Category Archives: Environment

Strong But Not Useful: Strength Categories

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Albeit fun.

If I could ask Georges [Hébert] to lighten up, I would, and he would probably tell me “I am! That’s the whole play finality of The Natural Method, mon frère!”

The reason I’d ask him to lighten up is because it’s totally cool to have fun and specialize in one aspect of strength if that’s your bag. I ain’t knocking your strength with his/mine or someone else’s.

Much like Power is Mass X Acceleration, an 8-plates back squat below parallel or a 48″ box jump require a different level of power. Some say “you need to squat heavy to get more power for your jumps”. I can’t squat 8 plates right now, but I can jump that “cold” and I know a few friends who can squat 8 plates easy, but can’t jump that. We’re different and that’s OK!

“A remarkable specialist in only one category, but poor in others, like a weight lifter or wrestler who cannot run or climb, or a runner or boxer who cannot swim or climb, isn’t strong from a “complete” standpoint.

On another hand, one who excels at entertaining or hobby sports (as in games of all kinds: football (soccer), tennis…; or gymnastics on man-made apparatus: high bar, trapeze…), but who ignores swimming, self-defense or has fear of heights, isn’t strong from a “useful” standpoint.

In short, to be strong consists of possessing a sufficient aptitude in utilitarian indispensable (a.k.a functional) exercises for everyone at any age and not to solely excel at entertaining fun exercises or of secondary utility”

So,a little redundancy, or rather, “rote” and let’s have Georgey break down the categories:

Functional Exercises of everyone at any age:

  1. Walk
  2. Run
  3. Jump
  4. Climb
  5. Lift
  6. Throw
  7. Fight (boxing or wrestling, natural means)
  8. Swim

These 8 categories suffice to achieve the highest level of physical development and to handle any difficult situation life throws at us. Walking, Running and Climbing constitute the prime natural exercises; they are the most indispensable of all.

That’s all going to be in the long awaited and delayed book (not my fault, serious!)

Sports or exercises of secondary utility (for select individuals and not necessary for everyone or all ages):

  1. Fencing
  2. Horseback riding
  3. Rowing
  4. Shooting
  5. Weapons self-defense (stick, knife…)
  6. Any artificial means of transportation requiring the use of the legs: cycling, skating, skiing, stilts…

Sports or exercises having no functionality for everyone or all ages:

  1. Anything requiring man-made apparatus: high bar, rings, trapeze, pommel horse, parallel bars…
  2. Any acrobatics, with or without the use of equipment.
  3. All games: soccer, hockey, tennis, cricket…

Remember, we are dealing with functionality for ALL POPULATIONS at ANY AGE, not fun, entertainment value or carry-over. We could probably argue, and successfully at that, the benefits of surfing, of playing rugby which develops both speed, agility, endurance, strength, power etc. That’s not the point.

The point is to raise the average, which is dismal in most countries I have to say. We as fitness enthusiasts live in a bubble we our social media feeds tend to show us our own interests, and few of us walk around national supermarket chains observing the decline of the population. Get them walking, running first, add some minor jumping, throwing and grow from there.

It’s Hydrostatic, Orthorexic, Body Dysmorphic, it’s Greased Training!

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Did you see Richard Gere’s post on FB that’s been shared many times, the one about his super healthy friend who did all the right things and now is dying of two forms of cancer, versus another acquaintance who by all standards should have died long ago for leading an extremely unhealthy lifestyle? Doesn’t matter, we all know stories of people like that.

How about the meme about how exercising leads to you being alone when you’re old because all your other friends are dead, and in the meantime move while going nowhere (treadmill)?

I have, as most of us trainers have at some point, run into someone with either an eating disorder or an unhealthy exercise addiction, or both (as one tends to tie into the other). One client of mine couldn’t bear to see herself in the mirror, disappeared for a bit, came back with an amplified bosom, which bought her only about three weeks of happiness and self-confidence. Another was used to getting her previous trainer yell and push like an evil drill sergeant and had such conditioning from her bulimia that she could never do any movements that put her in a prone or leaning forward position without throwing up. Seriously! I only trained her one time then politely parted ways, as I refused to administer punishment for whatever was “broken inside”. Some challenges are best left to trained professionals in the field of psychology. Then there’s also the  individual with a touch of Munchausen Syndrome and orthorexia associated with bombardment of photoshopped images in the media or chasing the fountain of youth in denial of the reality that aging exists, even if you can slow it down.

The point is that despite all of us knowing that cigarettes cause cancer, having unprotected sex or driving while impaired are dangerous behaviors, some still do it. And we also all know that certain results are not achieved realistically or within the framework of what fitness marketers, even trainers, are selling you (unless proper expectations are explained).

