Saturday, January 28, 2006

Machines or Free Weights?

My February column in the print edition of SwimBikeRun St. Louis magazine examines the question of machines and free weights. I am not a fan of machine-based resistance training, for many reasons. I have also been lucky to work with and learn from many talented coaches who really know what they are talking about when it comes to resistance training.

Vern Gambetta is one of those people. I attended one of his clinics in 1998 and consider him one of the best in the strength and conditioning business. He pulls no punches, tells it like it is, utilizes methods from sport science and rehab science, and (my favorite)whores himself out to nary an equipment company.

Vern has a great blog, Functional Path Training, and I recommend it to anyone in the strength and conditioning biz. Nice to see someone with a great reputation taking the time to comment on current topics. Check out Vern's latest post on the machine vs. free weight debate here.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Monkey Business

Well, leave it to my friend, the MIT philosophy grad and stud professor, to blog a fascinating piece of news for all endurance athletes and healthy eaters:

Peeling bananas from the other end is easier. Just pinch and pull. Monkeys do it all the time. A thumb, opposable or not, makes it very easy.

Try it. It's brutally true and beautiful. Ah, the things your mama never told you--and the information that didn't come with that expensive liberal arts education.

And...from the Exercise Police "Signs that the Nutrition Apocalypse is Upon Us" department:

GlaxoSmithKline will be proposing a new, over-the-counter version of Xenical (binds to lipases in the digestive tract to decrease the absorption of triglycerides). You absorb about 2/3 of the fat you eat. Reported side effects are frequent, loose stools, increased flatulence and greater urgency with old #2. Some researchers have found that the people who lose the most weight on the drug are those that actually consume less dietary fat because the side effects from the drug (with higher dietary fat intake) are so negative. It seems people decrease dietary fat intake not because they see long-term improvements in health; they change their behavior because of short-term inconvenient and embarrassing personal hygiene issues.


It will be interesting to see how the FDA handles this one. One thing is for certain: If this stuff is approved, I'm investing heavily in toilet paper manufacturers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

WWJD: Run Over the Cyclists or Just Scare Them to Death?

We made the mistake of starting Sunday's ride at prime church-gettin'-out time out in the Chesterfield flats. Instead of going out Wild Horse Creek, we road to Old Olive Street to head out to Centaur. Big mistake. Now, there is no good shoulder, but that is not a license to drive recklessly or dangerously when cyclists are on the road with you.

Riding single file, we had numerous large SUV vehicles pass us angrily, fast and without much consideration. I was very nervous--more so than ever on my bike--and let a few choice expletives fly. There are several large churches in the area and given the traffic cops posted out Eatherton, it was clear that most of the traffic was from the area religious services letting out. Now, I don't know what religion these people are, but they sure as heck DON'T believe in people riding bikes or sharing the road with another legal vehicle that runs under human power.

Right to life!? Do unto others!? Apparently these religious hypocrites are exempt from following their own principles when driving next to cyclists.

The ONLY motorized vehicle that gave us any consideration was some dude on a Harley with "Disciples of Judah" on his ragged denim jacket. He slowed, passed far to the right and waved as he went on ahead.

Maybe they would've been more agreeable if we would've had a big WWJD sign on our asses? Hey, maybe there's a market....

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pondering Biology, Behavior and the Future

Another birthday passes--I'm getting near the big 40. My goal is be in better shape, inside and out, each year. This past year has been incredible. I've changed in so many ways; and the best change has been to a plant-based, whole food lifestyle. I won't use the "d" word, because it is a complete lifestyle and behavior change, not just a temporary adoption of certain foods, or calorie counting or whatever.

It is a change in behavior. Conscious choices every day. Every freakin' day. Over time. That's what counts.

This really hit me yesterday as I was working out in the basement and listening to The Motley Fool on NPR. There was a discussion of the Google guys and their potential involvement with some big-shot DNA guy. Evidently there are those who think the power of Google combined with knowledge of human genetic code will lead us to the discovery of great new cures for various diseases.

Sorry to disappoint the techno-geeks, but super cool technology isn't the answer to problems that are top-down problems of organismal behavior. Many of the diseases that afflict us now, are the diseases of affluence (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) These diseases are the result of complex interactions between the organism and its environment. It is not simply biology or genetics. The human being makes poor food and exercise choices over many years; over time, the system fails. Pharmacology and surgical techniques can delay the inevitable--treat the symptoms, but changes in behavior are the key to actually solving the problem.

In many cases, the use of drugs and surgery are simply crutches. These "great breakthroughs" in medicine simply PERMIT and PROMOTE poor health choices on a daily basis. The average American thinks this way: I take my cholesterol meds so that I can eat whatever I want and still have the cholesterol readings that are acceptable to my doctor. And my insurance company subsidizes the cost. The beef, dairy and other major food producers profit from my addiction to their unhealthy products and they spend BILLIONS of dollars each year to continue to convince me I like and need their products. Why would I want to put any effort into eating and exercising--behaving differently? It is too much trouble and the insurance company isn't going to help me pay for better food (fresh produce, organic foods) or bother to learn how to fix them in a healthy manner? And fruits and veggies are for commie-pinko, tree-hugging wussies, right?

No amount of computing power or knowledge of the genetic code can overcome the powerful higher level, real world conditions (societal, cultural, economic) that promote human behavior. Western medicine and its practitioners convince us that science can eventually conquer all; our daily behavior doesn't matter. And it's just too hard (do you hear the whining?) to do anything ourselves. The consequences aren't immediate enough or harsh enough for most to want to make changes. We don't believe everyday choices matter; or that over time, they have powerful effects on our biology.

Science and technology will never conquer daily human apathy, greed or stupidity.

Take charge of your behavior and biology on a daily basis. Educate yourself. See what happens.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Show Me the Effort

Okay, people, let's see the hands. Or the feet! Who's 3 for 3 in the exercise department for 2006? Seriously, I hope everyone is taking stock of their health and making a concerted effort do go their body and mind some good.

Personally, I'm working on my inverted strength and balance, but I don't think I'll go this far. And I don't recommend standing on physioballs either. If you can balance on either lower extremity for > 1 minute, you are ahead of the game.

Bottom line: Make good choices every day. It pays off in the long run. Who wants to be beholden to the insurance and drug companies?