with a workout program" and "explain why you eat butter but not bread." This blog isn't supposed to be about me, although I obviously can't write from any other viewpoint with any kind of legitimacy.

In other words, I know there are only a handful of people out there reading my blog on a regular basis. I've made it clear the kind of subjects and issues I want to write about. I need feedback on what people want to know about, or know my thoughts about, so I can keep this thing going. I can easily post links to interesting and pertinent information every day or two, but it would make more sense for everyone to just click through the "What I read" list above. I eagerly await the feedback...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A recent injury has kept me off the Jiu Jitsu mats and condemned me to about a month without doing any real upper-body exercises in the gym. It also affected my lower body lifting because I was unable to support a bar across my back to do squats or in my hands to do deadlifts.

I hate to admit it, but I did engage in a few dreaded leg presses (Not a bad exercise per se, but a poor substitute for the high-bar ass-to-the-ground squats I typically engage in).

I'm well on my road to recovery. I'm reintegrating exercises into my routine as I become sufficiently healed to do so. That means I can do pull-ups and dips, but no bench press, no snatches, etc. I have replaced everything that's missing with a sort of paleolithic style of workout that I hope will allow me to keep gaining strength despite the holes in my typical routine.

Unfortunately, winter in New Jersey is not conducive to running around trails, swinging from tree limb to tree limb, swimming through rivers, and hopping on rocks MovNat style. Because of this, I have to do indoor versions of everything this time of year.

I've joined a new gym recently, and one of its 2 locations has a TreadWall. If you're not familiar, it's an apparatus that allows you to wall climb a continuous loop, sort of like a vertical treadmill with hand- and foot-holds. Your weight turns it, but there's a lever to adjust the resistance (labeled: speed) and another that regulates the angle of the wall, so you can alter the resistance. I am learning quickly that my grips fatigue first (even when I do a good job of keeping my weight on my feet), and this is forcing me to find other ways of using my hands and wrists to grab. While I welcome the grip work, I think that the compulsion to use my hands in other ways is going to benefit my in a lot of ways. I'll update everyone as to how this works out.

Next, I've increased my swimming from something I was using just as a lungs/diaphragm workout (hypoxic laps have been one of my secret workouts for most of a year now) to something I do for strength training. I'm trying to swim more interval-style than old-fashioned cardio style, but I'm taking it a little bit easy with the injury, so I'm not currently swimming with the intensity I'd like.

For my real high intensity intervals, I am using the new interval timer I got for Christmas along with the rowing machine to really get my heart rate up into the 180's or 190's. I love the rowing machine as a full body workout that incorporates an upper body pull (literally, the row), unlike many others. It's also one of those exercises where you can really push yourself and exert a lot of effort in a short period of time.

I'm still doing various squats, pull-ups, dips, cleans, and back extensions on a machine (to replace my romanian deadlifts) in addition to all this stuff. I will post soon when I have an idea how it's working out. I'm optimistic and hopeful, as it follows the paleo principle to some extent, and to a lesser extent, imitates some of the MovNat stuff.