Friday, July 25, 2014

Wireless Music Sync with SSH

  For a while now I've been interested in remote access via Secure Shell (SSH).  One of the first cool things I learned to do with SSH was to wirelessly sync music from my local computer (laptop) to a remote device (my phone).  Of course, there are a number of Android apps out there that will do the same thing, but as with all things Linux, its more fun to get "under the hood" and take the DIY approach.
  • Required PC Programs:
    • openssh
    • rsync
  • Next you'll want to install an SSH client to your phone.  I use SSHdroid.
    • Connect your phone to the same WiFi network as your computer.
    • Open the SSHdroid app and press start (upper right corner of the screen). [Note:  SSH connections, in my experience, sap your phone's battery life pretty fast, so plug your phone in or keep a close eye on the battery status]  Once connected, all the relevant information is displayed on your phone's screen.
  • Connecting Devices
    • Then do:  ssh -p [port_number] [user_name]@[ip_address]
      • Port Number:  See Below Note.
      • User Name:  Is probably root unless you've changed it.
      • IP Address:  Is shown on SSHdroid's connection screen.
      • Note:  The default SSH port is 22, but you may wish to change it for security reasons.  Both the port number and root password can be changed in SSHdroid's "options" menu if desired.  On your PC you'll need to modify the firewall settings.
  • Finding Your Music Library
    • The easiest way is to open your phone's music player and observe which folder it is scanning to generate its library.
    • in my case it is:  /storage/sdcard1/Music
    • You'll also need to know where your music is stored on your PC, such as /home/user/Music
  • Putting it Together
    • A quick rundown of rsync syntax looks like this:
      • rsync [options] [path/to/source] [path/to/destination]
      • Learn about trailing slashes
        • rsync /source/ /target
          • copies the contents of /source to the inside /target (e.g. /source/contents = /target/contents)
        • rsync /source /target
          • copies /source inside of /target (e.g. /target/source)
      • For general purpose I use -aAXv but here I use -avz.  However, you change them as you like.
    • Syntax for the Sync:  rsync [options] [path/to/PC/music/] [username]@[ip_address]:[/path/to/phone/music]
      • My Example:  rsync -avz ~/Music/ root@
    • You'll be asked for your phone's user (root) password, then the file transfer will begin just like a normal rsync procedure.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Defining Climbing Success

     This summer I've had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a "grade school" summer vacation and have spent many of my weekends climbing.  I've also re-read Arno Ilgner's Rock Warrior's Waywhich I highly recommend and have mentioned before in this blog.   A large part of that book is centered around the concept of detachment from external qualifications.  In climbing, grading systems, or the grade of particular route / problem, are examples of such qualifications.
     Around the same time I was reading Ilgner's book, I also re-read one of the Horst / Falcon books (either Training for Climbing or How to Climb 5.12, though in truth I don't remember which).  Horst quotes the Dali Lama in one section, paraphrased here, that we should gauge our success based on what we had to give up to get it.  Personally I found both (Horst's and Ilgner's) books to be very useful for different functions and just as obviously written from seemingly contrasting paradigms.  However, these few segments, along with some personal experience(s) prompted me to write this post and offer my $0.02.

Example 1
     In March of this year I climbed my first V3 boulder problem.  Two months later I was struggling on, and bloodied by, the same problem.  I could have inserted one of a number of excuses -- my (literally) blistered fingertips, the humid southeast summer, exhaustion from the last week on the road going crag to crag almost non-stop -- but instead had a rare moment of clarity.  It was a beautiful moment only recognizable after it had passed, a moment of unwavering focused commitment  There was seemingly no conscious thought in my mind, only an awareness of movement and reaction.  There is no failure.  The face is calm.  The mind empty but poised.   I completed the problem during the second outing in spite of the sticky weather and butchered hands.

