Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Deliberate Eater - a.k.a. Eating for Life (feeling good now and later)

I try to lead a relatively deliberate life. That means I like to have reasons for everything I do. This, in turn, prevents me from wasting time and usually leads to more enjoyment in life. I want to share some of this here so that others can find more enjoyment and how to feel good in the way I have.

For the James Brown song "I feel good" there is a video at the end!

A warning: this post might require a bit of brain engagement, but the rewards of doing so are worth the effort. Here we go!

My reasons to eat
The way my deliberate life works out in things nutritional is that I eat for the following reasons (in no particular order):
  1. To enjoy what I am currently eating in the moment - every mouthful 
  2. To have what I crave, when I crave it 
  3. To be able to control what I crave so that I don’t feel guilty after eating
  4. To feel satisfied after eating, not hungry, not craving anything bad, e.g. sweetness 
  5. To be able to stay active, fuelling for the exercise I love to do 
  6. To be healthy for life, by taking in a good balance of nutrients and not adding to my waistline 
  7. To be stress free (including stressing over cravings) 
Most people eat only because they’re hungry and/or they want to enjoy the experience. That’s okay with me as long as this is a deliberate decision and as long as my tax dollars don’t fund their health care (which it does in this country).

A lot of people also try to eat to be healthy but are usually misinformed about how to eat to accomplish this, or they are ill-disciplined in their approach. Hopefully there are a few useful tips here to help overcome these two problems. I have had, and continue to battle them in myself. I want to be clear about that. But having dropped from 130kg+ down to an average of about 95kg (maintained over the last 2 years), I think I’ve worked out a few things that can help - and I really want to help.

Why you should start being deliberate today
Because the things you eat have a huge impact on your emotions, energy, stress, concentration, and more, you must consider your nutrition deliberately and carefully if you have any goals in life that come under mental or physical (or even spiritual) categories. It sounds like this will turn out to be complex, but really it’s quite simple to make some major changes, and these changes will have such an effect that you should be inspired to make even more positive changes in your diet.

Achieving goals, or just feeling great, no matter what age you are, is entirely achievable. And the quicker you make a start, the sooner you will see more happiness and enjoyment in life.

Some quick ideas to get you started
I suggest choosing two or three of these ideas to try first, then come back after a few weeks to assess your progress. Some people will have more lasting habit changes by bookmarking and re-reading this every week. Others will prefer to make a written note and stick it up in an obvious place (I’ve found it helpful to make desktop backgrounds with goals and long-term reminders incorporated).

Idea 1 - Start thinking about food as a pharmaceutical drug that controls your hormones (which control your mood and your energy level). Anything that spikes your energy requires you to come down from that spike - a low in energy and a resulting low mood.

Foods that make your energy spike include sugar, bread, potatoes, pasta, cereal, any other white/starchy carbohydrates, sugary fruit, fruit juice.

Idea 2 - There’s a difference between a mental and a physical craving. If you decide you feel like something sweet, first pause and work out where it is coming from. I find it helps to become consciously aware of my taste buds and to imagine what the response in my mouth will be if I put something sweet on my tongue.

If I decide my sweetness craving is physical, then I have the healthiest options I can. My first preference is natural and unprocessed honey - I savour a teaspoon full in my mouth and then reassess my craving. Sometimes a small piece of sweet fruit will do, e.g. a peach or strawberry. In the absence of honey or fruit, a small glass of diet coke with it’s evil artificial sugar. While this isn’t ideal, it is better than some refined sugar in lollies or biscuits.

Idea 3 - Stress is a killer that makes you crave sweetness. Unsatisfied craving for sweetness can lead to more stress than it’s worth which is why you should keep some honey nearby. I firmly believe it is better to binge on honey than on giant jellybeans (my nemesis sweet). Honey satisfies much quicker too.

Idea 4 - Drink plenty of water but spread it out rather than having it all in one big hit.

Idea 5 - You shouldn’t feel very hungry between meals if you eat this way but spreading out your food into smaller meals every three or four hours is good.

Idea 6 - Eat before you are hungry to prevent overdoing it with a panic-sized meal. Try to limit meals to 2000KJ (approx 500 calories)

Idea 7 - Of the foods that are okay to eat, find something reliable and have plenty of that around. The more thinking you have to do about what to eat, the harder it is to stick to an eating routine that will work for you. I have two or three quick and reliable meals, and another two or three quick foods which usually stop me craving. The more I crave food (of whatever kind) the more likely I am to misinterpret that craving as a desire for sweet.

My reliable foods/meals to eat as much of as I want are:
Tuna (plain chunky in spring water - drained) + four bean mix (from a can with no chickpeas - drained and rinsed also) + salt + extra virgin olive oil + balsamic vinegar. Variations can remove the beans and add veges (cucumber + tomato). This is a large-ish meal for me now and I usually have half only, saving the other half for another time.

Scrambled eggs - Extra virgin olive oil or butter in a pan + two to five eggs (depends how hungry I am) + salt. A cup of mixed veg on the side if you want a little more colour on your plate.

Coffee with cream (liquid, unprocessed, pouring cream). I usually make my coffee weak and I am moving to decaff.

Cheese, unprocessed of course. I prefer mild cheddar or another harder cheese.

Cream (as above in my coffee) straight from the bottle. This is a good top-up for me because I love fresh cream but it is rich enough that I can’t take too much before I feel satisfied.

Mixed vegetables.

There you go
I hope there is something of use here to help you become a more deliberate eater.

If there is one main idea to take away it is that we should eat not just for the immediate rewards, but also for the mid-term and long-term rewards. Rather than feeling bad shortly after finishing your meal, whether due to guilt or a low in energy, you can eat in such a way that you feel good all day and every day into the foreseeable future.

All the best! (and don’t forget to let me know how it goes)

PS - Eating this way can help prevent diabetes and many inflammatory diseases.

PPS - Take a quality fish oil supplement that is high in EPA. This is essential if you are an athlete.

And James Brown:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parkour History: 3 Key Principles of My Parkour

This is the final post from my old parkour blog.  That means you will no longer be able to find that blog.  Have no fear though, everything that was there is now here.  Enjoy this last one!

October 2009

Through reading and watching interviews with some of the founders of modern movement disciplines, and in watching them move, I have arrived at a sort of philosophy or approach to my training that hangs on three concepts. I will begin by explaining my understanding of these three ideas, including their benefits to the individual who pursues them, and then I will show how they link together in my training and wider life.

It is important to be clear about something at the beginning. I believe these concepts are a part of my wider life and existed before I began training. I am certain that if I didn't do parkour these ideas would manifest themselves in some other way. However, parkour has given me a context to form these ideas together and develop them. Other movement activities and non-movement activities may also be legitimate forms of developing the same ideas, but I think parkour is one of the better ones because of the need to incorporate both body and mind into training at the more advanced stages of development.

The bible says that man is made in the image of God. Creativity in man is considered to be one way that man shows similarity between himself and his maker. One way to describe creativity is by giving an example of a creative person. Someone who is creative is able to come up with something new out of something old or something considered as waste. As mortals, we cannot create anything physical out of nothing. So here I am considering creative use of pre-existing materials. John Britten was a creative genius who most people associate with the creation of the Britten motorcycle. Many do not know that he also built a home out of recycled materials, being creative with what he had, to reduce costs and to produce something totally unique. This was not the only amazing thing he produced with his creativity. That's another story though.

Some people think that creativity needs to have a useful purpose for it to be real. I don't think it is possible for creativity to be useless because the mind is developing its ability to think in different ways no matter what the use. Creative thinking can be applied to anything.

Parkour is a context for movement creativity. It doesn't even matter that much of the movement is discovered for the first time on a regular basis by every new practitioner that tries something they've never done before. There is almost nothing that beats the feeling of joy and elation that rises from within and fills our limbs with something wonderful as we move. This is the joy of creation in movement and can be experienced in a number of other contexts, e.g. writing, singing, playing music. It is creativity that gives energy to our training to keep it up and to push the boundaries. It is the desire to share something wonderful and new that leads to positive and fulfilling interactions with the rest of mankind. Creativity is the doorway to so much more.

Discipline is also easier to explain with some examples. Someone who is disciplined will train regularly in a controlled and thoughtful manner. Distractions and excuses are not something that the disciplined person allows. They train hard and strive to do the best they can at whatever they apply themselves to.

Without discipline our creativity would stagnate and the boundaries of movement would come crashing in. High repetition of movement gives us the technical mastery that becomes instinctive movement as well as the physical fitness to move where, when, and how we want.

Except for a few geniuses, we must train regularly to grow and widen the boundaries of what we can do. This is a lesson that parkour teaches beginners very quickly.

Another side of discipline is developing the mental toughness to be able to push on through the discomfort of training to find the limits of our bodies. Very few people in the world will know what it means to strive against themselves and overcome, beating their body into submission. There is also the discipline of knowing when to rest so as not to over-train, which can result in injury or slow recovery and progression.

Roughly speaking, altruism is helping others at your own expense. This expense could be in the form of time, money, even life.

In the field of parkour, traceurs often devote some time to coach and support beginners. Going beyond this, many will also look for opportunities to assist the wider community with their strength. This might be jumping at the chance to help push start a car with a flat battery, chasing down a purse snatcher, or assisting with community programs for holidays/camps/after school events.

Without the creativity and discipline that shapes a traceur, they are in much less of a position to assist others. The stronger we are, the more strength we can bring to bear on a difficult scenario. The more creative we are, the greater our range of options for applying ourselves to a problem.

Even the lowliest beginner can be altruistic by having a "give it a go" attitude that will inspire others, or by not making excuses for their weakness and instead seeking to improve from where they're currently at in their abilities.

Why are these things so important to parkour?
Lets imagine what parkour would be like without any one of these individual aspects.

First, without creativity we would not have the ability to become strong in a wide range of movements. Our "vision" would be dark and we could not see over the hill and far away to the furthest boundaries of our potential. Many people walk through life trying to fill up their day with shallow pursuits. We would be one of those, without creative insight into our own lives.

Second, without discipline we would lack the ability to fulfil our creative potential. With grandoise goals and no drive to reach them we would settle for an easy and shallow life once more. However, we would be incredibly frustrated with our lot because we would be able to see what we could've been, if only we had the discipline to make it happen.

Third, with no drive to help others we would be left to pursue our limits in total selfishness. People would only come to dislike us since we would never do anything for them. We would be reckless with other peoples' property and would likely leave a trail of destuction behind us at local training spots. Beginners would get no assistance and would be left to their own devices which would prove destructive all over again. Without the time and effort of experienced traceurs we would not have constructive communities online, and in the physical world, that build a positive and healthy segment of society, which in turn feeds this altruism into the world as a whole.

Each one of these three ideas builds into my life (and my parkour) in a necessary way. Without any one of them I would not be who I am. While they don't describe the complete me, i.e. I am more than just these three things, they are one framework to hang ideas on that would build a picture of my life. I would even go so far as to say that these three things should be a large focus in the lives of everyone in the world. Parkour is a great way for young people to approach these key concepts, and as such it should be something offered to children everywhere while they are young enough to latch on in a natural way.

Finally, these three ideas are where the simple joy in movement comes from. Expanding ourselves, growing into our ideas, sharing with others, and forming valuable relationships with communities. In all of this there is much happiness to be had!

Now its time for you to go away and think about how these ideas apply to your life.

Think hard, train hard,


Monday, December 26, 2011

History: My Response to the Barclaycard World Free Running Champs 2009

Another post from my old parkour blog that I've nearly finished shutting down. Enjoy!

From August 2009

I don't think I can respond to this event in a positive way. I've listed a few quotes from the vids (which you can view here), along with a few of my random thoughts. This is not the same as a carefully thought out response - just an instinctive response which gives you an idea of how I think. I tried to be positive where I could but it was really hard. Hopefully those of you who have met me, trained with me, and have seen how positive I normally try to be, will realise just how much of a rebuke these comments are towards this event:

On defining free running: "...fastest way from A to B, throwing in some flips and tricks to spice things up..." Nobody in the champs were trying to go from A to B in a fast way. These bozos are just piggybacking on the true roots of parkour when they say stuff like that.

"...all about freedom of expression..." How does this line up with A to B in a fast way? Is trying to please the crowd being free or is it actually just the opposite?

All about showing off to the crowd really. 8000 people, T.V. cameras. What message is this sending? Is it one that's worth supporting?

" running can be dangerous, so know your limits..." "...two of the first three competitors injured..." Again, what message is this sending. Sounds very confusing to me. Just a collection of phrases that sound good being thrown out to the young and impressionable crowd for their absorption and to get them hyped up. Vague philosophical foundations with no real substance. The same thing you get in religious circles from the charlatans who are just out for money. Injuries of this frequency are unheard of in elite competitive sports. Imagine losing 20% of your country's olympic team on competition day. Madness. Competition already encourages an attitude towards safety that we don't want to see in parkour, this seems much worse than that even. I wouldn't be so upset if they said it how it was, i.e. we like jumping of stuff and doing big moves that everyone can go "wow" at.

"...5 year background in break dancing before he started pk, parkour, whatever you want to call it [chuckle] - free running for this evening..." Tim is a legend. It's a shame he's involved in this. I wonder if it was rigged somehow since his good friend Damien Walters was a judge. Still a bloody talented dude though. It's probably not as far fetched as it sounds since EZ comes from a boxing background and has been known for a while for dodgy business practice.

EZ giving a reason why Blue didn't get into the final: "...he was trying to be too sensible in his approach..." Implies Blue should have been more reckless.

" front of 8000 people, there's a lot of pressure on them..." Definitely something we want to distance ourselves from.

"...that's what it takes - solid training..." Yeeha! But I can't help but feel that this positive message is greatly overshadowed by the hype and the meaninglessness of the rest of their propaganda.

From the German lad who got 3rd place, being asked about the crowd influence/distraction: " soon as I jumped, I didn't see anything more, except the obstacles..." Shot bro! He also moved one of the best and had a few more natural variations of movements.

From the winner (Livewire): "...I just wanna train every day like I've been doing..." " creative as possible..." "...inspire other people to open their mind..." You, sir, are a legend! This just goes to show how out of place you are at this event Tim...

An overly excited audience member by the sound of it: "...somebody tried to do a flip of the stairs and landed flat on his back..." and the response to this incident from EZ: "...start slow, stay low, take your time, be sensible..."

I'm all for some level of performance (which is necessary to inspire others) but anything that hypes people up to do stuff in a crazy way rather than inspiring them to be a better person is going too far. There is a big difference between having your mind engaged when you are inspired and getting a rush of blood to the head that blocks reasonable thought and inhibits a healthy appreciation of danger.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Interpret my Zombie Dream

The start was less relevant than the end. 

The end saw me with time on my hands to pass and wanting to go train and challenge myself (parkour) while in a strange city (which may have been a mixture of some major world cities I’ve been too). As I was looking for a place to train, I started noticing people. Some noticed me back but others did not. 

These people wore suits and expressionless faces and were tall and imposing but at the same time real enough for me to know they were real people just like me. They were in the system and they were loveless. I tried to get some of them to wake up out of their single minded, zombie like, determination to maintain their lives and their relentless onward walk.

Then I ended up with a group of people in front of me listening to me passionately telling them to LOVE!!!

Feel free to speculate about the meaning of my dream!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dealing with the Down-side: Chronic Aches and Pains in Parkour

This post is from a parkour forum and I posted it about 6 months ago

The Problem (and Solution)
Everyone knows that we experience chronic aches and pains in parkour. It is inevitable, right? Some would even say it's a good part of the learning process.

I've found, through my experiences with training myself and others and through reading (Dr. Phil Maffetone and Thomas Kurz mostly), that it is not necessarily an inevitable part of training.

They describe the problem, in short, as having a severely undeveloped aerobic energy system.

The solution, for those who are experiencing regular interruptions to their training due to injury, is to build the aerobic energy system using really low intensity aerobic activity by monitoring using a heart rate monitor to stay in your aerobic range.

Unfortunately, parkour is almost entirely anaerobic (high intensity, short duration) and this type of training easily leads to over-training from not allowing enough recovery. Anaerobic training takes more recovery if the aerobic system is not well developed.

The Solution Isn't Practical!
Ideally, we would get beginners to spend 3 to 6 months building their aerobic base before gradually introducing them into the higher intensity parkour. Also, those who intend to train regularly for years to come will need to build an artificial "season" or seasons into their year. A couple of months each year should be devoted to building the aerobic base to avoid aches and pains. This would detract from the appeal to beginners so it doesn't seem very practical.

So, I've been learning about this in more detail lately. The results from case studies seem undeniable and I am going to embark upon an "off" season to build my aerobic base. I realise that this doesn't fit in with parkour as we know it so I'm happy to be the guinea pig and report back how the experiment goes. Maybe, if the results are good enough, others might try it too. The best motivation comes from great results.

Your Part
I'm really interested to hear from the sport-scientists and the cross-fitters among you on these issues. I seem to have some injury, even minor ones, come up every year. It's enough that I'm sick of the interruption to my routine and I want to solve it. It may not be much of an issue for the young uns though...

Over the last few years I've found that reducing the amount of work per session and having more sessions is a better way to train as recovery is better, but there is a barrier still and I think I need to reduce the intensity even more to be totally aerobic for a time.

There are a lot of factors, like how I intend to carry this out, but that will come in further discussion or you can have a read here and here or here on my blog

That was then, this is now: Having spend 6 months building my aerobic base, I have lost very little parkour strength and skill.  My immunity is much better, my recovery is insanely better (combined with fish-oil high in EPA), and I have higher energy combined with lower stress.  Well worth the experiment!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nutrition and Diet (Properly Interpreted Evidence Trumps Worldview)

This is a post from my old parkour blog (which I'm slowly closing down). The important thing to take out of this post is that we don't need to fight about where our reasons come from for some things. The evidence can stand for itself. I've shifted the links to the bottom that were originally at the top because I have a whole set of links from that are your one-stop shop for starting nutrition. They are the 8 parts of a lecture by Dr. Sears, creator of the Zone diet. In them, he explains how nutrition can be treated like medication, with dosages to control different hormone levels in your body. Get the hormone levels in the right zone and your weight sorts itself out.

Diet, Inflammation and Disease - parts 1 to 3
Diet, Inflammation and Disease - part 4 (Fish Oil)
Diet, Inflammation and Disease - part 5
Diet, Inflammation and Disease - part 6 (performance)
Diet, Inflammation and Disease - part 7 (performance)
Diet, Inflammation and Disease - part 8 (performance)

3rd July 2009

As I've said in a number of places before (though not on this blog), I disagree with the reasoning behind some of the sorts of dietary advice mentioned but my reasoning leads to basically the same general ideas. The main exception is the recommendation not to eat fruit (or "real fruit" juices) - I think fruit is something that should be part of every diet though, as with everything, in moderation.

Some of my reasoning and assumptions:
  1. Disease has become much more prevalent in the last couple of hundred years and is easily linked to diet (though not solely). This means we only need to look back to the diet of people within recorded history to see what is good for us to eat - supposed evolutionary models are not required. 
  2. A long life is not automatically an important thing - quality of life (mental, physical, spiritual) is more important than a long life.
  3. Nutrition is simple and the main principles can be understood by everyone with a mind to consider it.
These are the ideas that I think everyone can relate to. There are more concrete concepts that derive specifically from my Christian worldview, but my primary desire in this post isn't to get into that side of things, just to give people some ideas for developing their health through diet. If you want more info on that side, email me or post in the comments and I'll give you a brief run down.

A couple of worthwhile articles that Tom Kurz linked to on his blog: