RSS

Tag Archives: health

Training and confused realities

Image

Where there is money to be made, the confusion mongers will flock. The training, or dare I say it, “fitness industry”, is no exception. These marketing vultures are “skilled” however, in their tactics and sadly, as is commonplace in the age of hyperconsumption and hedonism, people are easily suckered in to the cauldron of sugar syrup and bouncy blue balls. Let´s take a look at 5 common fallacies, many of which are becoming so mainstream, that a fish finger is in danger of being accepted as a fish. It´s time to get aware and swim against the current.

1. Functional Fitness

Whoa, baby! a world full of function, imagine that! The “idea” that seems to becoming mandatory fodder for anyone “serious” about their “workouts” is corporate corn syrup. Suddenly, an entire industry has been formed full of rubber-coated tires, pink balls, adjustable rope and expensive tape. To be really “functional”, a pair of shoes, pitch-fork and strong will power just will not do! No! you have to join an expensive gym, buy the entire kit to say you have joined the expensive gym and kit your home out with expensive rubber shit that comes with a DVD! Functional fitness, they say, means buying into so much confusion, that by the time you decide which pair of florescent shoes your next workout demands, you´re so exhausted that you decide it´s more optimal to suck on the recommended zone recovery shake, with its “active” ingredients for progressive performance.

What it ought to mean: You see, to really “function”, we need to be mobile, strong and “antifragile“, to borrow from Nassim Taleb, and know what gets in the way of being this way. Complexity may have enabled us to put a man on the moon and replace hearts, but its also made us lose sight of the actual simplicity (not ease) of training; hard work and thoughtful utilization of all your energy systems. Functional does not mean being completely overwhelmed with needless “choice”. What is “new”, is usually just rebranded “old”. If you want a living incarnation of what to do, for you, check out rosstraining.com

2. “This amazing (insert any hyped product here) takes the guesswork out of your workout, bringing your performance to new and improved levels!”

What utter garbage. Salesmanship 101. Making people “believe” that their results have stagnated, or cannot be achieved unless they buy into the “latest and greatest” tool. You see, marketing folk prey on people´s gullibility, and their propensity to want to believe. Yes, it´s a legacy of the gospel of doom. Your life will not be any “better” with your new DVD set.

What it ought to mean: Look, performance, or “results”, whether it be fat loss, strength gain, hypertrophy or even the elusive “condition”, are predicated on people working hard on following a dedicated regime of energizing their mind and body through work and recovery. Many factors play into optimal performance naturally, but stripping away the unessential, the sugar-coated packaged commercial “must-haves”, lays out a manageable, tried and tested platform to work from. No single tool you´ve been duped into signing up for is going to take the place of diligent curiosity and hard fall-down-get-back-up work. On the contrary, the more clutter you surround yourself with, the greater the odds you´ll fall back into the chair and biscuit jar.

3. By strutting about in the same multi-coloured trainers, tights and runner tops as everyone else on the Instagram #awesome, I´ll give off the vibe that I am so committed to the “fitness” lifestyle

Well, I may be cynical, but there´s an ocean of difference between those that “workout” and those that train. For the commercial interests however, they´d rather the blurred lines, and lump everything into the category “fit is fun!”. In fact, they would rather you spend more time actually kitted out in their brands and letting social media know all about it, than actually doing the work. No pair of tights will make you lift those weights, and no thought of others thinking you actually lift those weights, will make you lift those weights.

What it ought to mean: Ok, I understand the allure of a new pair of shoes, and once had a pair of tights. But at the end of the day, surely your training should be about how you feel and perform both in and out of the gym? (aesthetics usually follow if you´ve got things in order) Ironically, if your image is so important, you´d benefit more by setting aside time to get your ducks in line, and then actually reaping the benefits from your #awesome IG selfies.

4. Training should be “fun” yo!

Well, let´s step back a little here. Is life a box of roses or does it continually throw sand in your face? Sure, you can find fun times in your training (heck, you should!), but with hard work, comes tough times and a fair bit of soul searching. It´s a process, like life itself. It´s a test and a mighty big paradox. Don´t let anyone tell you otherwise. Fun is the commercial sugarline to hedonism. If it isn´t providing an instantaneous flow of gratification, dish it and try something else. Your well-being isn´t a priority here sunshine. I have actually seen players in the “industry” selling their product as providing “all the benefits of traditional training, but only fun, without the hard work”. Don´t mix things up.

