Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Fitness Nerd’s News Cavalcade!

In the Ying and Yang that is life, my writing has tailed off recent while my colleague over at The Real Fitness Nerd has been hittin’ it out of the park. So while I await the return of my creative juices (or perhaps just a bit more free time) I’m going to point you toward Denis’ reviews of the latest health news.

To get a feeling for what’s in store at the Nerd, I submit yesterday's into paragraph:

Before everyone starts throwing bacon parties over the new study in the New England Journal of Medicine touting the benefits of high-protein diets for maintaining weight loss, there's one thing y'all need to keep in mind: The study is completely ridiculous.

With all due respect, of course.

And even if you’ve already chucked “high protein diet” out of your vernacular the post is worth reading just to see how research can be spun when it’s not conclusive. Last week he also took a little dig at the FDA:

Everyone's favorite flaccid watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration, made a pathetic swing at doing their job this week by banning caffeinated alcoholic drinks.

And while, sure, they’re an easy target he uses some entertaining prose to get down to the real nitty gritty about why our government can’t do the job we’ve hired them to do.

But it’s not all shooting fish in a barrel. In his post Salted Youth, Denis analyzes an important study that dispels the “baby fat” myth on kids being fat. Turns out fat kids become fat adults. “Duh,” you say? So does he. But wait, there’s more!

As I said, there's a bit of a "Duh! Really?" factor there, but this next study uncovers a more insidious long-term affliction. The American Heart Association this week used computer modeling to illustrate that by lowering a teenager's sodium intake, you can potentially reduce their chances of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke in adulthood.

So while I’m busy being inspired by others’ birthday challenges, training dogs, and figuring out the best possible structure we can use for MC2, bookmark the Nerd (or like 'em on Facebook). It might make you smarter but, at a minimum, it will arm you with some snarky commentary to make you look cooler at your next hipster gathering.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Very Good Year

It’s going to take me a number of days to get through all of the challenges done in my honor. Given there are nearly 70 I can’t highlight each one, so I’ve been thinking about a plan that pays homage to each challenge individually. Essentially, I’ll take at least one element from each challenge and fold it into my own. Then I’ll highlight the challenges with Friday psyche posts that are grouped into categories so that they don’t take up the entire year.

As to what this means for my fitness, I see a year ahead that’s going to challenge me to a whole new level. The sacrifice and commitment on many of these is huge. Todd’s training schedule/diet is absolutely brutal and Bob’s battle with the elements is something I’ll refer to any day I’m balking about heading out in a storm. And that’s after reading just the first two. Scanning the list I see things like personal records for performance, weight, productivity, etc to a point that’s somewhat intimidating. But, as the saying goes, it’s not birthday pretty hard....

This, of course, will all be done as a build up to my 11/11/11 challenge. Over the next month I’ll come up with a list. If somehow I manage the list, or even the final challenge, I’ll cap it off with a rendition of The Shat’s rendition of It’s A Very Good Year at the party. Feel free to beam me up anytime, Scotty.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I awoke today to something amazing. Well, actually, I woke up and did 50 minutes of yoga before discovering it but that’s another storyline. So somehow, someway, Romney got about 70 of my friends to do birthday challenges in my honor and recorded them all here:


I’m honored, humbled, inspired, entertained, and absolutely baffled at how she pulled this off without me catching even the slightest drift about what she was up to. Most of these people are pretty close friends, whom I talk to regularly, and I never had the slightest clue that it’s been happening for months. I never doubt my wife’s talents. She’s shockingly proficient at everything she tries (except mtn biking, for some reason, but she doesn’t really try). But until today I would have been skeptical if the Vice President leaked a Plame-gate story about her longtime covert activities with foreign governments. Not so much anymore.

if i'm "the climbing james bond" could romney be the climbing maria freudenstein?

50 is shaping up to be quite an adventure. And today I’m now adding a lot of reading to its kick-off, which also includes work and a fair amount of exercise. I'm so motivated that I'm going to highlight these challenges individually at TSD and add many of their elements into the upcoming year. But enough of my yappin’. This post is simply here to yield the floor. As Bob said in his book’s acknowledgements, “Everyone has friends. Mine are better.” Enjoy.

To all my frieeeeeeeeends!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Asian Awesomeness

Friday’s are psyche day so, instead of continuing with people behaving badly week, I’m going to take on a bad subject, junk food, but flip the theme to people behaving super awesomely. Today I present the Snackmaster 2000.

