Ben Greenfield

I’ve been struggling to find a way to train at the level I want without setting myself up for burn out.

Well I just got into Ben Greenfield, who puts Tim Ferris to shame for his biohacking (and his use of the term biohacking). I’ve read the first few chapters of Beyond Training and listened to him on a few podcasts and he’s the first person to address so many practical things I was looking for.

For example he was the first person to differentiate between professional endurance athletes and those with jobs. All training advice is based on mimicking the best, and sure – the best train two 3-hour sessions a day and shit like that but they also don’t do anything else. They get massages, take naps, and measure biometrics constantly. They have one job – train. If you mimic that you have two jobs because you have your actually bill-paying employment. You’re doing twice the work and half the recovery and not tracking anything.

Now if a fitness guru does take it into consideration that you have a job it’s usually the judgey assumption that it’s a desk job and you have short hip flexors and too much internal rotation in your shoulders.

Ben talks directly to people who are on their feet all day and how they should train. So I’m switching out long race-pace runs for hard intervals because I’m already warmed up and loose from work and I’ve got 7 hours of low level cardio so it’s time to just take the medicine and go home.

He also talks about black hole training and junk miles. Most people train too hard for the positive effects of low level training and too soft for the positive effects of hard training, we coast in the easiest feel good zone. Luckily I wasn’t quite that bad because I was – and am – trying to get faster and get my race times down not just my races over-with.

The chapter on gut health I think would be beneficial to everyone. He talks about gluten sensitivity and all the things that can be mistaken for gluten sensitivity. Which is helpful in this culture where we randomly vilify or exalt particular foods.

There are also times I suspect he’s a nut job, like his focus on electrical pollution and the body needing the magnetic field of the earth and blah blah blah he literally has a crystal in his bracelet but what do I know – he’s a world class triathlete and I’ve got my laptop hovering over my balls so what do I know…

Incidentally I had already stopped carrying my cellphone in my pocket thanks to Tim Ferris – who did it thanks to Pavel Tsatsouline – because it lowers your testosterone which is important for muscle building. And other things too but who cares?

So all in all I recommend this book and it’s author (who has a podcast of his own and has been a guest on several good ones and who has the dryest, most joyless demeanor I’ve encountered in someone so into fitness). Beyond Training is dense and unforgiving with the science but the advice within is strong. You can build yourself an amazing bi-weekly work out routine with this.

One long run (90 minutes) every two weeks sounds crazily low volume to a runner (and 90 minutes sounds crazy no matter what to a non-runner) but Tabata’s and intervals are where most of the benefit is and they maximize your time for recovery.

On the other hand his normal person layout has you lifting weights once a week and doing body weight once a week for strength training while his personal triathlete training has him on the barbell twice a week. I’m keeping the weights at three times a week while incorporating plyometrics 4 Hour Body style.

I should lay out my work out plan but this is already long and all over the place so I’ll make it a post of it’s own.

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Posted in books, fitness, Pragmatism

What I Read This Month

September 2018

Quality over quantity this month, no long afternoon reading sessions with work back on.

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Story – Robert McPhee

Substance, Structure, Style, And The Principles Of Screenwriting

This book gets mentioned in every writing YouTube channel that I watch so I wondered if maybe I’d gotten everything valuable in it from other sources – as often happens these days – but really reading this book is a multi-layered experience. The cool thing that happens is when Robert lays out a brilliant way to write a scene a brilliant scene unfolds in your head. It’s like watching brilliant movies that didn’t exist until the second you thought of them which makes reading this book a slow process – sometimes your brain wants to hold on to the great idea you just had and you end up staring over the page rather than taking in anything new.

I also think this book would be great for people who love movies who have no desire to write. It would absolutely deepen your appreciation of great art, the same way learning to cook makes you love good food more. Information is appreciation.

 

Beyond Training – Ben Greenfield

Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life

I grabbed this book because there’s a huge chapter on recovering from exercise. Ben’s a triathlete doing multiple IronMan’s a year so he’s qualified to talk about training hard and recovering well.

