Monday Morning Weigh-in

Monday Morning Weigh-in

244.8#

Up a few pounds after this past weekend. I was in New Orleans, LA; for the GORUCK GRT Reunion. It was a great event filled with great people in a great city. Which equals great overindulgence and some lessons learned.

NUTRITIONAL OFF-ROADING NOT WORTH IT: Seeing as how we were in one of the greatest food cities on vacation, we wanted to really taste New Orleans. Biscuits & gravy, beautiful pastries, sauces, and tasty salted pig parts. Not the way we have been eating at all, and we felt the response to it immediately. Sneezing, itchy, bloated, inflamed. I hate that it makes me sound like a narcissistic Vegan Crossfitter, but the response was pretty impressive. Better to keep to our Paleo-ish eating style, admit that certain foods are an emotional attachment, and listen to the biology lesson happening to my own system.

ALCOHOL, NOPE: Holly and I stopped drinking after our disappointing Body Fat tests. Over the past three weeks, we felt better than ever. But, vacation – right? Plus we are in NOLA with some great people, did a 12 hour event, so it’s time to celebrate and push “healthy” aside for a bit. Neither of us felt good during or after drinking, to be honest. Was it worth it? Kinda. No. Not really. In coming back to reality – AKA Home – it’s tougher to recover than it should be. It hurts. And I should be smarter about these things as I get older. Alcohol does not help with durability, resilience, strength, or endurance. And it certainly didn’t help me enjoy life, the people I was with, or the city I was in any more than I already was

KNOW YOUR LIMITS BEFORE FAILURE: During the Welcome Party of the GRT Reunion Tough – the part where we PT well past muscle failure to get our minds right – there was a Casualty Carry section. I paired up with another guy of similar size & weight. We carried each other the length of the soccer field and back no problem – without rucks. Next we loaded up with 35#-40# rucks each and setup for another round of Casualty Carries. I started getting him on my shoulders and my core just gave out. I dumped my teammate to the ground and strained my neck, shoulders, back, and abs pretty good. Of course, I couldn’t accept that failure – so I setup to try again.  Nope. I went down again. I failed. I failed my team (as I didn’t ask for help), I failed my teammate (as I couldn’t get him off the battlefield), and I failed myself (as I didn’t know my limits). This left me much less effective through the remainder of the event, and will impact training this coming week. Fuck. Lesson learned? Yup. Know your limits.

Great weekend. Worth the extra pounds as it lead to good learning. Now to get on with recovery and get back to training this week.

WHAT DID YOU DO THIS PAST WEEK? WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?

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5 Round Friday

5 Round Friday

PIXELATED NOOTROPICS FOR YOUR BRAIN

Smart drugs come in many forms, though it’s funny that coffee and tea are two of the most effective. So is the continual engagement of your Brain Housing Group. It’s Friday. It’s been a busy week. Here are five things I’ve been messing with that may make your coffee time on the deck or post-workout chill a little more enjoyable…

Pondering  Christopher McDougall
“Perhaps all our troubles – all the violence, obesity, illness, depression, and greed we can’t overcome – began when we stopped living as Running People. Deny your nature, and it will erupt in some other, uglier way.”
Born to Run, 2011 

Drinking  Tesora, Philz Coffee
Over the past weekend, we were celebrating a friends’ 40th birthday on the Russian River. Part of our crew brought a pound of the Tesora blend from Philz Coffee – a long favorite of mine. Most coffee is, well, coffee. But this is one of the few that really stand out to me. Worth taking some time with.

Headphones  Jocko Podcast, ep. #15
If you haven’t heard Jocko Willink’s podcast yet, you need to tune in. The format of his show starts with readings from a book that Jocko appreciates – with great vigor. Book Club with a pipe-hitter. Episode #15 has Jocko reading The Speech from Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” Intense.

Hauling  10# Sledgehammer
Over the last few weeks we have been training using Rob Shaul’s Military Athlete protocols, and a few of them call for rucking and running with a 10# Sledgehammer. It has been amazing to see the results of increased grip strength and endurance, as well as overall performance when running unloaded. People may look at you weird and ask silly questions, but it’s so worth it. Any sledge will do. Decorate it. Give it a name. You’ll need it because you will curse it.

