Simon Whyatt


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Convict Conditioning Book Review

There are certainly some good aspects to the book.

The exercise selection for example covers all major muscle groups, and the progressions go from easy enough for the most unfit, to hard enough for most mere mortals. (As noted, the easiest squat progression is ridiculous, clearly just added so all exercises had the same number of steps).

The book is also entertaining, as are all the dragondoor books (same publisher as Pavel Tsatouline's books, just switch the Russian goulag schtick for US prison...).

It's about as far from rational/evidence based as you can get though.

That's not to say it's not a decent program. I am a fan of calisthenics for the convenience and safety. The debate about reps, sets and rest periods is far from settled. No firm evidence to either confirm or contradict the recommendations in the book.

My biggest gripe is the dogmatic "this is the best way to train, all other ways are stupid" type attitude which is the scourge of the fitness world.

Nb definitely the one arm handstand press up is very aspirational. There are some freaky beasts out there that can do it though.

Check-out simonster on YouTube for the limits of calisthenics if you want some inspiration.

Logan Strohl on exercise norms

I personally like to distinguish between activity, training and exercise.

Exercise being movement done purely for health. It should be safe and effective.

Activity is movement done for another reason. Could be practical (cycling to work), or recreational (playing sport). Typically has similar effects to exercise, but comes with injury risks.

Training is practicing specific movements to get better at a certain activity.

People tend to confuse all of these, unsurprisingly, and end up doing things like crossfit "because exercise is good for you"...

People also tend to have strong beliefs about which is "best". Really it's a matter of personal preference/values.

Logan Strohl on exercise norms

Ah sorry. There was no reference to that in this post so had no idea.

Logan Strohl on exercise norms

I think the main flaw in his argument comes from his belief that more exercise always = better health / increased longevity.

The evidence on the other hand indicates that health benefits come from a very modest amount of exercise. Daily waking plus maybe a short session of resistance training once a week.

As you start to increase volume and intensity, health and longevity benefits not only tail off, but can actually start to decline. (Especially if you're doing flic flacs and land on your head).

I personally enjoy strenuous physical activity, and being strong and athletic. I therefore do more than the minimum required for health.

If people choose not to exercise though, who's to say that's not the right choice for them? Doing something you hate on a daily basis your entire life in order to make it longer might not be the most rational choice.

There's a belief that "stick at it and you'll learn to live it, I did and so do all my gym buddies". This overlooks the possibility of survivorship bias though.

For those who advocate Anki

"Does anyone think that Anki is better than real life use for learning? Or is it perhaps more of a (possibly imperfect) substitute for when one cannot avail themself of a real life usage setting to apply what they have learned?"

I doubt it. Anki is one (very useful) tool, that's all.

It's not meant as a substitute but an adjunct.

You need to also practice speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Nb The book fluent forever is the best resource I've come across for language learning. His process for anki card creation is also very good (using images/never using your native language to avoid translating).

Also, get yourself a Korean lover. Sure to help!

How can I find trustworthy dietary advice?

This is a perennial topic as it's incredibly difficult to study.

You can't do a double blind RCT on the effects of eating / not eating x on longevity.

As a result you're limited to short term clinical studies and epidemiological data. Both of which come with their own set of problems.

The official dietary guidelines are based on the best available science but there's still plenty of things we don't know for sure.

There's also issues of risk communication which further confuses things.

Processed meats for example are classed as a probable carcinogen based on observational data. You'll often see it stated that consuming processed meats increases your risk of colon cancer by 20% which sounds horrific. But that's relative risk.

The data actually shows that people who eat zero processed meat have a lifetime risk of colon cancer of 5%, whereas those that consume the highest levels (>50g per day) have a risk of 6%.

So while it's quite possibly true that there is a causal link and it's not just confounding factors, it's hardly a terrifying statistic, though the headlines typically make it sound like having a slice of bacon is akin to smoking a pack of cigarettes.

Should I take glucosamine?

All cause mortality? I very much doubt it'll protect you from car accidents or bear attacks.

Far more likely that people that people that take such supplements do so as they're health conscious and any perceived benefits are halo effect.

Eat a balanced diet, include skin, bone and shellfish and you'll get more than enough of both plus lots of other nutrients.

Restricted Diet and Longevity, does eating pattern matter?

I'd first start by questioning what evidence you've seen that would convince you that calorie restriction is a good idea?

I've seen zero studies in humans that would indicate this. The negative side effects are huge, and little evidence for significant gains in longevity.

There was a good discussion of this on the SSC blog last year:

With regards to meal timing, I've been keeping an eye on the research for over a decade, and in short it makes very little difference.

Quality and quantity of food are what really matter.

That said, both the research and what I've seen anecdotally do indicate that there is huge individual variability in how people do on different diets.

Typically by following some arbitrary rule (I.e. avoiding food group x), dieters inadvertantly reduce their calorie consumption.

Most diets ultimately fail either because people miss said food group and return to eating SAD or find some way to "cheat" (gluten-free cakes, vegan cheese, etc), not realising it was the calories that were the issue, not the "evil" food.

Time restricted eating plans work in much the same way. By limiting the hours during which you allow yourself to eat, you typically reduce your calorie intake, particularly in the short term.

As with other methods, however, we humans are very good at adapting by eating bigger, more calorie dense meals over time to compensate!

My personal experience of various different modes of intermittent fasting is that it does have some advantages:

  1. It teaches you to recognise true hunger

Often we eat when we're not really hungry. After a few 24 hour fasts it becomes much easier to turn down junk food if it's the only option and wait till you can find something better.

  1. Less cooking and washing up

Though I actually enjoy the cooking part, eating just 2 x per day does save considerable time and effort.

  1. Can eat larger/more calorie dense meals.

Of course you have to be careful not to over compensate! But if you're going to eat 2000 calories personally I prefer 2 x 1000 meals to 4 x 500.

All the above for your average person.

If you're a high level athlete, or a bodybuilder, there's further questions of meal and micronutrient timing around training, and yes if you're looking for every tiny gain in physique and performance these can make a difference, but I don't think for most people it's worth worrying about.

What are objects that have made your life better?

Acoustic guitar.

Learning and playing an instrument is fun, rewarding and therapeutic (or at least can be with the right attitude).

The acoustic guitar is a good option due to its versatility and portability. You can learn some camp fire songs in a few days, but the possibilities are endless if you want to keep learning forever.