The Yin-Yang of Genetics and Epigenetics, the Dieting Yo-Yo Woe, Oprah Style…Again, and, Oh Yeah, a Workout

Ahh, the intersection of genetics and epigenetics; and, hey, let’s go ahead and add a little quantum mechanics and spirituality in for good measure.

This recent SI article covers the genetics/epigenetics terrain well, and it’s well-written, too; always an added plus in my book.  Look, the bottom line is this, folks — you are not at the mercy of, or a slave to, your genetic hand.  The flip-side of this is, of course, that you can’t rest on your laurels, either.  I’m in full agreement with the notion that, as children, we are “programmed” to act fully in compliance with our given blueprint in as much as that coincides with both our culture and socio-economic climate.  East Africans run, from an early age; Jamaicans sprint.  Couple a favorable early environment with the right genetic hand (including the proper “drive” genetics), and the resultant phenotype comes away with a hands-down advantage over his lesser “advantaged” competitor.

I’ve mentioned this before, but this Nike commercial really resonates with me.  When I was a kid, I was nothing if not a perpetual motion machine.  My poor mom; I don’t think there’s any way for me to make up for what I put her through.

Sheesh; thanks again, mom.

OK, but what if your blueprint and/or environment wasn’t so advantageous?  Can you right the ship?

Hell yeah you can.  When we get down to brass-tacks, we’re all comprised of nothing but pure energy.  Every cell in our body is completely turned over at least every seven years.  To steal a rif from today’s post in  Seth Godin’s blog (in reference to this story), “All you need to know is that it’s possible.”

All that’s required is a spark.  Remember, there is no try, there is only do.  Will you trip at times?  Out and out fail?  Yeah, you will.  But with that spark, you’ll immediately self-recognize the instigating barrier, and navigate it successfully the next time out.

[Edit, 5/14/10 – here’s an interesting PBS News Hour interview with the author of the above cited SI article, David Epstein.]

Moving on…

Today’s early AM workout was preceded by yesterday evening’s hour-and-a-half worth of mixed intensity saddle time; an hour-and-a-half that was broken, about midway through, by a long red-eye break at my favorite Rocky Mount caffeine purveyor, Via Cappaccino.  This is one of the best restorative forms of exercise that I can think of.  The fixie riding, that is — not necessarily the coffee quaffing.

I’m still nursing a tweaky lower back from Monday’s biking near-miss, so I had to account for that in cobbling together today’s iron session.  That said, here’s what went down:

As a superset:
Atlantis machine incline press: 180 x 10; 230 x 3; 275 x 2; 280 x (miss – stall-out at 3/4); 275 x 1
snatch grip high pull from a high hang: 135 x 7; 165 x 4; 185 x 3, 3, 3

*Each set of incline presses was receded by a set of 5 explosive, feet-elevated push-ups.

Bradford press: 3 sets of 10 (back to front, 1 cycle, equals 1 rep) @ 95 lbs

Zercher squats: 3 sets of 8 @ 135 lbs

Note: the Bradford press demonstrated in the provided link is a combination of full front and btn presses, whereas I, in order to more fully isolate/target the shoulders (and reduce triceps contribution), only press the bar high enough, in both the front and btn portion of the movement, to just clear my head.

Very little rest between any set of the above two exercises; I was still blowing pretty hard at the start of each subsequent movement.  Zercher squats were done today more as a low back rehab than anything else.  Zerchers, by the way, are a fantastic max effort exercise for the lower body, and teach excellent squat positioning and form.  Today, the higher rep, super-strict form was just what the doctor ordered for working the lower back just enough.  As well, I noticed that my legs were a bit gassed from all the saddle time I’ve put in as of late.  About the Atlantis incline choice — I’m not usually a machine kinda guy, but every now and again I will make an exception.  Today was one of those days.  This particular machine fits my body nicely, and so all I really lose out on here is stabilization work.  I’ll take that hit every now and again for the sake of adding variety to my workouts.

The Oprah Yo-Yo thang…again

Ugh!  What’s to say, other than this is really, really distressing.  C’mon girl, I know you’re much more intelligent than to remain stuck on this merry-go-round.  Seek real help; the information is out there for the taking.  We’ve been down this path before; remember?   Apparently, Oprah hosted Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food and God, who, from what I can gather from the link sited above, offers some valid points for consideration.  Now, I’m all about the psychological feel-good side to getting yourself together, however, one still has to live and function in the real-world, and that necessitates making real-world consumption decisions.  Long story short — the carb jones is still going to hand you your ass in the long run; the analogy here being that you either quit smoking altogether, or you’ll eventually return to your old, habitual levels.  There is no in between.

13 responses to “The Yin-Yang of Genetics and Epigenetics, the Dieting Yo-Yo Woe, Oprah Style…Again, and, Oh Yeah, a Workout

  1. I love that commercial, too bad that LT is essentially washed up at this point of his career (though I will still root for him as he plays for my Jets)…and I agree re genetics/epigenetics — all that is required is to flip the proverbial switch and the body reacts, it is an incredibly adaptive thing

  2. Hey Keith,

    I am interviewing David Epstein on Tuesday morning. Do you have any questions or comments?

    Should be good. I’m going to try to get him to cover the Ancestral Health Symposium. Fingers crossed.



    • Whoa, I’m way looking forward to your write-up of this interview, Brent; what a fabulous score!. I’ve long respected David’s work as a journalist.

      I’d love for you to have David comment on this: in light of what we now know to be true of the interplay of epigenetic factors on the given genetic hand — and, of course, with the benefit of hindsight’s perfect vision — would we still consider Marv Marinovich’s control of his son Todd’s early life to be all that maniacal?

      My contention has always been that (ethical questions aside — and I acknowledge there are many) Marv was well ahead of the pack in realizing the fact that, yes, the given genetic hand can indeed be favorably influenced. And not just slightly, but substantially. The intangible that Marv failed to successfully navigate was the psychological wreckage imposed on a subject who perceived this “gift of foresight” to be nothing short of a forced surrender of free will.

  3. Atlantis incline press! I’m jealous. Those machines are made by the Eleiko — the Ferrari of weight training equipment.

    Is this at a regular commercial gym?

    • Just your average, run-of-the-mill YMCA. The weight-room director knows his stuff, though, and makes the most of his available budget.

  4. I would say that my genetics are all about slow but steady endurance. I’ve always been able to hike further than other people without feeling tired. Short bursts of speed are not my strong point.

    I also have small arms and hands compared to my lower body.

    I work on upper body brute strength: pullups are still hard for me, balancing on my hands, etc. I try to push that phenotype expression.

    I also do sprints to get that short burst working better. Seems to work and it feels good.

  5. The article on Lightweight Living was a bit disturbing. The writer was run down and killed by a car while cycling and his wife suffered the same fate two years earlier. Having some stuff provides a measure of protection. Safety gear, protective equipment, a hand gun to shoot bears, a fortress to return to at night..could all be worth having. Minimalism can be taken too far.

    • Truth. I think the key is to balance belongings to environment — the plains Indians are a good model.

  6. Keith,

    Zercher squats look like they will wreck your inner elbows before they will work your legs….. What’s the purpose of them?

    • Just a different squat angle, a way to shift things up a bit — and a hell of an upper body workout as well. Give ’em a shot, and you’ll see what I mean.

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