Feeding  Thai Chicken Curry, Nom Nom Paleo
I find it great to have a few go-to recipes to use through the week. You know, those dishes you could eat at least once a week with a few variations? Those dishes you always have the ingredients for and can make from memory? This recipe established itself in our kitchen this week.

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

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Dog-Eared and Water Damaged

Dog-Eared and Water Damaged

THAT SMELL SHOULD BE MADE INTO A CANDLE

Weightless at moments, ground deep into my seat at others. Lit only by red lights and the occasional white-light flicker, that C-130 combat approach to Baghdad International Airport in 2004 was my first real taste of being in a Combat Zone. I gripped my copy of “Unholy Babylon” like others would grip their Bible – hoping I didn’t lose it and that its knowledge will guide me in the coming year. Dog-eared and water damaged, that book went with me everywhere since I had started training for the deployment. And while it wasn’t filled with existential lessons to save me in case I lost my way in the sands of warfare, it offered a glimpse into the enemy we faced amidst those same sands.

Abruptly, the plane landed and we coasted along the tarmac. The aft loading ramp dropped slowly as we cruised and the night air rushed in. A combination of burning trash, open sewage, and diesel exhaust followed, filling my nostrils with a stench I hadn’t smelled in 15 years. It’s a pungency not found at home, smelling of difficulty, death, and adventure.

Around the same time, General James Mattis was preparing to deploy as Commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, mission-bound for that same country. Before deploying, on 20 November 2003, General James Mattis drafted an email to a colleague answering a simple question about reading and history for military officers. That email went viral before “viral” was a thing. Twitter didn’t exist. Facebook didn’t exist. My Space was outlawed for military use. But email was our link to the world, personally and professionally. Mattis’ words soon made their rounds through the ranks of leadership. First in the Theater Command Group, then the Pentagon, eventually rippling out to servers around the world.

IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT COMBAT, BUT ABOUT LIFE

The crux of his email was the importance of reading and study. Through this practice he had “never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before.” Quickly crafted, his writing shows General Mattis’ no bullshit approach to everything. It also shows his reverence for history and the opportunity we have today to learn from those who came before us.

I know that many of you are not in the military or have not seen combat. We all have something to learn from this essay. The concepts General Mattis talks about can be applied to every aspect of life, from sports to parenting to business to Book Club. It’s about asking the question “Who has done this before me and what can I learn from them to improve my performance?” Your consequences may not be life and death. They might be quarterly sales or employee relations or triathlon times. But they are important enough for us to study, learn more, and apply what we’ve read to what we are doing. And that’s important enough.

RIF ONLY WORKS WHEN GROWN-UPS MAKE IT WORK

Mattis opens with the most poignant reason to up the ante in our reading game. He’s not just writing an 80’s Reading Is Fundamental PSA, but rather giving us the “So What?” we need to realize.

“The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.”

A very key point here is not only is it ourselves that suffer the “consequences of incompetence,” but that our “men” do too. That means all the people around us. Our children. Our employees. Our parents. Our clients. For all those times we are moving too fast to learn better ways of doing things, how often do we fail to realize how that impacts others? We can do better.

“Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.”

A number of years ago I read “Warrior Politics,” by Robert D. Kaplan. In it, he goes through all of the big issues we faced in foreign and domestic policy at the time and related each issue back to points in human history. From ancient Mesopotamia to modern United Nations, through every war, pact, and victory, we have experienced all this before. Mattis, again in his no bullshit fashion, reminds us of this fact – and that we have so much to learn.

“…leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.”

Studying versus reading. Today we are so flippant and consuming with our media that it’s hard to stop long enough to get past the Twitter-feed-style of reading. We read a little bit, nod our head “oh yeah,” and move on to Like or Retweet. Digital Post-It’s with a tasting menu of information, but never a whole meal. But to read something – to really read something – write about it ourselves (in a journal, blog, or Facebook post perhaps), and apply that learning – that makes the difference, I think. That bridges the gap between reading and study.

