Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I just finished up reading Spark. It's an impressive and compelling book that is a worthwhile read for anyone. I had no idea exercise had such a powerful effect on the brain, although his findings didn't surprise me given my beliefs about living a "primal" lifestyle. Here's my thoughts in an unorganized list:

- clear thesis: exercise is good for the brain as well as mental and physical well-being
- along with lots of scientific mumbo-jumbo, Ratey uses the logic that we have evolved to be active and that we perform optimally when we are active
- fascinating studies that I'd never heard of - one that showed exercise was as effective as Zoloft for treatment of depression - a high school using rigorous and accommodating phys ed classes also has 3% obesity rates and scores remarkably well on standardized tests
- Uses evolution to support exercise, but misses the boat with nutrition. He recommends a typical SAD diet and hardly mentions nutrition. When he came to my school, I was going to ask him about diet and its effect on the brain, but I never got the chance. Well, I got my answer and I was disappointed. He does recommend supplementing with omega 3's and vitamin d, though.
- My favorite parts: the Naperville high school story because it relates to my demographic and the chapter on aging because Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are becoming more prevalent and I have parents
- Sometimes too much scientific mumbo-jumbo for me, but the takeaway messages make it worth the read

Who's it for: anyone from the student to the elderly can benefit from reading Spark.

My recommendations: walk a lot, sprint every now and then, and play. While he did support moderate cardio, he also likes walking and sprinting--beliefs congruous with Mark Sisson's.

My score: 4.5/5

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fasting and Festivities

It's been a few days since my last post. I was in NH with my family for a few days of snowboarding. For New England, the conditions were awesome: plenty of snow coverage, hardly any ice, and in the low 30's. Anyway, I'm going to the bullet point format for this post. Get excited.

- I didn't ask Santa for anything this year, but my parents got me some grilling equipment and an anatomy/exercise book. Yes, I'm that cool. They were thinking about getting me a pair of Vibrams, but I told them to wait until the spring. Along with Vibrams, I'm hoping to buy a new pair of flip-flops and a pair of Fat Gripz in the spring. I'm an admitted cheap bastard, but these are a few investments that are reasonable.

I'm not a "runner," but I plan to run in the spring and summer. I doubt I'll be running for training, but "Born to Run" and some of Matt Metzgar's post have inspired me to try running. Running has come under some heat from the HIT crowd as well as trainers like Mike Boyle for different reasons, but running is what humans have evolved to do and was crucial to our survival.

The Fat Gripz are, duh, for my grip. My grip is strong already, but it's one of those things where there's never too much. In wrestling, fatigue hits your grip and biceps first. I imagine high rep one arm dumbbell rows with the Fat Gripz are killer.

- After reading some articles from Leangains and Theory to Practice I decided to give a fasted workout a try. I've done 16-18 hourfasts before, but I would break the fast before physical activity. Today wasn't a "true" fasted workout, though; I had a scoop of whey 5 minutes before my workout. I went in not knowing what to expect, but the experience surprised me. I'm not sure if I felt better, but I didn't feel bad considering I hadn't eaten in 13 hours Here's my workout:

Weight jump squats 12's (12lb dumbbells in each hand) 5x5
Dynamic effort front squats 105 6x3
Front squat 175 1x2 - I felt I could have gone much heavier, but my form felt poor. I was feeling it too much in my lower/middle back and hardly at all in my legs.
Hip Thrusts 355 1x5, 375 1x5, 405 1x5, 425 1x5, 445 1x4, 215 1x20 - I've started using this exercise these last few weeks. I stole it from Bret Contreras' article on TMuscle and I'm still finding my limits with it.
Jason Ferruggia's barbell complex x2 - This was my first time trying it, so I used a 45 pound bar. I'll try to add more sets next time before weight. Warning: trying to do overhead squats is a bitch when you're gassed.

I walked home and proceeded to feast on a smoothie and a sweet potato with all the fixings. Good times.

After trying a fasted workout, here are my unscientific thoughts on fasted training. If you want scientific explanations, go to Leangains. Martin Berkhan >>> me. So why would fasted training be superior to regular training? Ignoring the detailed scientific answer, I would guess a fast of adequate (but not absurd) length tells the body "get food or die" and peaks certain "things" in the body in order to improve performance, allowing the body to survive. This logic seems to make sense, but it contrasts conventional wisdom and the growing focus on optimal pre-workout nutrition. This is a topic I expect to touch on more in the future, so I'll leave it at this for today.

