Sunday, 25 June 2017

Movement Vs Exercise

This isn't exercise, its movement. 
In the book Move your DNA, Katy Bowman makes the distinction between movement and exercise. The distinction is that an activity done for exercise is most often solely for the benefit of exercise, while movement may be the same movements, but done for a purpose other than its own sake. So for instance walking around the block to get your step count up for the day is exercise, it is an end unto itself. Walking down to the shop for milk is movement, sure you got your steps in, but that wasn’t the goal.

Often when I have gone for a short hike the point has been for exercise. Maybe I have added some weight to make it a ‘work out’ or maybe I am specifically training for an even longer hike. More recently I have been enjoying hiking for movement’s sake (and not just as an ad hock justification). I’ve been going out Saturday or Sunday morning for a moderate hike (2 hours or so) at a reasonable pace, but not fast, pace isn’t the point, I’m just moving comfortably. I’m going out as an opportunity to stretch my legs after a week in the office, to explore new places, get some sun, some time with my thoughts, and some time with the thoughts of others (podcasts).

Getting some sun.
I’ve been enjoying this time to just wander, and the benefits are more than just the movement alone. This makes it movement, not exercise. An even simpler example is my Saturday morning routine of getting up late and walking down to the local café for a coffee. I get to stretch my legs, wake up slowly and have a relaxing start to my weekend. The few thousand steps I clock up along the way aren’t even considered a bonus, they just are. The main point of the movement is got get my coffee, not the walk.

The point here is that we can move more if we change our view point. It’s not about exercising more; most don’t have the time or the energy for that. The point is look at what we do and add more movement. I could sit on the couch to listen to a podcast, or drive to get my coffee, but I can do so much more by adding some movement to the mix. It’s as simple and choosing to walk.

Now for the how. While the ideal might be to get out in nature, bare foot, getting a bunch of sun for a few hours its' often hard to find the time for this. Often I hear the suggestion to park far way, but I don’t really like this practice. Mainly I’m busy and tell myself I don’t have the time, plus I hate shopping so I want to get in and out as fast as I can. Instead I just look for the easiest park, not the closest. So often the easiest park is further from the door, but I get parked quicker, win-win. Another dead easy option is to take the stairs, instead of an escalator. It generally takes the same amount of time, and there’s less people parked around you another win-win. Another easy one for me is to walk to the furthest cafe from my desk at work (there are three places near me where I can get my 10am coffee). I get out of my chair for a 5 minute walk each way, but the point isn’t the walking the point is to get my coffee. There is also walking to pick up shopping, visit friends and family etc, but the smallest actions are the easiest, they take no extra time, only a change in mindset.

Do it for the views.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Book Review: The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant

Right off the bat I’m going to say this is my favourite ‘paleo’ book. I can say this since it’s the only one I’ve been able to re-read and enjoy as much a second time. The book points out a lot of interesting nuances I’ve never thought of, or heard about, and not just on strictly ‘paleo’ topics either. The writing style is somewhat informal and funny while getting across the right amount of science. If I was to describe the book, I wouldn’t call it a paleo diet book. I would say it’s a book about how previous humans (and animals) once lived, and all the ways we screw it up.

The book is set up in three parts. Part one being an explanation of where we come from, and where we are now. But not just hunter gatherers vs modern humans; the book explores our animal origins, hunter gatherers, agriculturists, the industrial age, and modern bio hackers. This sets the back drop of not necessarily how we should live, but some boundaries of what we can survive and what we can’t. As well as weather we are surviving, or thriving.

The second half starts to put this into action by taking a look at some of the classic topics of most ‘paleo’ authors, with reference to the timeline set out by the first section of the book. It looks at food, fasting, sleep, movement and thermoregulation. There is a little science, but not too much, lots of self-experimentation as well as comparisons of other culture and time periods. The third section explores both hunting and vegetarianism with a look to the past and future.

Reading this book for a second time is what has got me into thinking about my environment/life style design. Questions of what environment did humans once live in, what parts of that environment were important and why. What variables did the environment have, were they important, do we have them now, and if not how do I add them back in. Thinking about these kinds of questions was an eye opener for me.

This is possibly the book I would suggest to someone who either has read a ‘paleo diet’ book and not been interested, or to someone who is sceptical of the whole ‘paleo movement’. Not because this book has some amazing science that will convince them, but because this book has such a way of laying out the basics. This book isn’t about diet, or convincing people to change their lives. More than anything it lays out how humans have done things so wrong, and ways we can start doing them right again. This book is also a great example of how the paleo movement is not a historical re-enactment, it’s about fining a frame work with which to make informed decisions.