“As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the TTPs?”*

Coaches and Sentries. As leaders, is it not our job to set our people up for success? As a parent, as a CEO, as a Non-Commissioned Officer; don’t we have to look out for our people, take care of them, and give them the tools and knowledge they need to succeed in the jobs we give them? TTPs – or Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures – is a military term for the ways we do things. To Mattis’ point, we need to know more than reciting the textbook answers in order to effectively coach and watch out for our people. The only way to do this is to study more, practice more, and apply that learning to those we lead.

WADING THROUGH THE COLLECTION ON THE SHELVES

Unholy Babylon,” by Adel Darwish and Gregory Alexander, was only part of my study of Iraq, it’s politics, and it’s personalities. I was working in Human Intelligence at that time, and needed to know all of the backstory I could. I could well be meeting these people, or those loosely related to them, and had to be armed with all the knowledge I could collect. It was a turbulent year, 2004. We got shot at and blown up on a regular basis as the insurgency was kicking into high gear. Our job was to get the neighbors of the bad guys to sell them out so we could stop the attacks. It wasn’t an easy gig. But I could not have done my job well or set my team up for success if I hadn’t taken the time to study before heading in-country.

Today, I share General Mattis’ penchant for learning in order to better lead and teach. I was impressed with the number of takeaways I found in his short email. I’m sure your bookshelves are full of things you’ve collected over the years. Thanks to Amazon, it’s cheaper and easier than ever to line your living room with knowledge. But how often do we sit and study a topic, and then share what we’ve learned from that lengthy chat with the author with others around us?

What are you reading right now?

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LINKS_____________

Business Insider article on General Mattis Email http://www.businessinsider.com/viral-james-mattis-email-reading-marines-2013-5
Reading is Fundamental PSA via YouTube https://youtu.be/XIKiFB3xzEQ
Unholy Babylon, Adel Darwish and Gregory Alexander on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Unholy-Babylon-Secret-History-Saddams/dp/0312065310
Warrior Politics, Robert D. Kaplan on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Politics-Leadership-Demands-Pagan/dp/0375726276

5 Round Friday

5 Round Friday

THE MIND IS PRIMARY

This is where we open it. Welcome to 5 Round Friday. Time to get on the mat for some mental jiu-jitsu this weekend.

Okay, that sounds a lot more badass than it really is. 5 Round Friday is simply a list of things I’m digging on this week: music, books, recipes, quotes, podcasts, and various bits of brain food. Things I found value in and is making my life better, stronger, faster, or more enjoyable. Get it? Here we go…

Eyeballs |  General Mattis’ email on Reading
Just before General James Mattis deployed to Iraq in 2004, he sent an email to a colleague that went viral – even back then (remember, this is the land before Social Media). It stresses the importance of reading and study for leaders. Earlier this week, a friend of mine sent it to a group of us as required reading. It’s in true Mattis form and shows more of his character than internet memes can do him justice.
*NOTE: This may or may not become the subject of a full blog post. Just saying. It’s that good.

Earholes |  Black Flag: First Four Years
The founders of SST Records and iconic punk rock band are so worth going back to. Angst, intelligence, youth, fire, and the early days of hardcore still stand up today. Never mind today’s pop punk junk. Try fueling your next heavy lift day with Henry Rollins and crew.

Feeding |  Julian Bakery Paleo Protein Bars, Vanilla Cake
While not quite as cakey as Julian Bakery would like you to believe, they are softer and less blah than the other flavors. Paleo protein bars – especially some brands – tend to rubbery in texture and all taste the same. This one delivers 20g of protein in a… pleasant way.

Drinking |  Coffee via Aeropress
Granted, it’s one of a number of ways to make coffee now that the world figured out there’s more to life than Folgers made in a Mr. Coffee. But the Aeropress is well-priced option that gets all that bean has to offer into your cup. Check this version out.

Pondering |  Henry Rollins
“Half of life is fucking up, the other half is dealing with it.”