I remember a client who told me that he wasn’t happy because after 2 years of training with me, he didn’t have the body of someone who trains twice a week with a trainer. All the education and expectations management in the world would not resonate, because people like to blame. You pay for a service, you want results. And when you get results but they don’t match your expectations, it’s the provider’s fault. Who’s to blame? Me for not educating, or the multimillion dollar assault of ad copies telling you that with just 8 minutes a day twice a week you will get the body of a demigod-looking model who has spent hours in the gym daily, slaved for years, entered dietary hell with the discipline of a Samurai?

The answer is somewhere in-between. There’s also the point where I have to, like the song says, “let it go, let it go”… I don’t hold that fork, I don’t buy the food, I don’t follow the clients for 166 hours a week (only 2, which is about 1.2% of the week), they have the info, the map, the instructions.

While you do need to get off your ass and train consistently, eat sensibly, you also need to understand that you can’t complain about the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do. At the same time, do you really need the six-pack abs? Do you need to bench press eight wheels? Yeah, OK, I’m all for a high goal to achieve, the journey, etc. I get it, no need to throw in some comment about that. Dig deeper is what I’m asking. Is the pursuit of the goal worth it? Don’t you have something better to do, like be fit, be healthy, have fun, work and do something you love (other than weightlifting) and concentrate on something that makes a difference in someone else’s life (and another weightlifter’s life doesn’t count!)?

Believe me, I get it. I too suffer from an occasional case of body dysmorphism, which changes frequently: too fat, not big enough, too slim, or chasing strength, size or whatever because of how good someone else’s marketing is over how confident I am in my decade and a half of training and education (academics and in the trenches). I too get confused. I too think some things matter when in the end, they don’t because no one’s going to care that I lifted X amount of weight, and no one’s going to remember that I lifted X amount of weight. The things I hope to be remembered for are the things I passed on to my clients, my friends, my children and strangers through books, blogs, workshops, training sessions, chance encounters. Things of ephemeral or lasting value that extend beyond the 73 inches of height or slightly wider wingspan.

Long story short: training appropriately, eating well, interactive physical play, solo activities done in a group matters. Extremes don’t. Do this to be around and pay it forward, not to get validated by 1000 likes on your selfie post only to feel like crap if your next post drops by a couple hundred.

We’re not the center of our own Universe, as I heard in the Love 4 Training podcast episode 16. And it’s very true!

 

What’s The Natural Method and what does it mean?

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Shouldn’t I have answered this question many moons ago?

I have answered that in a few podcasts actually, the latest one from Joseph deLeo at Leo Training (link to come when it’s live)

I belong to a closed group on Facebook called the Movement Mavericks, started and monitored by Rannoch Donald and Neil Hill, who are not only huge supporters, they are also great promoters of proper movement skill and walk the walk when in comes to being all-around athletes and servicing their clients as such.

One way to explain it and make it a bit different from any answers I provided thus far is that it is simply the full development of our organism as nature intended, without excess or (whatever the opposite of excess is). Nothing unnecessary, nothing superfluous. We can all understand the notion of not having excess fat, being physically inactive, or needing to be physically active because we no longer are concerned with being part of the food chain. We don’t have to hunt and gather to survive, therefore we’re not utilizing our “naturally designed” physiology. I suspect some will potentially take offense, reject or misinterpret Georges Hébert’s vision when it comes to muscle building or strength training for what he considers to not be natural.

Hébert rejects things we now refer to as powerlifting, or bodybuilding. Training for hypertrophy is such a popular thing, especially among men, and it has been for decades (think of the Pumping Iron days and the buff look of superheroes). And while we can all value strength, how much strength do we truly need? We do like to say that strength trumps everything, that it’s a great go-to fix for most issues (and I agree), there has to be a limit, at some point. Hébert’s motto of “be strong to be useful” can also be translated as “be strong to be functional”. The subtle variation can be detected if you speak French and are familiar with both the original text and my humble translation/transliteration.

Indeed, much like I still struggle with the best English title for the book on women’s physical education, I modified the exact terminology of the original books to reflect a more current understanding of training. Terms we know and can identify quickly and currently may very well be used differently in 20 years. An example of a change I made a decision on is (and you can attack me for the stance, the choice was necessary and this blog, or any other platform like a workshop or speaking engagement can serve the purpose of further explaining my choices): utilitarian exercises, which I renamed functional exercises. Hébert calls them “utilitaires”, for utility, like a utility knife serves a purpose, or any tool. We like to call that functional today, and while utilitarian may be more appropriate, I still have to engage people in a way they understand it. I can’t break too much ground or challenge mindsets without some way to have people identify with it first.

So, reverting to utilitarian, “être fort pour être utile” has an element of functionality and because his program, his Natural Method is geared at all-around athleticism, a focus on just strength training, while it may provide one with the usefulness of being strong for a specific task, automatically eliminates other utilitarian or functional features. For instance, a strongman will usually not have the ability to run long distance, or run very quickly, yet someone who is a runner only (let’s pick an endurance runner) will not have the strength to be useful at other tasks. And because the Method originates from a military need, it all comes back to the source of what Dr Ed Thomas like to teach:

  • Medical/corrective
  • Military/Martial
  • Visual (for a harmonious development of the body)

Also, the hyper focus on strength training only, at the expense of other aspects, is a direct validation of the SAID principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands).

Let us not misinterpret consequently that the Natural Method doesn’t apply to people with muscles developed beyond a natural environmental need (there is no such thing as environmental need, globally speaking, unless you’re a sherpa, a Maasai warrior or other exception). Bodybuilding has no real function, yes. But who cares? What’s important is the bodybuilder being able to have a certain level of skill in other areas: agility, coordination, basic climbing or scaling, throwing light or heavy objects, being able to run. I happen to work with bodybuilders who value the work and principles brought forth by Georges Hébert and apply them in their training while still working on developing their muscles beyond what Nature intended or daily needs call for (and I am not talking about drugs or other things, only that unless specific attention is given to hypertrophy, muscles will only grow so much from basic labors required in the wild).

There is a reason why many ‘natural’ movements (as in philosophies or fitness approaches) like to refer to our hunting and gathering ancestors looking a certain way, because no caveman would pick up a rock or tree trunk and dead-lift it for reps with the goal to get stronger or bigger. It simply didn’t exist or didn’t fit into the lifestyle. Today, it’s a choice and an interest with a health benefit, whereas fitness then was a necessity for survival. No one actually dies today directly from being unfit (heart disease will do it for you as a consequence only) because rare is the person who has a saber tooth tiger chasing them. Gazelles and lions get it, but we don’t have to. We’re not getting picked out of the herd anymore.

The Crossfit movement tries to adhere to that, actually, by pushing it to excess, though. That’s the spirit of competition (something Hébert rejected to a point, as he believes in competition among peers during training and development as a way to equalize all trainees, but not for the sake of competition and scoring). Hébert didn’t care about being Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger, but he believed in being strong, fast and harmoniously developed based on the stimulus provided by all the activities. He was a generalist, a jack of all trades, and you know what? That’s not such a bad thing to be. Consider pro athletes: their ultra specialization makes them broken, physically, sometimes mentally and there is a reason sports careers are short (the career spans depending on the damages caused by the activity on the body). They are masters at their craft, for a while, and many end up badly hurt after they retire. For the rest of us, being fit, strong, functioning individuals is a lifetime journey, its span only affected by our health and fitness.

I also believe in moderation, of course. What’s the point of being too strict if you’re miserable all the time? And how are you truly enjoying yourself if you’re unhealthy, in pain, popping pills all the time and unable to do basic tasks, be they for fun or utility? On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being totally inactive and poorly eating and 10 being gangbusters gym rat orthorexic antisocial, choose to be an 8: eat well, train, and reward yourself with a few vices that you earned. But only if you earned them. If you fall below a 6, you’re not even average or median, you’re simply far below optimal. The difference between 8 and 10 is just as big as the difference between 6 and 8, but it’s far easier to get from 6 to 8 than it is to get from 8 to 10, and the benefits of being an 8 over a 6 are vastly, vastly worth the effort. Claiming lack of time is simply stating that “it’s not a priority”.

As a friend of mine recently said on FaceBook, try to say from now on “it’s not a priority” rather than saying “I don’t have the time”, and see how you feel. Is your health not a priority? Your strength? Your bank account? Your family?

The Shape Of Breasts

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Here is an excerpt (unedited or proofed yet) about the shape of breasts and how society viewed them a century ago, according to Georges Hébert, when it relates to judging or appreciating beauty in women.

“The shape of the breasts is considered wrongly by many as a criterium of beauty in a woman. “The breasts, that the whole woman”, we have heard in stupid refrains. In reality, the shape of the breasts only makes up one element of general beauty, and its importance is only secondary when compared to essential body parts: the abdomen, the chest, the limbs, etc.

It is, if we may, one of the first attributes of beauty among young women, but not in the adult woman, as of all her attributes, it’s the least durable.

This process, a little too simplistic, which consists of judging the beauty of a woman according to the shape of her breasts comes without a doubt from the following fact: on an under-developed trunk, skinny or fat, the breasts first catch the eye, because, as a rule, these organs present defects of which the most common ones are exaggerated volume and sagging. They thus appear to have a capital importance, because their misshaping alone breaks the general harmony of the body.

On a well developed trunk, on the contrary, with well-defined muscles, normal breasts barely get any attention.  

They are well molded onto the chest and solidly anchored to the pectorals that they look as if being entirely part of these muscles. In the preceding case, they seem added to the chest, which seemed inconvenienced to carry them.

The same observation could be applied to the basin and buttocks, which always appear too big when the trunk is muscularly atrophied.”

Have we learned anything? I do believe Georges is right: a fit, muscular, lean woman’s body will draw more attention as a whole, without specific focus on any area, as she will project an attitude of health, strength and beauty at once, not limiting her to esthetics, but to the Holy Trinity of fitness and attractiveness, intellect notwithstanding of course.

 

“Normal” everyday fitness esthetics

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There is a difference between being camera ready, which is ephemeral (unless you want to destroy all sense of social life with extreme discipline), and how the body looks daily. Think magazine cover, or “money shot” when an actor shows a chiseled body in a superhero movie (and then you don’t see the body for the rest of the movie, as it can take weeks or months of filming and it’s hard to maintain the “look”).

Don’t trust this fitness porn Instagram pictures of super ripped bodies. Few people look like that on a daily basis, even bodybuilders peak for a contest and look different in the off-season (that’s why it’s called the off-season, it’s never a year-round look).

Here’s an example of what my body looks like on a daily basis.

_NAM1972

I don’t care to show you a chiseled, mega ripped dehydrated body, because it looks like that for an instant only. I want to show you the body of someone who is like you: trains as frequently as a client should, has responsibilities, a family, bills to pay and is healthy, eats sensibly (meaning well and enjoys treats like chocolate or beer on occasion without guilty feelings).

And better yet here’s and excerpt of Georges Hébert’s book on physical education for women, with an applicable explanation for both men and women:

“The curve/shape is more or less pronounced according to the degree of development or the current state of training. It is necessary to differentiate these two states, as one can have achieved integral development and find oneself, at any given moment, either in a non-active period or simple rest, or in a training period.

 At the peak of development and at once during a training period, in other words in a “ready state”, to use the expression used in sports, the shape of the muscles and the fascia lines are extremely sharp/defined.

The skin adheres to the muscle without fat in-between, or at least without a noticeable layer. Muscular fibers are even seen through the skin when the muscle is strongly flexed.

At the limits of extreme training, curves become “cut” and in the case of overtraining, remind a bit that of someone being “skinned”. This applies to women as well as men. 

When the training period ends, and it cannot last more than a few weeks or days without reaching over training, or as soon as normal activity slows, the muscles appear less “defined”,  small fat deposits fill in and soften the lines of external contours or the fascia. “Covering” takes place, more or less visible as the training load is reduced, compared to what it was prior, and a more abundant food intake. Flesh is then filled.  

This state of covering disappears easily in a few days or weeks as soon as training or regular activity resumes. If, by lack of exercise, we let that covering go on, we progressively suffer all the setbacks on health and beauty. Fattening begins.

In summary, muscular definition is characteristic of the state of training or maximal activity; simple covering, average level of physical activity (maintenance), which is the normal state of training outside of maximal training intensity periods; exaggerated covering, a state of activity inferior or of weak training in relation to the vitality of the body (under training) and finally, obvious overweight, a state of complete inactivity or extremely weak, or also a specific state, which we will discuss, which has nothing to do with our natural needs. Nutrition also has an important role in the production of these various states.”

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Training Field Layout

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The purpose of the Natural Method is to develop individuals to become well-rounded athletes with a minimal physical aptitude requirement. It is not about who can deadlift the most, complete a triathlon the fastest, win a bodybuilding contest or become the winner of the (insert sporting event here). Those are just “extras”, very specialized goals that extend beyond the basics of the Natural Method, and are encouraged as they can represent an individual’s interest(s). But, for the civic duty, the Noble Cause of being able to help self, peers and country, the method boils down to the main activities of walking/marching (rucking also), running (distance or speed), lifting (heavy objects), throwing (heavy objects, or light ones for target practice), climbing (rope, scaling, free, training to overcome fear of heights), jumping (high or far), rescuing, swimming and combative techniques like boxing or wrestling.

Training Field

The schematic to the left displays an ideal training area. This is from the original document, all in French, so allow me to translate each area for you. It is made up of a top strip (water area), a center field broken up into 4 quadrants and surrounded by a track, and a bottom strip, itself broken up. Please click on the image to expand it for clarity.

Upper left corner: Training area reserved for basic educational exercises, shadow boxing and simple games. The area is surrounded by 8 beams for suspension/off ground exercises.

The T-shaped shaded area is for the locker room. To its immediate right, connected, are 16 straight climbing ropes, using the building’s outer wall for the climbing drills. Right next to it is the boxing area (for actual sparring).
Below the “T” is a rectangle broken up into 8 areas, designated for wrestling.
To the right of the wrestling area are 8 more rudimentary bars for corrective, restorative exercises.

The upper right portion of the field is for jumping (top) climbing (center) and beams (bottom of upper right quadrant).

Separating the upper right and lower right quadrants is a 100-meter track for sprinting/speed training.

In the lower right quadrant are additional climbing and scaling, height training and rope climbing apparatuses.

Surrounding the 4 quadrants is a 500-meter circular track for endurance runs.

At the very bottom are 2 “strips” of training areas. The first one is an obstacle clearing area, with trees, walls etc. The bottom strip is divided into 3 areas: on the left, an area for weight lifting. Center: heavy objects throwing. Right: light objects throwing for target practice.

The very top strip is, in this example, a river used for swimming and water rescue drills.

From a personally opinionated standpoint, shared by many of my peers, people ought to focus on developing those minimal aptitude physical requirements before they should even concern themselves with vanity goals or other, and not fall prey to fitness marketing hype. The reality of every day modern life and its tasks tends to derail people into a form of specialty training that becomes a potential waste of their time, as the end goal, not being consistent with the reality of basic human performance and needs, is often abandoned. Don’t focus so much on losing the pounds, focus on doing the work and eating properly to become functionally fit (example chosen because of the most popular goal for people to get fit). Do it correctly, consistently, and you’ll get there!

Women, help your men! Men, boost your “T”!

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I already blogged last time about why you should train with me.

So now, I am just going to write about “why” you should train period, but I’m coming from a different, more specific angle. Baby boomers, or men as young as over 30, this is crucial information that can increase your health as well as save you tons of cash, now and in the long term! Ladies, scroll down to the very bottom for a picture of what natural levels testosterone in the female body can do for you, and why following the same plan as your cave-dwelling other half will have you looking slimmer, sexier and healthier 🙂

DO YOU SUFFER FROM LOW TESTOSTERONE?
If you are in your teens, early 20’s, have a nice day, you are dismissed (for most of you).
If you’re on the wrong side of 40, and even somewhere near, you should read this.
Yes, women too!
If you have man boobs, lower libido, excess body fat, no muscle tone, decreased confidence, are not in the same you were in your 20’s (which is hard to maintain, I know, but you can still look amazing if you do something about it) and you let coworkers walk all over you and never stand up for yourself, you probably are experiencing “low T”. Behavior, schmehavior. If you’ve been like that your whole life, you may just have been screwed when testosterone was handed out, like I’ve been every time I try to go get the new iPhone 4S!

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
Back to my 4 pillars: exercise, nutrition, environment, hormones.
They all link together. Remove one, the rest falls apart, or falls short.
Exercise: you have to pick the right intensity to boost the secretion of testosterone, by stimulating the right parts of your brain (hypothalamus, pituitary glands). A typical (and thank God the trend is changing into facts rather than fashion) weight loss of low weights and treadmill is NOT the right thing to do to raise your testosterone.
Nutrition: The right kinds of foods help boost T levels naturally. Examples are celery, bananas, avocado, raw unsalted nuts, asparagus, basil, garlic, figs, whole eggs, lean organic meats to name a few. My vegan friends can be very happy up until I mentioned eggs, and vegetarians until I mentioned meats. So, you can raise those levels too!
Environment: get some sun! 30-60 minutes a day will help your body “luteinize” which is a precursor to testosterone. Make more lutein, make more testosterone. You need at least 1000 lux a day (lux: SI of illuminance, equal to 1 lumen per square meter). An office gets you about 500 lux a day. The sun produces 50,000 to 100,000!
Hormones: well, as you can see, that’s directly related to all of the above. Skip one, you’re throwing off the entire hormonal chain. Or, supplement poorly with inadequate hormone replacement therapy and the balance is off. Good therapy, on the other hand, is great if you’ve exhausted all options, but replacement therapy is that: replacement, not supplementation. It means you can never stop once you start, or the balance is off (again) and it’s very, very expensive ($500-$1000/month, not counting the lab tests and screenings to determine what amounts you should take).

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
Watch “guy flicks”. Seriously. Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, John Wayne, Bruce Lee, Charles Bronson were never accused of being sissies. Didn’t you ever feel pumped up after watching any Rocky movie? You can watch your favorite football team, but if they lose, you drop your T-levels too!

Avoid Dr. Phil and Project Runway. I know you can get easily suckered in. Walk away, turn on your iPod to some metal, download something cool and kick ass and watch it on your computer.

If your shampoo has paraben, laurel sulfate, F&DC yellow, trash it now! Those are respectively xeno estrogens that you’re rubbing in, toxins that cause infertility (and may even cause women to not carry full term) and penetrators so it can get into your blood stream!

Eat like a man: a low fat high fiber diet, commonly perceived as good for weight loss, is even more effective at dropping your testosterone levels too. You need fat, natural fat (mono and omegas for instance, stay away from trannies, I mean, trans fats). Oh yeah, and lift like one too!

Stop self-defeat right now! Most of what you do is driven by fear, your reptilian brain, also called the resistance. Stop looking at what you DON’T have and look at what you’re great at. Take that, and do more of it. Why? Cause great begets great, and you are engraining that behavior, which in turn helps you rebuild some confidence, which helps you boost your feel-good hormones, which make you want to conquer the world and yaddah yaddah yaddah…

Now, ladies, I promised you a picture. Be natural, be feminine, and be not afraid. I promise, on my son’s life.

Spartan Race & Warrior Diet

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On Sunday, December 12, 2010, I participated, along with 3 other tough guys, in an event called the Spartan Race.
Rather than do the thing on my own, I thought it’d be more fun to have a team (besides saving a few beer bucks on the registration fee and building team spirit).

I like to work towards a goal, and the mere training goals of strength building or hypertrophy didn’t tickle my adrenal glands enough to generate any kind of training fire inside me. While my personal routine didn’t change in preparation of the event, I wanted to prove that I can be ready any time, any day, and that the conditioning I put myself through would be enough. So, the only variable I changed in my training was my diet, which was great because I embarked on a journey I’ve been hearing about and wanted to experience myself after rave reviews. I’m talking about Ori Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet. My personal results have been fantastic and I am glad to endorse it!

Why The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body?
Well, for starters, if my own coaches and RKC comrades have been raving about it, it was endorsement enough for me to give it a shot. Designed for efficiency and maximal energy, it seemed like a no-brainer since my journey as a new father has been tough on the eating and sleeping schedule, 2 vital components of any successful fitness program. I directly asked Pavel Tsatsouline, who’s been on it for years I believe, his take on it. While it wouldn’t necessarily pack mass on me, it would give me plenty of energy and time to both work and take care of the baby when my wife needed time for herself and her work, in between my own clients.
Since any balanced diet revolves around insulin management, I was skeptical because all I was ever taught was to eat frequent meals during the day, which prevents overeating and “survival” metabolic slow-down. See, the Warrior Diet has you go through periods of controlled under-eating during the day alternating with over-eating at night.

I can almost see your furrowed brow on one side, raised brow on the other side. Some of your “hmm…” can be heard through the web too!

WHAT’S THE DEAL?
Hofmekler has you eat only live and raw foods during the day. Coffee or tea is allowed. Drink as much water as you want of course. Squeeze some fresh veggies and fruits and guzzle it down, chew on some raw almonds, cashews or pistachios. Hunger is a sign of vitality. Of course, don’t mistake that for an anorexic program! You eat enough to sustain and actually stimulate insulin release and get you going, burning fat and preserving muscle. You can even ingest a protein shake. But don’t stuff yourself like the domestic nomadic Zoo animal our society turned us into. Think predator, hungry, strong and driven to survive and thrive! When a big cat like a lion or a tiger feasts, they eat till satisfied, unsure of when their next meal comes. That’s you at dinner time. Eat till you’re more thirsty than hungry. Follow the VERY HEALTHY order of salad first, then your veggies, then your protein and if you have room, your carbs. Mix and match textures, colors, tastes (crunchy, soft, sweet, sour, savory, green, red, cold, hot…) and eat away. Then, rest up and sleep. While asleep (night time, circadian rhythm), you only use enough calories to rebuild your muscles from your hunt (I mean, training), while stocking up energy for the day ahead.

Think warrior, Roman soldier: when do you have time during battle to take a break and eat. Your adrenaline’s pumping, you’re hungry for life, food but need to stay razor sharp. How do you think you’d do if you felt like after Thanksgiving dinner while trying to slash away at your enemies? Lethargic is my guess. Save that for sleep!

Hofmekler goes into better detail in his book, and I urge you to give it a shot. I wouldn’t if I didn’t try it myself.

COMPARE TO OTHER DIETS
I have always been a fan of the TNT diet, which taught me that we only burn carbs at high physical intensity training (weights, sprints, martial arts, surfing, tennis…) and burn fat when our heart rate is slow/resting (blogging, sleeping, surfing your desk, watching TV…). The Paleo diet adheres to the same principle, though I am no fan of eating liver, kidneys or any other filtration organs and I do mind eating the better cuts of meat. I am picky, I won’t eat certain parts, like the heart or the brain. Sorry, Paleo dieters, you’re better people than I am, and I see no real reason to do this, other than maybe to generate less waste from the animal that “donated” its life.
The Zone diet doesn’t work, because not everyone’s needs are the same. Athletes vs couch potatoes, pregnant vs non-pregnant women, marathon runners vs shot putters. You can’t say we all need 30% fat, 30% protein, 40% carbs. And ultimately, the body reach homeostasis, so why not try something new, that makes sense and is on par with your goals? It even works if you’re not a lifter, and just want a new program. Read it, read Ori’s points and analysis.

WHAT IT DID FOR ME
I started 10 days before my 5K obstacle course in the Malibu mountains, the infamous Spartan Race. By body fat percentage was at 12.5% on a Saturday. On Tuesday, I had dropped 3% body fat at my annual physical exam. My lifts, my energy and my mood have been better. On the day of the race, after completing uphill runs, scaling steep 10′ walls, mud crawls, cold water swim, cargo nets and gladiators with big foam sticks at the finish line, I felt exhilarated, elated and I never got sore nor did I feel more fatigued than after a “medium” intensity workout!

To me, that was validation enough in my eating with the Warrior Diet, as well as my training with kettlebells, powerlifts and natural movement patterns, staples of my (and your) physical fitness development!
(I did run wearing my Vibram Five-Fingers and was glad I did. The grip and agility it gave me, especially after crawling through wet, muddy areas, was a nice welcome compared to wearing soggy sneakers!)

F.A.S.T. Pillar #4: Tone

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This is by far the most common desire and goal for anyone who exercises for the purpose of health.
While there is a vanity factor we should all acknowledge within ourselves (it’s natural, it’s actually not vain but driven by our species’ need to thrive, survive and reproduce), not exercising 3 times a week is actually bad for you (something I see plastered on the walls of Gold’s Gym Venice, based on some scientific study which I don’t recall the exact source…).

Why yes, it is bad for you if you don’t exercise, because of one word: entropy!

ENTROPY
Not doing squat (I am not referring to the exercise) is bad because as we age, we lose about a pound of muscle every couple of years past 30. If a pound of muscle burns 50 calories a day (at rest) and you lose 5lb of muscle in your 30’s, when you reach 40, you can gain up to 90lb! How does that work? If you’re not burning 50 calories a day for a year, that’s 50×365=18250 calories the pound of muscle made you not burn. A pound of fat is 3600 calories, so that’s roughly 5lb between the ages of 30 and 32. Compound that over a decade, you get pretty close to 90lb, EVEN IF YOU ARE EATING THE SAME HEALTHY FOODS YOU’VE BEEN EATING THE WHOLE TIME!!!

HOW DO I GET TONED?
Well, that’s the culmination of all things wellness related: nutrition, training, sleep patterns and hormonal balance and environmental factors (work, home, stress…). I emphasized exercise for health in the first sentence. Performance based exercise is geared at a specific goal, such as an athlete trying to lift a certain weight, run a certain distance, fight X amount of rounds… The result leads to improved muscle tone and a greater functionality in the muscles anyway, without being the main goal. Consequently, let me ask you this: why not pick a performance-driven goal so you can both look good and do stuff? You don’t have to be an athlete to train like one. Besides, training like an athlete puts you in a better frame of mind for EVERYTHING else in your life. That competitive edge, the desire to push and better yourself is something society is lacking. We make excuses, look for shortcuts and fail.

So, go ahead and DO it. Don’t try, that’s just a promise to fail!

Become Flexible, so you can have more mobility, less aches and pains and greater ability in your daily activities.
Develop your Agility and hand-eye coordination, so you’ll never be off guard, always ready and better prepared with sharper reflexes.
Lift to get Strong, because no one needs to be weak. Lift that baby while you’re carrying groceries, move that couch, push the stranger’s dead car off the main road, rescue the damsel from the fire.
More muscle, more speed, more movement leads to more Tone anyway.

Congratulations, you are now FAST!

To read pillars 1 through 3, click on the links below:
Pillar 1: Flexibility
Pillar 2: Agility
Pillar 3: Strength

Tara Wood Wildfitness Interview

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Tara Wood is the founder of Wildfitness, a company organizing fitness vacations geared at getting us reconnected with our true nature as human beings. Here’s a brief excerpt taken from the official Wildfitness site: “Tara founded Wildfitness in 2001 as the natural expression of her passion for the outdoors and belief in the potential of the human body. Tara was brought up in Kenya and found that being outdoors, active and eating well can flip your mood and boost your health like no medicine can.
Since this time Tara has been consistently developing the courses with expertise drawn from people at the forefront of the natural and evolutionary fitness field.

Tara Wood, the exuberant founder of Wildfitness

Here’s a recent interview I conducted with her. Read the Vital Juice LA article about me and Wildfitness, as a companion guide and article, as I put their senior editor through a Wildfitness oriented routine.

Philippe Til: Ever since I discovered your company and took part in your Wildfitness Coach training in London in May 2008, I’ve been “preaching the Wildfitness gospel”. Would you mind telling us, in a nutshell, the philosophy behind it and how you came to start it all up?

Tara Wood: The Philosophy in a nutshell: What is true human fitness? Look at tribal humans in nature:
“[Their] bodies are splendid, flexible, nimble, skilful, enduring, resilient and yet they have no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature”. (Georges Hebert)
Wildfitness believes that looking to nature and our evolutionary origins provides the most upstream and useful guide for how to eat, move and live to achieve our natural human physical potential. Unfortunately, many of us have been separated from nature for so long we have lost our understanding of what is ‘natural’ – we no longer know how to eat, move and live in a natural way and as a result our health is suffering.
A Wildfitness course provides the physical experience, expert coaching and time to help modern city dwellers rediscover their true natural physicality and vitality. You’ll learn to choose the right foods among the dizzying array of modern food stuffs, to move skillfully and harness natural forces to get lean, flexible and injury-free and to understand the role that your body’s natural rhythms of rest and recuperation play in achieving health & vitality for life.

I started Wildfitness just after leaving university. There was no question about doing anything else – it was an expression of my passion and belief that nature knows best. Learning to live naturally I have always believed is the most sophisticated health and fitness plan the world knows. I also had the good fortune of having a family house in what I think is the most beautiful place in the world (Watamu, Kenya). Wildfitness was a way of keeping the house and sharing it and its healing qualities with lots of people.

Beach Running in Watamu, Kenya.

Besides the like-minded feeling and connection I had to train with your people, my Wildfitness training also constituted something that is very important to me: continuing education. I learned Pose, natural movement patterns, the “Wild diet” and since have become kettle bell certified (RKC, through Pavel Tsatsouline) after Lee Saxby correctly introduced me to these training systems. How do you expand the breadth of training knowledge in your system? What changes/additions do you bring to keep Wildfitness “sharp”?

Keeping Wildfitness ‘sharp’ is an ongoing process, we will never know all the answers to nature’s mysteries in full, but we get closer all the time. We are in the great position to have the best minds in evolutionary fitness to draw from: Lee Saxby, Dr Nicholas Romanov, Frank Forencich, and Erwan Le Corre. We also have our Wildfitness locations as an actual arena to test out our coaching techniques on real people whose entire experience we create over several weeks. Translating theory into practical coaching is a real art – particularly when you deal with human beings! So we are constantly re-visiting the latest insights into evolutionary wisdom and constantly getting feedback from and evolving our courses. What we find, as we get more understanding and further ‘upstream’ insights into how our bodies and nature work, is that our courses actually get simpler.

What do you look for in terms of locations for your Wildfitness vacations?

Firstly it must be Wild. It must also be accessible and safe, but above all it must be a place to experience pure nature without noise and light pollution. We look for awe-inspiring natural environments where you can challenge yourself in a variety of different ways. We chose simple but comfortable and beautiful accommodation for up to 18 people. We look for places that operate while considering the environment and there needs to be a source of local organic food nearby.

What are the biggest perceptual challenges your clients face when they start training and discover a way of moving that seems to go against 3 decades of established “gym fitness”?

Some of the biggest perceptual changes that our clients go through are:

– That being fit means so much more than looking slim or muscular. We aim to inspire people towards new fitness goals – instead of focusing on what your body looks like, focus on what it can do. Aim to have a body that is useful, skilful, efficient, resilient and that can perform the wide range of different movements which it was designed to do in nature. Appreciate the beauty of graceful movement itself and you will find a beautiful body is the natural result. The other natural results are energy, health and being able to do all sorts of useful things.

– That fitness is not in reality split into the categories that gyms split it into: speed, endurance, strength, co-ordination, flexibility etc. Natural movement contains elements of all these qualities and by doing a variety of natural movements you gain the ability to be fast, to endure, to be strong, to be skillful and agile all when you need them. Indeed, to do a movement effectively you always need all the elements of fitness at the same time in varying degrees. A good example of this is that your ability to lift something heavy is about your speed, flexibility, co-ordination and speed, more than it is about your muscular strength.

– The other major perceptual change is that moving is fun! If you train in a punishing way, you actually don’t get the results. Rest is the other half of fitness, there isn’t a linear relationship between exertion and how fit you become. Sleep, fun, inspiration, and balance are vital to getting fit. We see many of our clients getting in such good shape (often having failed to before) by building in rest to the day as religiously as building in movement.

Swimming in the turquoise Kenyan sea...

What is perceived as exercise today is actually counterproductive in many ways to how we’re supposed to move, but the media continue to promote the “establishment”. At the same time, at every corner, a new fitness gimmick seems to pop (at least in the USA, I don’t know about the UK). How would you argue that Wildfitness is not an ephemeral trend?

We don't need to buy into more plastic junk!

Are our teachings a fad? Well yes, in a way. Many of the things we do, believe in and live by are temporary. We are continuing to evolve, continuing to understand who we are, where we came from, how we should live. To say we have answered these questions, for anyone to say they have answered these questions is labeling yourself as limited and a bit silly. But I do believe that looking to nature, looking to what we know of our origins is a rich and lasting place to look for these answers. And I also believe that looking to nature and our evolutionary origins is a philosophy that gives a fruitful focus, more so than scientific enquiry that tries to make sense of our physiology and biomechanics outside of this context. Our techniques will change, but what separates us from ‘gimmicks’ is that our philosophy does not. Fundamentally our philosophy is a search for the real nature of ourselves and our world.

Thank you so much for your time! I believe you’re in Kenya right now for a Wildfitness Convention, correct? What’s the best way to get in touch with you or any member of your organization?

Yes, the whole Wildfitness team were out in Kenya at the beginning of the year discussing all things Wild. Contact us on info@wildfitness.com or our website is www.wildfitness.com .

Thanks Philippe – I hope you will come and join the tribe out here again soon! We hope to have a location nearer to the States sometime soon, until then keep spreading the Wild messages over there across the pond. Thanks!

Stretching at Sunset. Peaceful nature...

(All photos were taken from the Wildfitness web site Kenya Gallery. For more pictures and additional Wildfitness locations, please click here. You can also download a free “mini-workout” which acts as a teaser/warmup, but engages your body in one of the many ways to get fit through Wildfitness modalities by visiting Exercise TV.)