Monday, January 31, 2011

Vacationing From Meat At Taco Bell

Things have been a little heady here at TSD lately so let’s lighten them with a little fast food fun. I suppose, if fast food were a staple of your diet, this might bring the wrong kind of yuck but, c’mon, if you’ve bothered to tune in here for very long these places can’t still be on the menu, right?

As we should all know by now, the names of fast food items are merely marketing titles. They have nothing to do with what’s actually in the food. These restaurants flavor their food to taste like anything they want so words like “beef”, “chicken”, and “ice cream” are merely suggestions they are making for what could be pretty much anything, from corn and soy by products to sand.

Still, last week’s headlines news that Taco Bell’s “beef” didn’t meet the USDA’s minimum requirement of 40% beef in its ingredients seems to shock some people. Never mind the question as to why the USDA’s requirement for beef is only 40%, today’s topic is—as was the popular McRib post a couple of months ago—is what the hell is in fast food?

For our answer, we turn to Stephen Colbert, who gives us one of the more inspired comedic sketches in memory. My hope is that you’re all in position to laugh instead of being worried about your diet.

The embed codes won't load so click here to see the video. Genius.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Carrying The Torch For Jack

As I’m sure you all know, fitness icon Jack LaLanne died this weekend so , after a week of silence, TSD giving him the Friday psyche (again). As he passed I was a couple of hours south, working on the next great fitness program, P90X mc2 with Marcus Elliott, Tony Horton, Steve Holmsen, and the Beachbody production crew: Heather, Mason, and Anna. In addition, it was the day my wife had framed a signed poster that Jack had given me for my 5oth birthday. Serendipitously I think this means we’re the ones who are supposed to carry his torch.

“I couldn’t hold a candle to Jack LaLanne,” said Tony upon reading a text from someone saying it was up to him. “No one can,” was my reply. But maybe our entire group, together, will keep it going. We’re certainly going to try. Here’s part of my eulogy for Jack:

Jack, you lied. You said if you died it would ruin your image but now that you’re gone nothing has changed. You were THE fitness icon yesterday; you’re THE fitness icon today. Without you it’s impossible to say if there would even be a fitness industry. You started it, you grew it, your influence never waned and you are still its leader. I think it’s safe to say that your image is, and always will be, intact.

Jack LaLanne is my hero. I suppose that, if pressed, I have others but he’s the only one that I recognize. And even though one of his most famous sayings , “I can’t die, it would ruin my image,” is challenged by his passing it bears little merit on the validity of his life. Because Jack’s MO had nothing to do with dying, it had to do with living; getting the most out of the days you’re given. He was not above a bit of hyperbole if it drove his cause but was never more straightforward than when he said, “Billy Graham preaches about the hereafter. I preach the here and now.”

“My name’s Jack,” he told
my friend Denis, who’d referred to him as Mr. LaLanne, with a look that clearly stated “save the mister for old people buddy.” He was 95. I only met him once but I felt like I knew him well. He was an open book when it came to what drove his existence. To all of us whose lives are a passionate pursuit of fitness he was simply The Man.

To read the rest click on the highlighed text. To subscribe to the Beachbody or P90X newsletter, where it was published, enter an email address in one of the boxes on the lower right side of the landing page:

pics: denis and i at jack's 95th, my training log as it sat when i was in ca (of course it's filled in now), and the poster that motivates me daily on the wall of my gym.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack LaLanne

"Billy Graham preaches the hereafter. I preach the here-and-now."

Sept 26. 1914 - Jan. 23 2011

Jack article 1

Jack article 2

Jack article 3

Jack article 4

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Science Behind P90X2

“I’m excited,” said Marcus last night as we put the finishing touches on P90X mc2’s final third phase workouts. “We’re going to do a lot of good for people.” Apparently I was pretty amped, too, as I awoke in the middle of the night with a head full of possible scenarios that might challenge the periodiztional flow of mc2. A couple of hours later, with no obvious holes uncovered in our logic, I fell back asleep.

From a scientific standpoint P90X was easy. Our development team needed only to bring what they already knew worked to the table. The big unknown was whether or not the public would buy in to the concept of hard training. Now, with the world watching, the accountability bar has risen. To meet the challenge we’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Marcus Elliott, whom if you’re a Straight Dope follower you’ve been reading a lot about.

