Saturday, September 6, 2014

Review: Bob Mould Band live in Philly at the TLA, September 5, 2014

Bob Mould walked onstage last night with his bandmates Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster, grinned a little, leaned back and launched headlong into "Flip Your Wig" followed by "Hate Paper Doll." I kind of lost my shit a little.

Witnessing the recent rock and roll rejuvenation of Bob Mould has been nothing short of mindblowing.

The man is 53 years old, and he's bouncing around the stage like the same guy I saw with Hüsker Dü at an ironically-named ("The Opera House") warehouse-y dump in Philly in May 1985. And here's the thing: his current band may just be his best ever.

I'll fess up and admit that while I am a huge fan of Hüsker Dü, Sugar and Bob's early solo career, he lost me a little post-Sugar. I saw the Hüskers three times, Sugar once, and countless solo acoustic/electric shows into the early 2000s. But the post-Sugar solo albums were missing something to my ears. Yeah, they all (OK, I'm not counting his foray into electronica) had good songs, but their overall impact was just missing that thing-- we'll call it urgency -- that characterized everything the man ever touched prior to 1995 or so. Moreover, those solo shows? Yeah, I loved watching him tear into the classics, but, no matter how hard he ranted and raved and beat the living bejeezus out of his long-suffering guitars, he was all by himself up there; what he really needed was a band (maaaaaan).

In 2012, he finally got that band, courtesy of Narducy and Wurster. You may recognize them as the current live-show rhythm section of Superchunk, but before Wurster recruited Narducy for that gig, they had both signed on with Mould for Bob's Silver Age album.

To give you some idea of the seismic shift that Silver Age was, imagine if the Rolling Stones released Goats Head Soup now. Not in 1973 when it was a solid, but slightly flawed record. But right fucking now. Heads would explode all over the world. That's what Silver Age was like. It followed a collection of solo records that all had their highlights, but the distortion-drenched atavisms of SA were leaps and bounds beyond their immediate predecessors. It was right back to the glory days. This was a record that reeked of a Hüskers/Sugar hybrid. Dig this, for example:

In that song, and on the rest of that album, Mould is feeding off the energy of his new bandmates, and they, unsurprisingly are returning the awe and wonder of playing music with Bob Fucking Mould and revving things up a little more. It's a joyous/cathartic romp through power chords, pounding drums, vocal harmonies and urgent basslines. This year saw the same band release Beauty and Ruin. And the rampage continues:

And the live show that results? It's.... I'm not sure "fucking spectacular" begins to convey it. As I mentioned, they blasted through a couple Hüsker Dü songs to start. The set** that followed never let up. A large portion of Beauty and Ruin was played, some of Silver Age and a heaping serving of Hüsker Dü and Sugar songs. Hell, Bob even "rocked up" one ("Sinners and Their Repentances") from his first solo album, Workbook, to great effect.

Highlights? The entire show, start to finish. Really.

But if you make me pick a few, after the "Flip" intro, I'd say that "The Descent" and "Tomorrow Morning" were solo-album songs that were particularly crushing in their intensity. "Changes" had harmonies courtesy of Narducy that made even grumpy-looking Bob smile. "Hoover Dam" was, somehow, even better than the Sugar version, which I previously regarded as a near-perfect rendition. "Something I Learned Today" and "In a Free Land" made me wonder just how the hell Wurster keeps going at that intensity for an entire show.  And "Chartered Trips".... How do you make "Chartered Trips" into an even more perfect blast of everything ever? Add a coda with pounding drums and slashing chords. The set-closer that followed "Chartered Trips" was "Fix It" and, as much as I love that song, it barely registered with me after the roar that preceded it.

My mind is duly blown, gentlemen. I am back on board and will see this band every fucking time I get the chance.

(Next time in Philly, how about "Real World" with all of its glorious kerrang? That would up the ante even more, if that's even possible.)


Flip Your Wig
Hate Paper Doll
Star Machine
The Descent
Little Glass Pill
I Don't Know You Anymore
Sinners And Their Repentances
Kid With Crooked Face
Nemeses Are Laughing
The War
Hardly Getting Over It
Keep Believing
Come Around
Hoover Dam
Tomorrow Morning
If I Can't Change Your Mind
Hey Mr. Grey
Chartered Trips
Fix It
In A Free Land
something I Learned Today
Makes No Sense At All
Love Is All Around

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Food, barbells and thoughts on how your social class may play into what you do

A funny thing happened over in the much-wealthier town.