What it ought to mean: Once you manage to reappraise the way your training becomes a part of your everyday existence, the fun can by all means be an integral side effect (or, you can just gauge this by your hormones). Pull up your socks and chug some RedBull, then get back to the farmers walks. There are even ways of making them fun. Do them naked.

5. But remember, “moderation” is the key to success!

Aaggghhh. Can´t stand that M word. Firstly, because it´s used as an excuse for avoiding hard, consistent, thoughtful work and secondly, it´s the darling of the corporate world who thrive on a confused, apathetic, restless, hands-in-the-sugar-bowl public. To the commercial world (gyms included) M means avoiding the gym, as the ideal GloboGym membership scenario and losing focus on consistent programs by adding in external distractions. This M word needs some serious shake-up. It implies your training lifestyle is a burden. It is not. Distraction is.

What it ought to mean: Once you work out that a healthy training lifestyle is to be enjoyed and implemented each and every day, you will reconsider what moderation means for you. It could mean, for example, spending the day after a hard metabolic session, or an 8hr mountain walk, practicing some yoga and breathing sequences, some joint mobility, some journal updates, some squats, some gardening… whatever it is! anything but the slump in the chair with a bowl of sugar-pops kind of moderation. Where did that come from, and why do people associate this with moderation? Surely, a reassessment of the M word could result in something like 2 eggs instead of 4 not 2 steps forward, 4 steps back.

Summary

What´s the key takeout here? Question any claim that tells you how to take your training to “new levels”. The problem is, most of these claims are carefully crafted to tap into the inabilities modern society has to understand the difference between the quick consumer fix and years of diligent, persistent, experimental, reflexive work. Who do people think they are! Suddenly, centuries of empiricism becomes irrelevant and a can of sugar takes its place! Aristotle would have been aghast. A successful and progressive training lifestyle need not only be a solitary affair spent out in the rain lifting items you´ve found at the dump, day after day after year after year. Well… No, it can actually be a communal endeavor, with events, actions and innovations (and Facebook groups) to make your experience even more fulfilling. Each to their own. What I´m saying, is that training, like life itself, ought to be a constant learning experience you yourself ultimately have the final say in developing. Seek out people with real life experience and see what your take out can be. Maybe nothing, maybe some small aspect you can incorporate. But be vigilant and don´t let commercial interests steal not only your hard earned cash, but the most essential asset you have: your time and health.

Think. Eliminate. Move. Practice. Enjoy.

 

Tags: , , ,

Supplements for training and nutrition: No shortcuts

I´m often asked questions about nutritional supplementation in regards to both general health and performance matters, and have experimented over the years with varying degrees of success. Here I will share some of my experiences and try to simplify what is often made out to be a complex field. As I often allude to, much of the complexity surrounding training and nutrition advice is intended as a smokescreen by individual companies to make money selling needless products.

Before I start, there isn’t much need to consider supplements for training and performance purposes if you haven’t got your house in order with regards to a proper diet, adequate sleep, and sensible exercise. There are NO shortcuts to good health and fitness through over the counter supplements. It is that simple. Eat crap, live a stressed out and sleep deprived life, and struggle down to the gym for an aerobic session or run 3 times a week will not allow ANY fancy supplement to improve your life other than burning a bigger hole in your wallet.

Ok, got that out of the way. I will not go into detail about the need to eat natural, whole, fresh, nutrient dense foods here. I will not go into detail about how important getting 8-9hrs of GOOD sleep every night is. Read this if you wonder why. I will not mention the dangers of eating processed, man-made “foodstuffs”, concentrated sources of fructose, gluten containing grains and refined vegetable oils. Kurt Harris will tell you so in both a legit and serious way. And I will not go into the importance of eating animals as your most important source of nutrient rich protein and fat. Read this if you want to geek out a bit.

So, assuming you have your ship steered in the right direction, give or take the usual bumps and grinds that come with living a modern life of course, then what about some optional extras that can lift your performance a notch or two, and help in your path to achieving certain goals?. Here are a few supplements I have kept using over the years, remembering that personal experimentation is just that: a personal endeavour. What makes one gal laugh might make the other cry. One shoe doesn’t fit all.

