Monday, February 25, 2013

Chasing Demons

Another personal post with an interesting note on Beachbody. 2007 is when P90X finally hit and our coaching network took hold. As a company we still felt like a little guy with big ideas; like a kid with open eyes about the possibilities in a big world. While we’re much, much bigger now, I must say that the wonder hasn’t faded. The obesity epidemic may have turned but it’s far from over. There is still heaps of good, important work still to be done. Here’s a trip back in time...

The big news of the year has been Beachbody; my primary employer and, thus, my default responsibility. I had cut back my hours to work towards my PhD but was called back into full-time action, most serendipitously, as more of our products took off. Primarily responsible for this was P90X and, for those of you who’ve known me for a while will attest, this is a reward for a lot passion and hard work. We spent years developing this program only to find it tough to fit into the market. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, along with its success, the obesity rate in the US has leveled off for the first time in four decades. Go us.

The personal side of this post was better than I’d remembered I recounted it, even though I can still remember the encounter very vividly.

Today I was chased by my demons. On a walk to an ancient mountain top fort I was, as usual, way ahead of everyone else when stir craziness hit me like it never has before. I couldn’t look at another tourist, another “guide”, beggar, peddler, or place filled with the masses living vicariously through things that had happened before them (not that there’s anything wrong with this, but I digress). So I took off, running, across the large plateau the fort is located on, through many of the old remains not inhabited, and then down into the most likely location to spot tigers in the wild on the planet...

I’ve dealt with plenty of animals in the wild, alone. But tigers scare me. I’ve met them face to face in controlled situations and never felt too comfortable. I don’t have the same rapport with cats as other mammals. In spite of this, I kept going. I needed to. I broke a branch off a tree and fashioned it into a gun, knowing tigers in populated areas are generally scared of guns. It helped. I continued until, jumping off a rock I turned my ankle on a rock hidden in the grass.

I knew it was pretty bad because I had to concentrate in order not to vomit. It wasn’t that bad, but I knew it was going to swell and I’d better turn around because it was going to slow me way down. And, oddly enough, being forced into even the slightest state of survival mode changed my mindset. I was at peace again; living life the way it feels right. I was born to live in a survivalist state. Instead of spending my life trying to make the word healthier, I should welcome its demise and hope for the apocalypse because that’s the society I would thrive in. But I don’t. I try to combat my demons in order to understand them. And thus, until recently, my life had been a series of failed attempts to somehow fit in...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Sound Of Infinity

In reading these old traveling posts one thing is clear; I used to have more time to write. This stuff makes me feel a little guilty about my articles over the last few years but, hopefully, in their simplicity they’re more concise. Anyways, a lot of people told me this was their favorite article I’d written, at least about traveling. Upon review I’m not sure it’s all that, but it is a good yarn. I hope you enjoy it.

In my youth I read a lot about India, almost all of which centered on the spiritual. Stories of Imperialists were often rousing good fun but it was the sacred side of India that captivated me. The side the read the Upanishads, the place where Buddha become enlightened, where Maughm’s character from The Razor’s Edge finally exorcised “polite” society to discover the truth in life.

The India I finally arrived in was slightly different. A cacophony of sounds and smells perhaps unlike anywhere else on earth. If India is the spiritual center of the universe it must be because it’s so difficult to be spiritual here. Ones entire existence can easily be filled with nothing but distraction. Driving is more hazardous than a demolition derby. A simple walk can have you literally shaking beggars off your limbs. Your clothes become so dirty that you either wash them daily or just stop caring. For the average westerner, it’s a full scale assault on every one of your senses.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Training On The Road

One of our targets at Beachbody is taking the excuses out of working out. All of our programs feature modifications of the movements so that you’re able to do them wherever you are, which have gotten more clever and sophisticated over the years. P90X2’s “hotel room modification” is almost like a different program, that can be done virtually anywhere with a set of exercise bands. All of this makes interruptions for travel in the middle of an exercise program far less daunting.

Unfortunately we haven’t made a training program for cycling yet. My old school bike case meant my bike was in such a state of disrepair that I didn’t want to assemble it for a few days in Calcutta, making finding way to turn some cranks challenging.

On day one I headed down to Guru’s Dream Gym, which I’d written about back in 2007. It was great to see Guru thriving. Fast food and, with it, fat people have definitely come to India. It’s not near where America is but it’s noticeable, leaving Guru on the front lines of defense *

Just re-read the Guru’s post and it’s pretty good. Here’s an excerpt. Click for the whole thing.