Elliott’s training facility, P3, works only with serious athletes. Their approach is based on the latest applied science and, in fact, is so far ahead of the curve that they are defining what the cutting edge in athletic training is. What we’re doing at Beachbody is taking this knowledge and distilling it down to the everyday athlete. By analyzing the data from a broad spectrum of athletes we can find common deficiencies that lead to breakdown and anticipate this in our structure so that it best suits almost everyone. Mc2 is our first foray into this arena—actually; if you subscribe to Tony Horton’s One on One series you’ll see the actual first in our mc2 preview PAP workout.

Last week P3’s blog published an article on Post Activation Potentiation and how they apply it to their athletes. Since it’s about to get applied to you, too, I would call this required reading for anyone interested in understanding why your training works the way it does. Here's the rub:

At P3, a major route to improving performance is through the application of “complex training,” which involves combining high load strength movements with biomechanically similar plyometric/ballistic movements as a means of taking advantage of Post Activation Potentiation (PAP), a phenomenon that refers to enhancement of muscle function as a result of its contractile history. P3 has found that complex training is far superior in developing athletic power to either resistance training or plyometric training alone, and while there are other mechanisms involved in P3 complexes, the successful manipulation of PAP plays an important role.

Sciency, huh? That's what you get when you work with a bunch of brainiacs. So you’re going to see these complexes in mc2 but not until the third phase. The reason is that you need to build up to them. At P3 they substantiate this with testing:

To measure the effects of PAP on vertical and horizontal jump performance we had athletes perform Depth Jumps and Skaters off of our custom made force plates. For all of these tests, the vast majority (75%) of athletes performed significantly better post loading. It is important to note the athletes who were tested were all experienced P3 power trained athletes and that studies have shown there is a lot of individual variability in terms of when the potentiation effect occurs.

And we, in turn, get to use their data to project how this will work on a less conditioned general public. Not that anyone who’s done two phases of P90X lacks conditioning. In fact, the base conditioning it provides is elite, which has been proven in how many professional athletes are using it. But when it comes to scientific training there is traditionally fit and, then, there is the next level. And that’s where we—and ultimately you—are heading.

Complex training and the utilization of PAP have and will continue to give athletes many advantages. Unfortunately, general strength exercises paired with aerobic conditioning is still the norm, even at the highest levels of sport. These old school forms of training rarely take into account individual needs and the need for power in movement. Eventually teams and performance coaches will begin to conduct more precise and individualized sports specific programs. Until this transformation takes place, it is paramount that athletes understand their own performance and physical needs, as well as the proven methods that exist.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sad Cow Disease

A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

I don’t eat animal products unless I know how the animal was raised and two somewhat terrifying recent reports suggest that neither should you. I try not to get all preachy about lifestyle. I believe that people should spend their short amount of time on earth doing things that make them happy. But the more I learn about the big food industry the more I’m convinced that they’re not in the shiny happy people business. Well, shiny maybe.

First, as reported at The Real Fitness Nerd, “The Center for a Liveable Future came out with this report recently illuminating us to the fact that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are used on farm animals, not so much to cure them of a sinus infection or a slight case of the clap, but to help facilitate rapid growth. From their blog:

Antibiotics, one of the world’s greatest medical discoveries, are slowly losing their effectiveness in fighting bacterial infections and the massive use of the drugs in food animals may be the biggest culprit. The growing threat of antibiotic resistance is largely due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both people and animals, which leads to an increase in “super-bacteria”. However, people use a much smaller portion of antibiotics sold in this country compared to the amount set aside for food animals. In fact, according to new data just released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), of the antibiotics sold in 2009 for both people and food animals almost 80% were reserved for livestock and poultry. A huge portion of those antibiotics were never intended to fight bacterial infections, rather producers most likely administered them in continuous low-dosages through feed or water to increase the speed at which their animals grew. And that has many public health experts and scientists troubled.

Creepy on so many different levels.”

Creepy indeed, and that’s the lighter half of it. In a story from the San Francisco Chronicle titled The Most Important Disease You Probably Never Heard Of, David Barash links the massive rise in Crohn’s disease in people to poor animal raising practices by the meat industry.