Example 2
     To add a bit more "meat to the bones" of this post you should read this article about answering the question; "how hard do you try?"  One hot summer day I was climbing with a couple friends, one of whom easily climbs several grades harder than myself.  However, he almost exclusively climbs indoors.  I was delighted to get him out to the crag.  We both set up shop at a V4 that I had been wanting to try.  He eventually completed the problem while I kept getting stuck around half way and ended up calling it quits, though not a "loss" or a "failure."  Why?  Because climbing is not a 0-sum game to me.  Someone doesn't have to loose in order for me to "win."  There are problems out there that are hard for my friend just like there are problems that are hard for me.  The fact that he accomplished something I could not (yet), is merely academic.  I remember still feeling "strong' and "successful" that day as well as humbled, grateful, and fulfilled.  I have a lot of pride in the fact that my success (be that V2 or V10) has been (and will be) paid for in dirt, rain, sweat, and blood.  What are you giving to get what you're getting?  How hard are you trying?

     The above examples and books lead one towards a much more experiential and personal definition of "difficulty" and "success" rather than quantified (although fallibly subjective) established grades.  Personally I've been keeping several spreadsheets for a little over a year now tracking ticklists, monthly averages, and other quantifiable data.  This is not for bragging rights though.  It is for observations, such as this:

  • February 2014:  Sport Climbing Average Ascent (indoor and outdoor, all styles) = 5.10b
    • June 2014:  Sport Climbing Average Ascent (indoor and outdoor, all styles) = < 5.9+
  • April 2014:  Bouldering Average Ascent (indoor and outdoor) = 2.9062
    • May 2014:  Bouldering Average Ascent (indoor and outdoor) = 2.4575
  • From January through June (2014) I failed to ascend 40.63% of the outdoor routes and problems I attempted.
    • That doesn't even include falls on routes / problems that were eventually completed, or ANY indoor climbing.
  • However, in 2014 I have also:
    • Ticked my first (and several other) V3(s)
    • Ticked my first V4
    • Ticked a couple 5.11a's (sport)
    • On-sighted multiple 5.10b's (sport)
     The point here is that the "score" on paper (be it on a spreadsheet on your computer or in a guidebook) doesn't tell the whole story.  Complimented by my other training logs / journals, it is quite evident to me that I've "given" quite a bit and in order to declare my climbing year thus far a success.  How "hard" did I try?  Well, at least 40% of the time I was stretching my comfort zone and attempting climbs above my known (on paper) limit.
     The point here is not that I'm trying to plead my case as some kind of world-class boulderer via grade accomplishments (see the first paragraph).  Nor am I claiming to have some kind of master / miracle training plan.  I'm trying to conjure an image of responsibility, acceptance, sacrifice, and fulfillment.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Paleo Lessons - Updated 7/6/14

     Recently I made the switch back to a Paleo-based diet, which you can read about here.  Over the past two weeks or so I've found that a Paleo-inspired diet is my favorite of any diet I've tried in the past several years.  This is, at least in part, due to the flexibility of how a Paleo-type diet can be practiced while still retaining core principles.  This post will serve as a catalog of my observations and notes, lessons learned, and tweaks made that might be helpful to others.  I'll keep updating this post as long as I have something valuable to add on the topic.


