Rusty over at Fitness Black Book talks about how to know when you’ve reached a point where your workout intensity will have the lingering metabolism-boosting effect. The test is what he calls the “HGH Flush,” which is basically that point where you lose your breath and your skin is warm to the touch.
This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, I think I’ve unwittingly been measuring my personal workout success by whether or not I reached this HGH flush state. I just hadn’t quite articulated it. Two, a part of this that Rusty mentions is not to do too much. It’s here that I think back to my CrossFit experience last summer, in which I put on muscle and lost some fat, as well. Any CrossFitter knows that the workouts typically result in an HGH Flush by design and also are completed in less then 30 minutes. In other words, they are very intense but also brief.
Comparatively, when I was making a concerted effort at additional fat loss earlier this year, I’d occassionally reach the HGH Flush, but overall, I just did more workout volume. Perhaps this is why I didn’t see noticeable results despite an ample amount of effort (in both IF, diet, and exercise).
How to Tell If Your Fat Loss Workout is the Correct Intensity?
I look for a thing called the “HGH Flush”. I forget who coined this term, but this is just an indicator of a good fat loss workout. If your skin is slightly red and hot to the touch and you are out of breath after your workout, then you have achieved the HGH flush. Remember your PE teacher in Junior High making you “run lines” or pushing you until you were out of breath and your skin felt like it was on fire? This is the HGH flush which is an indicator that your metabolism will be increased after your workout and that your body will release a bit more HGH than normal (your body’s fat burning hormone).
I have not read much of Loren Cordain’s works, but I stumbled upon a passage from Rafe Kelley’s Natural Athletics blog (here) that appears to be quoted from Chapter 10 of Cordain’s book, The Paleo Diet for Athletics, which just landed a place on my ever-growing Amazon wish list.
The passage is quoted below, as quoted from Google Books and Kelley. It’s a fascinating insight to how some hunter-gatherers still forage for food in modern times. The bit about anthropologist Kim Hill’s experiences ducking beneath vines and branches all day reminds me of a sequence in Erwan Le Corre’s MovNat video (ELC MovNat links here) where Le Corre dashes through the woods weaving a path through the underbrush.
What I wonder (And expect a full-scale blog post on this soon) is how we can find a balance between our extremely specialized modern existence when foraging for food means driving to Kroger and hunting is playing corporate politics and pushing for a raise and our undeniable biological programming that expects us to be active, problem-solving generalists. As far as diet goes, it’s simple enough to suggest exercise should involve cross-training and wide variability. But what about fitness? A one-hour workout session makes for a nice compartmentalized way to look and feel in shape, but it makes exercise an end in and of itself rather than a means to secure our continued existence.
I don’t want to run eight hours a day, mind you: I just want to find a better, more fulfilling balance.
Chapter 10 — The Paleolithic Athlete: The Original Cross-Trainer
Ten thousand years sounds like a long, long time ago. but if you think about it in terms of how logn the human genus (Homo) has existed (2.5 million years), 10,000 years is a mere blink of the eye on an evolutionary time scale. Somewhere in the Middle East about 10,000 years ago, a tiny band of people threw in the towel and abandoned their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. These early renegades became the very first farmers. They forsook a mode of life that had sustained each and every individual within the human genus for the previous 100,000 generations. In contrast only a paltry 400 human generations have come and gone since the first seeds of agriculture were sown. what started off as a renegade way of making a living became a revolution that would guarantee the complete and absolute eradication of every remaining hunter-gatherer on the planet. At the dawn of the 21st century, we are at the bitter end. Except for perhaps a half dozen uncontacted tribes in South America and a few others on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, pure hunter-gatherers have vanished from the face of the earth. . . .
Very few modern people have ever experienced what it is like to “run with the hunt.” One of the notable exceptions is Kim Hill, PhD, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who has spent the last 30 years living with and studying the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay and the Hiwi foragers of southwestern Venezuela. his description of these amazing hunts represents a rare glimpse into the activity patterns that would have been required of us all, were it not for the Agricultural Revolution.
“The Ache hunted every day of the year if it didn’t rain…GPS data I collected … suggests that about 10 km per day is probably closer to their average distance covered during search. They might cover another 1-2 km per day in very rapid pursuit. Sometimes pursuits can be extremely strenuous and last more than an hour. Ache hunters often take an easy day after any particularly difficult day, and rainfall forces them to take a day or two a week with only an hour or two of exercise. Basically they do moderate days most of the time, and sometimes really hard days usually followed by a very easy day. The difficulty of the terrain is really what killed me (ducking under low branches and vines about once every 20 seconds all day long, and climbing over fallen trees, moving through tangled thorns etc.) I was often drenched in sweat within an hour of leaving camp, and usually didn’t return for 7-9 hours wi th not more than 30 minutes rest during the day.”
“The Hiwi on the other hand only hunted about 2-3 days a week and often told me they wouldn’t go out on a particular day because they were ‘tired’. They would stay home and work on tools, etc. Their travel was not as strenuous as among the Ache (they often canoed to the hunt site), and their pursuits were usually shorter. But the Hiwi sometimes did amazing long distance walks that would have really hurt the Ache. They would walk to visit another village maybe 80-100 km away and then stay for only an hour or two before returning. This often included walking all night long as well as during the day. When I hunted with Machiguenga, Yora, Yanomamo Indians in the 1980s, my focal man days were much, much easier than with the Ache. And virtually all these groups take an easy day after a particularly difficult one.”
“While hunter gatherers are generally in good physical condition if they haven’t yet been exposed to modern diseases and diets that come soon after permanent outside contact, I would not want to exaggerate their abilities. They are what you would expect if you took a genetic cross section of humans and put them in lifetime physical training at moderate to hard levels. Most hunting is search time not pursuit, thus a good deal of aerobic long distance travel is often involved (over rough terrain and carrying loads if the hunt is successful). I used to train for marathons as a grad student and could run at a 6:00 per mile pace for 10 miles, but the Ache would run me into the ground following peccary tracks through dense bush for a couple of hours. I did the 100 yd in 10.2 in high school (I was a fast pass catcher on my football team), and some Ache men can sprint as fast as me.”
“But hunter-gatherers do not generally compare to world class athletes, who are probably genetically very gifted and then undergo even more rigorous and specialized training than any forager. So the bottom lines is foragers are often in good shape and they look it. They sprint, jog, climb, carry, jump, etc all day long but are not specialists and do not compare to Olympic athletes in modern societies.”
Searching around for more information on Erwan Le Corre, Georges Hebert, the Methode Naturale, MovNat, and parkour led me to extensive and informative post by Rafe Kelley written in August of 2007. Rafe trained with Erwan Le Corre in France and has a background in many athletic endeavors including CrossFit and parkour.
Kelley’s experience in CrossFit is of interest to me because CrossFit is often billed as a generalist fitness regiment. However, my four month CrossFit stint was enough to tell me that, as much as CrossFit may be better than any number of other training styles, it still misses the mark as far as a wholistic, generalist training regiment. Perhaps what bothers me most about CrossFit is the combination of a handed-down-on-high workout routine (centralized, highly structured model) with an ostensibly generalist slant to training. In other words, there’s a dogmatism and borg-like quality to CrossFit which is a huge put off to me. I’d be incredibly curious to know if there are serious athletes who aren’t in some way vested in the CrossFit infrastructure who have converted entirely to CrossFit. It just seems to rigid and one-size-fits-all to me. Sure, one-size may fit most, but I wonder if the rigidity of CrossFit is more about converting the masses and expanding the franchise. Just feels like something got lost in the mass expansion.
Excuse the tangent. The meat of his post is Rafe Kelley’s, which I am heavily quoting below:
This is the post I intended to open this blog with a statement about what I know about the Methode Naturelle as my training in Methode Naturelle is going to be the focus of this blog. Up until this spring my primary training focus had been parkour dating back to march of 2005, before that it was gymnastics though with substantially less dedication, and before that it was basketball and before that martial arts. I am now at the point that I can say that the Methode Naturelle has superseded parkour in my training as parkour superseded gymnastics, for me it is more primal more vital more complete like when I started training parkour I have the feeling of how in the world did I miss this before. Why didn’t I ever follow through on my desire to mix parkour training and self defense and why did I yearn for barbells, kettlebells etc when I had so many rocks and logs available to me, what possessed me to waste beautiful sunny days inside training crossfit?
So I am at the point were wish to dedicate my training to the Methode Naturelle and I wish to also help other people follow the same or a similar path. The complication though is that my understanding of the Methode Naturelle is still very incomplete I hesitate to call my training Methode Naturelle, I think of it rather as Methode Naturelle inspired. Imagine for instance you wanted dedicate your life to Muay Thai training but had only had a four-day seminar on it to base your training on. I do think that the Methode Naturelle is bit easier to explore on your own, the principles are relatively simple though the degree of depth possible is seemingly limitless. So the purpose of this post is to explore what I do infact now about the Methode Naturelle. …
The idea of training to have the essential capacities of our hunter forager ancestors had appealed to me ever since I started parkour. It was my goal to eventually open a school teaching what I saw as the original warrior arts. …
The aim of the Methode Naturelle is to develop a complete and healthy human being physically, mentally and morally through the training of the vital natural capacities of the human species that were necessary for our survival as hunter foragers. … The motto of the Methode Naturelle is etre forte pour etre utile meaning be strong to be useful. The training of the Methode Naturelle is not to reach an aesthetic goal or to win an athletic competition it is to prepare the individual to be a strong useful person capable of helping him or herself and the others around them in wide variety of situations.
The vital movement capacities of the Methode Naturelle are to walk, run, jump, climb, quadruped, balance, swim, lift, carry, throw and defend.
A Methode Naturelle training session should be between 20 and 60 minutes and include as many of the natural capacities as possible (generally). The ideal conditions for Methode Naturelle training are in a natural environment with as much of the body exposed to the elements as possible while maintaining modesty. Which is not to say you cannot train the Methode Naturelle in the city or a gym or with shoes on only that this training is not the ideal.
Training should be daily or close to it.
A Methode Naturelle session maybe natural or methodically which is to say one might simple start moving through there environment looking for ways to practice all of the natural capacities for a given time period or one might instead plan out specific route hitting specific capacities or even build a specific course to train each capacity. The obstacle courses seen throughout the world in military training are derived from this last method.
Training each of the ten capacities alone is not sufficient one must be able to chain them together. That is to train one capacity directly after the training of another capacity so that there is no rest between them. so the body is forced to learn to adapt to moving easily between different capacities. This can be very challenging; each capacity has specific physiological demands, which must shift when moving to a different capacity. Furthermore one should be able to mix capacities to be able to run, swim and balance while carrying for instance, or defend yourself while balancing, or swimming, or while climbing this of course adds yet another layer of challenge.
The Methode Naturelle aims to develop a generalized physical capacity not specializations. That is to say to it is the belief of the Methode Naturelle that the athlete who is able to run fast, but also far, to lift very heavy weights but also to climb, to defend himself but also to swim is more useful then the athlete who is peerless at any one of these activities but incompetent or even just less competent at the others. The Methode Naturelle is expressly non competitive because competitive sport is seen as not useful, friendly games are fine but the expression of excess that is modern sport is contrary to the goal of usefulness both in the aim to win at all costs and in the requirement for excessive specialization. The Methode Naturelle athlete, will never run with speed of the sprinter nor the endurance of the marathoner, he or she will never develop the upper body strength of the gymnast or the fighting mastery of the martial artist, he chooses instead, to be as good as he or she can at all of these things and more because he or she never knows what capacity will be called on, for him or her to be useful. According to the Methode Naturelle the generalist is the most useful athlete.
It seems to me very easy to adapt the Methode Naturelle towards developing specific attributes. I am not sure how Hebert approached this, however Erwan talked about seeking to always train the areas were you are weakest. I think this applies both to a specific capacity and also the duration, volume intensity of the training, so one might need to work on their overall running capacity or might specifically need more endurance, or more speed. This can be adjusted by including shorter or longer periods of relative rest (walking, balancing etc) the key is not to stop moving or rest completely. A Methode Naturelle session composed of lots of relative rest, and many short high intensity movements will develop strength, speed, and power, one were the pace is relatively constant and as hard as possible for the given session will develop cardio respiratory endurance, and stamina. My impression is that the later style of training is considered the more basic and important. The amount of relative rest and intensity of work is just one of the many ways in which you can vary your stimuli to develop a broad overall capacity. For instance perhaps one is very strong but lacking in accuracy and wishes to work on the throwing capacity, for this individual finding the heaviest rock he or she could and throwing it would be much less beneficial then finding rock that was much lighter and casting it at a challenging target. In the Methode Naturelle one should always adapt ones training in such a way as to strengthen your weaknesses.
One of the things Erwan often said about the Methode Naturelle was it was not a conditioning program like Crossfit, or RKC or similar functional fitness programs. The Methode Naturelle is an entire method for the development of the human animal. In modern athletics we often dichotomize practice vs. conditioning, one develops technique the other develops physical attributes. This dichotomy is false though, doing precision jumps will develop strength, power, and stamina for jumping as well as correct technique, while doing dead lifts or squats will not only increase the strength of the legs but also will develop a specific lifting skill. I believe this dichotomy arises because of specialization, for instance sprinting is to specific a physical capacity to develop the entire ability of the human being so in order to be the best sprinter one must also lift, and jump and do various other drills but when one trains for a complete physical adaptation the distinction between skill and condition disappears almost completely, when your goal is simply an overall adaptation does it matter if your ability to climb is more due to finger strength or more due to correct technique? If one continues to train correctly both skill and condition should advance together.
… What I have seen consistently though is that the athlete with a highly developed overall physical capacity will need very little time to learn the skill of the athlete who focuses on technique. Traceurs often seem obsessed with developing the saut du chat technique for instance and there are constantly questions on how to do it. I train gymnasts though and they will do this technique very well with absolutely no training at all simply when given an obstacle to overcome were this is an appropriate technique. In short fundamental training proceeds technical training in importance.
Related Link on Human Nature and our Hunter-Gatherer, Non-Specialist Evolutionary Roots
Arthur Devany: Mass – Here Art says something about weight lifting for more than 30 minutes at a high pace will elevate cortisol levels.
Lyle McDonald: How Many Carbohydrates Do You Need – “As few as 15 grams of carbohydrates per day has been shown to limit nitrogen loss and 50 grams of carbohydrate per day severely limits the need for the body to use amino acids for gluoconeogenesis. Not only will it maintain blood glucose and insulin at a slightly higher level (thus inhibiting cortisol release)”
There’s a lot of information out there on the subject of cortisol. As someone who is exercising and periodically imbibing alcohol, how should I deal with cortisol to mitigate its detrimental effects on my goals?
And what is overexercising anyway? What is over-training? If you tack on some low to medium intensity cardiovascular exercise to weight lifting / high-intensity exercise, do you cross the line between “just right” and “too much”? I have no doubt that the answers to these questions are case-specific.
What is a good mix of exercise for a relatively sedentary web entrepreneur?
That’s a common reaction I get to my Vibram Five Fingers. Others include, “Hey can you run in those?” (Yes). Or, “Do they feel weird? Is it hard to adjust to them?” (Not really and No — its like being barefoot!). And of course, “What are those? And where can I get them?”
Five Fingers are shoes. Or slippers. Or socks with flexible Vibram rubber soles on the bottom. Or go simpler: they’re “Toe Shoes.” They have five toe cutouts (or pockets) and absolutely no arch support or traditional foam padding in the soles. They come in a few varieties (some providing more foot coverage, one intended for aquatic uses, a couple with straps, or the simplest, the “classic”, which has a bungie type operation that keeps them from falling off when used in more engaging activities (Update: Now there are 8 Five Fingers models available with a ninth VFF Trek variety on the way any day now).
I’ve been using my Five Fingers for about three months now. So far, I’ve used them for:
Five Fingers have helped me be a kid again: as a kid, I never wore shoes, preferring always to be barefoot everywhere. Even today, I rarely wear shoes, preferring Birkenstock sandals in the summer or clogs in the winter (or just wearing flip-flops). Five Fingers are great in that they allow me to do all sorts of active things outside, no matter what the surface while still protecting my feet against wayward sharp objects on the ground.
Five Fingers take my feet back to basics. I wasn’t born with shoes on my feet. From an evolutionary perspective, human beings existed for countless millenia hunting and gathering, running from prey, lifting and carrying loads — all without the latest brand of Nike’s. It stands to reason that our feet evolved over time to withstand the freedoms (both good and bad) that result from going barefoot everywhere.
Our ancient ancestors likely had tough, calloused feet, ready to withstand sprints (or walking) across all sorts of terrain. Furthermore, they likely ran lightly on their feet (and almost certainly had little reason to ever “go for a jog”). Shoeless running would necessarily minimize contact between the foot and the ground. Just imagine a cat or dog sprinting and you get the idea. Contrast running on the balls of your feet with the pervasive long-stride, heel-striking (inherently inefficient), sneaker-clad foot-roll. This style is clumsy, and the by-product of the thick-soles of modern sneakers, which mute important feedback between foot and ground (See You Walk Wrong, referenced below).
Vibram Five Fingers minimize feedback-interference by having an almost insignifnicant rubber sole. When I wear my Five Fingers outside, I feel the curvature of the grass-covered ground. I feel rocks under my heels and get a real sense of the varying textures beneath me.
When I do olympic-lifts, I feel all the stabilizers in my feet activate (Like you might encounter in CrossFit). I feel reconnected to the ground, an empowering feeling when you’re trying to squat 275 pounds or stabilize whilst doing 1.5 pood kettlebell swings. For more on weight lifting, read this fans account of powerlifting in Vibram FiveFingers.
When I do hill sprints in my Five Fingers, I am considerably less likely to roll my ankle upon hitting a dip in the ground — meanwhile, it feels fantastic to be so light on your feet as you fly (sprint) up a hill or across a field!
Going about “virtually barefoot” may seem odd to our sneaker-crazed modern world, but why not take a break from restrictive, clunky shoes and sneakers and traverse the earth as evolution intended (Well, as close as you can get while still maintaining some protection!)? Plus, being active and “barefoot” will build stronger ankles and leg muscles and improve your agility.
Mind, the day after running “barefoot” for the first time (virtually so with Five Fingers), you’re bound to be sore in all sorts of previously forgotten ankle, foot and calve muscles. So be prepared. However, this general foot/ankle weakness should tell you something about how much your regular footwear has been subsidizing your strength.
The bottom line: if you like being active and barefoot, you’re almost certainly going to like Five Fingers.
Finally, there are a few other benefits of Five Fingers I thought I’d share:
Five Fingers are incredibly light and compact. This makes them supremely packable for traveling (Often you can even get through airport security without taking them off though its a bit of a gamble!).
They are machine washable! Yeah, you can just throw them in the washing machine, then hang them out to dry (I have freakishly non-stinky feet, but they can get stinky, so you might check out these Vibram Five Fingers cleaning tips.
Wet sports. This goes hand in hand with their machine wash-ability. Doing something in wet grass? Regular sneakers will get soaking wet and could end up smelling of mold. With my Five Fingers, if they get wet, its okay! They’ll dry fast. If they get muddy? Just wash them off and throw them in the washing machine. Easy.
Okay, you’ve sold me. So what now?
If you’re interested in picking up a pair, I’ve got some good news and some bad news and they’re both the same: there are a ton of models to choose from — 20+! That makes for a lot of options, which is great, but also means you could get a little overwhelmed trying to pick a style. Go with your instinct and just have fun (don’t get overwhelmed).
Otherwise, you could end up like me: in the 3+ years since I first wrote this review, I’ve dived feet-first into the whole barefoot-style footwear thing by founding a blog dedicated to this emerging way to reconnect with our humanity — it’s called BirthdayShoes.com and has received over 2 million unique visitors. I’ve now tried and reviewed virtually every Vibram model out there as well as all the other new minimalist/barefoot shoes. That’s over 50 other shoe models (I’ve lost count, honestly). Go check out just how many options in the world of barefoot/birthday shoes there really are!
If you’re planning on buying online, you need to read this. I’m afraid to say that a rash of fake Five Fingers have shown up on the internet (and in Google search results). By “rash,” I mean there are over 600 fake fivefingers online retailers masquerading as the real deal. You can learn more about this unfortunate phenomenon here. The gist is that if you’re on a site with “vibram” or “fivefingers” or some variant thereof that claims crazy discounts (60% off!) and isn’t vibramfivefingers.com — or if you’re looking on ebay (not a good sign) — you very well could be looking at a fakes retailer.
I’ve done my best to take some of the pain out of finding legit online retailers by creating listing many (but not all) of the fake sites (here) as well as creating a “store” that has authentic online retailers. The store also has info regarding free shipping policies, customer reviews, etc., and one store offers 7% off via a BirthdayShoes-exclusive discount code (it’s listed at http://birthdayshoes.com/store/).
On style and sizing — Back in 2008 when I got my first pair of Vibrams, I figured I’d start simply so I just got the simplest model available, the Classic; I bought two sizes that were the closest to my measurements and just returned the wrong size. Simple enough. The thing is that sizing Vibrams is confusing because the FiveFingers sizing doesn’t (necessarily) correlate to any standard sizes (American or European). By pure chance, my FiveFingers size happens to be the same as my Birkenstocks size (European 43 — I’m a 10.5 US size). To really get a handle on sizing, you should see this wiki on Vibram Five Fingers sizing.
Update February 2012: One last note on the above-mentioned likelihood of getting Overwhelmed by just how many options there are. These days, I now have probably 40 or more pairs of FiveFingers including all the newest/hottest models with the fancier soles and uppers; however, I still go back to my Classic FiveFingers as a “go to” pair assuming the weather permits. That’s because they’re just that comfortable. However, if you’re just going to get one pair for all occasions, I might recommend the KSO if you want to kick it “old school” in one of the original, most popular Vibrams; or if you want something more recent, go with the KomodoSport LS or Bikila LS as both are exceptionally comfort and fit the widest range of feet due to the laced uppers. Ahh there are pros and cons to all of them and it’s not easy to decide on “just one pair!” I don’t envy your position. Truth be told, you should know that there’s a high likelihood your first pair of toe shoes won’t be your last; I can’t tell you how many folks I know who now have multiple pairs (like 5+) of FiveFingers. Seriously.
Buyer beware: friends and family might chide your weird-looking footwear, but don’t be surprised when they order their own pair shortly thereafter (To date: I know two CrossFitters who are looking to buy them after seeing me use them, and one CrossFitter who has already taken the plunge).
If you have any questions about anything I didn’t cover, let me know!
An intro to the Pose Method of Running Pose is a method of running that uses gravity to propel you forward, running on the balls of your feet, so it stands to reason that Five Fingers would be a natural complement.
Look, it?s not your fault. It’s your shoes. Shoes are bad. I don?t just mean stiletto heels, or cowboy boots, or tottering espadrilles, or any of the other fairly obvious foot-torture devices into which we wincingly jam our feet. I mean all shoes. Shoes hurt your feet. They change how you walk. In fact, your feet?your poor, tender, abused, ignored, maligned, misunderstood feet?are getting trounced in a war that?s been raging for roughly a thousand years: the battle of shoes versus feet.
My sister managed to capture the photo below where my wife and I were momentarily synchronized in our burpees (the jump part). And even more, the picture documents that I was at least a few inches off the ground on my jump!
Note the Five Fingers! I’ve learned this week that they make great lake footwear (Deck, boat, etc.).
The workout was tough and I immediately jumped in the lake upon completion.
I’m currently on a bit of family vacation at Lake Oconee (midway between Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia). We’re staying at a family friend’s lakehouse.
So far, we have tubed, cooked out on the grill/smoker, played a good bit of Wii Mario Kart, coerced my five month old nephew into laughter (and a few tears), had some fun discussions on expatriation, indulged in ice cream and even had a Crossfit-esque workout (3 rounds of 20 pushups, kettlebell swings – 1.5 pood, 20 double-unders). And we still have the better part of a week left!
The only drawback is that I’m still “plugged in” to my business, which never sleeps — the demands of website maintenace/management never subside. Anyway, I’m doing my best to batch process work and enjoy myself. It’s working out okay.
I’m also mildly happy that I extricated myself last week from my bearish plays on the market (though shocked to see the market still diving — the pain of missed profits!). Being short or long right now would be quite stressful.
Quick update on CrossFit progress before I sack out for the night.
Been about a month since switching from my homemade workouts to CrossFit. Since starting, I’ve completed four to five workouts a week. For the past two weeks (approx.), I have been practicing daily eating-window-style fasts1. Over that same two-week time period, I’ve also cut back on alcohol consumption on days I worked out. Even still, there was a glutinous July 4th last weekend, where I managed to scarf down three DQ blizzards over four nights with a monster bowl of ice cream the night in the middle. I slipped up. It happens. It’s okay!
The alcohol-fasting is just an experiment to ensure that I don’t down-regulate testosterone, or increase cortisol, thereby maximizing post-workout gene expression.
If you’re wondering, I consider four to five highly-intense workouts a week to be too much to maintain indefinitely2; however, I’ve been driving myself harder in anticipation of achieving the desired results faster.
Some five months since embarking on this lifestyle-shift, I’m happy to say that the combo has been a resounding success so far and I believe will prove out to be a success indefinitely. My goal is to publish my before shot from February and an after shot in August (Just a guesstimate. The goal is satisfaction with with my leaning out, which is equivalent to achieving some optimal vasculature and probably means reaching around 7% body fat).
Until then, I’ve decided to publish some interim before and after voyeurism. I submit the following self-taken camera phone pictures, taken four weeks apart on June 12 and July 9, 2008, from left to right.
Believe it or not, I’m flexing my midsection in both photos. What’s making up the change? A bit more muscle combined with a bit less adiposity. I’m 27, 5’10.5″ and around 168 in both photos. I’m happy to say that I’m currently more lean and defined than I’ve been since I was less than ten years old. Prior to a few months ago, I had given up on leaning out. Just didn’t think it was in my genes.
I was most happily wrong.
Regarding CrossFit, I did the “Nasty Girls” workout today, subbing out pull-ups and dips at a ratio of 3:1 for the normally prescribed seven muscle ups. This made for three rounds of:
50 air squats
21 dips, and
10 hanging powercleans @ 95 lbs
I managed to complete it in 19:56, which is incredibly slow relative to CrossFit vets; however, I was happy with my time — likely because I thought I was about to die at the end, and I managed to rock out all 63 pull-ups and dips.
I could not have accomplished this without practicing insulin control. That is, without a doubt, the secret ingredient to maximizing my health.
1 Whereby I compress my eating window to about eight hours — usually noon or 1 pm to 9 pm though its just a target. My workouts tend to fall in the middle. This is (intended to be) similar to the Lean Gains Intermittent Fasting approach (Martin Berkhan).
2 No reason to put your body through that much chronic stress.
Wanted to do a brief update on my progress with Crossfit and diet.
I’ve finished week three of Crossfit and it continues to kick my ass. The good news is that I’m getting closer to proficiency on kipping pull-ups. I sometimes seem to slip into a bit of a butterfly kip, so I wonder if I should try to develop that (as the butterfly is arguably more efficient). Regardless, I’m feeling better about the pull-up, which is important for Crossfit.
In the past week or so, I’ve switched to incorporating Martin Berkhan’s LeanGains 16-hour-fast, 8-hours-fed diet methodology. So I typically won’t eat until lunch, and I’ll Crossfit around 5pm and eat dinner around 7:30 or 8:00 pm. I’ll quit eating after 9pm (or so) until the following day at lunch. Berkhan’s idea is to charge up on energy around lunch, workout and then provide the right macronutrient combo post-workout going into a fast. During the fast, your body has the tools it needs to repair/rebuild/build muscle.
Its a decent combination of fasting and exercise. It just “works” for me as the Crossfit gym here is only open in the afternoon/evenings (prohibiting me from working out fasted in the morning).
I have seen some noticeable improvement in muscle definition, which I mainly attribute to continued reduction in body fat though I’m optimistic that I’ve been able to build some lean muscle mass, as well. The real clincher here will be if I can:
Lean out and achieve a never-before-seen vasculature in my midsection (a.k.a. the “six pack”, but also the lesser-mentioned-but-equally-important pectoral definition)
Put on some weight, which would necessarily be lean tissue (per the requirement in No. 1)
I have taken some steady progress photos that have, as yet, gone unpublished. Assuming I accomplish the above goals, which I now expect will happen soon, I will publish these shots on this site — bashfulness be damned!
A huge part of Crossfit is pull-ups. Contrary to the tenet that the only proper pull-up is one that has no lower body movement, the default pull-up in Crossfit is one that employs a “kip” or a “kipping” movement. Kipping is a perfected derivative of what most of us do when we try to do a pull-up naturally — namely, use our swinging body and legs to aid us on the upward motion.
I am still learning the kipping pull-up. And since they are so integral to Crossfit, it’s imperative that I learn this motion fast.
Thankfully, there is YouTube. Specifically, I found a short, four-part series of tutorial videos on kipping pull-ups!
As today was Day 5 of Crossfit for me and the fourth day in a row this week, I’m resting tomorrow. However, I plan on getting in some kipping pull-up practice this weekend. These videos will be my guide. My goal is to get decent at kipping pull-ups over the next two weeks.
If you’re curious about kipping pull-ups or want to learn them yourself, they are embedded below (after the jump).