Thursday, April 29, 2010


It seems like I’ve spent more time trying to get home this year than actually travelling. First the race in Mexico turned into an epic that lacked the actual race, then our trip to Todd’s wedding was extended, but without us able to attend the event we were travelling for. All in all, however, both experiences have ended most excellently.

our hosts, chris and giusi at our "wedding" dinner, and with phil and lena toasting to todd and patty. "here's to absent friends..."

In the film Mediterraneo a group of soldiers invade a small island off the coast of Greece in order to occupy it during WWII. Their imperialist pursuits go almost unnoticed by the natives, who didn’t know a war was going on. The soldiers settle in to the lifestyle on the island and soon have forgotten themselves. The war is over for years before anyone learns about it.

old fashioned p90x, working on chris' vineyards; and a bad climbing area with a view so good it's hard to care.

This was pretty much our vacation: the abridged version. We’d popped down to Sicily to visit friends en route to London when an Icelandic volcano put the entire world on hold. We joked as it was happening; saying that if you’d been given a list of things that might interrupt your travel volcano would have been picked last, but then found ourselves just a few days into our trip frantically worrying about how we were going to get home. Mainly we were trying to get to London for the wedding. Our attempts at finding planes, trains, or automobiles to reach Albion were getting thwarted by the hour (still trying to get a lot of money back), leaving us feeling rather stranded.

trying to get us home. but looking at my view, probably wondering why.

chris working on his 8c project and me being dwarfed by one of many excellent caves.

Not to be deterred, Phil and Lena flew to Spain, trained to Barcelona, then booked a flight to Bogata, Columbia. They had to lie to get on the flight because it was only available to citizens. As they put it, “we nearly didn’t make it. It came down to a call they made where nobody answered.” From South America they were able to get back home a few days later. Luckily they made the right choice as those attempting to head east found themselves in a quagmire as the Cairo airport shut down, stranding hundreds.

shots from ortigia: our home away from home.

right and on top: the amazing piazza duomo, which was around the corner from our apartment

We decided on the opposite approach. We were in about the most idyllic setting possible. We were staying with friends, so it was free, on the island of Ortigia in the ancient city of Siracusa, one of the most beautiful places in the world. The architecture in the town goes back thousands of years, there are more Grecian ruins in Sicily than in Greece, and the climbing is the best in the world. We decided to stay put and ride it out, even though they were predicting that the volcano might continue to erupt for a year.

"there is no place in the world more beautiful than sicily". looking at taeormina, it's hard to argue with enzo's quote from the big blue.

At first things were a little tense. As Americans, we had work to do. Sure, we were in contact. In this ever-shrinking world you can do almost anything from anywhere and, in fact, my phone worked better from Sicily than it does down the block from our office in Santa Monica. Still, it just seemed wrong, to be stuck without a time table and in a situation where there was nothing we could do about it. The American corporate machine had finally met its match: Eyjafjallajökull.

the road up mt etna has to be one of the best bikes rides on the planet. you go from the sea through a city, then towns, then vineyards, apple orchards, forests, and finally lava flows leading to the ski station at 6,000' on the world's most active volcano.

lowering off of the 2nd ascent of what chris and i both agreed was one of the best routes we'd ever done. it ascended a massive cave through two man made dwellings that were somehow constructed in an overhanging cliffs thousands of years ago. the base of this cliff is littered with ancient artifacts. at another climbing area in the region there's a necropolis with 5,000 tombs carved into the rock. the history on this island is ridiculously overwhelming.

sizing up the competition lest we get stranded forever.

Acquiescing into the Mediterranean lifestyle didn’t take long. By day two we were fully acclimated. Café in the Piazza Duomo, or overlooking the sea, a little work, sightseeing or climbing, Panini, siesta. We’d usually work once our offices opened in America (I work virtually so not quite as vital for me) and then get enough done to go to dinner with Chris and Giusi, which happens very late in Italy and coincides with lunch in the States. And by the time the airspace re-opened we’d found ourselves rooting for the Eyjafjallajökull to keep working her magic.

trying to keep up with the very fashionable italians.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

U.S. to Prevent GMO Labeling Worldwide‏

It's bad enough that we don't label the genetically modified ingredients in our foods (GMO), but now the US is trying to mandate the whole world follow suit. One of the nice things about being in Europe is that companies must warm that GMO ingredients are in foods. So rather than risk it, most companies avoid using them. In Italy I perused the labels of many American junk food to find that the European equivelant contained better ingredients. It's going to be hard enough to get our own labels to change but if we allow it to happen world-wide it's going to make it even worse. Here's the press release, thanks to the folks at Fresh: The Movie.

We have just a few days to stop the United States government from preventing the world from properly labeling genetically modified foods (GMOs).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have adopted a pro-corporate position that laughably claims labeling GM/GE foods creates the "false" impression that "that the labeled food is in some way different from other foods."

And next week, at the United Nations meeting in Canada, they will tell the world to adopt the same position, preventing other countries from rightly labeling GMOs as different from fresh, natural food. The implications of this position could further undermine organic food standards all over the world, especially organic labeling.

We know that GMO food created by the likes of Monsanto is not only "different" but unhealthy and unsustainable. Can you help us tell the USDA and FDA to wake up and drop this ridiculous position?

Click here to tell the USDA and FDA: the world should be free to label GMO foods as such.

While the rest of the world wants to be able to label unnatural GMOs, Barack Obama's USDA and FDA have adopted pro-corporate food positions GMOs. Unless we act now, the United States will go to this meeting telling the world that GMO foods are not different and should not be labeled.

GMO foods, by definition, are genetically different. By altering nature's design in order to withstand a barrage of chemicals and other poisons, humans are without question creating a new, different kind of food.

We need to tell the USDA and FDA to abandon its wrongheaded, corporate food position that GMOs are the same as non-GMO foods. Sign our petition now before the deadline on Monday.

Thank you for your support on this urgent petition - please share this with anyone you know who cares about their food.


Lisa Madison
Distribution & Outreach Coordinator

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Dark Side Of Coffee

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I love coffee and hardly shy away from touting its benefits. Today, however, I’m facing its dark side. Bushisms aside, there’s very little of the “with us or against us” mentality when it comes to most things in life. Conviction is only noble if it’s motivated by thought. Just because coffee increases both physical and mental performance and seems to stave of major illness and help you live longer, doesn’t mean it’s the Yoda of the nutrition world. We all have a little Darth Vader in us. And when I say all, I’m including everything that comes from living organisms, including coffee.

Due to our favorite magic elixir and its quite famous side effect, the jitters, need to be used strategically, simply because no combination of nutrients can out perform our most important training aid: sleep. Deep sleep, quite literally, is like doping. In various stages of slumber your body releases many of the same hormones cheating athletes inject themselves with while they’re awake. Hittin’ the hay is so important that the most decorated cyclist in history, Eddy Merckx, famously said, “the Tour [de France] is won in bed.” If coffee is having a negative effect on your sleep patterns then it’s offsetting any good that it’s doing for you.

I thought about this piece last week while lying in bed at 4am, staring at the ceiling, and itching like someone in the depths of drug withdrawal. Thanks to a volcano in Iceland, I found myself stuck in Sicily for the week (poor me, I know). I still had to work, however, and when our afternoon (PST) webinar on the Shakeology Cleanse had nearly 600 attendees it would be quite rude to try and move it just because it happened to be at two o’clock in the morning, my time.

Two AM, however, also happened to be the time that my jet-lagged body was lights out. Normally I’d have no trouble with such a topic in almost any stage. But each night Europe, just after midnight, I’d find myself hitting a wall as though Smokin’ Joe’d just clocked me with a left hook and I’d be dead to the world for about four hours until jet lag would work its voodoo, at which point I’d toss and turn until it was time to hit the cafe. Not wanting to risk disappointed 600 coaches by sounding as though I’d been sparring with Iron Mike I’d finished dinner with a couple of espresso’s, then had an American-style coffee just prior to the chat.