Also worth noting the book references the bible and biblical culture (mostly the Jews) in several chapters. It’s a really interesting topic which I haven’t seen explored elsewhere. Particularly the cultural and biblical rules with reference to the environment in when they arose in, and the problems they may have been attempting to solve. This alone make the book an interesting read.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Escape the Zoo?

Making my escape? Not likely.
Escape the Zoo; it’s something I had as a signature on a forum many years ago. I doubt I came up with it, but I cannot remember where I heard it. It comes out of the idea that we’re living in a zoo, of our own making, but a zoo none the less. We live in a strange, sterile environment, made of artificial materials, eating industrial foods we’ve never seen before, like zoo animals. We built our own cage.

The younger me heard this analogy and thought instantly of escape, I can walk around outside bare foot, go out into nature and. . . And what? Be free? How short sighted, I wasn’t free, I was looking out a window. Again I’m not sure if this is my own thinking, or someone else and I forgot where I first saw it, but my view point has since changed (Thinking some more and this can’t be my own thinking, I’m just not that switched on). We’re never getting out. For better or worse, we are stuck in a zoo. We’re not escaping, where would we go? The wild? What wild? We don’t have the space, let alone the skills to turn back and be wild. And even if we could, would we? Joe Rogan and Dr. Christopher Ryan argued this point, and I’m with Joe, the internet is awesome.

So we’re stuck in a zoo, which we built. It sucks, but there is hope. We built this place and we can make it better. Our environment is within our control. We just need to know how to change it, and have the motivation to change it. We need to eat better, check, we can do this. Trainers and handlers don’t feed us, we do. We don’t move enough, check, we can do this, start working out, in whatever way you can and take it from there. This also gets into the idea that this whole Paleo diet thing is not a historical re-enactment, but a logical framework with which to make some decisions.

We haven't escaped the zoo, but we have gone on a field trip outside its walls.

As a starting point for food, the basic Paleo/Primal diet is great, east mostly vegetables and meat, some fruits, nuts and seeds, avoid industrial foods (grains and vegetable oils). Pretty simple starting point, and you can go as deep as you like with this stuff but simple gets you a long way. Next would be movement. I really like Mark Sission’s suggestion of a lot of low level movement (walking), lift some heavy things and sprint a little. Variations on this work really well to regain a basic level of fitness. Again you can get way out into the weeds searching for optimal fitness, or high performance but these are topics for another day.

From there things get a little trickier and maybe the benefits get smaller (or more difficult to see). Sleep is a big factor, then digging deeper into diet and exercise. Community is a huge piece to address also.

This is all just the start. It’s about environment design. We are the designers, and the subjects. We won’t create perfect, but it is within our power to create better. I’m going to try and use this post as a jumping of point to explore areas of environment (lifestyle design) one small section at a time, so stay tuned for more.

This post has been largely influenced but so many people (mostly via podcasts). So if you want more check out Katy Bowman, Kelly Starrett, Daniel Vitalis, Rafe Kelly, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Erwan Le Corre. Do a google search and start listening to any podcast with them on it, especially if it’s between two of them.

This might be a good example of using what the zoo has given us.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

A note on my writing style.

This is post number 100, so I thought it might be fitting to say a little bit about my writing style.

No point to this photo, I just like the shot.

Firstly I want to say that I’m always open to criticism of my writing, I’d love to hear what people think of my writing, what’s good, what sucks, what I need to work on. I write these posts for fun, and to work on my writing ability so I’d really like to know what people think of my posts. This post isn’t in response to any criticism; it is just a little explanation of my style.

I generally write my posts on a Saturday or Sunday, ready to be posted Sunday afternoon. Basically I write them, read though once making a few changes and additions then check it for grammar and spelling as best as a dyslexic can, then I post it. I don’t put a huge number of hours in, though I know if I did the end result would turn out better. I think my posts come out better when I write them the weekend before, and make alterations and additions all week until I’m happy and post it the next weekend. Often I just don’t have time for this.