I read Eric Gutoski’s piece when it was first published and, unfortunately, that magazine no longer exists and all that’s left is the original text. But that is plenty. Comments on yesterday’s McRib post made it clear that I needed to take on something called the “Junk Food Diet” that is, apparently, some kind of sham. But as I began my research I stumbled upon this old article where some guys decided it would be cool to taste as many Asian snack foods as they could round up or, as their subtitle puts it: “We sampled $50 worth of Asian Snack foods so you wouldn't have to.”

For those of you whom are unaware of the challenge Asian snacks can present, let me just say that this was an incredible sacrifice for humanity. My brother, who lived in Japan for seven years, says “most Japanese are convinced that the entire snack food industry is some kind of inside joke designed to see what they can trick people into eating.” And Japan might have the least offensive snacks in Asia. For example:

Item Name: Prepared Poly Fish
Country of Origin: China
Fish Based: Hell yes!
Inscrutability Quotient: Quite suspicious
Looks Like: Sesame fish cracker
Tastes Like: Satan's wrath
Fear Factor: This terrorized our minds.
Research Comments: Gaze not into the abyss, lest the abyss gaze into thee. Nothing could prepare you for prepared poly fish. Stay away.

Without further ado, I submit the entire review. Drum roll please...

Snackmaster 2000
We sampled $50 worth of Asian Snack foods so you wouldn't have to.
by Eric Gutoski

Not convinced yet? Consider the closing remarks.

Most of the things we ate were god awful. All of us got sick, some of us worse than others. Through these shared hardships, friendships were damaged, probably irreparably. But friendships come and go. The saddest thing is that as Ambassadors of Snack, we ultimately failed. We had set out to achieve greater cultural understanding, peace and harmony through snack. In the end, we merely confirmed whatever snack prejudices we already secretly held.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Curious Case of McRib & Men’s Health

“As much as I love ribs there is one part that I hate: the ribs,” jokes Stephen Colbert while lambasting one of the more curious eating phenomenons’s in US history. Apparently in some areas folks have lined up around the block for this odd food item that more resembles something you’d see in one of those old toy ovens that served plastic food than, well, anything that we might eat that comes from nature.

How McDonald’s gets people to buy this is a marvel, but to make it into bad behavior week you’ve got to do more than peddle a suspect product. So today’s example of people behaving badly goes to Men’s Health magazine for their article titled:

McRib’s Return: Go Ahead, Have One

I might let this slide if this were, say, Smoke Signals or Gourmet (though I’m sure their editors wouldn’t), or pretty anything down at the corner newsstand. But Men’s Health, seriously?! They—which I say because the piece has no author—even take an uppity tone with The View’s Joy Behar for panning it,

Joy Behar makes a big point about the McRib having a lot of fat. Really? The first rule of fat loss is to not overeat, and a 500-calorie sandwich isn’t a waist-expanding indulgence, no matter how many of its calories come from fat.

Um, really?! How many readers does this magazine have? This is their editorial staff‘s “first rule of fat loss”. Let me borrow a phrase from my buddy Jack LaLanne about charlatans, “these people should be in jail.”

Not overeating is not a rule of fat loss. It’s a concept that has a few hooks on it, namely that you need to make a nutrient swap. Using their example you’d be well off on a diet of gummy candies and Diet Coke just so long as you didn’t overeat. I submit that you’d be dead within a month.

Our society is fat because we eat too many calories and too few nutrients. The first rule of weight loss (fat loss is a silly term—the goal is body composition change that comes from lifestyle) is the change the nutrient ratios of the foods you eat so that you get more nutrients per calorie. Dropping calories without assessing the nutrients that you are consuming will lead to nutrient deficiencies and other assorted health problems.

With this in mind, let’s have a look at the health costs of the McRib:

First off, we don’t really know what this food is. As Colbert points out, it’s not a rib. It smells and tastes like ribs but McDonald’s artificially flavors all of their foods to taste like anything it wants, in this case an actual pork rib that’s been cooked on a BBQ. Fast food chemists could make newspaper taste like ribs, too. Unlike natural foods, the way fast food tastes has absolutely no relationship to what is in the actual food.

If you’ve read any number of books on the subject you will know that animal raising practices of the fast food companies is abysmal. Dennis Miller once had a routine where he said something like, “39 cents for a burger. That’s less than what it costs to feed my dog. What’s in that stuff?” And, sure enough, many dog food companies have better animal raising practices than McDonald’s. All you know for sure is that it’s pork of some kind, and it’s most likely along the lines of pork by-products.

Labeling practices are lobbied heavily by, well, everyone but the meat industry draws a lot of water in this area. Independent studies all show that organically raised animals have a higher nutrient ratio than those that are mass produced but labels, by law (or lobbyists) can’t reflect this. Still we see that about half the McRib calories come from fat. Given that it includes a high calorie bun and condiments, which contain very little fat, we know that the meat contains an absurdly high ratio of saturated fat to protein.