When I’m training hard I can often drink coffee at night and sleep fine. At times, however, I’ll over do it by using coffee as an ergogenic aid prior to training. A recent study showed that more coffee can be better than less, period, for staving off cancer. But all this goodness still has limits. I can always tell when I’m drinking too much coffee because I’ll itch at night. I was never quite certain if it was wholly to blame for this because I live in a dry climate. Sicily is not dry in the least, so when I felt the fateful itch I knew I was in for a long restless night. Quite simply, I’d overdone it. And like under hydrating during a race, over eating at Thanksgiving, or pulling that extra bottle of wine out of the rack I was going to have a price to pay.

So before you parlay the 20,000 or so positive studies for a 64 ounce coffee mug filled with extra-caffeinated Morning Buzz from the 7 Eleven, remember that most of those studies consider a 2 ounce espresso or a 6 ounce mug a serving of coffee. The six servings daily that may stave of prostate cancer could fit in one Starbucks vente. And caffeine may not even be the go to ingredient as some studies showed positive effects with decaf. The lesson here is that, like with most things in nutrition, keeping your coffee servings small and as natural as possible will give your performance the greatest boost.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cleansing, Part III

The Shakeology Cleanse has taken off since I originally blogged about it. As promised, here’s the third installment of my cleansing analysis where I go into the differences between a performance cleanse, as I can the Shakeology version (SC), and a traditional cleanse such as the Master Cleanse (MC).

First of all, the SC is not a true cleanse but a calorie restricted nutrient dense eating plan. Traditional cleanses contain very few calories and nutrients. Compared to the much more popular MC, it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Traditional cleansing diets are done to rid your system of toxins and bring it into homeostasis. They also contain a spiritual aspect. This process can take a long time, which is why you may have seen co-workers walking around the office in a zombie-like state for weeks on end swilling a strange concoction of lemons and maple syrup.

The SC is nothing like that. Depending on how you decide to do it you’ll be eating frequently and consuming between 800 and 1200 calories a day, and it could be even more should you feel you need it. The point of the cleanse is not calorie restriction, per se; it’s nutrient efficiency. The aim is to get the most nutrient possible into the fewest number of calories. The goal is to put all of these calories to use as a part of your exercise program, rid your body of undigested foods and toxins, and bring your hydration levels into homeostasis. The result you’re after is not weight loss—though it will likely occur (see my last post)—but that your body is running more efficiently. This should make you feel lighter and more energetic, even though you’re doing an exercise program.

I call it nutrient efficient eating, and not actual cleansing, because you eat a meal with a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber every few hours. And while you’re not eating as much food as you’d normally eat you’re calorie to nutrient ratio is extremely high, meaning that that actual nutrients you’re getting should not be too restricted so activity can continue as it normally would.

A lot of people have asked me how I managed to consume around 1,500 calories a day on the cleanse but it’s not a stretch to do so. You have three Shakeology shakes where you can add fruit, nuts, and seeds. I would usually add various fruits to one shake and fruit and chia seeds to another, then have the third as a snack during a period where I was training. At night you get a salad and I’d pile mine high with veggies, nuts, and seeds and use some good olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing.

This may seem like a lot of food but remember that the goal here is performance. You want to eat enough to fuel your day, including your workout. The foods you’re eating are so high in fiber and nutrients that it’s virtually impossible to overeat. You’ll be consuming so much fiber, along with enzymes and digestive aids that your body’s ability to eliminate will be heightened to where any excess foods will be quickly flushed.