My older son (age 23) was routinely getting together with a friend [we'll call him Bob... not his name] to work out while both of them were off from school this summer. Sometimes they'd lift at my house, sometimes at Bob's parents' house. Sometimes they'd do sprints at the track, and maybe even work a kettlebell or a sled-drag into the day's effort. Less often they'd go for a run.

It didn't take long.

"You guys are back here lifting today? I thought you were going to Bob's house."

I was glad to see my son, but surprised.

"Yeah...." he replied. "It seems like we have a problem over there. It's not a problem if we use Bob's dad's rower in his driveway, and it's not a problem if we take our shirts off. Oh, it's also not a problem if we run all around town with our shirts off. So it's not an exhibitionist/ostentatious thing."

"So, what's...." I interrupted myself as I realized the deal. "No way! Let me guess: Bob's parents think weightlifting is unseemly and a little too, oh, pedestrian and blue-collar, and so they are good with everything until the barbell comes out? Then the neighbors might notice."

"It would seem so...."

"So there are people all over that town running and cycling. Hell, even Bob's dad uses his rower in the driveway. And this is no problem. But you've done something far worse, apparently. You've brought the lower-class sports to the properties of the rich."

"Yeah, apparently."

And then I read this article. It's an eye-opener called What Your Workout Says About Your Social Class.

And then I thought a little more about my own life. Outside of CrossFit, how do the well-educated people that I professionally interact with exercise? There are runners -- a lot of runners. Some triathletes. Some cyclists. There's a lot of long-distance cardio going on. There is, conversely, very little weightlifting going on among those folks, and even less if you confine the term "weightlifting" to mean "something full-body involving a barbell, not just isolation machines at a gym."

Then toss something else into the mix: low-fat dogma. You may have run across this article recently as well. The bottom line of it is an NIH study that showed low-fat eating regimens failing miserably next to low-carb/high-fat/no-caloric-restriction ones. It struck a nerve, not because I was surprised -- hell, it's like an ad for paleo/primal -- but because I wonder how it's going to play with the more upper-crust folks.

My own completely unscientific study of the high-income/non-weightlifting/heavy-cardio exercise crowd has most of them following a path of some sort of low-fat awfulness in their food. Usually there is a "diet," often accompanied with caloric restriction, guilt and a lot of time watching numbers on the scale. There is a tremendous amount of self-deprivation in much of it as well.

Yes, CrossFit is changing the paradigm a bit. It seems that if we can get the prep-schoolers into a CF box, and put a barbell in their hands, we often can get them off of skim milk, vegetarianism and soy burgers at the same time. But it's more of a struggle. Again, my own unscientific study of CrossFitters shows that the average cop/firefighter/tradesperson is more likely to quickly embrace (or, at least, not fight about) both the food and exercise component of a primal lifestyle than the better-educated, who will still be secretly doing long runs that they don't really like** -- but think are the "real" way to be fit -- and eating low-fat yogurt and "heart healthy whole grains" [sic].

And yeah, I'm a lawyer, former distance runner and former near-vegetarian who ate whole grains like it was his job and devoured more soy burgers than real ones as of just a few years ago. I never picked up a barbell until I was 46 years old. So don't see this piece as some sort of class-war Molotov cocktail tossed over the well-educated-guy's fence. I am one of those well-educated guys who wasn't doing any of this stuff optimally as of just a few years back. But because of that, I also see a little more closely what is going on with my peers in that regard. They are, on the whole, missing the bus on both diet and exercise. Part of it is from misinformation. But quite often there's something else going on there as well.

**This is in contrast to some distance runners that I know who actually enjoy it. More power to them. People should do things that make them happy. I just hate to see someone doing something he or she hates, grinning and bearing it for "health" reasons.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Deadlifts, doughnuts and happiness. A.K.A. Food is just food.

Earlier today, my CrossFit friend Cathy Innes deadlifted 323 pounds. Cathy is 62 years old. A 323-pound deadlift by a 62-year-old woman is elite-level stuff. That's awesome -- completely effing ridiculously awesome.

Afterwards, she posted a photo of a maple bacon doughnut with the following caption: "I earned this today with a 323 lb deadlift!"

After congratulating her on her deadlift, I gave her a little bit of shit.