I actually started writing a really long post while reading this book because I was so excited and I’ll just publish that rather than go into it all here but I recommend this book to anyone who’s into working out and already read The 4 Hour Body.

 

Norwegian Wood – Lars Mytting

Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood The Scandinavian Way

I’m interested in Apocalypse skills. Wood chopping and heating definitely qualifies. This book wound up being extremely relaxing to read though and it was a great wind down before bed. There’s a lot of talk about the zen of wood chopping and connection to the environment.

And amazingly this guy never runs out of things to say. He loves the history of tools, the practicality of wood heating, the environment, the culture, he even talks about feeling like a useful provider as an aging male, like this book covers a lot and never dallys.

 

Bonus – What I Played This Month

Arkham City

Arkham Asylum was basically a perfect game. Rather than just a side scrolling punching game with Batman skins Ayslum really makes it feel like you’re Batman with the gadgets, the stealth, the environment.

And Arkham City just takes that’s and think bigger is better. It’s convoluted. Still good, still worth a play but the number of times I felt interrupted by side quests and taken out of the game by trying to keep track of how to use all the gadgets¬† – like I’m playing DDR with my fingers –¬† rather than fighting as Batman was frustrating. Rather than feel mastery or relief when I got through something I’d feel like I flailed my way through.

Like I said though, I still recommend it and if you play it just see if you feel the same way.

Posted in books

Me, In Relationships

I know that what I need most in a partner is a Care-Taker Instinct.

It’s because I can’t really take care of myself for myself. I don’t care about myself or life in general enough to care of myself for myself. At least, I never have in the past.

But I can do it if it’s my part of the relationship. If I’m with someone who will love me no matter what I have the motivation not to push them to no matter what, maintaining the buffer between me and no matter what is me nurturing the relationship.

All my relationships that have fallen apart it’s because I found the point where they started hedging their bets, where they didn’t want to invest too much more than they could get back. And that’s not love. Love isn’t a transactional negotiation. It’s just you be your best self and I’ll be mine and if those are compatible then we’re partners.

I’m not a care taker, I’m more of a drill sargent. Even in my friendships I behave like love is not letting someone slip when it’s going to make them unhappy later.

So I guess in both cases it’s a matter of being proud. I need someone who will be proud of me for taking care of myself, for improving myself, and I express love by being proud of people for taking care or improving themselves.

Which runs into a problem when I’ve been my worst self. I’ve needed friends who didn’t care about me being better. When I couldn’t handle the slightest pressure – even the internal pressure of knowing I’ve told them I want to be better in the past.

And I don’t want to be the drill sargent for everybody, because I know it’s not what everybody needs.

One thing that’s changed is how I scan as a partner. I used to come off reckless, fun, smug, and nihilistically liberated – meeting someone attracted to and compatible with that is rare. Which is great because I’ve rarely ever been a maybe. Things are clearly on or off with me.

When that looks good and goes bad is times when a girl is attracted to that because she wants to be that. I can seem really exciting when I’m like let’s drink as much as we want whenever we want and talk philosophy really loudly and I’ve encountered people who turned out to just want the fun part of that. Then I have to be the dancing puppet manic pixie dream boy or feel like I’m losing them and spoiler – I always lose them.

They have to have that Care-Taker underneath, that second relationship gear. I guess that’s the insight – relationships that just have one, usually surface level, gear don’t work out. You have to be what someone needs when the gears change as well.

I’ve seen the opposite too, where people have a deep nuturer-nutured relationship, the I’m-going-to-fix-him/I’m-going-to-save-her model instantly and then the lack of second gear is that no one can actually get better or the relationship falls apart. Maintain the crisis to maintain the relationship because that’s all you’ve got.

Actually there’s an example I used a long time ago that I’m re-thinking: I heard a woman complain that when she met her boyfriend – a bartender while she was a server – they’d stay up late, go out all the time, be reckless, you know industry life. They got together, it got serious, they were going to get married… then she broke up with him because he’d stay up late, go out all the time, be reckless you know – be exactly himself.

And I kind of shit on her for it because I’d heard so many people complain that their partner just wasn’t who they fell in love with anymore and here she was shitting on guy for still being exactly with whom, in love, she fell.

