…Through the virtue of training, Enlighten both body and soul — Morihei Sensei

Health

I Don’t Believe in Happiness.

The current Happiness meme is bullshit.

The commentary is that you are on this earth to be happy.  That you should only be doing what makes you happy.

“Follow your heart.”

This sounds nice and would be nice, if it were true.  Truth is that humans are not the only inhabitants of this planet, and most inhabitants of this planet put forth massive amounts of effort to survive.  To wake up the next morning.

Why then are we so special, that we should be put here for the sole purpose of being happy?  What makes humans so unique in this respect?

Granted, for many of us, certainly most in the United States, life doesn’t require the amount of effort that it once did.  However, that does not confer any special meaning in itself.  No more than your pet dog’s life being super easy compared to a wild wolf’s, confers any special meaning.

Additionally, how does the current Happiness ethos inform people in this world dealing with real struggle and suffering?  How does it impact the real injustices, even right here in the United States?  What does it say to someone with real horrors in their life, to say that Happiness is the standard of success.

Similarly, it seems convenient that the people who control things in this world, seem to be in pursuit of other things, largely by selling us Happiness.

Happiness has been commoditized, packaged, branded, and marketed to us as some sort of special ethos. Something that, the pursuit of, places the pursuer on a higher spiritual, ethical.  And, conversely, if you’re not happy, you fail.

I, myself, could care less about my personal happiness.  Take it or leave it.  I don’t want my life force, and my time in this life to be spent on self-gratification.  That is not growth.  That is not progress. Nothing grows without struggle and effort.  Muscles don’t. Trees don’t.  Babies don’t. Families don’t.  Cultures don’t.

Additionally, the converse is also true, lack of effort leads to atrophy, decay and death.  Civilizations die. Muscles die. Thus, Happiness, as it is popularly conceptualized is a fairly risky state.

I do believe in Goodness.  I would want my struggle and suffering in this life to lend some measure of increase to the Goodness in this world.

That would make me Happy.

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Shoulder Rehabbing

For the last two and a half years I have had problems along my left side neuromuscular chain,  from neck to my shoulder, through my elbow, forearm and wrist.  However, that is now turning around. I have been lifting heavy in the gym (in a programmed way) and things seems to be improving.

For a long time, I had avoided lifting heavy bench,and over head.  But for the past several months, I’ve been following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 programming, and the weights are now in territory I’ve never been. This has been challenging for my shoulder, elbow, and forearms grip strength.  It is to the point sometimes that I need to buck up just to shake a man’s hand.

I have had to take a week off from shoulder work here and  there–well not a week off, but a week with careful shoulder work.  For instance, only the major lifts which engage my shoulder, and dropping any minor or assistance work that may challenge my shoulder.

At night I wasn’t able to sleep on my side, I’ve only been able to lay on my stomach or back without pain.

Well what about the rehab part?

This past week I’ve noticed considerably less pain at night, and have even been able to tolerate short periods on my side.

I completely believe this is due in large part to careful progression through flat barbel bench, incline dumbbell bench, strict overhead press, cleans, and clean & press.  Progression to PR level weights for me in every lift.  The cleans and clean & press are PR level, but I have not really pushed them and have sacrificed them on those dodgy shoulder days.

Flat bench.  The key for me has been to really dial in my form, and to vary my grip width as the weights move up.

Overhead press.  This can be challenging, but it is largely a form issue.  Overhead press has, I feel, greatly improved my range of motion

Incline Dumbbell Press has been helpful because it is a less compromised position, and the dumbbells allow you to rotate your shoulder position to be more stable.

Clean, Clean & Press.  Cleans are Push Press are an inigma in that they engage and involve the shoulder and upper body, while simultaneously the lifter tries to minimize upper body engagement in these lifts.  This seemingly contradictory situation has been helpful for my shoulder rehab, as I can tell when my form is breaking down as shoulder pain sets in.  Also, it has helped teach better should mechanics through minor adjustments which either hurt more, or hurt less.

There you have it–my dawning revelation and thoughts regarding my shoulder pain subsiding in recent weeks (week or two).

Thanks.

— Jalal


Cleanse v. 2015

cleanse 2015 ingredients

Cleanse 2015 ingredients

I started my annual (mostly annual) cleanse yesterday  I had been procrastinating for the last month, as I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, and had not made the 20 minute trip to the local health food store to get the remaining items.  As it turns out the local store I had in mind had closed its doors back in November.  I then remembered another store almost right next door to my gym  They, too, had closed their doors.  Thus, I was forced to my Android Google Maps app, and found another store, apparently the last brick and mortar legit health food and herb store in my area (i.e., not a GNC or Vitamin Shoppe).  Google Maps also apparently feels that CVS and Walgreens are health food stores.