No, not about eating the doughnut -- about the notion that she had somehow "earned" the right to eat it. What comes with that notion is the converse one as well: that if she hadn't done something extraordinary, it would be "wrong" to eat the "unearned" doughnut. What also comes with all that is the idea that one has to "earn" the right to eat anything.

And every one of those concepts is complete bullshit. More particularly, they are bullshit wrapped in a thick layer of guilt and shame that has no place near food.

If there is any one idea I would love for everyone in the fitness/health industry to embrace, and evangelize about, it wouldn't be a "way" to eat -- paleo, primal, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, whatever -- nor a "system" of exercise. It would be a simple fact: food is food. It is neither good nor evil. It is not reward or punishment. Food should not be a currency that you use in transactions with yourself. It doesn't have a damn thing to do with sex, love, romance, guilt or shame. And nothing you do "earns" particular food for you.

You can eat whatever the hell you want. You are an adult. By reaching a stage of life where you are buying the food, you get to decide what you eat.

Yes, it will benefit you greatly if you figure out a way to eat that helps you feel great every day. And if you have fat-loss goals, certain food choices, if made consistently, are going to either help or hinder your attainment of those goals. But what is most important is getting to the point where you are making all your food choices based on a simple concept: "Do I want to eat that?" Because you should eat whatever you want to eat. The question is whether you really want it, and only you can make that choice.

Let's go back to that doughnut. Personally, I probably wouldn't eat it. Doughnuts don't really make me feel very good. The "benefit" of the delicious maple/bacony flavor is short-lived compared to the crappy bloated feeling that gluten gives me, so I choose not to eat it. But before you think I am trying to paint a picture of myself as St. Paleo, patron saint of clean eating, if that were maple/bacon ice cream, I'd be on it in two seconds. No guilt, no fuss, no muss, and right back to paleo food I would go afterwards. Because that's how I want to eat.

And the contrary choice would be just as valid. Because it's my choice. And I eat whatever I want.

But in neither instance, no matter what I did -- or didn't do -- that day, would I need to "earn" the right to eat that doughnut, or that ice cream. It's just a piece of food.

By the way, once I gently chided Cathy, she said, "You're right, Steve. I stand corrected. It was the best doughnut I've ever eaten."

Damn right. I bet it was.

No guilt. No shame. Eat what you want. Just figure out what you want and what makes you really happy. That's what you've truly "earned" the right to do.

The non-quantified self

I put together a band recently, because, really, this is what I do. It's hard work, and often -- but not this time -- a giant freaking pain in the ass. Bands are full of real people with distinct personalities, and distinct work ethics, and those people are crammed into tight quarters and they don't always mesh together well. In fact, the last few bands have fallen rather distinctly into the category called "fun for a little while and then... not so much." But the new one seems to be -- from a musicianship/quality/enjoyment sense -- taking names and kicking ass at a heightened level. This means I have to be on my A-game behind the drums. This also means that I have been playing on my own a lot more than in the previous six months in order to stay on top of all that.

It's been spectacular. There's a cliche that goes something like: "A bad day doing ____ is still better than a good day doing something dull." And for me that blank gets filled in with either of two things: drumming or hiking.

Why those two? I've thought about that one a lot, and I think I've finally nailed it:  it's because the "success" of the activity is measured in beauty (even in art), and there is what I'll call a distinct absence of quantification.

I've talked before (e.g., here and here) about how, when I turn a fun pursuit into a numbers game, it eventually sucks the joy right out of it. And it's been a long slow slog through that lesson because I am, at my core, a pretty competitive person, most of all with myself.

But I simply can't "grade" my performance at a band practice -- or during an hour playing drums on my own, or on a hike -- with a number. Each of those things runs deeper, or maybe the word is "simpler." The beauty is in the doing, not in reaching a particular destination.

I've told you before to "enjoy the ride," but I think I am, slowly, but surely, getting a real handle on what that means. And I say the "ride," rather than the "journey" because a journey implies a destination, and if a person doesn't reach the precise goal he or she seeks, there tends to be disappointment. (The missed PR in the gym or on the track comes to mind). The "ride" is more of a rollercoaster analogy, because no one's ever disappointed at the end of an amusement-park ride because it failed to take the passengers to a particular place. The joy of that enterprise is in the getting there, not in measuring whether "there" is the precise spot you wanted to be.

So how does this realization play into other things I do for fun -- like CrossFit and heavy lifting? As I've told you here, when I first stumbled upon the notion, I'm trying to quantify my exercise experience as little as possible. Sure, I know what weight is on the bar, but I'm not tracking my performance day to day or week to week. I'm just going in and doing as well as I can on a given day. I'm lifting weights, or doing conditioning workouts, like it's a process to be enjoyed, rather than a goal-directed activity burdened with a struggle between success and failure that comes down to numbers.

And if that sounds like I am trying to approach exercise a little more like it's like drumming or hiking, then yeah. That's exactly what I am doing. In fact, I'm trying to do it with my whole life.

You know... enjoying the beauty of the ride, not obsessing over the destination.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Zen and the art of, oh, everything....

It's one of my favorite punk-rock lyrics, and, yes, I've used it here before:

"Don't get tangled up trying to be free."
                               -- Fugazi

It was a little over a month ago that my sons and I were out in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, spending our days hiking and the rest of the time eating spectacularly well while watching more World Cup soccer than any of us could believe.

It was amazing, and a recurring thought came to me: "Why can't I always be this stress-free?" 

So I came home with a simple plan: try to live life in a "vacation state of mind." Not a "vacation plan of action," mind you. I can't go hiking every day, and ignore work responsibilities in favor of watching a lot of soccer. But it's the mental angle that I can try and preserve.

It began with food. I don't stress out significantly over paleo, but I have been known to make my food more complicated than it needs to be. So the first victim of metaphorical defenestration was so-called "bulletproof coffee." Why, I asked myself, had I turned my morning routine into a bastion of -- let's be objective here -- complete fucking weirdness by dumping quantities of butter and coconut oil into my coffee that seemed fairly obscene? I didn't really know. It was delicious, but I was running through sticks of Kerrygold unsalted like it was my job to eat dairy fat. 

Also, protein powder.... I still use it occasionally if I am in a jam post-workout and can't eat real food right away, but it had become the post-workout norm. Instead of just eating real food when I got home from the gym, I was pretending that I'm some sort of "athlete" and going for protein overload. 

I didn't do any of that nonsense on vacation. And I felt great there. I ate intuitively in the Eastern Sierra -- stuffing in more real food on days when the caloric demands of hiking were greater, and less when they weren't. And it's not like I was thinking about it, or planning it. I just -- get this -- ate when I was hungry.

With no thought, no plan, no stress. 

So for the last month or so, I've been just... eating paleo, when I'm hungry. It's not exciting, or gimmicky, or particularly sexy, but it is utterly stress-free, and easy. And delicious. I haven't been jonesing for butter in my coffee, or protein powder post-workout. My body seems to like moderation.

It also likes easy. And easy fits in rather nicely with another recurring thought I had on vacation: "Do you ever notice that Robb Wolf never suggests that you do stupid, weird, gimmicky shit?"

(You could sub a number of other folks into that thought besides Robb, by the way. Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, Diane Sanfilippo, Liz Wolfe....)

Then my thoughts moved on to exercise. I just posted about that, so I won't repeat it all here. But just as I wasn't "tracking performance" on my vacation hikes, why -- I asked myself -- was I tracking performance in the gym? So I just started going to the gym and exercising in a way that felt right that day. It's been unbelievably mentally freeing. Yesterday, instead of chasing a front-squat PR -- with all the accompanying stress of that plus the added "I suck" feeling if I were to miss it -- I just did multiple reps at a solidly heavy weight, and then even did a drop set afterwards at a slightly lower weight. It felt fantastic, with none of the pressure. On Friday, I knew I wanted to do some conditioning in addition to lifting weights, but sprints seemed like the order of the day instead of the barbell metcon that was programmed. So out into the street I went for some 400 repeats with rest in between. Again, it was perfect, for that day.

This gimmick-free/intuitive thought process even extends to my meditation practice. During the past few months, I had been exclusively using the EmWave2 -- a heartrate variability monitor/program -- to meditate. I liked it, but I wondered aloud, amidst all the other purposeful simplification that I was undertaking, whether, maybe just maybe, I was over-complicating meditation too. So I headed back to the basics, the Zen stuff: me, a floor, a pillow and a wall. It's spectacular. And simple.

I think it was Thoreau who said something like, "Simplify. Simplify." 

Or maybe it was Fugazi. 

Either way, I am digging it all immensely. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Scoreboard

Yesterday, I posted a Facebook status that went something like this:

"I am essentially positive that I am not mature enough to sensibly and rationally approach today's one-rep-max back squat at CrossFit Aspire. I am headed off to the garage for some nice calm ego-absent three-rep sets on my own instead.