But I guess the truth is they weren’t second-gear compatible. Whatever she needed underneath wasn’t there. Not his fault, not her fault.

Furthermore I guess, like everything else in life it sucks but, what we want and what we need are two different things and you’re unlucky and probably doomed if you settle for getting one not both.

I was smart without knowing it in between my relationships because I bounced around a bunch of wants until I found one that was also a need. It’s probably why I’m not bitter, I didn’t try to turn anyone into something they’re not then punish them for faults in a character that wasn’t theirs.

It’s part of my greatness that I still keep finding so many ways that I’m great.

Then of course I beat myself up in every low moment for years for having wants or needs at all and not selflessly being the perfect person for everyone. That’s not part of my greatness.

So don’t do that. But do acknowledge when someone is only what you want. And watch out for should-be-happy-but syndrome when you’re only getting what you need. That’ll be your greatness.

Posted in Pragmatism

The Sunday Post

Someone said a while ago that the blog was now just whatever was floating through my head. To which I replied that that was all it ever was. But I acknowledge that what goes through my head has changed a lot.

Earlier this year when I started learning a lot about exercise and wanting to talk about it I said I’d only write about it once a week, on Fitness Friday, because it felt so off-brand for me. But I had nothing else going through my head and it turns out I picked up a lot of readers by writing about fitness from a curious, beginner mindset.

Also weekly was the Sunday post. If I wrote something longer, meandering, ambiguous then I set it t publish Sunday evening because I figured people had the time to read it and Sunday night is a more reflective time.

Being depressed does convince you have something to express, something you want to get out and be understood. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about what it’s like to be so normal now and the biggest change is that I no longer live like the present is just my future’s past. Which is a tremendous relief mostly and a bit scary at times. I used to feel like I knew where this was going – for great or for tragic – and I used to know what not to do. I was all-in building my persona and it was immense pressure. Any failure was total failure, any set back was a dead stop forever. But I also didn’t sweat the little things, my whole life was one big thing.

Now it’s a lot of little things. A wide harvestable field. But I no longer have a sense of the future. At any point in the future (3 years, 10 years, a month, tomorrow) I always knew, internally, the answer to what it would be like; more successful in music than I am now or dead by suicide. When my mind opened all possible doors looking forward it always found only those two.

Now… nothing. I just always hope uncertainly that life will be like it is now. 3 years? Sure. But 10? How can a person hope nothing changes too much in 10 years? I guess the question is why don’t I want anything.

Life isn’t perfect but it’s a work-in-progress and unlike music it’s impossible now to get set back for five months and have a meltdown. If diet and exercise somehow got set back five months it’d have to be from a catastrophic injury in which case – you just focus on recovering from the injury and it sends you into even sharper focus with even more specific goals.

Everything I’m doing now is good base camp maintenance. Everything is drought and flood resistant but where is the expedition supposed to be going?

The current cultural expectation is that you eventually monetize your hobbies and that’s supposed to make you happy. Which is just a great way to pressurize and suck all the joy from something that you once loved.

Maybe I’ll end up writing for a living or – a friend put this my head a while ago (because most of friends are capitalist greed bags) – that I’m getting close to good enough at running that I might get some sponsorships. And being ready for things like that while not trying pressurizing yourself by seeking them is the guru wisdom of guys like Tim Ferris so that’s more what I’m about right now. If I can keep myself in shape mentally and physically for 10 years – which I can and will – then anything that comes along in those 10 years I’ll be able to leap at the opportunity.

At 40, which is 6 years and 2 months away, I’ll probably be in the best shape of my life. My base camp will be gorgeous, we’ll have a foosball table(!) but til then I just have to hope that the expedition finds a way it wants to go.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, fitness, Pragmatism

Anti Rest

I’m still struggling with rest, as I wrote in a post last month called The Struggle To Rest. And once again I’m coming off a 21k race, coincidence? No.

You rest before a race and you rest after. It’s a frustrating amount of rest. But my newly designed, Tabata based work out week I think will be less cumulatively taxing. What’s Tabata you ask? Let me google that for you.

