Friday, April 19, 2013

We've Moved to

It's official, The Straight Dope's new home is at:

This will be the last post on Blogger. New posts will appear on the new site, starting today. Come on over!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

When Size Matters

Here's an interesting article in Sports Illustrated about the size of NFL linemen, which is a nice reminder that everyone's goal should not be to look like a fitness cover model. Not that linemen will ever be the ideal for the next Michelangelo, unless the sculptor is an NFL quarterback, but it's a great look at how those who use their body as a tool for employment have vastly different goals than most of us.

Society tends to look at these guys at fat--which anyone starting in the NFL trenches' BMI would confirm--but can a fat guy do this?

"Johnson, a high school QB who played tight end and defensive end for the Sooners before moving to tackle two years ago. Johnson made a pile of money at the combine, deflecting attention from his lack of experience with a series of jaw-dropping efforts, recounted here by Mayock: "He ran 4.72 in the 40 -- at 303 pounds. That's as fast as [49ers wideout] Anquan Boldin ran. He jumped 34 inches, which is [a half inch less than Bengals wide receiver] A.J. Green jumped. And he broad-jumped 9-10, which is what [Patriots running back] Stevan Ridley jumped. That's the freakiest combine ever."

If those of you with power meters start running numbers and see the explosive force required to propel a 300-pound person 34 inches high or 40 years in 4.7 seconds you'll probably think your watch is broken. Exceptional results for a human being of any weight, adding that mass to gravity will yield stats that are off-the-charts.

They are, of course, tools of the trade. When your job is to move (or keep from being moved) a wall of massive humanity in a very small space your livelihood depends on four things: mass, strength, balance, and explosive power.

Warmack freely admits that his February and March weight -- 319 -- is temporary. He dipped into the teens to perform such tasks as the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and shuttle runs. (About that vertical leap then. ...) By training camp in July he'll be crowding 330. "Right now," he said at pro day, "if I had to block a 370-pound nosetackle, I couldn't do it as efficiently as if I was 328."

There's not really much of a point of today's post, other than there should be more than one ideal of what the perfect human body looks like. Let's face it, those guys in the movie 300 might look good on Men's Health but if I could choose a team to lead me through an army of men I'm picking the "fat" guys with 30 inch verticals.

pic: not only is he big, he's probably faster than you. Michael J. LeBrecht II/1Deuce3 Photography/SI 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Attack of the Killer Chair

Quick, get out of that chair!

An article on the evils of sitting appeared recently in the NY Times that begins with the line “the chair is your enemy.” It goes on to state how sitting can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a premature death before concluding, “irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.”

With such a strong into I was left a little disappointed by the piece. I was hoping for, perhaps, a biomechanical analysis of how sitting shut down a critical function or put strain on something we hadn’t previously considered. But, alas, the findings were a bit more logical. The meat of the article simply showed the relationship between those who sat a lot compared to those who didn’t, which found that the former group was far less healthy. This was almost “duh files” stuff.

It finally bothered with some science, right near the end, by citing an example using lipoprotein lipase. The implication being that sitting shut down a large part of your metabolic processes that could, over time, lead to weight gain. And while this wasn’t the zinger I was hoping for it was still a nice reminder to take breaks at work and stop vegging out for hours in front of a TV or computer.

So while the chair might not be the demonic villain we were hoping for, it also shouldn’t be lionized in Al Bundyian fashion as the pinnacle of hedonism. The human body was designed for movement and use it or lose it is not just a cliché. But you knew that already, right?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Nepal Pics & Nutrition Q & A

Video streaming by Ustream

Here's yesterday's video chat. It begins with a short recap of the Nepal trip, both Everest trek and the Yak Attack bike race. Followed by Denis and I's standard fitness and nutrition Q & A. There will be a stage by stage Yak Attack recap later, but this should get you primed for that.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I'm Back!

I'm back from Nepal and finally catching up and settling into the swing of things. Spammers are still out of control, so the blog is going to move here soon, but I'll still be posting here while the new site and archive is set up.

Now it's time to get back into all-around shape. The Yak Attack has my cycling fitness up but everything else has fallen off a cliff. My new training schedule--how to get back into shape after a "layoff"--will get posted in a couple of days. Time to get back to Gilad.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Yak Attack, Part II, The Prelude

“You don't have to be a hero to accomplish great things---to compete. You can just be an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” ― Ed Hillary

It’s the middle of the night and I’m lying in bed, kept awake from a cough that’s persisted since coming down from Everest base camp a few days ago. To make matters worse, I think I’m starting to feel the onset of dysentery that’s had Romney bedridden for the last 24 hours. We ate the same thing, after all, so why wouldn’t I be? Good timing for her, since she’s accomplished her objectives and will be heading home in the morning. For me, however, I’m a little over a day from beginning one of the harder bike races on the planet. Hopefully, all of my discomfort can be chalked up to nerves.

When I look at my prep for the Yak Attack race, in comparison to what I’ve done in the past, I can’t help but get nervous. I’ve trained a fraction of what I used to when I raced bikes all the time. Yet here I am, about to mix it up with a bunch of serious racers on training schedule that’s featured about an hour a day on average. My head tells me I can pull it off, but until my body follows suit, I won’t really know.

I probably shouldn’t worry about fitness, since the Yak Attack can force you out for any number of reasons. Besides the obvious mountain biking obstacles, like crashing and equipment failures, you’ve got third world cuisine, strange diseases, dodgy water, Spartan accommodations, and many days, and more importantly nights, at very high altitude any one of which can force you to be carries off the mountain by a yak, such as what happened to professional racer Jeff Kerklove last year.

Not that I’ll see much of it from my perspective of eating everyone’s dust, but the race itself should be outstanding. There’s even a chance someone could beat the locals (Yuki, from Japan, comes to mind though I wouldn’t bet on it). The field is loaded, with 11 countries (at least) represented, that includes a professional adventurer followed by a film crew as he tries to tick off all the hardest challenges in the world, a stack of professional riders, a slew of eccentric, adventurous types, the crème de la crème of Nepalese cycling, and another bloke named Steve Edwards. We did a group ride the other day and everyone is flying. I know the the Yak Attack is more about adventure than racing but with all the talent here there’s no way it won’t be heated.

My only objective at the moment is to survive day one. I’m not feeling very good and I don’t think I’m the only one. Once the race settles into a rhythm it should be easier. We all suffer well or we wouldn’t be here. I think it’s the waiting around that making everyone crazy.

Anyway, it’s good to be back in Nepal with a goal instead of just touring. It’s not mountaineering but, in a way, more adventurous as the Yak Attack is a new kind of adventure with an unknown quality. The last time I was in Nepal one of my heroes, Sir Edmund Hillary, died. If you read this post from then you’ll see it was an oddly serendipitous thing. Now I’m back with what I hope will be an Ed-worthy adventure in store. My goal, like Ed, is simply to “knock the bastard off”. That said, if I can break 30 hours it’ll mean all of the prayer wheels I’ve been turning haven't been for naught.

This is so strange. This is a man who was profoundly influential on my life. The first thing that inspired me to climb was the book High in the Thin Cold Air, by Ed Hillary. On the cover was Amadablam, the mountain that inspired me to climb mountains. In fact, I was writing a blog on this topic, still unfinished, just this morning. I read everything that Hillary had written prior to ever lacing up a pair of boots. Hillary always reminded me of my dad. And here I am, in Nepal, Hillary's true home (he was the New Zealand ambassador and did a ton of work on the schools here) and most likely even drinking Everest beer, with Tenzing on the label, when he dies. Life can be poetic in the oddest sense.

This will likely be my last post for a while. We might find an internet connection over the next 4 days. Then we hit the mountains and will be limited to 10 kilos of stuff, which must include enough gear so we don’t die of exposure at 18,000’. When things get grim, I'll focus on one of my favorite quotes from Sir Ed.

"I don't remember much about those seven days (stuck in a snow storm on Cho Oyu) except that somewhere around day 4 or 5 George (Lowe, Kiwi not ours) came over, stuck his head inside my tent and said, 'You know, Ed, some people wouldn't think this was fun."

vids: the first is from our training ride this week, courtesy of nepali tea traders. the second is from 2011, which i'd heard about from andre, 60 years young and back for his second yak attack. it's a little tedious but starts picking up at minute 18:00. "i never want to see another mountain bike race in my life..."

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...