My basic Cleanse Recipe

Other very useful cleanse tips

Peachtree Health Foods, had the Parafree equivalent, ParaResponse, bulk psylliym husk fiber (though generic Metamucil will do in a pinch) which I was lacking.  I still have a good stash of bentonite clay and Senna tea.

With the change from Parafree to  ParaResponse,  I made a couple of tweaks to my 2012 cleanse recipe.  It is still broken into three 10 day phases, with the following tweaks in the Parafree capsules.  I made these changes purely for economic reasons.  The bottle at $24 had 90 pills. To make the 90 pills last 30 days.

First 10 days follow the recipe as before except:    

  • Days 1-5 Take one capsule each morning
  • Days 6-10 Take two capsules each morning   (15 capsules)

Second 10 days all the same except:    

  • Days 11-15  Take two capsules each morning and one each evening
  • Days  16-20  Take two each morning and two each evening  (35 capsules, 50 total)

Third 10 days:  Maintain the same protocol two in the morning and two in the evening (40 capsules, 90 total)

Keep all other aspects of the protocol the same as described in my earlier post

Some modicum of prior planning could save you a lot of money, time and aggravation by shopping for and ordering your ingredients online.

Thanks.

— Jalal

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Augusta Quickie: quick notes from Ironman Augusta 70.3 2012

panoramic shot of Ironman Augusta 70.3 2012 pre-raceTo start, it was a great race.  The weather was virtually ideal (for the race portion, at least).  Had some great camaraderie on the run, and after the race.  The hotel stay was decent, though sort of far.  And, most importantly, I met my goals in relation to prepping for Ironman Florida.

  • The weather was ideal, partly sunny to overcast for most of the race, with moderate temps.  Whereas last year the temps were hot, and then it rained off and on for the run.  It did rain this year, but only after the race (for most of us).
  • I stayed in the Comfort Inn on the west side of town–somewhat far from the venue, and not the hotel I had hoped to get initially. But they did a good job, and it worked out well.  As it turns out, the hotel I wanted, that did such a great job last year, didn’t do quite as well this year (some friends ended up in that one)
  • Evidently Augusta is becoming a popular race, and all the cheap rooms were gone early.
  • On the run I linked up with a football coach from the Atlanta area and we helped pace each other through the second half.  In the final three miles or so, we linked up with another fellow from Florida, whose legs were still fresh, and he helped us with the final push for the finish.
  • I finally linked up with my training partners, who it would seem, had put me on ignore going into the race.  Ran into them on the shuttle back to get our stuff from transition.  Was certainly a boon over last year, where I flew solo the entire event.
  • Goals:    My main goals were to practice pacing for Florida–primarily to not let the bike hurt.
    • I also was able to confirm my nutrition strategy for Florida.  Nutritionally, with “Special Needs” bags, I should be good to go.
    • My cardio was bullet proof this race.  At no point was I sucking wind.
    • The area of weakness was muscular endurance.  On the bike and the run, it was my muscular endurance that was a limiter, not my cardio.
    • This is a good thing (I think) as it would seem that muscular endurance is an easier fix in the weeks before Florida.
    • Another piece in the nutrition/endurance aspect was my emphasis on muscular hydration.  I had zero cramping issues–Success!
    • Flexibility and too much plasma hydration remain limiters, especially on the bike.

Some quick thoughts on the race.  I’ll sit down and pound out a more thorough race report in a few days.


Your Brain on Exercise: Brain Training

Brain on excercise: Brain Training

Brain Training

Neurogenesis.  The process of the brain producing new brain cells.  This was believed for decades to not exist–Despite case-study evidence to the contrary.  At any rate, this is the first step in reprogramming your brain.

For the Warrior, neurogenesis provides a unique opportunity to reprogram the brain.  Exercise contributes to neurogenesis–it induces the growth of new brain cells.  This is great because we are already training and exercising.  New brain cells are already being generated.  However, this is not enough.

New brain cells alone will not make things different.  These are raw cells that need to learn stuff.  They can learn what you already know.  Or you can program them with new information, habits, behaviors, reactions.

Bottom line:  New brain cells need to be programmed with something–this can be negative habits or new, positive behaviors.

Your move.  You’ve got these new brain cells.  What are you going to program them with?  You need to consciously decide what learning, what habits, what behaviors you’re going to expose these new brain cells to.

You can pick up a new book.  You can take a class.  You can Meditate.  Meditation, with its own effects on the brain, seems like a great way to double-down.  You can continue your old, bad habits.

Your move.


Notes About Scales

Cheryl Haworth completing snatch in Olympic Trials

What are you weighing?

Confession:  I weigh myself on a scale several times per week.

The scale, or more specifically, body weight, is something of a loaded subject in our modern ego-driven, hyper-sexualized, glamour driven, air-brushed, before -and-after culture.   Most people associate its use singularly with weight-loss.  Weight loss being about as pervasive, yet non-specific a topic as can be found in health discourse.