Followed by a spectacular lunch of everything."

Lunch was delicious. 

This, however, is not about lunch.

It's about the rest of all that. 

I really enjoy lifting weights. I'm even okay at it; I'm pretty sure my deadlifts and farmer's carries are something that I am at least better than the "average" 52-year-old dude at doing. But recently, while I was dutifully logging the results of another day's lifting into our gym's online tracking system, I thought to myself, "I'm not a competitive lifter. Why, exactly, am I keeping score?"

There is this quirky little thing that CrossFit gyms started doing a long time ago -- referring to all their members as "athletes."

I'm a lot of things. I'm a pretty nice guy. I am a decent writer. I might just occasionally make you laugh. I am a damn good drummer. I'm an even better lawyer (but we still never talk about that here). But, really, I'm just not, by any stretch of the imagination, an "athlete." 

To be clear: Rich Froning? Athlete. Me? Not.

So, in keeping with the notion that I am just a guy who does CrossFit because he likes being in better shape to do all the other fun stuff in life, and not to "compete," I repeat, "Why, exactly, am I keeping score of myself?"

"To know when you are doing better!" you say. But... why exactly do I care about "doing better" on some absolutist scale? Lifting, to me, is something that varies wildly day to day. There's the day that a 405-lb deadlift is doable -- nearly easy --and another when 365 pounds screams, "You're done for the day, son." And usually that type of variance has to do with things like nutrition and sleep and stress and all those other health/fitness categories that we would never "keep score" at. 

I mean, really, does anyone keep track of sleep PRs? Does anyone post, "Fuck yeah. Beast mode! Ate more kale than ever today!" to Facebook?

So again, why am I keeping score of my lifting? There are days when pushing a little to lift a non-PR, but still-challenging, amount of weight is just as rewarding in a "I did the best I can do today" sense as nailing a PR. And, absent a scorekeeping obsession, maybe I would stop occasionally making foolish decisions to go harder than I should to.... beat my old "score." You know, the "score" that doesn't really mean shit in the rest of my life.

It doesn't make me a better person, drummer, lawyer, hiker, husband, friend or father if I PRd my deadlift. Or my back squat. Or my strict press (as if....). And it sure as hell doesn't make me worse at any of those things if I didn't. Remember, I'm not a "weightlifter." There is a serious difference between "a guy who lifts weights" and a "weightlifter."

And there is a serious difference between a competitive CrossFit "athlete" and a guy who does CrossFit just to stay fit.

This isn't to say that you should follow my leadership on this issue. You may have tons of reasons to keep track of your "score" in the gym. You, quite possibly, think this is the stupidest idea I have ever had. But I'm going to go with it for a while. 

And maybe, after three or so months of not logging my lifting results, and, instead, just doing the best I can do on any given day, I'll decide that keeping score has some kind of a benefit for me. But right now, I'm not seeing it. So, like every other aspect of my life, for the next few months when I grab a barbell, I'm just going to do the best I can that day, and move on. 

And enjoy the ride.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The lemming state of mind, or why there's a valuable lesson in "Crossing the Line"

There's an ESPN video about CrossFit called "Crossing the Line" that is circulating the blog/Facebook-sphere. Your reaction to it is, quite possibly, going to be governed by your opinion about CrossFit itself.

If you are a CF hater, undoubtedly you will find something to rant and rave about. "See! CrossFit is dangerous. Women and children (and possibly puppies), are being killed by overzealous, untrained Olympic lifting and crazy gymnastic movements."

And if you are a CrossFit devotee, you may be a little riled. "How dare you, ESPN?! Right in the midst of the CrossFit Games that you are televising, no less! Heresy! Where is your loyalty?"

I'm going to go against the grain a little....

As you may know, I love CrossFit. It changed my life. 

But that video doesn't have me annoyed, feeling defensive or otherwise wound up. I think there is a lot to like about some of it.

As I just recently told you with regard to food choices, I don't think you should be ceding any of your health decisions to others. Sure, get all the good advice you can, but, in the end, whether or not someone else is telling you to eat, or not eat, something, it is going to be you -- You! -- who has to put on the big-boy/big-girl pants at some point and make the call whether a particular food item is going down your own piehole.

Unsurprisingly, I feel the same way about exercise.