The problem I’ve had in the past is that my primary reason for working out is mood boosting. I’d love to work out 90 minutes a day, six days a week. It’s all about feeling like I’ve done something, I am doing something, I am somebody, I have a life and a body and a purposeful soul.

Looking better shirtless is a ways down from that, still nice, but a ways down.

So hopefully doing shorter, smarter workouts will allow me to work out everyday without heading for injury or adrenal fatigue (let me over simplify adrenal fatigue – when you’re stressed from work, working out, heat, cold, relationships, whatever, you dig a hole. If you’re stressed again before that hole is filled in it gets deeper. Eventually too deep. Bad deep). I’m pretty good at keeping all other stresses down but the physical stress of my otherwise beloved job is still stress and combined with the amount of work outs I was doing my body was under stress like 50 hours a week.

So smarter work outs means more time to recover without dialing back the intensity or progress. Fingers crossed.

However, and this was supposed to be my point and all that was supposed to be intro, I think it’s important not to try too hard to rest.

I was thinking about it when I went for my first float of this work year. Any time I relax and let my mind wander it wanders to hey – remember to get this video done, hey – where are you in Gatsby you should do another run through, hey – blah blah work, blah blah plan everything.

And I got annoyed. Luckily so annoyed that I came home and crushed out all the things on my to do list, all the things I’d been trying to put off so I could rest I just got pissed off and did them. Then I had no choice but to rest and rest was easy.

Don’t try to bitch away your frustration. Tame it, domesticate it, put it to work. Get pissed off and have better sex. Get pissed off and have a cleaner house.

I guess it comes back to mindfulness. I always tell people who are trying to quit something (smoking, carbs, side hoes) that you can’t repress and ignore a craving – because your mind has to keep checking on that craving to see if you’re successfully repressing/ignoring it which means you’re not which means you get frustrated trying to repress it harder – you have to acknowledge it, see it for what it is and why it’s there, then keep moving forward.

I’m fortunate to work with a great group of dudes and we can turn to each and say I’m having a really strong sugar craving and they’ll say me too or I almost ate cheese yesterday or something that deflates the craving to what it is – passing neurotransmitters and nothing more.

What I can’t seem to fight is being tired. I can’t stay productively pissed off passed, like, 2 o’clock. My morning work outs are getting done but I’ve been skipping the gym after work because I, currently, just feel drained. It might be that it’s the week after the 21k and it might also be the light outside or lack thereof. My circadian rhythm is probably off.

But if I skip the gym for a week and get pissed off at myself for it then mission accomplished, I can then turn that frustration into action.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, fitness, Pragmatism

The Last Minute Friend

A while ago someone said you never know if you’re the last person someone talks to before they go do something stupid. They were talking about overdosing but you know what we all thought.

And I’ve been on the other side of that moment a lot, thinking hm, I guess this is what I did and who I talked to before going home and killing myself. Then thinking how impactful little things would seem when people remembered them.

I’ve been in conversations with people who have known that I’m suicidal and who have been accidentally shitty about it and I’ve been in conversations with people who don’t my history with suicide who’ve been extremely shitty about the subject.

I have a lot of dos and don’ts for the suicide talk and any kind of trauma conversation, things I know to look out for in others and in myself.

It’s on my mind consciously to be the best listener I can be. Because you never know if this is the conversation where someone is over the edge and something you say brings them back.

I aspire to detect true sadness in my friends as I hoped it would be detected in me, and to be the best friend possible.

And yet the big conversation has never truly come my way and I end up pressuring people to save themselves when they’re not where I was.

The truth is we all rise and fall and respecting a casual emotional low might be more meaningful than intervening.

You only know in retrospect I guess so a totally hands-off approach to someone elses sadness isn’t the greatest idea but treating everyone who’s had a tough week like they’re on a ledge isn’t very helpful either.

The thing about advice is people don’t hear it when they don’t need. But I’ve found you have to have been saying it all along when they do realize they need some.

I have the sense, possibly wrongly, that I’ve become wise by going through years of severe depression and then getting better. I feel like I’ve found the trail and whenever anybody’s unhappy I get insistent they use that trail but it’s really just a desperate attempt to talk to my old self, to wish I could get better sooner.