(Check out these guys for great discussions on this topic: What is Fit?, Olympian Sarah Robles, Also check out Behind the Lens documentary on Cheryl Haworth)

I do not weigh myself with the aim to lose any weight.  A few things I am looking for:

  1. Significant fluctuations, and corresponding behaviors
  2. Ensure my nutritional intake is in line with my training volume:  specifically to stay in a certain range above what I’ve determined to be my best racing (fighting) weight.
  3. As a figure in calculating body-fat percentage.  Again monitoring body-fat for significant fluctuations, and to stay in a certain range.
  4. To keep my training weight a couple of pounds over my race weight.  My race weight being that number I was at when I felt the strongest in a race.  Not sluggish, and not depleted.  This is only known by tracking weight against performance, along with some other numbers, and adjustments for other impacts on weight like detox and cleanse.

What I don’t care about is the number for its own sake.  I don’t care about height weight charts.  I don’t care what other guys at the gym weigh (many are bigger and weigh more, but can’t lift more).  If the FDA or USDA said it, I probably don’t care about it, and will likely do the opposite, knowing how wrong they are.  I don’t care what some guy in Men’s Health looks like, as he probably can’t out-lift, out-run, out-swim, out-survive me, especially once the airbrush work is done.  (Wow, how’s that for some vanity)

I track body weight in correlation with several factors, and have determined what is healthy for me.

For example, after Augusta last year, I noted a significant weight loss.  I also discovered I was overtrained.  The low body weight began before Augusta and also accompanied an increased resting heart rate for a few months post race.  My deduction from all this was that I had overtrained going into Augusta.  It was likely the result of injuries a month or so ahead of the race, and then my push to compensate for the lost training time.

Lesson:  Carefully monitor my training volumes against my recovery times and nutrition, using several measurements to augment my own intuitive sense.

Another use for body weight it determining my hydration levels.  If my weight is low, and my body-fat numbers are screwy, despite how I feel, I’m likely dehydrated.  It could be my plasma hydration is fine, but my general electrolyte levels are off, affecting my muscle hydration.

Low body weight (below my training weight), can indicate I’m not taking in enough calories, or maybe my protein intake is off.  Each of which can cause training to be a negative, or can lead to overtraining.

As mentioned a couple of times above, I track body-fat composition and use that as an indicator for several things.

A pop in body weight, especially after an out-of-town trip, can indicate I was eating too much crap on the road, and am now bloated.  Time to flush my system.

Almost all of these indicators are accompanied by a feeling, that if I tune into, my body will tell me what is going on. However, one of the things about being an athlete, is ignoring certain signals our body sends us, despite how loud they may be screaming.

.

Jalal

Find my on Twitter.  Twitter.com/Old454


Sub 10–Again!

Inverted food pyramid implying that the USDA recommended food consumption is so much "baloney"

Not directly relevant, but highly apropo.

First the low down:  Just came in at 9.8% body fat, at about three pounds over my fighting weight.

I have been ostensibly following the slow-carb diet–of which I have had some success, first going under 10% briefly a few months ago.   I say ostensibly because in Ironman training, my calorie burn, delivery and demands are fairly high–not so easy to fulfill on Tim Ferris’s guidelines.  My monthly training calorie burn had been around 15,000 for the past six months, and just spiked to 25,000 in July.  I expect it to stay in the 25,000-35,000 range until I race.   I have not dropped weight, but I’ve been hovering around 11% the last few months.

The main diet rules I’ve been actually adhering to are:

  • Food selections very similar to my old simple diet rules
  • High protein breakfast, and no fast carbs–generally 4 eggs, and often 1/2 can of black beans.  Coffee is a must.
  • High protein meals throughout the day.
  • No fast carbs in the morning.
  • I’ll increase starch consumption, if necessary, later in the day.
  • Virtually no sugar throughout the week.
  • Religiously observe my cheat day on Saturday–often including two dozen chocolate chip, or peanut butter cookies.
  • Drink virtually nothing but water and coffee through the week.  I don’t even really hit sodas on my cheat days.
  • Consume massive amounts of yogurt (home made, organic)
  • Make my own sports bars.
  • Make my own sports drinks.
  • Drink mucho agua, especially during workouts.
  • Maintain my weightlifting regimen, especially olympic and heavy lifts.
  • Not to mention the 6-10 additional training sessions each week.

That’s it.

Well there are some more, especially surrounding food selection, but these are the gist.  Many of the points above could be technically grouped together, but I’ve separated details for clarity.

For those who’ve paid attention, there are many rules I am breaking.  However, adhering to these above is working.

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— Jalal

Find me on Twitter.  Twitter.com/Old454