Just as it's a bad idea to approach food with the attitude of "Just tell me what to do and I will follow your instructions like a robot," that same mindset is going to cause trouble in a CrossFit gym.

"I'm following a list of rules on The Paleo Diet" teaches nothing but blind adherence to someone else's dogma that may or may not be right for your body.

The same is true of unthinking worship at the altar of CrossFit. "I'm doing whatever the CrossFit trainer says is today's workout even if it hurts me" just may (surprise!) get you hurt.

On that video is a guy who tried to beat his old PR of 30 straight toes-to-bar by doing 40. Not 31, mind you. He wanted to go straight from 30 to 40. In one shot.

If I told you that a guy with a 300-pound max deadlift tried to PR with a 400-pound deadlift, what would you think? "Durrrrr," or something similar, I imagine, right? But this guy is blaming the "culture of CrossFit" at least partially for his resulting injury from the same percentage leap in a toes-to-bar PR attempt. (And I know... he fell on the 31st one, but he was aiming for 40. In his head, a 33% PR seemed just fine, and that's lunacy. And yes, to his credit, he seems to have learned, and changed his subsequent approach to CF).

Look, there's no doubt that the competitive mindset in some CrossFit boxes is greater than others. Hell, I regard the gym that I go to as being full of smart trainers who care about the clients, and, still, I see people trying to do things -- often because their friends are encouraging them -- that are nearly guaranteed to get them hurt. Whether it's trying to do kipping pullups before you have strict pullups, or doing high-speed Olympic lifts even though your body is screaming, "No more!" there are a myriad of ways to royally fuck yourself up in a CF gym.

But a little good sense goes a long way. And that good sense needs to come from you, not anyone else.

Because this is your life, and you're the one responsible for it.

If you get the idea that I am virulently against "just going along" and being a lemming about almost anything, then yeah, you're catching on. And I don't mean contrarianism for its own sake. I mean just simply thinking for yourself. Just because everyone else is doing it makes it neither correct nor appropriate for you.

Something to consider: there is no sport called "High-speed Olympic Lifting" just as there also is no sport called "High-speed Powerlifting." If high-rep/high-speed snatches (or cleans or deadlifts or whatever) leave you in serious pain, this may be a sign that you should sub in another exercise that day. Or maybe always.

An example: I love deadlifts for strength, but I rarely do deadlifts in a metcon. If I try to do them at high speed, I lose the necessary tightness in my abs and lower back and it hurts. In fact, thanks to various non-CrossFit injuries, mostly drumming-related, I often don't use a barbell in a metcon. If I do high-speed overhead work, I leave the gym with an inflamed elbow and in a world of pain. I feel the same way about high-rep pullups for time. I'd rather do weighted pullups with good form for strength.

It's all -- like your food choices, or like, I dunno, life -- a work in progress. You test your limits and sometimes you surprise yourself. But other times your limits rear their ugly heads on what may be a more permanent basis. Maybe, no matter how hard you want it to be otherwise, every time you eat gluten, you feel like shit. I'd suggest maybe permanently backing off the gluten in that instance.

Somehow, though, the ego seems to take more of a hit when the limitation is exercise-oriented, instead of based on food. You see your buddy doing high-rep/high-speed deadlifts with ease in a metcon, but every time you do them that way, you can't walk without pain for three days. The answer really may be that they just aren't your thing, and that you need to sub in something else that will give you just as intense of a workout without the accompanying discomfort.

We aren't all made of the same stuff. That fact seems more palatable to the average person when considering food tolerances, so when your bestie orders double-cheese fries and you're lactose-intolerant and fries always make you feel awful, you have the good sense to pass on that magic. Or if not and you slip up, you "get" that the only person to blame can be found in the mirror. But when your CrossFit friend does 30 butterfly pullups and you don't even have one strict pullup, somehow you still feel the need to try to match her by doing what Greg Everett calls "kipping labrum tears." And then the "fault" lies in the "culture of CrossFit?"

Yes, you should choose your CrossFit gym carefully. Yes, there are all sorts of different skill/competence levels out there amidst the CF trainers in the world. I'm lucky, like I said; our gym is awesome.

You can can still get hurt at our gym. 

Unless it is very (very!) early in your CrossFit "career" when you truly know nothing -- and I'd argue that if you join a CF gym (or, hey, anything else in life...) really "knowing nothing," you should be doing everything you can to catch yourself up to speed with research on your own time -- if you get hurt by pushing far past your limits, the blame for that is on you. Not on the "culture" of CrossFit. Not on your trainer. Not on your friends.

Use your head. Put your ego away. Your successes, and your injuries, are your own. Don't just blindly follow someone else's plan for food, exercise or anything.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The day white potatoes made my head explode (or: "Usually I'm nicer than this")

Today, the smart folks over at Whole9 decided to modify the Whole 30 to allow for white potatoes.

Cool. I think that unless you have an issue with nightshades, white potatoes can be a fine thing to eat. They are a real, unprocessed food. You might want to use them to carb-load at night after a late-afternoon lifting session, or, on the other hand, you might want to go light on them in general (just like any starch) if fat loss is your goal.

Whatever. It is all a reasonable choice that you have to work through.

What makes me somewhat loony -- and by "somewhat loony" I mean "positively fucking stabby while yelling, 'What the fuck is wrong with you?'"--  is people's reactions, particularly the ones that go something like: "Oh, thank [Jesus, Allah, Baal, Yahweh, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Other Divine Being], I really wanted to eat potatoes."


If you "really want" to eat something, why don't you eat it? Or else decide that you don't really "want" it because it is going to do something bad to you?

We call that "being an adult about food."

In other words, isn't this whole paleo/primal/Whole30 deal an exercise in figuring out how you really want to eat? And I can definitely tell you that it's specifically not a lesson in being a robot who follows orders. We call that "dieting."

And we hate it.

In all seriousness, why are you treating Dallas and Melissa Hartwig like they are controlling your food intake?

You, motherfucker. You're the one doing that.

So grow up and do it.

(And yes, it's fine to look to them -- because they are good at what they do and know their shit -- for guidance and advice, but stop treating them, or anyone else, like puppeteers controlling what you put in your mouth.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Shock the monkey

Fifteen minutes.

Alone in a room.

With nothing but my thoughts.

It sounds.... Effing glorious is how it sounds. That's why I meditate. Because letting those thoughts free-flow and, ultimately, spending some time with an empty, less-cluttered mind is liberating, invigorating and helps me focus on what's really important.

But, apparently, there is another point of view. And it's making men particularly look really bad.

I saw this article entitled "Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts," and I initially thought, "Another ridiculous headline that distorts what really happened." So I decided to read it -- y'know, to see what really happened.

The headline was pretty accurate.

It seems that researchers would put a person in a room and tell the person to let his or her mind wander freely. "Think about anything you want for fifteen minutes" was the command. The participants had only one option: administering an electric shock to themselves.

48 people participated in the study, split evenly by gender. Of the 24 women, six shocked themselves -- a number I initially found fairly appallingly high. "That's ridiculous. One-quarter of these women couldn't bear to be alone with their thoughts for fifteen minutes!" I said.

But then there are the men. 18 of the 24 men shocked themselves rather than be alone in a room for fifteen minutes. One guy administered 190 shocks to himself in fifteen minutes.

Go ahead. Read those last two sentences again. And wonder if we are doomed.

Are you kidding me? Is this what we have become in the modern world? It seems that, on average, males are a gender so accustomed to having others amuse us that our brains are now so boring that two-thirds of us can't stand to be alone with ourselves.

Now I realize there are a couple holes in this study. The first is the small number of participants. It could be that this sample of 24 people included a greater-than-average group of dolts on the male side of the group. OK. But how much greater than average could it be? Remember, I think there is a pretty fair point to be made that even the 25% score that the women in this study got is pretty awful. So even if the men were particularly ape like, we should still be collectively ashamed. The second potential hole is that it's possible that if the "amusement" device were changed to a different type of unpleasantness, the women's scores would get worse. Maybe electric shocks just sound more awful to most women than men?

But still.... I think there is a simpler answer: whatever the "real" numbers are, a sizable portion of either gender is so pathetically used to shutting their brains down so something else -- television, video games, whatever -- can provide all their mental stimulation that their brains have atrophied to the point of being so boring that they would rather inflict pain on themselves than be alone with whatever thoughts their stifled minds can create. And most likely, men are significantly worse than women in this regard.

That ought to terrify all of us, because besides meaning that there is a decent chance that the nearest male is a complete moron, it means that maybe we really are headed here.

Ugh. But really, go ahead. Fire up that Playstation. Or maybe you'd just like to press this button instead....

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