Back to the weight thing; most people will lose some weight during a cleanse but that is not the goal. Those with a lot of undigested gunk in their systems will lose weight as it’s flushed out. Those of you who are properly hydrated and already eat well are less likely to lose. For those of you who need to lose weight take heart; you are setting up your system to use nutrients more efficiently and improving your ability to lose weight through structured diet and exercise. So while you may not lose much on the cleanse you’ll be more prepared to lose weight later. Think of this as a foundation training phase where you’re body might not change a lot but you’re improving you’re capacity for performance, and hence change, during the latter phases of the program.

I should probably address cortisol in another posting but I’ll mention it briefly here. Another reason why we don’t always lose weight on cleanses is due to this stress hormone. Restricting calories is stressful to the body and it reacts by releasing cortisol. Cortisol is performance enhancing in the short term but if you somehow keep you body stressed for long periods it creates havoc in your system and can cause you to doggedly hang onto weight in a type of survival mode. We don’t want this to occur, which is one reason the Shakeology cleanse is short (and the reason many people don’t lose weight on the MC). It’s important not to remain in a highly caloric deficient state for long periods of time, and especially when you are trying to exercise hard.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Spring Classics

I leave tomorrow for Sicily to do some climbing. Last year, however, I was in Belgium experiencing the spring classics that, in my mind, are the greatest races in cycling. Here are a few shots from that trip.

Oddly enough, though I love these races I'm never fit when they happen. Because I generally end the year with a birthday challenge, followed by a recovery period, April tends to find me transitioning from off-season to early-season training. One of these years, however, I’m going to get fit early and ride the amateur version of a cobbled classic.

Last weekend was The Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) and up next is biggest one-day race of them all, Paris-Roubaix. You can catch all the action live at Now on to the photos.

bruce leads me up the famous koppenberg, 22% of horredous, slick, cobbles and the only climb the world's greatest cyclist, eddie merckx ever walked.

while shorter than the koppenberg, this climb was ridiculosly steep. getting up it requires resorting to mountain bike technique.

bruce and i on the muur, where cancella dropped boonen to win this year's ronde.

at the church on top of the muur, once of cycling's most iconic places.

after a couple of laps on the muur we stopped at the mid-climb pub. we were told this was "the best beer" and i'll be damned if it ain't in the running.

cobbles are so beloved in flanders that there's a cobble museum, run by ex-racing superstar freddy martens.

while flat, the roubaix cobbles are far worse in quality. here's a shot of the famous arenberg forest. riding a couple of k at race pace feels similar to jack hammering for hours. i can't imagine what a hundred k would feel life. someday i'll find out!

finally, a video romney made from last year's paris-roubaix. if you like cycling at all, and perhaps even if you don't, it's an event not to be missed.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Mixing Insanity And P90X

One of my co-workers said it'd be great if I wrote an article on mixing Insanity and P90X. I replied that I've already written two. But if the folks in the office don't know about them, perhaps you don't either. They were both released before we had our "Extreme Newsletter" archive page up. I think they should be required reading for anyone considering mixing these two programs. I would hope they'd help you mix any two programs.

The first analyzes the diet structure of each program and how to move from the X diet into Insanity, in which case you'd skip the Insanity diet plan.

When you look at the X diet, you see a plan that's designed to teach you how to eat for athletics. It varies over time, attempting to follow the changes in your body composition. Once you graduate from the X, there shouldn't be much need for outside diet plans except for variety's sake. You could use the INSANITY diet for this, but you'll want to alter your calories to meet your own goals using what you've already learned. It's almost a certainty that a post-X body will have a composition that requires more calories than what the INSANITY diet recommends.

The article then addresses how to structure the into phase on Insanity on the heels of X. The second article, on how to create hybrid programs, takes this into further account. For example,

The second big mistake people make when designing hybrid plans is not being physically ready. This is also usually due to the "more must be better" mindset. People often get impatient and create a hybrid before they've finished their original programs. In most cases, this is a huge mistake.

After digging through the archive there aren't many articles there that aren't appropriate for those looking to take your workout program to the next level. So bookmark this page and reference it often.