Many trainers in the US promote one type of training above all else. Wild proclamations such as “that won’t work,” “you’ll get injured if (insert any type of exercise they don’t teach,” “your body can’t digest (any type of food they don’t subscribe to)”, and so on, fill the health wires. But if we really had all of these answers, and there was really only one right way to train or to eat, why are we still getting fatter? It seems that even the most altruistic of us have become self protectorate. It’s our way or the highway, or else we won’t get your business. But when it comes to diet and exercise this couldn’t be further from the truth.

* we’ve been strategizing a way to bring the coach network over here but it’s hard in a country where ever item (like a dvd) is pirated instantly with no consequence.
pic: romney and ashna go retro at guru's dream gym, calcutta, india

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

India stories: The Fitness Yogi

En route to Nepal a family visit to India was in order. Calcutta, or Kolkata as it’s called here, the erstwhile intellectual capital of India favored for its arts, literature, anti-Bollywood drab communistic history and the poverty and squalor targeted by Mother Theresa, this time around feels a bit more like home. While as mad and dirty as ever—though the air’s cleaned up quite a lot due to some stringer auto rules set forth by the new magistrate—I’ve had five years since last visit for it to sit in and, thus, we’ve rolled into things somewhat seamlessly.

Over the next month, especially during our time in Nepal; first trekking, followed by Yak Attack, I’ll often not be connected so I’ll be digging up some older stories on India, Nepal, and Beachbody from 5 years ago. Hopefully these will prove as entertaining to you as they do for me to read them again.

We’ll start with The Fitness Yogi. It’s a pretty fun look at life in Calcutta through the eyes of a western tourist. Click on the excerpt.

I get a lot of odd looks, waves, and occasional chides on my run. And, while most people look absolutely confused, the reactions are overwhelmingly positive. Because I’ve been running in an orange shirt, Brian has suspected that perhaps they see me as some type of fitness yogi. Orange, I’ve learned, is only worn by men who’ve become enlightened. This has added some fuel to the credence of Ashna’s idea that I would have an almost instantaneous cult following if I were to move here and champion exercise as a way to enlightenment.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Yak Attack, Part I

It’s time to head to Nepal for The Yak Attack, one of the “5 toughest races on earth.” I don’t feel in top form, though not too bad for a guy who hasn’t taken a day off of work in 16 months, and hope I' ready for

Experience Nepal up close and dirty, no luxuries!

Just you, your bike and 400km of some of the most brutal terrain on earth.

From the hot and dusty lowland foothills,

To the snow covered, oxygen thin, Thorong La pass (5416m)

The race, however, hasn’t been on my mind at all. I figure it’ll reset my de facto adventure mode, making it the easy part. The crux of this endeavor has been how to get away from the grind for two consecutive 2-week periods without being connected to the world. We’re about to find out.

The Yak Attack looks like an amazing adventure and I’m getting more and more psyched as I read quotes like these:

"Its not a race of man versus man, its man versus nature and nature has the upper hand" - Phil Stasiw (UK) 2007.

"This is totally raw mountain bike racing" - Steve Rysedale (UK) 2010.

"This is the toughest race I have done, its the sh**s, I love it !!!" - Henri Lesewitz (Germany) 2012.

Perusing the web site will give you a pretty good taste, from the above video to Sonya Looney’s great race reports, to a this video odyssey that looks most excellent if you can understand German.

Here are a few other links where you can follow the action

Rider profiles and latest news


Updated race reports will be spotty because most of the race lacks connection.

Along with the race I’m going to chronicle the entire trip, beginning with a short visit with my brother in India and followed by a trek up the Khumbu Valley. These, along with some race training, a bike review, and perhaps some “normal” blogs will fill the time between now and the race reports. They’ll often by launched while I’m incommunicado so if your comments don’t post it’s because they’re waiting for me to sift through the spam.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Efficiency, Part II

A question about my article on training efficiently prompted this post, which delves deep into how to efficiently train for longer events. It's a re-post from last year called Training Short for Going Long, which chronicles my training throughout 2011 where I used a year of sub 1 hour training sessions to prepare for the World Sprint Duathlon Championships and parlayed it into three epic days (12-20 hours) in the month of November. It's completely with training schedules and evaluations to what went right and where it could have been better, so for those looking for a deeper analysis of my efficiency post this should keep you busy for a little while. Or you can skip to the end:

In conclusion, if you build a strong base and are smart about your specific training you can definitely compete in ultra events without having a lot of free time to train. Certainly longer sessions increase your ability to go fast. However, the risk of too much free time is overtraining, which is exceedingly common with amateur athletes and that can sink your results faster than being undertrained. This means that, for most of us, having “too little” time to train is probably preferable and, if done smart, will actually increase your odds of success. Finally, there is simply no doubt that P90X2 and Insanity: The Asylum are effective training programs for outdoor athletes. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned in my long tenure at Beachbody is the importance of efficiency. As an athletic trainer it mattered but you always had leeway. Athletes want to win and care less about how much time and effort it takes to do it. Regular folks have more pressing matters than being fit and time is of the essence. Over the years we’ve gotten better and better at distilling the necessities for being fit into as little time as absolutely necessary. We have it down to a science, literally.

I love seeing articles like the one that popped up last week on Science Daily, showing how short exercise can be more effective than long exercise.

Instead of long stints in the gym and miles of running in the cold, the same results could be achieved in less than a third of the time, according to new research published February 1 in The Journal of Physiology.

It not only validates where we do it makes it easier for us to “prove” our results on TV. It’s funny—not in a ha-ha way—that we often can’t cite our actual results from our test groups because they’re beyond what the authorities have deemed “possible”. The fact is, if you train smart you don’t need to spend hours a day in the gym in order to keep your body at peak fitness. Sure, you can be fit using that model, but in my experience I’ve found that most people, including athletes, train more than they should.

On the basis of these novel and earlier findings from other laboratories, Professor Wagenmakers expects that HIT and SIT will turn out to be unique alternative exercise modes suitable to prevent blood vessel disease, hypertension, diabetes and most of the other ageing and obesity related chronic diseases.

We've been using both HIT and SIT for years, so the word unique seems a little strange, but that's probably why we run into issues with the FTC and such. Even though it’s not always “accepted”, we’ve proven that if you’re willing to make healthy lifestyle changes we can change your body composition from obese to healthy in as little as 10 minutes a day. With a 30-45 minute investment you can be down right fit, and an hour a day 6 days per week can have you as fit as people who use their bodies to make their living.

Another fact is that most of your super fit friends train more than they should. As your human lab rat I’ll be the first to plead guilty. I’m quite sure I spent most of my prime athletic years in an somewhat-overtrained and undiagnosed state. I now workout far less than I once did and, yet, since I’m smarter, my fitness stays high enough that I can get into competition shape for many different sports with a only few weeks of sports specific training. While I can say that wish I knew this years ago, I'm happy just to be able to pass on the knowledge so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

Look for a follow-up post, with examples and more in-depth analysis, later this week...

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Unstoppable Lena Rowat

I love finding off-the-radar stories like this one about a woman who makes many more famous "extreme" athletes look like pillow fighters. Lena Rowat isn't going to be doing Sharon Stone fashion shoots anytime soon but if I needed a partner to survive a winter backcountry adventure I can't think of anybody else I'd choose ahead of her. Among other things, Rowat has skied from Vancouver to the Yukon (over the top of 19,000' Mt Logan), most of it in a single push. Here's a good article on her adventures, which should help you enjoy winter so much more.

The Unstoppable Lena Rowat

Here's another great article about part of that adventure.

The Long White Line

“When I look back on this trip, what strikes me most is how low-key it was. There was no documentary, no magazine feature, no fanfare. It was exceptionally driven young people chipping away, kilometre after kilometre, day after day, month after month, at something so big, that if examined in its entirety, seems impossible. They were out there only for themselves, as if on a journey to explore their own backyard. It just happened that their backyard was the Coast Mountains. I think there’s something really pure to that. I feel to this day that the little section I spent skiing through those mountains with those guys on their epic journey is precious.”

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Back With A Video Chat

Video streaming by Ustream

By popular demand I'm posting again here on Blogger. The transfer to the new site's turning out to be more complex than expected so posts will henceforth resume here until the new site is deemed acceptable. If you comment and it doesn't come through please try again as I'm having a lot of trouble with spammers lately.

Business has been charging along as usual, with the somewhat major addition of a trip to India and Nepal that's effectively tossed a crazy wrench into what's already a filled-to-the-gills schedule. I've been keeping news items worthy of critical review, which I'll get to (most probably after my trip) once I've caught up on the backlogging what I've been up to.

The Yak Attack, catalyst for upcoming voyage, will also merit some attention and I'll try to do it justice. For now, let's re-conveine with Denis and I bantering for an hour. The chat opens with immune talk, given our entire office is currently sick, and then moves into standard q and a.

PS - you can access this blog via steveedwardsfitness now and, since the site will be moving there, you might as well get used to that being the home page.