AtA: Wacky Antics and Chair Alternatives

Posted May 31st, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Alrighty, so I read the e-book, and I really enjoyed the information and presentation and will definitely start giving in to my whacky side more by skipping to class and the like.

I don’t want to dissuade your originality or individualism in any way, but if you want to get some leverage on yourself and make things interesting, you might consider doing ‘whacky’ stuff with a buddy. Not only is it fun and motivating to have someone to race, but herd mentality suggests that if there is one person doing something out of the ordinary, people view that person with skepticism and suspicion. But if you go screaming by with a friend (or two), it makes people question if in fact you’re doing the right thing and they’re screwing up somehow.

Be sure to link the news article if you somehow get a majority of people on campus to dash frantically between classes. You trendsetter you.

But I have one question, what would you suggest as an alternate to a chair?

This is both an excellent question and a seemingly never-ending frustration to me. I have tried all manner of ergonomic chairs, kneeling chairs, silly bosu-ball chair things, even hammocks, beanbags, and recliners. I also know more than one trainer who puts their laptop on a tall shelf or bar and just stands up while they use the computer. The fact most people generally lean forward to get at the computer only complicates matters. But I am still searching for something that biomechanically makes sense.

At present, I personally have a regular ergonomic office chair approved by various back-health organizations, but truth be told I probably spend half of my time with my feet in it, squatting. Like right now. I’m not even kidding.

Since using a computer is typically the easiest way to be stuck in a chair for long periods, the best trick I can suggest at this point is to simply alter your position frequently, and also to stand up when you can. If you’re not interacting with the keyboard at any given moment, standing up, turning around, squatting down, doing any sort of movement that helps break up a static, prolonged position is probably the best damage control you can do.

AtA: Cookbooks and Meal Design

Posted May 28th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

Do you have any recommendations for good cookbooks for your base and peak meal structure? I have this “Healthy College Cookbook” which I thought would be awesome because I can’t cook [...] and it lists nutritional info for every meal but all of them pretty much have more carbs than anything.

That cookbook appears to have the problems typical of many cookbooks, then. I have two suggestions for this.

The first is starting with simplicity. Pick a lean protein, such as chicken, fish, beef, whatever. Pick a vegetable or two. Season them. Then cook and eat them. Prepare multiple servings and eat the leftovers later on (so you’re not having to turn on the stove every 2 hours).

At some point you might get bored of just ‘seasoned meat+vegetable’ (some do, some don’t). The easiest thing then is to find a low-carb cookbook for your ‘base meals’, and a low-fat cookbook for peak meals. Since most of your meals will be low-carb, that’s really the ‘learning curve’. It’s easy to get carbs for the Peak meals (rice, grains, potatoes, etc); all you have to do is minimize the fat content.

AtA: Exercise Frequency and Off-day Meals

Posted May 26th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

What is your take on daily exercise? If I lift a 5×5 three a week, is it okay to spin on the in between days, or should I let my muscles recover?

Also, do you eat a peak meal on days that you don’t exercise?

As I mention in the book, I think it’s great. The more the merrier. I might debate the merits of Spin class, but as long as the intensity is high enough there’s nothing wrong with using it as an interval exercise.

One thing I would recommend (and I do recommend in the book) is that you allow for proper recovery, which includes both adequate sleep and active recovery, such as taking a decently long walk. Honestly, if you had the time on your hands, there’s nothing wrong with weight training every day and doing interval, provided you get proper recovery. If you find yourself fatigued or with reduced performance, you simply either increase active recovery (more massage, more rest, more walking and so on) or scale back training. It’s pretty straight-forward.

It’s not like in ye olden times (of a whole century ago) dudes would be like “hell, guess I can’t toil in the fields since I just chopped wood. I’ll overtrain! MWF is butter churning, T-Th is for wrangling livestock. Better eat mah glucose snakes.” What a horribly hamfisted analogy, but hopefully the gist is clear.

As for Peak meals, no. I don’t recommend them if they don’t accompany an appropriately intense activity. I sometimes take a Sunday off as a complete rest/recovery day, and those days basically mirror a meal plan from a ketogenic low carb diet.

AtA: The Skinny on General Movement

Posted May 24th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

I wanted to clarify something about “general movement” – you say it essentially helps with the recovery process from interval and resistance training, but does it really do anything on its own? I know people take the stairs and do other slightly physically exerting tasks, claiming that they’re “getting a little exercise in” but otherwise never exercise.

You specifically list
-circulates nutrients
-higher levels of activity, metabolism, and energy states
-stimulates body into recovery mode

but it just kind of sounds like vague crap to make people feel better about taking the stairs and breaking into a sweat from the effort because they weigh 400 pounds.

I understand that doing anything is better than nothing, it just seems strange to have an entire chapter on something that intuitively seems frivolous. You’re the expert though, and I don’t know dick about this, which is why I’m asking.

One thing I stress repeatedly is that it is one of several elements to health; on its own, the effects are certainly better than ‘nothing’, but the synergistic benefits reaped from combining the suggested practices are when things really get good.

For example:

page 58:

There are three different types of exercise discussed in this chapter, each a major contributor to total health and each essential in its own way.

If upon reading the book, someone only takes away “I need to walk more” and actually does it, then their lives will be better for it. Not nearly as good as if they’d actually put together more of the pieces, but certainly better. I don’t consider it to be a justification for eating a triple baconator and dying from a coronary at 34, and I believe the person who does would have rationalized their actions however they had to. I can only offer the information, not force people to take action.