  1. Sunshine

Winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common here in the dark north of Scandinavia. Physiologically, it has been proposed that lack of light during the winter causes, among other things, a drop in serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter involved in various processes of “well being”. Sunlight triggers the brain to produce the hormone melatonin, which again, helps our cyclical rhythms stay in order and has been found to strengthen our immune system. All good things for our body and mind.  Sufficient Vitamin D synthesis can occur with only a few minutes of exposure to light a few times per week. That cannot be hard for most non-closet dwellers. Wait before applying sunscreen, just don’t get burnt. Again, far too much false press about the need to cover up from the “harmful rays of the sun”.

2. Garlic

Ah, great stuff. Forget the capsules that promise to be odourless and triple strength.  Fresh garlic is a cheap and versatile wonder drug. New research has shown that it boosts natural supplies of hydrogen sulfide, which is an antioxidant that helps fend off cancers, and protects the heart. The Greek´s used it before competition centuries ago, and it is the key element in most of my dinners. In the Solomon Islands, garlic is used to fend off malaria, help heal cuts and abrasions, and prevent acne. Just don’t use it in drinks. Not nice.

3. Fish Oil

Amazingly, the introduction of processed foods and vegetable oils into modern diets has contributed to ruining our optimal omega 3/ omega 6 ratios. Prior to the agricultural revolution, our ratios were roughly 1:1, but now we see ratios in the average modern Western population of up to 1:10-15. The side effects of this imbalance have been linked to body inflammation, autoimmune disease, and higher incidences of cancer and heart conditions to name but a few. Naturally occurring omega 3 is found in wild fish and meats, whereas processed fats (remember, these are the ones we are told by “authorities” to consume, not animal fats) are high in omega 6 fats, which leads to all sorts of health problems. Try to eat grass fed meat, wild fish, some walnuts and quality extra virgin olive oil. Learn more about the importance of long-chain n-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) here.  How much fish oil to supplement is dependent on a number of factors, but generally a higher dosage is required for people out of shape, coming off a poor diet or with inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Check out Robb Wolf´s fish oil calculator here to find out more. Look carefully at the EPA/DHA ratios when buying oil. I usually get mine from Holland & Barrett in the UK, although I recently found a good one here in Norway.

4. Zinc

I take zinc supplements during periods of higher than normal training exertion, due to its beneficial effect on growth and recovery, immune boosting capabilities and its good for skin condition. Supplies can become depleted from prolonged and intense training and inadequate meat intake/high carbohydrate intake. Also I find it beneficial for sleeping, in which case I take a great product called ZMA, usually before bedtime.  Coach Poliquin also notes the lower levels of testosterone and sperm count caused by zinc deficiency, which as we should all know, is not good news. Zinc is found in oysters, beef, lamb, dark chocolate, liver and some dairy products.

5. Magnesium

Studies have proven that magnesium deficiency can be related to insulin insensitivity and disrupted sleep. Both bad news for anyone, especially if you are training hard as well. A common supplement in the bodybuilding world due to its essential role in many metabolic processes including protein synthesis. You´ll find lots of magnesium in green vegetables like spinach and broccoli and white fish as well. Eat heaps of these foods, and be strong like Popeye. ZMA also comes in different qualities, usually the more expensive the brand the better, I get mine here.

6. Spirulina

Thanks to my mum. Spirulina is one of nature’s true super foods and is a great supplement to many dishes, as well as in shakes. It is super green, smells and tastes strange, probably because it is an algae but it contains all the essential amino acids as well as high concentrations of other nutrients and enzymes that are beneficial to the stomach, and general vibrancy of skin and hair. Super expensive in tablet form, cheaper in powdered form, but great in post workout shake with eggs and banana. I get mine from New Zealand in bulk from Healthpost.

7. Caffeine

Ahhh, the morning double espresso macchiato with heavy cream (50/50) freshly brewed by the La Pavoni. Sometimes I go to bed thinking of how nice it will be in the morning. Conflicting studies are everywhere as to the pros and cons of caffeine and the effect on training and general health. Some swear by it, others warn of danger!.  There is no doubt it has ergogenic effects, and there is something to the fact that even elite athletes are seen sneaking in caffeine up to the allowed measures before and during intense competition. A lot of the studies I read are based on a huge intake of caffeine (400mg +), which I think is unwise. Who wants headaches, the shakes, bad stomach and nausea?.  I find a coffee (about 100mg caffeine) pre-training is effective. It gets the buzz on and that alertness alone is worth it. Plus, there is the great taste and social side of coffee. Just don´t drink the cans of sugar with caffeine like Red Bull. Disaster.

