Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Dan John -- Simple Strength, a.k.a. restarting my deadlift

Five or six years ago, this was me, deadlifting 425 pounds three times using a trap bar:


It's nothing spectacular (that third rep... as I say in the video: "Hooooooo!"), but it's pretty damn solid for a then-early-fifties dude who never made powerlifting anything other than just a way to stay strong. I wasn't competing, just lifting at a CrossFit gym. I bet you know someone that can deadlift a lot more. But more on-point is that you probably know a lot more who can't.

Fast forward to the present, and that "pretty damn solid" deadlifting person is not really me. I'm not weak by any means, but I am pretty sure that I've let my deadlift atrophy to the point of not being able to do anything close to what's in that video. The excuses pile up fast: I didn't have time because of work; I was doing a lot of (valuable) HIIT-style training; I got injured. Blah blah blah fucking blah....

I'm semi-retired now. I have time. I'd like to get my deadlift going again.

When I want to do something simple like "get stronger," my go-to person -- my guardo camino -- has always been Dan John. He's not fancy. He's just simple and direct. Currently, I would fail his basic test of being in really good shape: being able to deadlift 60 reps in 30 minutes at 315 pounds. I'd like to get to a point where I can do that again (yes, again; back when that video was filmed I could pass that 30-minute/60-rep/315-pound test).

So I found this Dan John article online.

It's called "Simple Strength." It's... simple. After warm-up, take the biggest weight that you can lift comfortably for five reps and, instead of five reps, do: 1-2-3 (with breaks) three total times (so 18 total reps). The reps should be easy-ish, not a struggle. Bump up the weight as it gets too easy.

I started last night (on a straight bar; I don't own a trap bar), and today I have that glorious just-slightly-sore post-deadlift feeling that I've been missing. I'm planning on deadlifting twice a week for now. I may never get back to three reps at 425. That's fine. I just want to recover what I can and be stronger than now.

And stay stronger than all those old dudes who don't deadlift.

Let's go.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Catching up.... with a question about the carnivore diet

Sometimes people email me questions. Usually I just respond directly, but I'm tellin' ya... that job that I just quit had me so busy that I was ignoring a lot of things that I usually pay attention to. One was my Paleo Drummer email account. Another, by the way, was the task of approving comments on this blog. I'll approve almost any comment, except spam, that is. But if I didn't have the comments set up the way they are to require approval, the comment section would be overrun with Viagra spam or, lately (why????), escort-service ads. Anyway, if you were waiting for your comment to be approved, it's been done. Or it's been rejected as spammy. Either way, I've slogged my way through that list. So now it's on to the mailbag....

I've gotten this question emailed to me a lot: "What's your opinion of the carnivore diet?"

My answer is neither entirely pro nor entirely con. I'll start by saying that my initial reaction was the same as a lot of yours: how the hell do you not end up with scurvy from eating just meat? I don't know what the "how" part of the answer is, but it seems that if you really just eat meat, somehow your Vitamin C requirements to avoid scurvy (which are reallllllly low anyway) get even lower. There are people who have been strictly adhering to a carnivore diet for 10, or even 20, years and they are not suffering from scurvy. On the other hand, if you eat some grains regularly and otherwise just eat meat -- in other words, if you don't go all-in on carnivore and half-ass it -- you may find your Vitamin C needs are higher than for the all-carnivores and you may have a deficiency in that regard. Why? I do not know. I'm not a doctor, or a biochemist. But it appears that if your sole concern is scurvy, super strict adherence to the carnivore diet is not likely to be the first train to Scurvyville for you.

On the other hand, the pluses of the carnivore diet seem real. Reduced body fat, higher energy, super low triglycerides, weight loss if that's what you're looking for. Honestly, the benefits seem, most of the time, to be almost exactly the same benefits as you'd get from eating strict very-low-carb paleo, but they are the real deal.
 
My best guess is that the reason people who are metabolically damaged see such spectacular results from going all-in carnivore are mostly the very same reasons the same type of drastic improvement occurs with a Whole 30 or all-in paleo. Elimination diets do wonders for short-term results. There is a huge benefit to ditching grains and sugar.

So have I considered going all-carnivore? I have. But I'm not likely to do it for two reasons. First, one of the principal reasons I'm not a vegetarian or [shudder] a vegan is because I think that vegetarianism and veganism often leave you lacking in important nutrients, particularly B-12. I feel the same way about the lack of antioxidant intake for a carnivore diet. Vegetables, particularly organic ones, are a rich and varied source of antioxidants that are plainly beneficial. Can you live without them? Sure. Should you though? I really haven't figured out why you would want to unless you are a rare one-percenter for whom all vegetables seem to be a gut irritant.

The second reason I'm not all-carnivore is just because I like eating meat and vegetables too much, and I feel great eating that way. Eating only meat is, for me, going to rob me of some of the joy of food to a degree that I'm not interested in it and I can't imagine the pluses are going to outweigh that minus. (On the other hand, eliminating most carbs is a huge plus for me. I feel way better low-carb than I do eating grains regularly). It's all about weighing the individual costs and benefits. If I ate only meat, eating meat would seem like a job, and I'm against turning food prep and the act of eating into a job. As I've said before in other contexts, I'd eat dirt if you can convince me it's a great idea in terms of costs versus benefits. But I'm, so far, unconvinced on this one that it's for me. I'm good with mostly meat and greens.

However, am I telling you not to go carnivore? Of course not. I think you should try it if it interests you. See how you do on it. You may love it. You may live a long and healthy life that way. I have friends who are all-carnivore or 98% carnivore (with the remaining 2% just a few greens and berries). My doctor is mostly carnivore, fercryinoutloud. Give it a shot. Hell, I feel the same way about veganism. Try it. See what happens. There's enough sucks/rules dogmatic bullshit and food-related hysteria out there already. But there's your answer -- for me. I'm not likely to jump on that train anytime soon. I'm good with low-carb paleo/primal eating. Cheers.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Well... That was a bad idea. Time to reconsider. And move forward.

I've led a sort of charmed life when it comes to employment. When I retired last December from a 30-ish-year stint as a public defender, I could honestly say that I'd never had a job that I didn't like. Really, never. When I was in high school and college, I worked as a stock guy at a KMart, as a cashier at a convenience store, and as a data-entry guy at an office. I liked all those jobs just fine. They served their purpose -- cash for the money-strapped student -- and I am still friends with some coworkers from way back then. As a lawyer, I went from judicial law clerk to a stint in a private firm to a career as a public defender and I loved every one of those jobs too.

So back in January, when I wrote this article, I made a joke about possibly hating a new lawyer gig that I was taking on -- a public-interest position in Philly.

But that was gallows humor. I didn't really believe that I'd hate that job.

Well, shit.... As it turns out, I hated that job.

It was a confluence of blech -- a lot of hours away from home, work that I wasn't crazy about, and a strange prison-like solitude because of the odd structure of the office where my work group was small and stuffed into an office with a larger group that knew nothing of what we were doing.

Seriously, other than some of the people, whom I genuinely liked, I really hated that job.

So I quit. After only five months.

Now it's time to sort out what "retirement" really means for me. Once again, I'm lucky: I bring home a large percentage of my former salary thanks to a pension. So that frees me up to, well, dabble. There will be some law -- I'm still really good at that, particularly in New Jersey, where I practiced law for more than three decades before the unfortunate detour into Pennsylvania. But there will be vacations to take, and bands to play in -- I'm in three of those right now: one, two, and three. I've even decided to offer myself up to friends (who live in cool places) as an occasional live-in dogsitter. And there will certainly be more time for the gym and yoga.

And maybe, just maybe, there will be a lot more writing here. I'm not going to promise you anything reckless like a daily post, but I really want to get back to the frequency of, say, 2014 or so when it comes to spewing my blahblahblah on this page. It's fun and sometimes creative. Occasionally I even say something smart. And I meet more of you that way. Really!

I'll end by quoting Frank Costanza -- not for the first time:


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Stepping up to the brain challenge



It's a repeating theme in my head: I'm running out of time.

No, not imminently (that I know of), but I'm 56 years old. If I'm really lucky, I'll get 30 or so more very healthy years on the planet. What am I going to do with that time?

As I told you a few months ago, I recently "retired" from a job, as a public-interest lawyer, that I had for almost 30 years. When I decided to leave, I hadn't nailed down exactly what the next step was. But I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to keep my brain busy.

Just about every study/article/conclusion on healthy aging involves an active mind. Gray matter will rot, figuratively speaking, if not stimulated.

Well... here comes the stimulation: shortly after I made the retirement decision, a public-interest law practice in Philly chased me down and made me a full-time offer. I accepted. So I "retired" for all of two months, and I'm headed back to work, in a different state, doing work that is related to my old work, in a very general sense, but it's really not the same kind of job.

"You understand that basically no one does what you're about to do? No one jumps jurisdictions at age 56 and takes on a whole new body of law. This move is going to be amazing for your brain." That was a friend telling me the positives of the new gig. "No one" is an exaggeration, but the point is a solid one. My aging brain will be still on the move, and that's awesome.

But it's going to be a hell of a challenge too. There's a reason that "no one does what [I'm]] about to do": because it's really hard work. I'm a very good lawyer. But, unlike my old job, where I already knew 98% of what I needed to do the job, this one has required me to realize that I have a lot of information to amass in a short time. I know New Jersey law; Pennsylvania is a land of mystery, so to speak.

So the last few weeks, I've been studying up. I've spent at least a few hours each day, sometimes a lot more, reading (and reading and reading...) case law with which I was previously mostly unfamiliar. I'm entering a new arena.

It's a little daunting.

It's also exhilarating and cool. And really, I don't screw around when it comes to being prepared. I don't know if "most people" would start prepping three to four weeks in advance for a new job, but I'm not most people, and prepping is exactly what I've been doing.

If I'm lucky, I balance this job with all the fun creative things I do as a drummer, and my brain is so awash in endorphins, challenges, and growth that I am -- to quote a tattoo artist who made me laugh when he applied the phrase to me -- "crushing life."

Or I suppose that I could hate it.

I'm about to find out. Wish me luck. My brain already is thanking me.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

An "aging" podcast that's well worth your time, or: how eating paleo/primal matters a lot more as you get older

As I've been heard to say: "As you get older, don't eat like a six-year-old and don't drink like a college student."

Here's some science behind that concept:

I started playing catch-up with some Robb Wolf podcasts recently and stumbled on this one. Wow. What a keeper.

Dr. Michael Rose's research, which he describes at length in the podcast, has led to the conclusion that aging represents a cessation of adaptation. Translated, from a dietary perspective: at a certain age, our bodies cease to be able to handle certain neolithic foods as well as we previously have.

So, while no one should be eating crappy processed Frankenfood at any age, younger folks can do fine, even thrive, on a wide-ranging diet that is not remotely paleolithic. However, at a certain point -- Rose says between 30 and 50 years old for most people -- the ability to handle that neolithic food load decreases sharply.

In other words, between ages 30 and 50, the *adaptation* to neolithic foods disappears and those foods become a significant source of inflammation and aging. His prescription: eat paleo as you get older than 30, and certainly by age 50.

The concept makes sense to me. I watch 20-something friends shovel in all sorts of things that I wouldn't eat now, and they do so without significant current consequence. When I ate those things in my thirties and early forties, I got heavier, softer, less-athletic, and generally less healthy. When I went paleo in 2010 at age 46, things changed quickly for the better. I leaned out, gained energy, and generally felt stronger and more alive.

You probably knew the basic idea already: when you get to a certain age, you cannot eff around with bad food and drink like you used to. Dr. Rose's research provides a strong genetic/evolutionary-science basis for that "obvious" fact.

Link to the podcast is here.