And wanting my experience to be valuable. The truth of life is we go through tremendously bad shit for no reason and then have to fit a nice tarp of meaning over it in order to go on. We all want the narrative to be fair so going through massive lows should pay off somehow, even if it just means being the wise old friend in someone else’s story.

I’ve met people who got knocked up at 15 during their coke years who think it’s made them a sage for life.

It’s true, sadly, that trauma makes us grow but some people hold onto to one trauma and one growth and go done. I have grown. Learning to grow while well is the true final growth. hashtag fortune cookie hashtag motivational poster.

Well as always this got completely away from the original point. I was going to talk about how I shoulder the responsibility of being a possible last minute friend but then I had to be honest that people haven’t really needed my help many times. My need to help ratio skews hard, I’ve needed help – and still need various help – much much more than I’ve been able to give help.

But I know, because people tell me, that my conversation is appreciated. Sometimes people tell me something I said years ago totally in passing that they still think about so I do do some good, my experience has given some value somewhere and I can be comforted by that.

Posted in Depression & Suicide

The Body-Mind Connection

We all know about the placebo effect, yes? The mind can effect change in the body. What doesn’t get acknowledge as much in our culture that praises the intellect as superhuman and sort of disdains the physical as merely human is that the body can also effect the mind.

What this means for the wellish – the healthy enough people with no diagnosable disease who are still miserable and shortening their natural lives – is that if you mimic sickness in your body it can manifest in your mind. If you, for example, spend a lot of time lying around, don’t get much natural light, don’t get a lot a face-to-face time with loved ones you are mimicking the symptoms of depression and it’s entirely possible that that is what causes your mind to begin mimicking depressive symptoms as well.

Mind and body don’t co-exist, the brain is part of your physical body and susceptible to physical aliment. Alzheimer’s is a physical ailment that manifests as memory loss, just like any other disease that might result in muscle loss.

When I got out of my last severe depression I doubt it’s a coincidence that my mantra was just to do what I thought a healthy person does. I didn’t feel like exercising but it’s what a healthy person would do so I’ll mimic it.

And I haven’t been suicidal in two years now, that’s the longest stretch since I was 13.

All my talk of changing one’s persona has to start with changing one’s behaviour. So much of the insidious trap of depression is looking for the one thing, the root cause. We tell ourselves little things like exercise won’t help because we have a big problem, something is fundamentally wrong with us and with life – nothing as quaint as a work out could possibly help. And that search for the one, big, key thing that you can discover that will make things okay and then allow to you to do things like exercise is like going into a burning house and refusing to put out the fire until you know where – and why – it started.

So the depression grows because we won’t look at the man behind the curtain and admit that he is actually rather small. And yeah metaphor round up these are firefighter in the land of Oz.

Everything being connected – your diet to your mood to your sleep – means they all fall together when something is wrong but you don’t have to let them. Hold the line or drag upward anything you can. If everything is broken there can be no wrong answer when you start repairing. And further more if you do have some diagnosable problem then you’ll root it out because it will be resilient. If you have true insomnia it’ll persist when you get your diet and exercise more on lock and blah blah blah knowing is half the battle.

We over diagnosis and self-diagnosis constantly now. There’s more drive to have something, an explicable problem, than to be okay. Rather than people being in denial and covering up a problem like we imagine was rampant in the 50s a lot of people are in denial that they’re basically okay and they’re just jacking their blood sugar around throughout the day which is effecting their mood.

There will come a time though when your unhappiness is so severe you realize it no longer makes you interesting. In fact the only person it made you interesting to was yourself, everyone else was so wrapped up in their own feelings they only cared about yours when it helped them express theirs.

The search for solutions can sometimes be quiet dull sounding, there’s no glamour no story we can tell ourselves in the fact that bananas contain serotonin precursors but at least it’s science, it’s objective.

It’s better than listening to your feeling because your emotions are generated by your body and you and your body don’t have a great track record of listening to each other so far.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, fitness, Pragmatism