Back to the Future: the Return of the Clan?

“Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.” – Henry David Thoreau

As a frequent Forum, with Michael Krasny listener, I was pleasantly surprised by the exceptional Ancestral Wellness literacy expressed in this recent show (Are Humans Meant for Monogamy?) by guest Christopher Ryan, psychologist and co-author of “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality“.   Ancestral Wellness acuity of this level is rarely encountered in the mainstream.  Even mentions of vegetarianism in this show come with the caveat of “know your biological underpinnings and, if you still opt for a vegetarian diet, do so with this knowledge and take the necessary precautions”.  In this way, Ryan compares monogamy with vegetarianism — no moral judgements, just sound precautions if you chose to operate outside of your genetic hard-wiring.   Know thyself, then adjust accordingly so as to support your goals and wishes.

Hmmmm; where have you heard that before?  😉

Now this idea is as easy to parody as Paleo itself; however, Ryan isn’t advocating wanton hedonism, but rather, a need to know your genomic hard-wiring, and the hows-and-whys behind that hard-wiring’s development over our species’ existence.

Social networks and the innate human search for “spiritual meaning” (note: as opposed to religion), in my mind, are the missing — or at least, as yet unexplored — “third and forth rails” of the Ancestral Wellness movement.  Knowing who we are, in terms of diet and exercise, in an evolutionary sense, forms the base upon which those of us within this movement craft a healthier, happier and fitter lifestyle.  What’s missing, of course, is the societal and spiritual element.  Living within the societal structures of our current, modern dictates is as much an anathema to our well-being as subsisting on a Standard American Diet, or negating the positive implications of movement/exercise in our lives.  Neglecting our hard-wired need for “meaning” is just as corrosive.

Christopher Ryan suggests that the current economic situation may in fact drive some forward-thinking people to begin to form nascent “clans” (my word, not his), with both shared responsibility and shared fruits-of-labor.  As necessity is the mother of invention — or in this case, re-discovery — this can only be viewed in a positive light vis-a-vis hunter-gatherer clans and their propensity toward egalitarianism.  It will be interesting to see how governments deal with this scenario.

Ten-thousand-plus years of severe social conditioning, of course, won’t be scrubbed away in a mere generation or two.  But as with all cutting-edge ideas, there will always be forward-thinking, early adopters.  It is, in my mind at least, inevitable that the first “new clans” will emerge from this already egalitarian/libertarian minded Ancestral Wellness “sub-culture”; a sub-culture, by the way, that I am proud to be a member and vehement promoter of.

And hell, let’s go ahead and throw shamanism into the mix of ideas that were squelched/repressed/shamed a result of leaving behind the egalitarian, hunter-gatherer lifestyle as well.  Few non-fiction books have rocked my world the way Graham Hancock’s awesome work, Supernatural, has.  Totally mind-expanding, to say the least, in the way that Peter McWilliams’ work, Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do, skewed my political views (much further) toward practical libertarianism, way back in the day.  Ditto for Peter McAllister’s Manthropology, in shaping my notions of the average Joe’s physical ability and work capacity.

Food, fitness, societal underpinnings and spirituality, taken together and as viewed form an evolutionary prospective, round-out the Ancestral Wellness model.

The return of the clan and the clan shaman are, in my estimation, are a much-anticipated inevitability.  Sign me up for both.

A Weekend Fun and Frolic — on the field, in the parking lot and in the gym

Saturday: speed work –
(1) sprints: 6-seconds, self-timed, all-out and with full-recovery between reps.  Autoregulated by distance, in that when I failed to attain max distance two times in a row, I pulled the plug.  I think I ended-up getting about 10 efforts in, though I wasn’t trying to keep count.  “Full recovery” equated to about two minutes between reps.

(2) dual-leg speed hop; 10 seconds for max distance.  Same autoregulation idea as above.  Again, roughly 10 attempts before reaching drop-off.

(3) dual-leg hop — tractor tire course.  8 tires dispersed randomly, but spaced so that I could hop in, out and between each tire so as to complete the course.  Done fast as possible, but with no “double hops” or misses.  6 rounds, full recovery between rounds.

What’s the difference between speed and speed repeat (or speed endurance) work?  Check out this article from Elite Fitness: What speed training really means.  I can explain it no better than this.  Nice work, Jon.

Sunday: sprint repeat (endurance) work –
Prowler pushes, farmers walks, all manner of sandbag clean & press, snatch variations and other such manifestations of tourture — just a friggin’ free-for-all throwdown with Skyler Tanner and PFX12’s mastermind Kevin Cottrell.  Not a damn bit of it was quantifiable, although I was close to hurling at one point, so I guess that would qualify the session as “pretty intense”  Chalk another one up for the axis-side of the old power-law curve 😉

And let me just say this: you can’t take these two friggin’ animals anywhere — just look at what the hell they did to my prowler during this workout…

Check out that right rear skid.  What you can’t see is that the left rear skid is bent, too.  Does this mean that the Paleo/HIIT crowd is tougher on equipment than those West Side powerlifting behemoths?  Hmmmmm……  🙂

…meanwhile, the ol’ prowler is in ICU.  Damn, just after I got my bike off of the same such life support.  Meh…

In the news…

This is either a boon for health, longevity, and the quality of life — or a major score for the pharmaceutical industry.  Check out this story, from Big Think — The Man Who Was “Cured” of HIV.    Now this certainly can work out to be the essence of Ancestral Wellness — combining the best of modern technology, with an underpinning of smart & solid Physical Culture.  Without that solid underpinning, however, what science is creating is a class of customers beholden to the pharmaceutical industry not just for 75 years, but for 150 years.  Cha-ching!

Eat the rich, my friends…or rather, let the rich eat themselves.

In health,


“Manthropology”, and Preaching the Health-Performance Continuum

“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”Ludwig Wittgenstein

Heh; OK, so you thought I’d fallen off the edge of the earth, huh?  Well, not exactly; it’s just that I’ve just been dedicating most of my spare time toward prepping my presentations for this summer’s upcoming 21 Convention in Orlando, and the Ancestral Health Symposium in LA.  What little time I have had for leisure reading as of late has been directed toward (on the recommendation of my good friend Ken O’Neill, of Smart Fit) Peter McAllister‘s Manthropology, and a couple of 1985 editions of  The Coaching Association of Canada’s “Science Periodical On Research and Technology in Sport”; in particular, Strength Training Part I (Classification of Methods), and Part II (Structural Analysis of Motor Strength Qualities and its Application to Training).

For an overview of McAllister’s fine book — and a bit of fascinating follow-on audience Q&A with the author, checkout this presentation.  If there were any lingering doubts in your mind as to whether the agricultural revolution has been a complete and utter disaster vis-a-vis mankind’s  robust nature (the male, specifically), this work should once-and-for-all nullify those doubts.  And if any doubts remained as to whether the human genome has suffered as a consequence of (1) a lack of “herd thinning”, and (2) a general and substantial decline in the required day-to-day “honing and hardening” of the genome, this should eliminate those doubts as well.

It has been my long-standing belief that we (trainees) can not only acclimate to — but indeed thrive under — a much greater work capacity than we (society in general; the S&C community in particular) currently give ourselves credit for.  This book goes a long way toward substantiating that notion.  Greek trireme rowers offer a perfect meme for this idea of a robust general citizenry’s work capacity.  A greater work capacity allows a trainee to spend more productive time actually training (general S&C, or sport-specific), simple as that.  Think of work capacity as GPP (general physical preparedness) writ large.

Although I certainly (and highly) respect the work of Art DeVany and Doug McGuff, I do have to respectively disagree with them on the point of hunter-gatherer’s average daily energy expenditure, and hence, modern man’s toleration for (relatively) high-frequency bouts of intense exercise.

A quick interlude is in order here.  I take the point of view that looking to modern hunter-gatherer societies is not a particularly good example of our true genetic potential vis-a-vis inherent work capacity.  Modern HG’s simply do not face the same predatory fears that our more distant relatives faced on a day-to-day basis.  I picture bands of stone age HGs constantly pursuing migrating game while at the same time themselves being pursued by predators.  No time to lounge and eat figs between infrequent hunts for these HGs.  Man as the Hunted-Gatherer is the scenario that makes much more sense to me.  That means bursts of high power output, yes — but those bursts were interspersed within a constant, and continual movement/migration, rather than idleness. 

Art, Doug and myself do, however, agree on the ridiculously small amount of intense exercise required to maintain a person’s general health.  What I’m speaking of here is pushing the performance envelope while ensuring that health remains optimum — in other words, the other side of the health-performance curve.

“Heath” of course, is a multifaceted, ever-evolving concept; one thing we can agree on, though, is that the definition of health as being the mere absence of disease is, well…lame.  We’re smarter than that, and demand more than the “vacuum definition”, pedestrian take.

I’ll flesh this idea out a bit more at the 21 Convention, but essentially “health” is a balance between, one the one hand, maintaining optimum internal parameters (blood profiles, inflammation markers, organ and joint robustness, etc.), and on the other, maximizing one’s ability to both produce, and absorb, force — in other words (and if we introduce a time element here, which we must as we live in the “real world”), the ability to generate and absorb power under various and unpredictable, “real life” scenarios.  The “various and unpredictable, ‘real life’ scenarios” part implies that there is a certain environmental and ontological context which must also be considered.  Ours is a world mostly free of predators and, in general, one that requires less “honing and hardening” in order to survive.  What is considered “healthy” or robust today, however (no matter how spot-on the internal markers might be) would simply not pass muster in Greek society 2,000 years ago.  And although those Greek trireme rowers were undoubtedly GPP standout, power-producing machines, one can only speculate as to the state of their internal bio-markers of health.  Health and performance is, as are most things in life, a delicate balance against a backdrop of the “unknown and unknowable”.

On the bright side, though, if one assumes a 100,000 year timeframe for most gene mutations to take hold (yeah, yeah, I know — I said most), there is hope.  Get your diet squared-away, folks, and bust your ass (intelligently!!) in the gym and in the great outdoors — do your part to put a squelch on this downward slide of man!  Become the phenotypical expression your genetic forefathers would be proud to claim!

And a quick aside: here’s a great post on the subject of overtraining (as opposed to under-recovery) — and yes, there is a big difference between the two.  And just how does one boost recovery ability?  Apart from the obvious (following sound nutritional practices, sleep patterns, and reducing chronic stressors), you’ve got to increase your GPP.  It’s the dirty little secret one one wants to talk about.  Plain and simple, enhanced performance does not come easy — if you want it, you have to work diligently (though, intelligently) for it.  How do I prevent slowdowns due to overuse injury (the tendonitis example in the linked post)?  I conjugate — constantly vary — my workouts.  My body knows no ruts.

As for those cica 1985 documents — wow!  The author is Dr. Dietmar Schmidtbleicher, University of Frankfurt — translated to English by none other than Charles Poliquin.  My initial thought upon reading these was, no wonder the Germans (east and west) were so friggin’ dominant in international competition.  These things read as if they were written in 2011.  Amazing…

~ ^ ~

Presenting the “health/performance continuum” concept to the lay public

The following clip is of me recently addressing a small group of professionals, none of whom (save for one) have anything at all to do with the fitness industry.  The topic is the general public’s misconception of the relatedness of athletic prowess to general health.

So I’m trying to whittle this particular off-the-cuff presentation topic down to a solid, professional, 10 to 15 minute deck-plate spiel.  And remember, this is addressing the lay public here, and my main objective is to get them to reconsider the definition of “healthy”, and the requirements for maintaining health (by way of commitment — as measured, especially so in time expenditure), and their notions of “health” as it relates to athletic prowess.

Suggestions/critique towards that end would be greatly appreciated.  It’s hard for me, sometimes, to think back to a time when I, too, considered extreme athleticism to be analogous to health.  I had to actually travel the path to figure this out on my own; surely this misconception can be nipped in the bud — especially so, in young, aspiring athletes.  But, too, in those who consider the super human exploits of these athletes, and then think to themselves, “well, I can never do that, ergo, I can never be healthy — so why the hell even attempt?”

Changing this paradigm will be one small step toward changing what is now a world-wide health care crisis.  Something I plan on discussing in LA this August.

~ ^ ~

Workouts?  Oh hell yeah!  Here are a few…

Creative uses for the EZ curl bar; Creds (aka, the single-arm snatch)

Tuesday, 6/21

(A1) Powermax 360 flye/reverse flye x 30 seconds

(A2) XC flat press: (+0)/12; (+20)/6; (+40)/5, 5

(B1) ARX flat press: 5 negatives

3 hours later:
Pendulum leg press: (400/15; 500/8; 600/4), (400/25; 500/15, 600/5)

Wednesday, 6/22

This gives me the idea for an Efficient Exercise version of a fixie “poker run“:
I hucked it from Efficient Exercise’s Rosedale location, to the downtown studio, then performed –

(A1) Nautilus pullover: 255/12, 11, 8, 9
(A2) EZ bi curl: 8 sets of 8 @ 85 lbs, 2 sets per round.

Hucked it on back to Rosedale!

For the EE fixie “poker run” workout,  I’ll ride from the Rosedale studio, to the downtown studio, over to the Westlake studio, then back to Rosedale, with selected lifts at each stop.  I’m thinking start and finish with trap bar DLs at Rosedale…yikes!  Or some combo of DLs, farmer’s walks and Prowler work?  Oh yeah 🙂

Friday, 6/24

(A1) speed trap bar DLs: 255 (grey bands) /3; 255 (grey + purple)/3, 3

(A2) Powermax 360 front/reverse circles (front delt/rear delt pre- exhaust): 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off, 30 seconds on

(A3) ARX overhead press: hyper-rep x 3, 3, 3

Saturday, 6/25

(A1) Creds (single-arm power snatch, each arm): 45/7; 60/5; 80/4; 90/2; 95 for 6 singles, each arm.

(B1) Powermax 360 “Tabatas”: 8, 30-second bursts, 15-second recoveries between each burst.

Sunday, 6/26

(A1) 6 x 200m sprints (3 minute recovery between reps)

(A2) 5 x 50m dual leg hop sprints

(A3) parallel and monkey bar work

Tuesday, 6/28

(A1) T-bar row (regular grip): 140/10; 210/6; 255/9; 265/5

(A2) leverage incline press (explosive): +20/3, +30/3, +35/3, +40/3, +45/3, 3, 2+

(A3) Russian leg curl: BW/5 rounds of 10

Wednesday, 6/29

(A1) Bradford press: 65/12; 115/7; 145/6, 5

(A2) clean grip low pull: 225/7; 275/7, 7, 7

(B1) ARX neg overhead press (regular grip): 3 negatives

(B2) strict shrug: 275/10

Saturday, 7/2 and Monday, 7/4

Sprints, tire flips, bar and climbing rope work.

Tuesday, 7/5

Oly bar creds (single-arm power snatch): 65/5, 85/5, 90/3, 95/3, 100/3, 105/1, 1, 1

Two hours later: light “speed cleans”
165/10, 10, 10, 10

Wednesday, 7/6

(A1) bodyweight dips x 12
(A2) Nautilus pec dec: 95/10 + 5 partials

5 rounds of A1, A1, A2…

Thursday, 7/6

(A1) RDL (wide stance): 225/10; 275/6; 295/8; 315/8
(A2) step-ups: 135/12; 155/12; 175/12; 185/10
(B1) ARX leg press: HR/3, 2

Saturday and Sunday, 7/9 and 7/10

Sprints, hurdle hops, hop sprints … and more fixie riding than I could shake a stick at!  😉

In health,