I also just sit down and write, without much referencing (I will always reference where I get ideas from) and I do very little background reading. I defiantly don’t get into scientific articles. I’ve got a Master’s of Science in Biology. I have been there and done that with reading scientific articles and I cannot be bothered doing that for this blog. It takes me a full hour to properly read a scientific article, 10 articles makes for a good rounding of a topic so that’s 10 hours of background reading, no thanks. Remember I don’t get any money for this and I just don’t find that fun right now.

I also just write about what’s on my mind and what I’ve been up to. So sometimes my posts aren’t the most actionable, though I do try to make suggestions to help others make these things more actionable for themselves (“Adapt what is useful”). Again it would be great to try to make things more actionable for others so that is a direction I’m trying to move in.

I am going to start writing each post at least a week ahead of posting so that I can continue to work on them throughout the week. I think this will help me to better my writing ability but putting more work into each article. I should also start doing some more background reading, but one thing at a time.

I also just like this photo

Monday, 5 June 2017

Training for a long(er) hike.

In the Kaimai Ranges
I will preface this by saying the longest hike I have done is 5 days, 82km and most of my hiking is generally two days one night. So if you’re looking for advice when preparing for a long through hike (weeks – months long) this isn’t necessarily aimed at you, however it will still be somewhat helpful. This post is more for those looking to go from an over nighter to several days (3-5 days).

My first longer hike was Around the Mountain, Ruapehu. It was amazing, but painful. Day one was long and tough, day two was tough, day three was ok, but I was getting worn down, and day four was an easy walk, but still a painful shuffle. I found two things in particular that were difficult, the weight of my pack on my shoulders, and the stress on my feet and calves. Now my pack was on the heavy end (21kg) but not crazy and I’m generally in good shape. I just wasn’t prepared for 6-10 hours per day walking with a heavy pack.

I’ve not yet seen any wonder program of special exercises to prepare one for multi day hiking, and I really doubt one exists, sure some general strength work (squat and deadlift) and maybe some unilateral work (step ups, Bulgarian squats) will help but when it comes down to it I think the training that will make the most difference is time on your feet and time under a heavy pack.

Mt Ruapehu

I’ve said before with regard to running that you need time on your feet and hiking is no different. Hiking is a long time with a heavy pack, plugging away on your feet, and the only way to replicate this stress is to put a heavy weight on your back (and therefore your feet) and clock up some distance. Again with the weight of the pack on your shoulders, once you have some meat on your upper back from weight training the only other thing that will help is to build up some resilience but having the weight on your back for a long time. Now I know this isn’t the most accessible training in terms of time, but I’ll address this later.

In the lead up to my hike across the Kaimai Ranges my plan was to get out each weekend for two months prior and get in 6-8 hours, 20 odd kilometres with a 20kg pack on. The plan was to weight my pack up to 20kg, as that would be the max weight to start the hike with. The plan was then to head out early on either a Saturday or Sunday to cover 10-20km, either on the road around home, or sections of bush within close driving distance. This didn’t quite work out as I was very busy in the lead up to the end of the year, but I was able to get some time between Christmas and New Years to get out hiking under my pack.

I started easy with 1-2 hours, then 2-3 hours just to ease into it, get the back and feet used to hiking again, as I hadn’t been out for a while. After this short warm up I ramped up the time on my feet, and the distance covered to better replicate the distance I would be covering on the North South track. I was also able to get out with some friends to the Crosbie’s hut, and used this as training as well. In total I got only 5 days of training in, but it was 5 days on my feet, under a 20kg pack, preparing my feet and back for the challenge ahead.

Mt William

On the way up Mt William

Table Mountain from Crosbies hut

I can say that even this little bit of training made a noticeable difference, I didn’t get any soreness in my shoulders until the fourth day, and even the fifth day wasn’t that bad. My feet held up really well also, they were a little worn out by the end, but never that sore.

I was only able to get this level of training in as I was on holiday, however it is still possible to simulate during the work week or weekend. One option is to have a weighted pack ready to go either after work (or before) or after dinner to get an hour in walking around the block. Even better would be 1-3 hours or more during the weekend. Either getting out before lunch, or if possible pack a lunch and go for the whole day. Ideally spend 6-8 hours hiking, but any amount you can get in will help. I did all of my training on trails, however this isn’t necessary, footpaths and road will work just fine as its really just about building up time on your feet. I do think that adding as many hills as you can will do you good though. It really boils down to weight a pack, and walk around for as long as you are able, as many times as possible before your big adventure. Just don’t go overboard and get hurt.