That said, that wasn’t the point of the chapter. For anyone who is actually doing either of both of the other types of exercise (Interval and Resistance), they will see improvement from simple things like walking that they otherwise would not. One thing I run into constantly are guys who perform prodigious feats of strength during their workout, then literally do nothing until their next workout. Sit in a chair and read these forums, play Gamebox X360, whatever.

However, by incorporating (by example) a 30-minute leisurely walk around the park each evening, they would find their recovery, gains, metabolism and energy levels all significantly improved. Soreness would be reduced and recede faster, and they’d even be able to work out more frequently if they so wished.

Both endurance athletes and musclesharks benefit from incorporating low-intensity movement; as I said, it’s actually a form of ‘rest’ as active recovery, not a ‘workout’ that entitles one to a Peak meal (or a Krispy Kreme).

AtA: So I’ve got these dumbbells, see

Posted May 19th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

I’ve got a pair of dumbbells, up to 7.5kg on each (or more like 15kg if you put all the weights onto one bar.) I’ve read the section about doing hip and shoulder pull and push exercise, and I was wondering if you could recommend any exercises I could do with those weights that involve the areas mentioned in the book?

Although you can certainly abuse physics to some extent by using unilateral movements such as split-squats, single-hand OH push or lawnmowers, honestly that’s just not enough weight. You’ll quickly outgrow it (if you haven’t already), and more importantly you won’t get the crucial loading-stimulus on your frame or spine that hoisting a heavier weight will do.

But this is a wide world full of heavy stuff. 50lb bags of pea gravel are $3USD at a hardware store, and an engineer bag will fit in any corner. Or if the engineer bag doesn’t suit you, make due with what’s around (I’ve done a full workout with a mini-fridge before). One guy I train with from time to time has a workout based around his wheel barrow. Fill it up with the shovel, leverage squats, walking deadlifts, press, etc. You can also use crates, kegs, just about anything you’ve got. And the more cumbersome and unwieldy, generally the less weight you need since leverage and torque works against you (which is the sort of physics you can abuse without cheating yourself out of the benefits).

I regularly receive inquiries along the lines of  ”Well, I already have [miscellaneous piece of equipment], how can I use that?” If it’s a piece of gimmicky equipment like an ab circle lounger antelope strider pro plus, don’t bother unless you have fun using it. If you enjoy it, go for it, but bear in mind that almost none of them will provide a high enough intensity to count as an Interval Exercise; you’ll still benefit from the General Movement but don’t expect it to fulfill your exercise requirements. If it’s a home gym setup with tracks or rails, you’re better off (and safer) doing free-standing lifts with a heavy object. Sell the machine, buy a canvas sack and some pea gravel, and spend the rest on meat.

AtA: The Carby Nature of Breakfast Foods

Posted May 17th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

I love the book, the whole concept of base and peak meals makes a lot of sense to me so I started with it today. The problem is, I love my breakfast oats, and I only exercise in the evening. Can I keep the oatmeal and still make my breakfast a base meal?

Though oats are typically a superior carbohydrate (especially compared to cereal, muffins or other breakfast-type carbs), that’s what they are. Can’t really will them into something else.

However, though one person might see this as a threat to your way of life, another might well see this as an opportunity. If you were to get up even 5-10 minutes earlier, put your oats in the pot or microwave, and then crush out an Interval Exercise, you can earn those delicious carbs and just roll with a Peak Meal. As a personal example, there’s an awesome hill less than a block from my house that I visit a couple times a week for sprints. Though I feel like yarfing as I finish, with the walk home to wind down, by the time I’m here I can usually be ready to eat.

Or jumping rope, doing thrusters, working the heavy bag, or whatever it is you’d enjoy doing (or can tolerate best). Putting your body in an active state early in the morning is something you can do in under 15 minutes, you can enjoy your breakfast oats, and likewise have an improved metabolic profile and higher energy levels throughout the day (I myself am sluggish if I wake up alarm clock style, but an IE sets that right).

AtA: an Expansion of Stretching

Posted May 14th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Got a question though, about the stretching vs strength thing, could you elaborate on that a bit more? Or link to a good article on it? I want to be strong and crazy flexible and I am working on both. The book kind of glosses over the actual mechanics of it.

Going back and looking at that section, I’m surprised at my lack of citations for that information. It’s become so commonplace in modern fitness that it must not have occurred to me, despite upsetting the applecarts of pretty much every middle-school coach in the US.

I’m not entirely sure how much information you were looking for. Here’s a few of the articles I possibly should/would have cited (and likely may if I should do a second edition down the road).

Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors (Journal of Applied Physiology, 2000)

Acute effects of static versus dynamic stretching on isometric peak torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography of the biceps femoris muscle (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, NSCA, 2008)

Effects of Static Stretching on Energy Cost and Running Endurance Performance (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, NSCA, 2009)

If you were looking for something perhaps more accessible, there was a pretty good article in the NY Times’ Play Magazine not too long ago.

Anyway, though I was attempting to keep the book brief and concise, I still feel like I might have done a better job in that section. I’m not opposed to all static stretching. The example most obvious to me is the various forms of Yoga poses that hold positions, which in themselves may be valuable to health, strength, and/or flexibility. However, I wouldn’t bolt off and try to perform a workout immediately following yoga, or to use yoga as a ‘warm-up’ for resistance or interval exercise.

The objective of that section was to get people away from the longstanding notion of doing five or ten different held stretches in an attempt to ‘get ready’ for exercise, and to alternatively provide readers with a method for ‘warming-up’ the muscles and body, without depleting or inhibiting their muscular performance for what would come after.

Do you have any videos or animations for the “pull squat dynamic stretch” you mention in the book? I can’t visualize it and there’s nothing on google about it.

Made to order: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfMrhJyNW-s

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