 

Please note: I an not making anything from these recommendations. They truly are what I have been enjoying and want to share with you.

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

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Article: The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: Part 1 (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey)

I’m sure many of us have stopped drinking alcohol for a time, or at least talked about it. Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you do quit? Ben Greenfield found out.

During the podcast (yeah, this is a mouthful) “How Quitting Alcohol Helped Today’s Guest Lose 30 Pounds, Make More Money, Attract Better Friends And Lovers, And Got A Job Hosting SportsCenter on ESPN (And Your Formula For Reducing or Quitting Alcohol)”…

…I asked James if he actually got any blood testing before and after quitting alcohol.

He said no (but he wished he had).

So after I recorded the podcast, I e-mailed the good folks at WellnessFX, and said, “Hey look – it would be an incredibly interesting experiment to take some guy or girl who is drinking alcohol pretty liberally and to test their blood biomarkers, then have them quit alcohol for 30 days, and then re-test – just to see what happens inside your body when you quit alcohol for 30 days.”

Source: The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: Part 1 (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey). – Ben Greenfield Fitness – Diet, Fat Loss and Performance Advice

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The Day I Felt Like Wolverine

The Day I Felt Like Wolverine

I DID THE MATH

Science says I can have the body of Hugh Jackman in 6 months – safely and without gimmicks. As a recovering fat kid, I’m ready to cut that ad from the back of the comic book and mail in my $9.95 with self-addressed stamped envelope. Or, just buy the eBook. Anything to help with this ongoing, lifelong battle with my body. Anything.

I decided to cut through the bullshit when it came to my arch enemy – body fat. How? Hydro-static testing. Reasonably priced, fast, and accurate. We found a guy who has a truck that roams Northern California like a fitness minstrel luring athletes in with a website, appointment book, and the promise of answers. So we booked the appointment and drove to his location to see what we could see.

Once inside the truck, I filled out the necessary Death Waiver, stripped down to my shorts, and got into the shallow tank. Lying face down, I was instructed to put a dainty weight belt on my lower back to keep me from floating up. Then, after a deep breath in, I blew all the air out of my lungs and put my face into the water. Once all of the bubbles were forced out of my body, I waited – for the longest ten seconds ever – to hear three bangs on the side of the tank telling me I was done. That was round one. Two more to go Deep breath, exhale, force out bubbles, nearly drown – deep breath, exhale, force out bubbles, nearly drown – and the test was complete. While I wasn’t getting shot up with Adamantium in a Top Secret Stan Lee experiment, flashes of Wolverine Origins came to mind.

LOOKING AT THE MIRROR AND FINDING THE CRACKS

Then we got to see how fat I really was. This part is most difficult, embarrassing… and avoided by most people. It’s so much easier to stay on the couch eating Cheetos while watching the Giants beat the Dodgers. But I have been in this fight for so long, seen the needle move on these numbers move so little, that I wanted to know more about myself than watch Buster Posey up his average, yet again, covered in cheese dust. I needed this information to cut through the guessing, know for certain what my body was composed of, and hopefully gain some insights as to why I’m not losing weight.

Here is where fat Wolverine is currently.
Height: 72″
Weight: 248
Body Fat: 65.2 lbs.; 26.3%
Lean Muscle Mass: 182.6 lbs.; 73.7%

The reality is while I have been able to perform better because of the training schedule over the last three months, I was still at 26% body fat. Success in changing my body composition was pretty minor compared to my overall goals: cut fat and improve my performance at GORUCK Toughs.

This brought me to review my key strategies for the last few months. Perhaps this is where I was going wrong and needed to make some adjustments before going in for another dose of submersion theater. Over the past three months I had focused on three objectives:

  1. Training Schedule: Following the protocol from Military Athlete, I had worked through Humility, Big24, and Fortitude programs, training 4-6 days a week. While life got in the way a few times, my training stayed on course for the most part.
  2. Macro mix + MFP: Taking from Ben Greenfield’s discussions of a fat-adapted diet, I moved my macronutrient mix to 50% fat, 25% carb, and 25% protein. All intake was logged into MyFitnessPal app (MFP). Many days I was well under my RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate – the number of calories my engine needs to function properly while at rest). I maintained the thought that I was better off with less calories than more and that I didn’t want to break that ceiling, so remained under my RMR regularly.
  3. Cheat Days: I also took the advice from Military Athlete and others that one day out of the week you should “cheat like a mother.” The idea being this will resolve the cravings you have for what you’ve been missing all week as well as keep the body from adapting hormonally to the clean eating style you keep most days. The logic of it seemed sound, and my inner fat kid was happy to play along with that.

While I cut out a lot of trouble foods most days – anything with wheat flour or added sugar, and most grains, dairy, and legumes – I did not cut back much in alcohol. Study after study talk about the health benefits of 1-2 drinks on a daily basis, so I felt justified in my alcohol intake. Plus, Cheat Days are okay, right?

PLOTTING THE NEW COURSE

Back to the science. With my body fat test I got a realistic RMR. Now I needed to revise my goals, review my strategies, and plot my new course for diet and training.

My new body composition goals? 13% Body Fat at 215 pounds. How to get there? More math: at 1.5 lbs./week lost and 33 pounds of fat to be lost. At that pace, I’ll have my Hugh Jackman body in about six months!

Now I needed to figure out what changes I need to make and why.

First came the math to figure out my caloric sweet spot. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. That means eating 750 kcals less than I burn each day, while not eating below my RMR. My equation came out like this:

RMR + Workday burn – Weight Loss Deficit = Max Calories/per day
Or 2259 + 968 -750 = 2477 Max kcals/day

When balanced against my RMR, this sets my Caloric Range between 2259-2477 kcals per day. Plus, calories burned during exercise allow more calories for intake if needed. Bonus!

Next came the strategies needed to use this knowledge and meet these goals:

  1. Eat more calories: I wasn’t getting enough calories to tell my body I’m not in fear of starvation, so it was holding onto what I have just in case. Instead of operating like a Depression-era Grandmother, I need my body to spend calories like a Baby Boomer Grandfather, which it will only do when it’s safe. That means my body needs to know it’s safe from war and famine – which it will with enough calories taken onboard.
  2. No booze: It’s time to kick it – at least until I reach my goals later this year. Besides, there are so many downsides to alcohol I have a hard time justifying continuing its role in my life. Does that mean you won’t see me enjoying a cocktail in the future? No, but for now I need to put it down.
  3. Tweaking the Macronutrient mix: As good as I felt with the higher fat intake, I feel even better with a bit more carbohydrate in my diet to fuel recovery and performance. I’m moving it to a 40% fat, 30% protein, and 30% carb mix to see how that effects things. I’m still avoiding processed wheat flour, added sugars, and most grains, I think the slightly added carbohydrate will be better for me.
  4. No more Cheat Days: While there may be the occasional Cheat Meal, dedicating a whole day to it was too much. Recovery from it, both mentally and physically, only made it tougher through the week. I’d rather enjoy feeling better every day, with every bite, and not give in to the mental/emotional crutch of pastries or beer. Besides, Life presents enough opportunity where I’m so limited on options that I have to go nutritional off-roading.

In all the years I’ve been wrestling with these issues, I have learned that everyone has different genetic, hormonal, and body type makeups, never mind one’s health and performance goals. Some people want to go to Ranger School, while others want to run 10Ks. Or maybe they’re fighting cancer or coping with a death in the family. There are so many factors that one size – or diet – does not fit all. We simply must experiment in order to figure out what works best for us.

A lot of times we all joke about how stupid our hobby is. But it’s all with the target of being a better human being at the end of it. And thanks to math, science, and a mobile test lab, I can have a day where I feel like Wolverine and comeback from years of stress and chaos. Lookout Hugh Jackman. This recovering fat kid is a’coming!

 

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Article: Marines consider more lenient body fat rules, new tape test tools

Fitness buffs and female Marines are likely to benefit most from recommended changes to the Corps’ body composition standards that will soon be presented to senior leadership.

Source: Marines consider more lenient body fat rules, new tape test tools

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