8. Probiotics

Most people have the unfortunate task of taking antibiotics occasionally when all else has failed. Some even take them before all else has failed. Either way, they are bad news for the system killing useful flora and pathogenic bacteria and taking a form of probiotic when on a cure is very wise. As is eating probiotic rich foods like kefir, sauerkraut, yoghurt and some cheese. There are many and varied forms of probiotic, and much debate about their usage. I am a believer in the importance of gut bacteria and the need for the party inside to keep skipping to the grooviest beat imaginable. If you pump yourself full of toxins, the party will turn into a massive hangover. Not good.

9. Lime

Ok, barman speaking. Lime juice from fresh, juicy limes is THE essential ingredient in the bar. That is good enough reason for it to be included as an essential supplement: it makes cocktails go from decent to awesome. Plus it helped Captain Cook keep his men from dying form scurvy during his epic voyages across the Pacific in the 18th Century. Lime is the solution to most problems. It makes you and your cooking and drinks feel, taste and smell good. And the oils are great when you happen to have a bath. First make a jug of sugar-free Mojitos, squeeze some lime oil into the bath, get in and party on.

10. Cinnamon

The humble spice that is hitting the headlines. My mum always told me to add cinnamon to cooking and sprinkle on salads, but I never listened, as I thought it was just to add to a Café Latte. No, no, no.  Cinnamon helps maintain blood sugar levels, reduce triglycerides, prevents insulin resistance, contains dietary fiber, calcium and zinc, helps maintain your hair and nice skin and increases sex drive.  Woohoo.  We all know that too many bicep curls decreases sex drive because you become so awesome you forget about the opposite sex. Keep some cinnamon in your gym bag as a reminder. Now, adding cinnamon to everything is not so advisable, but keep a few sticks on the kitchen bench, and if you feel in the mood, knock up this great little cocktail I have trailed to immediate success:

Primal Apple Cake Cocktail

6cl Havana Club

Juice of 1-2 limes

1 spoon of runny honey

10 mint leaves

Half a Granny Smith apple chopped up

Half a cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in shaker with cubed ice, shake hard, double strain into chilled cocktail glass. ENJOY.

That’s my top 10 for now. Just to add to your general wellness really, socially as well as physiologically. Supplement away, just get healthy on natural life first.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Physical health and holism: Solomon Islands perspective

Sport in nature, Solomon style. Easy.

As anthropologists, we are continually searching for new or revised understandings of the present human complex by comparing and contrasting people, groups, cultures and patterns of interaction and adaptation. To do this we need to appreciate and account for the historical record in terms of evolutionary change as well as searching for clues that can help us locate and analyze the particular complex taking place today. We do this to enable a broader sense of understanding and respect for changes that are contextual and multifaceted. Let me give an example from my field in Solomon Islands and show how this relates to the need for more nuanced understandings of health and fitness today.

The Solomon Islands has a population of about 550 000 made up of some 900 sparsely populated islands in the south west Pacific. It’s an isolated place, gets few visitors and is utterly fascinating and beautiful in terms of its inhabitants and natural environment. Ideal then for an anthropologist to get involved in sports ethnography in a region traditionally looked at from more mainstream thematic perspectives of kinship, ecology, gender, nationalism, religion etc. The locals are sports mad, especially for soccer, and have flown the national flag at successive FIFA beach soccer and futsal world cups. (More on these amazing players and Solomon Islands in later posts)

I’ve spent months living in Solomon Islands on and off for the past few years in conjunction with my doctoral work at the University of Bergen, and have been able to gain access to, and participate in most aspects of the local society in order to understand and appreciate the pervasive nature of sporting practice there. I have lived, played, coached, travelled abroad with and shared day to day routines with young soccer players, interviewed prominent officials and government representatives as well as spending extensive time searching through archival records from the colonial past. In other words, my methodologies have been primed through academic training in more classical British anthropology, but also with my own form of experiential ethnographic approach that has seen me literally do what I study.

Natural, naked play...as we should

Where does this get us, and how does it relate to modern practical and theoretical comprehension of the human body in relation to physiological health and its adjustments to the social issues facing us today?. Well, a number of things stand out from my work that I’ll endeavour to incorporate more generally into the framework of Primal Movers.