- I just finished up "The Four Hour Workweek" after following Tim Ferriss for so long. The man is one hell of a self-promoter. As a 17 y/o, I'm not his target demographic for his book, but I still found it a worthwhile read. Some of his claims seem far-fetched, but applying his core principles could produce benefits; batching and the 80/20 principle are solid concepts I've read about before and have applied to my own life to varying degrees. It's also comforting to know that there's an alternative to working 40 straight years. I recommended it to my parents because they would have a better perspective on the book because it's message is intended for them. I'm also looking into some of the testimonials.

- I just started "Spark," the book about exercise, its in the brain, and its effect on well-being. So far, so good. The author came to my school two months ago and I've been wanting to read his book since. Chris has covered it a little on his blog, too.

- Maybe some more book reviews coming in the near future.

That's all for today. I'll be spending the rest of my Sunday like a true American: on my ass watching football.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You only get one go-around

Most people (myself included) are looking for a method that delivers results instantly. Whether it's fat loss or muscle gain, people want results and they want them now. Frequently this desire leads to actions that hurt people in the long run. Guys get shoulder injuries after spending years benching and others follow "hard-core" diets that can produce all sorts of awful effects. Yes, you might get bigger and stronger taking supplement "X," but at what cost? Anyway, two blog posts struck home the same note for me:

The first is an article by Mike Boyle which discusses how people fail to recognize the importance of long-term health before it's too late. He creates a metaphor in which you are given one car for the rest of your life and are told that repairs are costly and are never as good as the original. In that scenario, you would drive everywhere 5 miles under the speed limit, right? Why isn't this the case with people and their bodies?

The second is a post from Primal Wisdom comparing two 70~ year olds: Art Devaney and Clarence Bass. For men their age, their physiques are incredible. They're not just surviving, but thriving. Both use HIT, but their diets differ. I'm in favor of Devaney's paleo diet over Bass' low-fat high-carb diet, but that's not worth going into now. Regardless, both have the bodies that men half their age envy. That's remarkable. They're something for me, a member of a generation that has a shorter life expectancy than the one before it, to strive for. While I don't currently use HIT it is a safe method of weight training that can deliver results. If that "old age" but gets me, HIT is an option that I would consider incorporating.

I know when I'm 70, I'd rather be spending time in the gym than the doctor's office.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sled + Weight + Snowy Hill = Exhaustion

Winter break is only a reprieve from the doldrums and suffering of schoolwork. For wrestling, there is no break, but when I'm on the couch and it's 30 degrees outside there is little motivation to move. Sadly, loafing around all day isn't a choice right now. For yesterday's workout I got a little creative. During the summer, hill sprints prove to be one helluva training session. However, the closest hill isn't big and I didn't want to walk far in the cold, so I made a compromise with my lazier half: weighted hill sprints.

I took a typical snow sled, filled it with a 25lb sandbag and two sledgehammers, and proceeded to dominate the little hill for half an hour. To give you an idea, I bore a stark resemblance to a dog in the Iditarod. Wonderful. There was no template or work-to-rest ratio, just sprint up, slide down, and repeat.

Ten minutes in I was heating up and took off my hat. A few minutes later, I removed my gloves and sweatshirt, leaving me wearing a t-shirt as I sprinted up and slid down the snowy covered hill on a chilly New England afternoon. The neighbors were definitely a little freaked out.

It was more fun than I expected it to be and an ample workout that got my heart rate up a bit. Next time, I plan to move to a bigger hill, which could make this suicidal--perfect.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting the ball rolling

I created this blog today after coming to the following realization: I read blogs and have my own opinions. At the very least, I have nothing to lose and could have some fun.

The last blogging I did was in 8th or 9th grade during the summers, but I hope to have a little more stick-to-it-ness this time around.

So, what can you expect from this blog? My current passions (I'm 17, I don't even know what I'll be passionate about next month) are training, diet, wrestling, sports, and philosophy. Posts could range from my thoughts about a certain article or blog post, to book/movies reviews, to rants about why Belichick went for it on 4th and 2, and anything else I deem worth writing about.

Post #1 is over with. Now I can go back to marinading on the couch with a good book.