Welcome to Johne’s (“yo-knees”), the most important disease that you probably never heard of. It is a serious, debilitating and sometimes fatal illness of cattle, goats, and sheep (among other animals), which the livestock and dairy industry is desperate to keep out of the public consciousness, despite the fact that it costs industrial agriculture many millions of dollars every year.

The reason for such industry reticence is that Johne’s disease in livestock is very similar – and possibly even identical – to Crohn’s disease in people, which currently afflicts an estimated 500,000 sufferers in North America alone, causing severe ulcerations of the gastrointestinal tract, immense pain, and loss of appetite and weight, often requiring surgical removal of the damaged bowel. And the big, dirty secret of today’s industrial dairy and meat producers is that animals suffering from flagrant Johne’s disease currently provide milk and meat directly to the American consumer.

Of course, in the web of artificial life that is big food these topics are related. Is it any wonder that this new crop of artificially large livestock is being targeted by an illness causing their bodies to waste away? Methinks not so much. The article then delves into an interesting history of trial and error with antibiotics where we tout what goes well and bury what doesn’t. It’s all very scientific until:

This is itself an extraordinary fact, worth repeating and emphasizing: Cattle suffering from a severe bacterial infection related to tuberculosis and leprosy, characterized by pussy, intestinal ulcers and overall body wasting, and which may be literally identical to a pathogen that causes a devastating illness in genetically susceptible people, are – right now, as you read this – routinely being slaughtered, and their infected meat introduced into the food stream.

Wait! What?! No wonder he felt the need to write it twice. I don’t think you need to be a PETA activist to show a little animal compassion in this case. And regardless of the poor animals, I'm sure the cast of Jackass would enthusiastically choose a vomit omelet over a Whopper made from Johne’s-riddled livestock.

In an old western Paul Newman plays Hud, a despicable character; the black sheep son of a well-to-do rancher who is trying, unsuccessfully, to teach him to run the family business. In one scene the herd is infected with deadly hoof and mouth disease. Upon hearing they needed to be destroyed before they infect anyone else’s cattle Hud says, “They look ok to me. Can’t we sell them quickly before they look sick?” His father stares at him, almost unbelievably, with a look that conveys a lost cause as this human, surely now, is beyond the possibility of salvation says, “Son, you are an unprincipled man.” Hud kills his father and takes over the business. Given the situation as it stands, I think I may have been watching a documentary.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hey Ridley, Got Any Beemans?

I’m not a real test pilot but I play one on TV. Yesterday, in the line of duty as Beachbody’s lab rat, I tried something called Jet Fuel. But instead of me chasin’ that demon that lives out in the thin air I think it was chasing me. Now I feel like Spam in a can.

In our quest to create great supplements I pretty much take everything on the market out for a spin in one form or another. This generally means, well, pretty much nothing as most supplement do just that: nothing. This is not the case with Jet Fuel. It does something, for sure, but I’m not sure it’s what I’d call the right stuff.

why does everything sound so much better in spanish?

I’m mainly over messing with pre-workout caffeinated nonsense. I’ve tested plenty of the jillion or so available and they’re pretty much all variations on a theme that can be cured with a cup of coffee. Jet Fuel caught my eye because of a few ingredients not normally seen in this realm, primarily the neurotransmitter phosphatidylserine which increases brain function and mental focus. I’ve used it before and found it effective and wondered how it might work if it was transported by an explosive cocktail. And, shoot, this stuff was on closeout. Seemed like a good time to take her up and wring her out a little bit.

Granted, it was a little late in the day to be testing a stimulant but I had a two-hour workout planned and, heck, I could even finish her off with a little yoga if this stuff wasn’t burned off by then. So I took a third of a “dose” and hit the gym.
"is that your crash helmet? oh, i hope not."

I did an hour on the trainer and felt good. Then I test drove a prospective workout for a new Beachbody program tentatively called “The Beast”(but that’s another story). After the workout I felt great. I then had something to eat, did some work, some yoga, then got ready for bed and started reading. Hmmm…
“Y’all want a drink of whiskey?”