So the small amount of nutritional information that we know is already bad, which doesn’t factor in that you’re eating an animal that is basically a toxin waste bin by the time it’s slaughtered. These animals are raised on mass amounts of antibiotics to keep it living in horrendous conditions, fed basically junk foods, and injected with any number of hormones to increase the size of various body parts and speed at which it grows.

Then you must add the rest of the ingredients, most of which are “convenience” foods that are fortified (with a few lobbied-for vitamins) by-products of genetically modified soy and corn production. These processed foods are bleached, so they all of their natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, bacteria, and other phytonutrients that are essential for life to the point where, basically, you’d do better nutritionally to dumpster dive for 500 calories because it at least might have picked up some living matter.

The bottom line is that the McRib is 500 calories, with 22 grams (88 calories) of protein. The remaining 420 calories are void of anything helpful for your body. Eating foods like this is exactly why we have an obesity epidemic and, as a nutritionist, this is exactly the kind of thing that I recommend cutting out of your diet as step one. That something calling itself “Men’s Health” is recommending it should be a crime, and is certainly reason to gain entry into the people behaving badly club.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

White Coat Syndrome

“Drug companies say they hire the most-respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs,” begins an article at Pro Publica that is the highlight of the second installment of bad behavior week.

“But an investigation by ProPublica uncovered hundreds of doctors on company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists.”

Maybe I was a cynical little kid but I can clearly remember the first time I saw a TV doctor pitching a medical product. He was that guy from the show Emergency and, even though I was a little kid, I turned to my sister and said, “That’s guy’s not a real doctor. Who would believe this?” But as the years rolled by my wide-eyed wonder turned to pure cynicism as someone in a white coat would inevitably turn up whenever something of perceived medicinal value was being peddled on the telie. Apparently, if one donned a white coat they were immediately exalted as experts in, well, whatever happened to be the subject matter at hand—you know, like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island.

But then something weird happened. These hucksters stopped looking like Kelly Lynch in Road House and began to resemble the people I’d see down at the medical clinic. Were REAL doctors actually doing ads for products ranging from cold medicines, to gum, to cigarettes? And, if so, why? I’d always thought doctors made enough money that if you wanted an appointment on Thursday you needed to secure an early tee time.

As it turns out, not surprisingly given they are human, not all doctors are good at their jobs. But instead of failure leading to finding a new career path that better suits them, doctors can now parlay their vocational failure into sometimes even more lucrative: careers as spokespeople.

A review of physician licensing records in the 15 most-populous states and three others found sanctions against more than 250 speakers, including some of the highest paid. Their misconduct included inappropriately prescribing drugs, providing poor care or having sex with patients. Some of the doctors had even lost their licenses.

Yes, today’s bad behavior post is about doctors, but the real people behaving badly are those who are doing the hiring; in this case the Pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps instead of revoking their medical licenses the AMA should forbid bad doctors from wearing white coats in public.

In the case of Big Pharma, I suppose it’s easier to coerce a disgraced doctor to pitch your product, especially if it’s for something that’s ethically on the fence.

For example,

In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered [2] Pennsylvania doctor James I. McMillen to stop “false or misleading” promotions of the painkiller Celebrex, saying he minimized risks and touted it for unapproved uses.

Still, three other leading drug makers paid the rheumatologist $224,163 over 18 months to deliver talks to other physicians about their drugs.

A little ethically shady, to be sure, but hardly cause for some high scale investigative reporting. However, some Pharma’s source from grayer areas, apparently the darker the better:

And in Georgia, a state appeals court in 2004 upheld [3] a hospital’s decision to kick Dr. Donald Ray Taylor off its staff. The anesthesiologist had admitted giving young female patients rectal and vaginal exams without documenting why. He’d also been accused of exposing women’s breasts during medical procedures. When confronted by a hospital official, Taylor said, “Maybe I am a pervert, I honestly don’t know,” according to the appellate court ruling.

Last year, Taylor was Cephalon's third-highest-paid speaker out of more than 900. He received $142,050 in 2009 and another $52,400 through June.

The article, part one of a series, then goes into depth about some of the seediness in the industry, including active recruiting of non-qualified doctors to “educate” or, in reality, pitch their products.

“It’s sort of like American Idol,” said sociologist Susan Chimonas, who studies doctor-pharma relationships at the Institute on Medicine as a Profession in New York City.

“Nobody will have necessarily heard of you before — but after you’ve been around the country speaking 100 times a year, people will begin to know your name and think, ‘This guy is important.’ It creates an opinion leader who wasn’t necessarily an expert before.”

And it’s all, of course, in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

"The pressure is enormous. The investment in these drugs is massive,” said Dr. David A. Kessler, who formerly served as both FDA commissioner and dean of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. “Are any of us surprised they’re trying to maximize their markets in almost any way they can?”

Can you blame them? Um, yes. You can. At least by nominating them people who behave badly for the day.

pic: egregious "pain don't hurt" road house shot. how can you not love a doc whose white coat covers her mini skirt, who digs ass-kicking zen bouncers, and monster trucks? god bless america. i thought you'd be bigger.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Extra Cheesy Behavior

In celebration of national people behaving badly week I’ll be posting examples of compromised human performance this week. I can think of no better place to start than with a good old fashioned American conspiracy. As Denis Faye said over at the Fitness Nerd, “Never mind JFK's assassination, or Iran-Contra, or the fake moon landing. The mainstream media has actually uncovered a giant, government cheese conspiracy. Best news day ever.”

More Faye, “ The New York Times absolutely ripped the USDA a new one this weekend with this report on, get this, an organization quietly funded by the United States government that exists entirely for the promotion of dairy, particularly cheese.”

Apparently, this is correct. The government agency WE pay to watch of backs is in bed with the folks who peddle cheese, you know the stuff that according to the USDA we should limit to less than 10 percent of our daily calories. Yet this same USDA worked with Domino’s Pizza to aid flagging sales by coming up with a campaign for extra-cheesy pizza that gives you most of your USDA limit of sat fat in a single slice. It worked, so not only did we pay for USDA to talk us into eating more cheese, we paid for Domino’s to make less healthy food (bet you didn’t think this was possible), and we’re paying on the back end as our society’s health fails.

Americans now eat an average of 33 pounds of cheese a year, nearly triple the 1970 rate. Cheese has become the largest source of saturated fat; an ounce of many cheeses contains as much saturated fat as a glass of whole milk.

It gets more insidious, as Faye so nerdily put it,

“The organization, which goes by the super-awesome, Robocopesque moniker Dairy Management Inc (funded by the USDA), worked with Domino's Pizza to help with foundering sales. The solution? More cheese! The chain followed Omni Consumer Products, I mean Dairy Management Inc's advice, packing 2/3's the RDA for saturated fat into each slice. Sales exploded.”

The example is no one off. The Times also uncovered a falsified Dairy campaign that ran for four years,

In one instance, Dairy Management spent millions of dollars on research to support a national advertising campaign promoting the notion that people could lose weight by consuming more dairy products, records and interviews show. The campaign went on for four years, ending in 2007, even though other researchers — one paid by Dairy Management itself — found no such weight-loss benefits.

This one I know about, and wrote about years ago, because I worked with one of the researched who told me how they had skewed the research. No surprise it couldn’t be replicated, even by the dairy industry. Since this is basically Denis’ post I’ll let him sum it up.


It's a long news article, but it's well worth the read. The hypocrisy is just absurd. I understand that the USDA is a slave to many masters, including the farming lobby and, apparently, crappy fast food chains, but really? More cheese? Come on, guys. Grow a pair."

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Need For Speed

As November rolls around most of the climbing world starts to shut down and prep for winter. This isn’t as true as it once was. Climbing is now a specified and world-wide sport, and opportunities exist for perfect conditions on every single day of the year if you’re willing to travel. But the majority of the world’s most famous climbs are still in the mountains of the northern hemisphere, where the onset of winter changes the game. But as the prime venues empty out a small crew of dedicated specialists remain. This Friday’s psyche post is about a tiny portion of the crew: the speed climbers.

Cold weather produces what climbers call “sending temps”, where the skin/friction co-efficient improves and muscular breakdown is slowed. It’s an obvious time for the sport climbers and boulderers, whose ascents take mere minutes, to excel. But today there’s a new breed of big wall climber—the speed climber—who has reduced the game of big wall climbing to that of running a marathon—who also looks at the frigid November air as an opportunity for one last shot of adrenaline.

I blogged on the history of speed climbing on Yosemite’s El Capitan a couple of years back when my friend Hans was coming out of retirement in an attempt to regain a speed record he’d held for years. Essentially, major walls that once took weeks, and even months, to climb have been whittled down to the point where well conditioned climbers often do them in a day. And at the pinnacle of the sport are a handful of superstars who train like Olympians and can fly up a few thousand feet of supremely technical rock in a few hours.

Below is a comment Hans added to my blog on the anniversary of their record. Looks like his old “rival” Dean Potter is after it again. Unfortunately, since the El Cap report has packed it in for the season we can no longer follow, we’ll have to settle for this preview of the Huber Bros film. Get after it, lads!

Hey, we got the record on July 2nd 2008 at 2:43:33. Not to settle for "just beating the Hubers" we went back in October and dropped it down to 2:37:05 . Today is two years to the day since we got the record. It still stands as far as I know. I heard Sean Leary and Dean Potter are working on breaking it, with their best time down around 3 hours. Go Sean and Dean!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Dude Abides

Do what you love. Love what you do.

This is the mantra of climber Sonnie Trotter’s web site. Because of this attitude I make it a stop whenever I’m trying to catch up on news in the sport. Trotter is one of the better climbers in the world but that’s not why I’m a fan. Instead I’m there to remind myself what’s really important in life, which is whatever we happen to be doing right this minute, and Sonnie’s site exudes that.

Sometimes, especially when work is hectic, I get sucked into the “big picture” world of accomplishment. And while goals and objectives are vital for motivation they are ultimately just tools. If used wrong they will create distraction from your daily life. And if your daily life sucks than your life sucks. Period. Sometimes I need a reminder, especially when things aren’t going as planned.

A successful life is one in which meaning is found in day to day existence. There is no way to know when it will end so you’d better find a reason to enjoy today, no matter what’s on the agenda. I’ve read and heard many stories of people who have survived gruesome situations, such as long stints in concentration or refugee camps, and most of them echo the same sentiment. The key to surviving is to find meaning and love in your daily life, no matter how bad it may seem. And if that’s the key to survival when life gets tough, I try and keep it in mind when it’s not so hard.

“If all you cared about was success climbing would be the worst sport you could do,” said my friend Jeff yesterday as we greased off our projects. True enough, it was hard to lament “failure” on a gorgeous afternoon in a mountains hanging out on a ledge with a billion-dollar view in the warm November sun. Climbing is a sadistic sport for the ego. Dale Goddard once said, “Sometimes you go a whole season, or whole year, without climbing anything (meaning goals).” But that’s also the beauty of climbing; on its worst days you’re getting exercise out in nature. Who cares about ego when you’ve got stoke?!

October didn’t turn out as planned. I trained essentially the entire year for this peak period of climbing and then life happened and I hardly got outside. We had a family tragedy and work decided—for the first time in a decade (fitness is a New Year’s game)—to get super busy in the fall. We’re still dealing with the old man at the end of his days and, in order to help him get through his loss, we rescued a couple of maniacs. So while life may be a series of strikes and gutters, all I can say is The Dude Abides.

As a man much wiser than myself once put it, “I guess that’s the way the whole darn human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself. Down through the generations. Westward with the wagons. Across the sands of time until we…. Ah, look at me. I’m ramblin’ again. Well, I hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch ya later on down the trail.”

pics: trotter: work may not pay much but you can't beat the surroundings. the big man and his new version of stoke. two maniacs to ensure adequate aerobic fitness this winter.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Applied Sports Science Blog

You’ve heard a lot about Dr. Marcus Elliott and the Peak Performance Project (P3) here lately, especially PAP training. They’ve just launched a blog and, I’m quite certain, is going to be state-of-the-art reading once they’ve found their legs. Shoot, after four posts they’ve already got more superstar references than my blog’s had in five years. Follow it now so you can say you’ve been a fan since their first post. There’s also a pretty reasonable chance that you’ll learn something that helps your body perform better.

In fact, you’ll likely start learning immediately. The current post is about a long term study on hamstring injuries in NFL players. You don’t have to be a football player to benefit from the study’s findings, which include a protocol to reduce injury.

Based on these findings and others, Dr. Elliott introduced a football specific injury prevention and performance programs to the New England Patriots.

The Intervention involved the medical and athletic training staff, conditioning and speed coaches. The intervention focused on 4 conditioning factors: 1) Correct specific muscle imbalances. 2) Train nervous system activation of hamstring with specific eccentric loading (including plyometrics). 3) Train CNS relaxation. 4) Progressive increase in sprinting intensity/volume for speed positions.

Oddly enough, now that Dr. Elliott is involved with us this sounds similar to the logic we’re using on our newest training programs. P3 is slating two to four posts per month and promises to be well worth reading.

"Ronnie Brewer and I were the first Jazz Players to work with Dr. Elliott and P3 three seasons ago. I’ve improved my athleticism after every visit, and learned how my body works, how to take care of it, and the best routes for making it better."
--Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz, who went for 30(points) and 16(rebounds) against Oklahoma City last night.