  • Confirmation of the fact that a lot of what we know today regarding sporting performance and the factors compounding its expression, have long been with us, yet not adequately extrapolated in terms of the logic of newer ‘scientific reasoning’ that assumes an essentialized cut with the past.
  • Knowledge, as we know it in terms of Western-based empirical systems of understanding performance, is often inadequately imparted on non-Western nation states, stemming from an ethnocentric view of development and/or ‘progress’.
  • ‘More’ is certainly not victorious over ‘less’ in terms of the vast majority of training methodologies I have both used myself and with others. This logic only makes sense on the scoreboard of a match. Training more can produce some short term results, but inevitably has longer term negative consequences if pushed upon a body that is not hormonally or holistically in balance with its optimized engineered condition. (I’ll talk about this concept in another post)
  • Cordain, Linderberg, Eaton, Harris, Wolf et al may have certain disagreements over the implementation of the Paleo/primal framework as a workable modus operandi for the general public, but they all DO agree upon the fact that Western foodstuffs have had a devastating effect on populations who have until recently subsisted on local produce as the mainstay of their diet. This is shockingly apparent in Solomon Islands, and other Pacific Island nations. (for more see the excellent Kitava study)
  • Periodization, as the less than ideal umbrella term for change in routine, is essential not only for goal orientated results, but for health optimization over the long term. From observing Solomon Islanders working and eating from the land and sea, subsisting on the natural resources, observing the cyclic rhythms of time, and getting plenty of rest, I am convinced that our ideal balance IS true to our optimized engineered condition.
  • Incorporating natural movement as part of your way of being develops both a strong musculoskeletal system as well as enhanced cardiovascular and respiratory capacities. This, combined with proper rest and periodic changes in movement intensity certainly forestalls injury occurrence and burnout, as it is naturally less severe on your glycolic pathway. (I’ll write about my ideas behind overtraining and its effects on insulin release, cortisol and adrenal production and suppression issues in a later post)

    National Bilikiki team...4 world cup appearances

Ok, so participation combined with observation and analysis of historical records is the sine qua non of an anthropological study, and produces qualitative data that can be further interrogated and is hopefully beneficial to both researcher and local population. Compared to (what many have said before me) the less rigorous social, and indeed natural sciences, anthropology lays no claim to a bound up notion of universal truths. What I refer to is the fact that cultural relativism, the raison d’être of what it is that we attempt to do in the field, is questioning the practical and conceptual logics of systems of being, based on a holistic understanding of the diverse human condition.

And for the primal mover?. Solomon Island athleticism, their logic for training, playing, winning, sharing and a whole host of other factors bound up in sporting practice contributes to our ongoing attempt to formulate more accurate, boundary-busting and simplistic understanding of who we are and how we are evolved to function.

My work is not a philosophical pontification of what might have been and may be, in a far off land where the majority of the population still lives a subsistence lifestyle. It is not even an attempt to romanticize what existence is like in a world less tarnished by Western intrusion, in a sort of “us verses them” dichotomy. My aim here is to give a brief introduction to the way the discipline seeks answers from the past, to situate the present, and to unmask what needs to be focused upon in the future.

I used myself as a methodological tool to help investigate how sport is played, perceived and affects the people of a small island state. I learnt how they trained, ate, relaxed, theorized and lived out their passion for the game. I taught them some things I knew, like training principles for different physical purposes, the effects of the Tabata protocol, CrossFit style training, some of the science behind the natural nutritional opportunities of the islands vis-à-vis the Chinese imported carbohydrate and artificial sweetener calamity. They taught me how to properly climb coconut trees and dive deep down for barracuda. They broadened my understanding of physical health and wellbeing, more specifically, how Western notions are so incomplete and fraught with hidden agendas that continually derail logical fitness and nutritional programs.

If I was not sure before that we have much to learn when it comes to a holistic integration of social, physical, nutritional and evolutionary forms of bodily function, then the Solomon Islands has ingrained this in me. Stop wasting time waiting for someone else to debunk someone else’s idea on optimal performance, and for heavens sake, don’t take as gospel what you read in the traditional media. Eat fresh, natural foods, rest lots, exercise and move naturally and energetically daily, smile and enjoy your world around you. Solomon style.

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: