It's early morning Christmas Day in Australia. Light rain is falling in Cairns and the raucous chorus of early morning bird song is just warming up. I am on a really clean high fat, low carbohydrate paleo diet these days and find I just don't need the same number of hours of sleep I used to and get up at around 5 am most days. The pre-dawn hour is when I sit down and prepare for the day ahead, most often by writing this blog.
Not at all like Cairns at Christmas
This Christmas we are heading up to Davies Creek National Park on the Tableland behind Cairns for a couple of days where we will do some bushwalking and swimming in the creek with some fellow escapees from the commercialism of the season. In Nelson, we always spent Christmas skiing, usually staying in a little mountain cabin, like we did in 2011 (our last Christmas in Nelson). Neither Doug nor I are traditionalists and could just as easily skip the entire Christmas scene.
Christmas 2005, Caribou Cabin
I do feel the end of another year approaching, which is a time for regular folks to take stock and – gasp – even set a few goals. No doubt, there will be many new diet and exercise programs launched on January 1, 2014. To that end, I've gathered together some of my favourite blog posts about health and fitness.
First, Jay Stanton, on his one day fasted Mount Whitney walk to demonstrate metabolic flexibility.
I haven't read all Jay Stanton's posts (that would require staying in one place for far too long) but I really like his post “There is another level above I'm Doing Fine” which you'll really only understand once you get yourself into peak health and notice all the minor little irritations that used to plague you have completely disappeared.
Early Christmas morning, 2011
Steady state cardio is so entrenched in both the mainstream media and the fitness industry (with the exception of the primal type fitness experts) as the way to “cardiovascular health and fitness” but the entire concept is flawed. Start a running (or other steady state cardiovascular program) and you'll see some modest improvements in whatever steady state cardio activity you are engaged in, but, you won't be improving your overall health all that much. Michael Eades explains in this blog post – you'll have to read down to the second half of his post to get to the nitty gritty of the issue – why weight training is better for overall health than steady state cardio. Those improvements in your ability to huff and puff that you see after a few weeks of steady state cardio are the result of muscle conditioning (specifically mitochondrial efficiency) not any change in your overall cardiovascular system so the smart thing to do would be to condition your muscles with weight training and ditch the huffing and puffing.
On the way to Snowspider, Christmas 2006
A while ago, John Keifer wrote an article damning steady state cardio that got all the long (and even short) distance runners out there all riled up when they thought that they might have to curtail their addiction to the endorphins released during their long (and otherwise tedious) workouts. You can read Keifer's article here. A slightly less inflammatory take on the same thing (for the running junkies out there) is here.
On a more general note, anything that Peter Attia writes is interesting, but I particularly like his blog post on “Got Grit” which is all about determination and deliberate practice. It taps into a concept that Hamilton Stapell addresses at the Paleo FX 2013 conference, view the slides here, or the video of the talk here, where he explains why the paleo movement will never go mainstream. Basically, most people just aren't motivated enough to walk away from the instant gratification of the standard western diet even if they will "look, feel and perform better." And finally, the paleo backlash is now in full swing, Keith Norris explains why the mainstream media has got it all wrong here.
If you want something a little more seasonal, you can view our Christmas letter here. Have yourself a happy and healthy festive season.
Christmas morning, Grassy Hut, 2003