Thursday, 17 December 2015

IOT: Circadian Rhythm

An interesting episode of "In Our Time" on BBC Radio 4 concerning Circadian Rhythm (available on the iPlayer and - eventually - as a podcast):
  • Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution and role of Circadian Rhythms, the so-called body clock that influences an organism's daily cycle of physical, behavioural and mental changes. The rhythms are generated within organisms and also in response to external stimuli, mainly light and darkness. They are found throughout the living world, from bacteria to plants, fungi to animals and, in humans, are noticed most clearly in sleep patterns.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Dark Side

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated release of 2015 is here. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Alex Hannold Climbs Angola:

Monday, 14 December 2015

Paleo; taking over MMA

Arguably it started with Georges St Pierre - UFC training moved from 'hamster fitness' of the weight room to something that developed kinaesthetic awareness through body weight and gymnastic training.  Using movement based drills to develop finer motor patterns as well as traditional strength and fitness, has long been evident in a subset of fitness enthusiast - most notably contestants on Ninja Warrior, but now things have gone a step further.

Those who have been around the paleosphere for much of the past decade will be aware of Erwan Le Corre and his MovNat program.  Well, Carlos Condit is now training under Le Corre:

And if that wasn't enough, you'll no doubt be aware that Ido Portal - sometime paleo-ista and mainstay of Gymnastic Bodies for much of the last few years, is assisting Conor McGregor in his quest for world domination:

I'd love to see The Notorious on a climbing wall. No better way to develop his inner boa-constrictor!  But judging by the fight with Aldo, he is happy to go with striking like a cobra. Brutal skills.
For the record, there are a few other exceptional athletes who have adopted a similar paleo-compliant approach with superlative results - both in terms of aesthetics and performance, including Andreas Thorkildsen and TheJSap.  Also, let's not forget Michel Bruyninckx approach to football in Belgium,

  • "We need to stop thinking football is only a matter of the body,...Skilfulness will only grow if we better understand the mental part of developing a player. 

    "Cognitive readiness, improved perception, better mastering of time and space in combination with perfect motor functioning."

Remember, paleo is a lifestyle philosophy based on the broad conditions of ancestral selection, not a brand that repackages modern life as-is.  Doing the same thing under a different brand-name is doing the same thing - and will leave you in the same place.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

What Lies Beneath

On gut flora extinction:

"Years ago, impelled in part by their oldest daughter’s constipation problems, the Sonnenburg family revamped its diet. They threw out all processed food-stuffs, and began eating plenty of veggies and whole grains. They bought a dog. Justin Sonnenburg began hand-milling his own wheat berries for bread. He took up gardening. And when he compared his archived microbes from years ago with recent ones, he discovered that his microbial diversity had increased by half. “That’s a huge difference,” he told me, “as big as the difference between Americans and Amerindians.”"

Monday, 9 November 2015

Meat Shaming

The Problem With the WHO's Great Meat Conspiracy. A nice polemic from HuffPo.

Sleep & Mental Illness

Sleep - far from inactive, it's your body and mind's busy time for growth and repair:

"Circadian rhythms are innate and hard-wired into the genomes of just about every living thing on the planet. In humans, our physiology is organised around the daily cycle of activity and sleep. In the active phase, when energy expenditure is high and food and water are consumed, organs need to be prepared for the intake, processing and uptake of nutrients."

Friday, 16 October 2015

Natural Sleep and Its Seasonal Variations

Some interesting research picked up by the BBC and presented in Current Biology on sleep.  Biphasic sleep may not my innate nor optimal (although there is conflicting evidence).  The highlights are:
  • Preindustrial societies in Tanzania, Namibia, and Bolivia show similar sleep parameters
  • They do not sleep more than “modern” humans, with average durations of 5.7–7.1 hr
  • They go to sleep several hours after sunset and typically awaken before sunrise
  • Temperature appears to be a major regulator of human sleep duration and timing
Clearly season, light and temperature themselves are all linked by sunlight and day-length.  Sleep quality moves up a gear and the basics of sleep hygiene remain the same.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hidden Brain

Here is a new podcast many of you might appreciate called Hidden Brain,
  • The Hidden Brain project helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.

    Our audience takes uncommon pleasure in the world of ideas. Why do mild-mannered people turn into fearsome mama and papa bears? Does the way you park your car say something vital about you? Can hidden biases keep people from finding interesting jobs? Hidden Brain has the answers to those questions.

    Science correspondent Shankar Vedantam brings NPR listeners a wealth of knowledge from social science research. The Hidden Brain podcast will extend and amplify Shankar's radio stories, and link psychology and neurobiology with insights from art, music and literature. The goal of Hidden Brain isn't merely to entertain, but to give you insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.

Worth downloading a few of the podcasts/episodes for your next walk.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Shark Jumping

The Spectator has pissed away all credibility in its Health section by suggesting that exercise could be replaced by a pill.  The research looked at the metabolic effects of intense exercise noting over 1000 molecular changes in the muscle, and one of the researchers (Dr Nolan Hoffman), articulated the following:

  • ‘Exercise produces an extremely complex, cascading set of responses within human muscle. It plays an essential role in controlling energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity. While scientists have long suspected that exercise causes a complicated series of changes to human muscle, this is the first time we have been able to map exactly what happens.

    ‘This is a major breakthrough, as it allows scientists to use this information to design a drug that mimics the true beneficial changes caused by exercise.’
The hormonal and metabolic cascade from exercise is what exercise should be all about.  To view it as some kind of penance for eating pie/cake or as a means to exclusively burn calories misses the rich outcome of activity.

There are other neurological benefits of exercise that also seem to be ignored here.  Exercising in a 'green' environment and the social benefits of engaging in a collaborative team pursuit all go to build the value of the 'energy out' side of the equation.

The idea that you can simulate (some) of the beneficial changes caused by exercise in a pill really does diminish what exercise should be about; that the spending of calories should be a largely pleasurable and enriching endeavour.

I do however look forward to the first pharmacological fruits of this research - and their unwanted side effects.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Learning and the Immune System

The Conversation on the immune System:
  • Recent evidence also suggests immune learning is strongly affected by environmental factors, including diet, lifestyle, our surroundings and previous infections.

    Immune responses to the yearly flu vaccine, for example, are impacted more by environmental factors than genetic differences. This suggests we can improve our immune responses by altering life experiences.
 Plasticity is a hallmark of any successful species. Top down control is far from optimal for health.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

In Praise of Climbing

If training could be distilled down to a single word it would be 'specificity'.  Practice makes perfect - or rather, perfect practice makes perfect.

But certain sports have excellent carryover to other athletic endeavour and all-round 'hustle', and perhaps with some modest tweaking, over the long term, will ideally confer favourable health and longevity outcomes.

The stop/start of team ball sports is a good example - short sprints with short recovery time are a feature of rugby, football and basketball whilst bursts of intense multi-dimensional exertion are evident in several combat sports from striking arts like kickboxing and Muay Thai through to the ground and pound of BJJ and/or Judo.

Now in some of the cases above there is impact (rugby) and intentional destruction of joint integrity (Judo and Muay Thai) - which do not auger well for long term health (nor perhaps longevity), but you can certainly 'go light' in these pursuits and they often have less destructive forms (Rugby 7s).

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Steel Fingers 2

My current Steel Fingers program takes 37 minutes to complete (not including warm up), and looks like this:
  1. BLOCK 1 (14 minutes total to complete)
    Set 1: Full-Crimp Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    Two-Handed Hang with arms in deep lock-off.
    Rest 180s/3 minutes.

    Set 2: Open Hang Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    Two-Handed Hang with arms in deep lock-off.
    Rest 180s/3 minutes.

    Set 3: Half-Crimp Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    One-Armed Hang with arm in deep lock-off.
    Rest 300s/5 minutes.

    (Wrist push ups x 10)

  2. BLOCK 2 (14 minutes total to complete)
    Set 4: Full-Crimp Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    Two-Handed Hang with arms in 90 degree lock.
    Rest 180s/3 minutes.

    Set 5: Open Hang Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    Two-Handed Hang with arms in 90 degree lock.
    Rest 180s/3 minutes.

    Set 6: Half-Crimp Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    One-Armed Hang with arm in 90 degree lock.
    Rest 300s/5 minutes.

    (Wrist push ups x 10)

  3. BLOCK 3 (9 minutes total to complete)
    Set 7: Full-Crimp Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    Two-Handed Hang with arms in arms almost straight.
    Rest 180s/3 minutes.

    Set 8: Open Hang Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    Two-Handed Hang with arms in arms almost straight.
    Rest 180s/3 minutes.

    Set 9*: Half-Crimp Grip (7s:3s x 6 sets/60s)
    One-Armed Hang with arm in arms almost straight.
    *There is no allotted rest time after the last set.

Steel Fingers 1

In my bid for fingers of steel, and after a long lay off from climbing, I have formulated the following finger program based upon Encores and Repeaters and Ben Davidson's program.

My digits are weak at the moment so I need to use two handed hangs.  I've been foot-on laddering twice a week for a few weeks in an attempt to condition my fingers, but now is the time to specialise!

A quick word about my warm up prior to the climbing routine.  It is similar to my generic warm up - joint rotations and limb swings.  Then to a bit of rope climbing to work shoulders and elbows, and to give the full hand a shakedown.  Finally I do some light finger work on the campus board - all foot-on, and then with a few foot-off moves.  This takes around 20 minutes.

Terminology & Broad Outline
  • The basic exercise is a HANG which comprises 7s Time Under Load (TUL) with 3s rest for a chosen GRIP.
  • The hang is repeated five times (so six hangs in all) - which means 60s of work.  This is a SET.
  • Three SETS form a BLOCK.
  • Each of the three SETS within a BLOCK uses a different GRIP.
  • The GRIP chosen will be one of:
    - Full crimp,
    - Half crimp, and,
    - Open crimp. 
  • Rest times between each SET within a BLOCK is 180s (3 minutes).
  • Each BLOCK is repeated for a total of three times with
    - Arms almost straight,
    - Arms at 90 degrees, and,
    - Arms in a full lock position.
  • The rest between BLOCKS will be 5 minutes.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

How Am I Lifting?

Thought I'd post up a quick look at my approach to training with an outline of my core routine.  I keep the movements big and basic, and include both barbell and body weight work. 

My set up for the past few years has been largely based around this warm up, and the following routine:
  • Monday
    Chin Ups


    Front Lever to Back Lever (see Dragon's Door).
    Planche variation


    Hand Walking

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Paleo Porridge

Is porridge 'paleo'?  Well it was consumed before settled agriculture (not nomadic agriculture).  From New Scientist - Stone-age people were making porridge 32,000 years ago:
  • To see the benefits of a plant-based diet, you only need to know that society has been largely fuelled by processed grains for the last 20,000 years, says archaeologist Matt Pope of University College London. “There is a relationship there to be explored between diet, experimentation with processing plant food and cultural sophistication.”

    This is another example of the advances made by Europe’s Gravettian culture, which produced technology, artwork and elaborate burial systems during the Upper Palaeolithic era, says Erik Trinkaus at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. “These people were described 15 years ago as ‘Hunters of the Golden Age’, and the details of that are still being filled out.”

    Mariotti Lippi’s team hopes to continue studying ancient grinding stones to find out more about the Palaeolithic plant diet. Grinding stones go back a long way, says Trinkaus, and people may well have been pounding and eating various wild grains even earlier than 32,000 years ago.
 Let's not lose sight that such grains would not have been harmongenised, of vastly differing strains to those eaten nowadays, were unlikely to have been processes to such refined, acellular state, nor covered in sweetened substances to the extent that cereals in their modern form are.  We must also consider the seasonal nature of diet and how this affects consumption rates and so forth. 

There is little to say whether such food was a food of last resort or how it was considered against game.  Perspective, people.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Disruption of the Circadian Clock

Another interesting aspect to sleep:
  • The researchers used mice whose body clocks run at about 24 hours - much like our own - and housed them in a shorter 20-hour day. This forced their biological clocks out of sync with the light-dark cycle. After four weeks, the researchers injected the mice with lipopolysaccharide, a molecule found in bacteria that can make an animal sick without being contagious.

    The researchers saw that the disrupted animals had blunted immune responses in some cases or an overactive response in others, suggesting the altered circadian cycle made them potentially less able to fight illness and more likely to get sick.

    "This represents a very clear dysregulation of the system," said Karatsoreos. "The system is not responding in the optimal manner." Over time, he said, this could have serious consequences for an organism's health.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Dissociative anonymity. Invisibility. Asynchronicity. Solipsistic introjection. Dissociative imagination. Minimisation of authority.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

New Life in the Wild

A program about an incredible self sufficiency from a resourceful 25 year-old living largely in isolation out in the Appalachian Mountains.

Plant Rights

I disagree that veganism and vegetarianism reduces animal suffering.  As J.Stanton once said, "it pushes the killing to where it cannot be seen".  One look at the biodiversity of pasture, and then a consequent look at the chemically-managed, industrial, mono-cropping of machine-farmed arable land is evidence of this.

This issue of suffering however, has just got a whole lot more complex,
  • "Plants are intelligent. Plants deserve rights. Plants are like the Internet – or more accurately the Internet is like plants. To most of us these statements may sound, at best, insupportable or, at worst, crazy. But a new book, Brilliant Green: the Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, by plant neurobiologist (yes, plant neurobiologist), Stefano Mancuso and journalist, Alessandro Viola, makes a compelling and fascinating case not only for plant sentience and smarts, but also plant rights."
Just as we've changed our belief that animals are 'unthinking automatons', Stefano Mancuso attempts to do the same for plants.

His presentation on TED can he seen here:

Having lost the health argument some time ago, now the moral argument for v*nism is looking increasingly shaky.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Night Shift

Long time no post, but there isn't much more to add apart from 'live life close to the ground'.  Some of the themes covered on this blog continue to gain traction - including issues around our circadian rhythm.

The latest news item to capture my attention was this podcast on Radio4 (The Night Shift):

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

...About Fat

Another program exploring fat:

"It has long been believed that eating fat is unhealthy. But is it really as bad as people think? With recent headlines casting doubts on such fears, medic Saleyha Ahsan aims to cut through the confusion. She reveals startling new research that suggests some saturated fats might actually be good for people's health, invites volunteers to find out what happens to their bodies and minds if they stop eating it entirely, and discovers the fat hidden in seawater that could make the food of the future a lot healthier."

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Ape that Cooks

RI Lecture from 2005

  • "As the 2005 audience are still recovering from their Christmas dinners, Sir John Krebs leads them on an exploration of what food has meant to humans throughout time in his first lecture. How did we end up eating fabulous Christmas meals when our early ancestors scrabbled around for nuts and seeds? In this lecture John explores the history of food, from our earliest predecessors, through the great ‘miracles’ which completely changed our diet and the way we lived, to today’s gourmet extravaganzas.
    This 3-million-year journey takes us through the prehistory of our early ancestors, the rise of civilisation, the spread of human beings across the planet and ends with the emergence of one of the greatest science labs of all: the domestic kitchen. There we can experiment with new ways to use food in our celebrations together. "

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Clean Labels

The Food Program raises some interesting questions:
  • "For over a decade consumers have become finely attuned to E-numbers, flavourings, colourings and additives in our food. Food manufacturers have changed the way they do things in pursuit of 'clean label' - a more natural sounding ingredients list. But do we fully understand the new processes involved, the terms used and how safe they really are?

    Sheila Dillon talks to Joanna Blythman, in her first broadcast interview about her new book 'Swallow This' in which she investigates some of the processes involved in making products taste and look good and last longer and her concerns about the ingredients and the secrecy that often surrounds them. We hear reports from food development teams about how they find new ways to produce food and ask the regulators if we can be sure they're safe."

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Want to Stay Slim?

....then eat fat!  This film by Britsh Pathe is from 1958.  In response to this being a new theory, Dr McArless (?) responds,
  • "Yes, it's new now, today, but it wasn't new in history.  In the days when we had no agriculture and there was no starch in our food, no potatoes, no bread, no cereals, everybody had to live by hunting on meat and fat and in those days, I believe, that they were all slim.  Now if we stop eating these new foods, so called, then we will get our weight down back to normal....stop eating starch and sugar.  Eat everything else, as much as he likes, and he will get slim but it will not make him more slim than he should be."
At 3'20" fasting even makes an appearance!

Whatever your diet dogma, this will make you think.  Now let me go place an order for some 'Slimmo'!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Lunchtime Walk

Assuming that you are NOT on the diet wagon (you should have had your diet dialled in long before now - and you KNOW what foods you should be emphasising in your diet), and assuming you've also got your training sorted (ditto the above), here is something that continues to fulfil its promise; walking:
  • Physical activity may regulate affective experiences at work, but controlled studies are needed and there has been a reliance on retrospective accounts of experience. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of lunchtime walks on momentary work affect at the individual and group levels. Physically inactive employees (N = 56; M age = 47.68; 92.86% female) from a large university in the UK were randomized to immediate treatment or delayed treatment (DT). The DT participants completed both a control and intervention period. During the intervention period, participants partook in three weekly 30-min lunchtime group-led walks for 10 weeks. They completed twice daily affective reports at work (morning and afternoon) using mobile phones on two randomly chosen days per week. Multilevel modeling was used to analyze the data. Lunchtime walks improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work, although the pattern of results differed depending on whether between-group or within-person analyses were conducted. The intervention was effective in changing some affective states and may have broader implications for public health and workplace performance.
You might want to trick out your walk by taking in a countryside route.  Other strategies involve random urban exploration (seek out shortcuts and unexplored roads and pathways in your locale or select a known destination and try to walk a different route to it) which maintains novelty, and, mixing up the duration of your walk over fixed periods of time.

Podcasts offer another distraction to escape immediate surroundings on a walk.