Sure, Fred, maybe it’ll help me sleep. I’d been off the sauce since the martini challenge but needed rest. A glass of bourbon and reading about the haematocrit levels of Marco Pantani during his career did the trick, but the night was young.
In my dreams I was out of control in a hurdlin’ piece of machinery. It was not restful. I was in and out of consciousness and might have gotten a couple of hours, which I’m only sure of because I was dreaming. In the final segment I found myself in a flat spin, totally out of control, where I kept almost swallowing gum (in reality I never chew gum), which finally woke me it. I’d better go find Ridley and pay him back.
fireflies? that's ridiculous.

A test pilot’s review of Jet Fuel: The stuff is powerful, and probably easily dangerous, but I won’t say that it’s without merit in the right situation. Most of the ingredients are healthy. It’s the megadose of caffeine in combination with other stimulants, and it’s got the kitchen—or lab—sink, that will account for this. But I think it might have a place in a rigorous training program if you take it early on a hard training day and stay hydrated. My mental focus and clarity was great, and I was super amped, which if controlled can be put to good use. I would never use it during a phase where I’m only doing an hour or so of exercise, no matter how intense, and I’d always start with a low dose. It should be saved for those days when you’re pushing the envelope. Otherwise, you might augur in.

Now, who’s the best pilot you ever saw?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Focused On Lifetime Goals

I think I’ve figured out how to pay homage to all of the birthday challenges done in my honor. Each segment of the year I’ll pick an element from some of the challenges and pursue it. Then I’ll blog about the inspiration. For the first 50 day period I’m inspired by Phil Requist hitting two lifetime goals over his 50 days and by Romney hitting one, even though she was injured.
Personally, however, while I’ve got some lifetime goals on my list for the year I’m in prep phase so I began with a few sillier thing just to get into the swing of a fifty-day commitment. For the last 50 days I’ve been doing Alice’s 500 crunches a day (silly but time consuming), Romney’s injured schedule of 50 squats a day (adding a stability twist to each day for my foundation phase), and Phil and Lena’s 50 straight days of martinis. This last challenge was, in fact, a lifetime achievement—though not something I’m really counting as one. Even though I love a good martini, drinking at least one EVERY day is a wee bit grim. I don’t hate them yet but will happily not indulge tonight.
Anyway, my circle of friends were all very inspired by Phil. He’s always been fit so his challenge—two lifetime performance marks in his 40s—was more impressive in that it was at something he’d been doing regularly during his “peak” physical years. It’s incredible, really, as aging athletes lose fast-twitch muscle fiber. I can explain it physiologically in that Phil is a slow-twitch athlete naturally. With consistent power training you can covert your body’s natural ratio of fast:slow twitch fiber. Phil has shown that with enough diligence you can do something the most professionals would tell you is impossible. But as we say at Birthday Challenge, Impossible is nothing. Oh, wait, that’s Nike. Anyway, it’s impressive.
As for me, I was a power athlete as a kid so at my challenge can include an endurance PR. And while this is much easier to accomplish I still have to do it and PRs are never easy, especially when you’ve been chasing them all your life. But in keeping the spirit of the birthday challenge, which for me has always been to try and combine contradictory physical stresses, I’m also going to shoot for something I’ve never done: a one-arm 2-finger pull-up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to get training!

pics: alice showing off that crunches do still work, romney showing off after ticking a PR, lena showing off a double PR, celebrating the santa barbara marathon in style, and phil showing off in a way that makes my finger hurt.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Phase II: My Friends, It Is Time To Get Serious

Winter training moves into phase II tomorrow at which time The Straight Dope will get back to business. Party time is over and, to borrow a phrase from Tony, “my friends it is time to get serious.” This not only goes for training but for work. There are a lot of changes in the fitness and nutrition world that need to be addressed and I’ve been holding off on them until the New Year. Let’s get busy.

Phase I Recap: The last 50 days have been a combined rest and foundation phase. These are commonly coupled because athletes don’t like doing nothing and foundation training movements are less intense (and usually somewhat foreign) than actual sports training. It’s also a good time for endurance athletes to do some base training, which is essentially long slow distance or some variation. I’ve been doing daily stability training and not-very-long slow distance. It could have been way more focused but, as it’s also a rest phase, lack of structure was a planned.

Phase II Plan: Strength

All sports training should begin with an analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. My goals are in climbing, riding, running, and to improve at skate skiing. The latter, being a technical pursuit, isn’t a part of the training plan except as a note to self to plan recovery and aerobic conditioning on skiing days until I get good enough at it to do targeted high-level workouts.

Running: my base conditioning is very good but I’m having some foot issues, which I think will be cured by some more targeted speed and skill work (including more barefoot drills). So while I will continue to do a lot of aerobic conditioning to get ready from long days later in the year, I will begin to do more focused speed work.

Cycling: my cycling is in the worst form in years. This is because I completely shut it down when I hurt my back twice in the last two years and, thus, have essentially gone three years since I was in racing condition. Since It’s winter, most my aerobic conditioning will happen running or on skis and my riding will be doing short intense work for VO2/max, lactate turnpoint (more on this term later), and power training on my stationary trainer.

Climbing: I’ve been in full shut down mode for climbing and plan to milk this a bit longer. I feel I need more shoulder power, back, and forearm strength and will use this phase to increase all of these before I begin to apply them to rock. I’ve never found intense weight training and climbing to be effectively done together. This phase will focus on the gym work and will flip-flop in phase III.

I have essentially six weeks, which I’ll break into two three week blocks that I’m going to call hypertrophy and power. There will be overlap, as you’ll see, but the idea is to build all the mass that I want (not much) and big muscle absolute strength (aka power, and the big muscle term simply means not climbing specific, which is all attached to your fingers) in this phase. Then I’ll transfer it to performance in the next phase, and then roll it over towards mega-endurance for ultra events during the latter part of the year.

One big change in this year’s program is that I’m combining the same training focus for different, NON-RELATED sports. I generally break these up so that when I’m, say, training for power in climbing I’d be training endurance on the bike. This makes a lot of sense but, as a lab rat, I feel it’s my duty to try something new. After all, the ultimate goal here is not my own performance, which is only a barometer to assess training effectiveness, but a growth in my knowledge of training that I can then impart to you.

That’s enough for today. As the pic suggests, party time is not quite over. The actual workouts and structure will be reported as I go.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2 Mil Hill

2 Million With Greg Hill from FD Productions on Vimeo.

Throwing a little more Greg Hill love your way for the New Year. This is one of the coolest pedestrian challenges I’ve seen. Not that Hill is a pedestrian skier. He’s one of the best. But this challenge is more about sacrifice and commitment than talent. You don’t have to be an Olympian. Anyone could give this a whirl. But only someone special would have the will to see it through.

Many of the travails of big challenges are conveyed in this video. I’ve experienced a lot of these during my lesser objectives. I’ve always wanted to do a year-long challenge but the logistics have been too much. I’m a fairly energetic guy but a slacker compared to Hill. Maybe one of these years I’ll get it together. In the mean time, we can live vicariously through people like Greg, who show us that with enough motivation it’s always possible to raise the bar.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Year Of Fitness

My New Year’s Resolution is simple; to get into the best shape of my life. Since I’ve been living on a similar theme forever I suppose it could be termed a high minded objective. However, I do see this year as having an extra edge for a few distinct reasons.

First, a bunch of my friends have similar ideas. In fact, my friend Josh coined to title of this blog. Inspired by the massive group birthday challenge my wife concocted more of my friends than ever—and this is a very fit group—have decided to turn the screws a little this year.

Second, Romney is perhaps even more motivated than I am. She was training at Gym Jones, and very fit, when we met but the first time she supported one of my birthday challenges she said, “Never. I’m tired just following you around in a car.” Last year she invested and this year she wants to go bigger. Who am I to argue?

Finally, I spent the last few years learning about fitness in more of a spotlight and, thus, am more motivated than ever to put them to the test. P90X was pretty much stuff that we already knew worked. No one thought we’d ever sell it so its development was low pressure. We were really testing the market more than our knowledge about training. Since it hit we’ve hustling to raise our game; experimenting with new training modalities and figuring out how to bring them to the masses. Training individuals is a different ball game than training everyone at once. But since we’ve been given an incredible opportunity I’ll be dammed if I’m not going to make the best of it.

As I see it, 2011 has blown in a serendipitious perfect storm of motivation, support, and work projects. It’ll be an adventure to see how it plays out. Happy New Year everyone!

pic: the year of fitness starts… with a hangover.