  • Blueprint.  Paleo-type eating is best viewed as a "blueprint" rather than a "diet."  The "Paleo Diet" isn't perfect, but a layer of common sense, such as that found in an earlier post on keeping things simple, can get you pretty far.  Paleo-ish eating habits are a good starting point to then mold to your preferences and needs.
  • Less Is More.  I'd say that over the past few weeks I've been eating about 60 - 80% Paleo, and that number is on the rise.  I started slowly only limiting certain foods and then gradually cutting them out.  However, I'll take my progress where I can get it.  Eating healthy (whatever that means to you) 6 days per week (or ~85% of the time) is certainly better than 50% or less.  I'm also going through some other major lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and refraining from caffeine consumption.  At any rate, I think I'm off to a good start.
  • Calorie Consumption.  In the early stages of this experiment I kept a mental tally of about how many calories I was eating per day.  Naturally, this is not the same every day.  My initial estimate (used only to generate my first grocery list) was about 1800 calories / day.  That is probably more of a baseline estimate for me and my actual consumption is somewhere between 2000 and 2200 calories / day.  Interestingly enough these are about the same figures I get from assorted online MBR calculators for my height, weight, age, sedentary lifestyle but regular physical activity.
  • Daily Planning.  In the past I've talked about mobile apps and various tracking tools and checklists to aid in regulating what you eat.  I've found that I don't really need to do that now.  My grocery list provides a "get started" or "close enough" point.  From there I know that on any given day I'll eat about four meals per day consisting of vegetables, a fat source, and a protein source (about 1:1 fatty:lean cuts).  In addition to that I'll eat one serving of fruit and a heap of starchy vegetables.
  • Big Breakfast.  Some people recommend this, but it doesn't work well for me.  I tend to feel bloated now and hungry later in the day.  What works best for me is just some eggs or bacon and then an early lunch.
  • Eating Out.  Much to my delight this isn't very difficult.  Most menus these day have "low carb" will do in a pinch.  If nothing else, default to a burger without the bun and vegetables instead of fries.  I was really inspired one evening when I used eating out as an excuse to get a burger (bun, fries, and all) while 3 / 7 people at our table stuck to their guns and ordered A) a salad with only vinegar and oil, B) some sort of grilled / baked chicken and C) an entire plate of broccoli for each of them. 
  • Travel.  Similarly, I haven't found too much trouble traveling either.  A lot of common hiking / climbing / trail food staples are pretty paleo-friendly.  For example, trail mix (without peanuts), tuna packets / cans, nuts, dried / fresh fruit, etc...  Regardless of what you think of the corporation, the increasing number of interstate-side Walmarts have also made it pretty easy to drop in and get a few groceries rather than defaulting to a chain fast food restaurant.
  • Butter.  My last Paleo post rattled off several articles to debunk the diet-heart hypothesis.  However, heart disease does run in my family.  There is a compromise to be had though.  I don't really miss dairy, and butter was never my fancy anyway.  Ghee or clarified butter is a little bit different situation, but I'll apply the same principles.  It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to substitute the butter for more olive oil (which is generally considered to be healthy among both paleoists and diet-hearters) either as a dressing (olive oil / extra virgin olive oil) or cooking (extra light virgin olive oil).
  • Cheating.  
    • The thought of a McD's Dollar Menu buffet doesn't really appeal to me anymore, nor does a a half-gallon of ice cream (well, maybe a little).  Recently I was offered free beer and pizza; tan offer I obliged.  After a modest two beers and two slices of pizza I felt like a latex-glove-balloon, bloated with my head and arms sticking straight out.  It was terrible.  I've also found that trying to just eat more healthy food doesn't always work as well as planned, which is why a strategically planned cheat day / meal (ex: Saturday [night]) works as damage control, a planned fracture point.  One also needs to consider the potential guilt (not to mention physical discomfort) after a week of clean eating and then ingesting a ton of garbage.  Critics of cheat days often state that you're only "feeding the (sugar) addiction."  However, if that explicitly true then you should eliminate all sources of sugar -- fruits, vegetables, and starchy roots included -- which, in my experience, has been extremely ineffective unsustainable for (at least my) athletic endeavors.  One potential option is to "cheat" on more Pale-friendly options (such as dark chocolate or white rice or some the recipes here).  For the time being though, I'll apply my fondness of the 4 Hour Body method (1 cheat day / week, 1/2tsp cinnamon before, 8oz grapefruit juice after, and 90 seconds of exercise between cheat meals) and report back on how that works out.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Another Look at the Paleo Diet

There's a lot of buzz around Paleo-type diets these days, particularly among the Crossfit crowd.  I've tried Paleo before, but I've been doing a lot of re-investigating over the past week and I'm finding out a lot of interesting things.  My previous diet post wasn't posted that long ago, but it left me feeling really unsatisfied.  On paper it seemed like a logical plan and while it was flexible, it was ultimately very imbalanced which made it difficult to adhere to.  Perhaps I was the subject of too much boredom and didn't give my last plan a good solid try, but for whatever reason I'm pretty excited about and proud of all the digging around I've done this time around.  Besides, there's nothing like a month long lay-off to brood over new training and nutritional strategies.
      I plead the case of a modest recreational athlete in moderate-good physical condition.  I consider my time valuable and as such am always looking to improve my performance.  More often than not that is through nutrition.  Aside from obvious strength-to-weight ratio benefits, proper nutrition is paramount in recovery which is most certainly the limiting factor in performance improvement by way of training.
     I tried the Paleo diet around the turn of the new year and that lasted for about a month.  I made the common misconception that Paleo is synonymous with a low-carb; it is not.  So that's why that got left behind.  However, I've stumbled across some interesting information that is sparking quite a bit of interest for me.

Paleo 2.0

     There are a lot of interesting points in that (linked) article that are worth talking about.  But here are some the ones that were most salient to me.  Some of theses points are in contrast to the still oft touted 70's Paleo 1.0 ideology and therefore thought provoking.
  • About the only things "the experts" have can come to a consensus on is that we should eat less processed food.
    • Fad diets have run the gamut from raw food only, vegetable only, meat only, raw meat, low carb, high carb, etc...
  • Most of the food we ate throughout history are not available to us now (either in type or quantity)
  • There is no one specific diet consumed by the entire succeeding species of humans
    • Our bodies are very good at adaptation and can / have thrived in a variety of different settings and conditions with drastically different eating habits.
  • "'Paleo' no longer refers to any particular diet eaten at any particular time, but in the sense of 'old.' traditional neolithic, paleolithic, and modern foods that we know are healthy or are similar nutritionally or metabolically to what archaic diets might have been like.." - "emulating" rather than replicating.
    • More on this later, but there is a growing body of supporters who assert that as we come to be more and more skeptical of fads, that we should not abandon sound medical advice in the hope of retaining a certain pedagogy of eating.
  • Avoid wheat (specifically gluten):  potatoes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables may be considered "grey area foods", but they are certainly better options than bread, crackers, cookies, and pasta.  I can probably hand this without too much problem, however, I may include rice as it technically grows and provides some grain benefits (see sub-bullet above).
  • Avoid fructose ("low-fat" stuff and fruit [especially concentrated juice]):  Fructose, the sugar in fruit, is apparently digested differently than glucose and is, in combination with wheat, among the top disease instigators throughout "nutritional transitions."  Typically I don't eat much fruit anyway, but it is probably far lesser evil than whatever your sweet tooth has you craving.
  • Avoid Linoleic Acid (part of the Omega 6 fatty acid family):  Stop eating temperate vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, falx, etc...) and limit or exclude nuts.  Robb Wolf's Paleo Quick Start Guide suggests that 1 - 2 oz of nuts per day should still be fine.

More on Paleo 2.0

     This is another article from a different source that has a lot valuable information as well and expands on some of the above principles.
  • Dairy may be okay without gluten.  First, though, the article recommends removing both and then adding dairy back after the body has "detoxed" from gluten.  Preferably "dairy" is limited to hard cheese, (real) butter, ghee, and not so keen on other pasteurized options.  This shouldn't be a problem for me as I don't eat much dairy, though I do like it.
  • Avoid nightshade vegetables:  Apparently eggplants, bell peppers, tomatoes, and unskinned potatoes can all cause disease issues.  This sucks because tomatoes and bell peppers are two of my favorite vegetables.  I may have to let this one go in the hope that the benefits of well washed produce outweighs the potential negatives.  Other produce warnings can be found (here) courtesy of PBS.
  • Avoid Legumes (peanuts, beans, lentils):  This is another seemingly controversial point.  While both cases for and against seem to have legitimacy, its probably best to take a different approach:  start with the best available (though imperfect), most strict Paleo plan, and then experiment with adding different things in to find out what works best for you.

My Adjustments and Thoughts:

  • I hate to bring up calories, but its still important and foundational to weight loss / gain.  It certainly is not that be-all-end-all,b ut there is a lot of merit to it.  Eating "the right foods", or even cutting back / out the bad ones, can go an awfully long way; but so does common sense.  This is where your your personal history, experimentation, and adaptation come into play.  Not everyone requires the same amount of fuel and too much "good" food is still "too much" food.
  • Fruit probably isn't necessary.  If you're ancestors were European, they probably weren't eating too much fruit in February (thanks Tim Ferriss).  Fructose (the sugar in fruit) isn't exactly Plaeo friendly anyway (reference).  However, thinking on a continuum, rather than black and white, an apple is probably a better choice than whatever you sweet tooth is actually craving.
  • Adherence:  There's a ton of good information here (Robb Wolf podcast ft. Tim Ferriss).  I'm certainly not one of the grains are the devil types that you may find in hard-line Paleo circles.  Although being grain free (Paleo being old / pre-agricultural revolution) is one of the main tenets of the Paleo diet, I prefer to fall back on the staple of if it doesn't grow, don't eat it.  This seems to make a lot more sense to me.  Rice... okay, pasta and bread... how can I grow a garden of noodles?  Dairy... unless its butter or you're milking you're own cow / goat, probably not.  Nevertheless, a good starting point is to cut it out for a while and then re-introduce it.  Similarly, this is why a lot of people fail at their New Year's resolutions of weight loss; there are too many behavioral changes demanded at once.
  • Moderation.  I've written quite a bit about cheating, and so have others (link).  The bottom line is this, take your progress where you can get it.  This may come in a variety of flavors.
    • Eating "healthy" 6 days of the week is better than one or two.
    • Eating 80-90% "pure paleo" and allowing room for some favorite non-paleo foods (whole grains, etc...) is far better than the way most Americans eat.
    • There may be plenty to complain about with legumes and grains, but not nearly as much as McDonald's and Pop-Tarts.
    • Is the point getting through?  I've also had a recent thought though that planning a "cheat meal", just one indulgence, or any number of occurrences may be doomed from the start.  While I do think its a good idea to give yourself a break or a "treat" now and then, regular intervals of stimulation lead to stimulus adaptation.  Basically, what used to be enough won't eventually satisfy.  Here is a good article on the myth of a balanced diet and portion control.  A more appropriate plan of action might be to see how long you can go without eating any junk food, if you have to, eat some non-paleo but still generally healthy foods; or better yet a willing indulgence of "paleo-safe" foods (similar ideas are discussed here).  And only on the very rare and irregular occasion make the conscious and intentional decision to eat something you know is unhealthy but absolutely delicious (don't deny it, they're made to taste good so we eat more and make the manufacturer more money!).
  •  After doing some more investigating I found myself liking the plain and simple look and feel of what is listed on the climbstrong website (I've discussed this before).  Pretty much the nifty little pyramid is quite convenient for both grocery shopping (via the method above) and daily consumption.  I was also reminded of another previous method and that is the "Diet Solution" by Scivation.  Yes, yes, I know it is a bodybuilding website and the designers are bodybuilders, but that doesn't mean they don't have something valuable to share.  Particularly, Scivation gives pretty simple template for "meal creation":  select protein source, if lean add fat source, add vegetables, post-workout carbs.  What's good about this combination is that it will allow me to eat as much as I deem necessary on any given day so long as the food meets some certain criteria. 
  • Apparently there is still a lot of hubub floating around about saturated fat and cholesterol, but there is more and more information being produced that runs counter to the idiom of 30 years ago that consumed cholesterol increases cholesterol in the blood.  It may, but not nearly to the degree that once though. (see herehere, here, and here).  
  • Some Other Good Resources:
  • Cost.  A lot of people, myself included, have used the excuse that eating healthy is "too expensive" at some point or another.  It does seem absurd that a dozen cheese burgers cost a nickel and an meager salad costs $8 (thanks Jim Gaffigan).  Many counter that point by boasting their grocery bill as an "investment on their health."  The above complaint is just as illogical as "exercise takes too much time. (many many trainers have proven the contrary)"  My last grocery bill for ~2 weeks was $76.94.  That's less than $6 / day.  Granted, I did have  a couple things at home prior and may eat out once or twice over that span, but you get the idea.  Take your progress where you can get it.  Maybe you're budget doesn't allow for steak and salmon every night, you can still do pretty good with chicken and ground beef (preferably grass fed / farm raised, but even if not...).  

Pilot Testing:

  • Unknown to anyone reading this, I actually began my "paleo reboot" almost a week ago and this post has been amassing itself ever since.  I was planning on weeding the garbage out of my cabinets while I "ease into" and polish the details of this post.  
    • 6/18:  Eating "generally" healthy, but still included some dairy, peanuts, and grains.
    • 6/20:  Removed dairy and peanuts, still some minor seed oil use.
    • 6/21:  Planned cheat meal turned into cheat DAY, leading to the above section on cheating.
    • 6/23:  With empty cabinets and an empty fridge I headed to the grocery store.
    • Updates to come...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vertical and Horizontal Warriors: Rock Climbing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

This post has laying in wait for quite a while now.  As I mature as a rock climber and still retain a heartfelt connection to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I become increasingly mesmerized and awe-stricken by the similarities between the two.  Initially there is an obvious overlap of physical demands but also a seemingly subliminal shared ontology.  The physical components of the two sports make either one a great supplemental or cross-training activity for the other.  However, as I reach what I'd call the "blue belt" level of climbing I realize how I've only just begun to tap into the richness of experience that both activities elicit when one is becomes involved beyond the "beginner" (say... < 2 years) level of each sport.

Physical Comparison
     Lets start simple, with the physical comparison.  Perhaps the most obvious commonality is grip strength.  Elbow-down strength is crucial in both sports.  Pick your poison; a hangboard or pullups from your gi draped over the pullup bar to practice your cross-collar choke.  Climbing demands more of the tendons and fingers and thus climbing-grip probably has more benefits to BJJ than the other way around.  But moving on... Balance and flexibility are also extremely important in both sports.  You don't have to watch too many YouTube videos to realize that you're body can get contorted into some pretty funky positions either at the crag or on the mats.  There are also a couple siblings to that point.  Body positioning and awareness and core strength.  Flexibility suffers a loss of practicality when it cannot be functionally applied.  It is much less a matter of being able to touch your toes than it is knowing when to shift your weight this way or that way.  One expression that I really like is "There is no 'core'.  The body is one piece, treat it that way."  Here's a nice video illustration.  Regardless of the words we use, sending hard projects and high-level grappling highlight the impracticality and functional waste of isolated or aesthetic muscle mass.  Furthermore, relative strength, or strength-to-weight ratio, is also important.
     Moving on from there, both climbing and jiu jitsu require similar use of oxygen systems.  That is, interval-type efforts.  This similarity is weaker than some of the others, there is validity to it.  A hard boulder problem will probably take less than one minute to complete, but the intensity is cranked way up.  There are many a sparring and competition rounds where a grappler may find that the round alternates between an all out flurry (be that a controlled and intentional effort or not) and long minutes of regaining your composure.

Mental Comparison
     Beyond the physical components, there lies the technical and mental aspects.  I would say that jiu jitsu is probably more generally physically demanding than rock climbing, but climbing is more technical by nature.  HOWEVER, there is a place for both.  At the extreme end of each sport (the extremely poor physical condition and the elites, the one-percenters) general strength can be very beneficial to one's performance.  In BOTH sports well honed technique and keen tactical decisions will take you miles further and faster than general non-sport-specific strength.  It's always worth a good chuckle when a jerk of a meat-head rudely and pompously asserts his hypothetical "mad skillz" only to be completely shut down and flee minutes later only to try and resuscitate his wounded (and now put in perspective) ego.  This is as true on the mats as it is on the rock.
     Another mental aspect of both sports is that, by far, the greatest rival you will ever face in either will be yourself.  Your stiffest competition and staunchest limitation will be proportional to your fear, your ego, and willingness to learn.  All of this is evidenced by the fact that it takes a very long time (more than a lifetime) to "master" either of these sports.  I can't help but be a little skeptic of the 5 year black belts (in any martial art).  I suppose I'm a bit jaded and my ethical standards are different than others' though.  I'd say the 10,000 hour rule is A) a pretty liberal aggressive estimate and B) only counts as hours of actual movements, not chillin' and shootn' the breeze with your bros and broettes.  Similarly, there are plenty of people who are 50+ and easily outclass many practitioners of their sport.

"Spiritual" Comparison
If you're still reading, hopefully you're getting the idea so far.  Both rock climbing and jiu jitsu will, eventually, challenge and change the way you thing about and interact in the world.  Credit there, and to the title of this post, goes to Arno Ilgner's The Rock Warrior's Way.  While it has been at least a year since my last good roll and several years since I was regularly training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it was, and still is, a large part of my life with a lot of resonance that still finds a way to play out in my life.  Climbing is my things, for now, and I love both sports and hope to continue them (both, though perhaps not at the same time) for many years to come.  I realize that when I finally get back on the mats I'll need to get reoriented, re-learn, and remember a lot of things.  However, this is the final and most beautiful point of this comparison or brethren warriors.  Once you've settled into your dirt-bag lifestyle or local gym you majestically, slowly, and surely begin to realize that both rock climbing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are far more than a prescription of methods, moves, and techniques.  They are "art", no, more than that.  They are a philosophy of movement, a way of being, a challenge of interaction, the "physical manifestation of your character."source

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Climbing and Dieting: Perspective

      Like most climbers, I suppose, I'm always looking for the next big (slightest) advantage that I can get.  Frequently that comes down to "strength" and "technique."  In terms of strength there are generally two options:  (1) get stronger, and / or (2) get lighter.  In case you were wondering, it is incredibly difficult for an athlete of moderate to excellent physical condition (physique) to improve both categories at the same time; exceptions apply.  Perhaps my word choice was a bit poor there, as Mark Twight might say; "Physique is a consequence of fitness."  Anyway, for the last month or so I've been (loosely) following this plan.
     As much I want to stick to my guns and tout that "You can't outwork a ****ty diet", I did a little research recently that makes me think that that statement is highly dependent on how much "work" and how much "****."  Over the last 14 days I've spent 6 days at the crag.  I kept a log of what I ate over a four day period.  What is interesting (to begin with) about that span is that it captured two extremes of my lifestyle.  That is, the "workout" (crag) days had a much higher energy demand than a typical training session at an indoor gym.  On the other hand, the "rest" days were absolute couch-potato days which are much different than a typical day where I would still be walking around campus to classes and such.
     On the couch-potato days I ate ~1500 calories of (most) healthy foods (lean meat, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and a few starchy carbs).  On the crag days I consumed a whopping 3900+ calories.  For reference I weigh about 170 lbs and about 5'8".  Granted, a lot of those ~4000 calories did not come from "healthy" sources.  Wendy's and Dr.Pepper are my post-crag guilty pleasures.  But it was quite an interesting observation to note that while I was actually at the crag I was in more of a survival maintenance mode; e.g. modest water intake, trail mix, and maybe a granola/cliff/power bar or two; then once we hit civilization again it was a no-holds barred refill.  I couldn't help but be reminded of my former efforts at assorted ketogenic (low carb) diets.  One such "cyclic" ketogenic diet calls for a very low carb intake Monday - Friday, then "carb loading" (from hopefully mostly 'good' sources) on the weekends.  I'm not sure how or if I'll implement this (i.e.: low carb on rest days and loading on crag days) since, as I stated earlier, my observational period hit both active and inactive extremes and may not be a good measuring stick for more regular (stable) activity patterns.
     The last 10 years or so of recreational activities have been consumed by weight-class-based sports (wrestling, MMA, BJJ, boxing, etc...).  I've tried really hard to break the 170 lb. barrier on many occasions.  My peak fighting weight (before cutting any water weight) was ~167 lbs.  Typically I'm pretty comfortable in the 170 - 175 range and start to raise an eyebrow if things get any higher than that.  Going from 175 to 160 lbs is only a 4.5% decrease though it took (perceptibly) more than an 80% increase in effort.  In terms of getting "stronger" or "lighter", then, that puts me / us in a strange position.  In particular, I am of the stocky muscular build and will probably, unless something goes terribly wrong, never attain the coveted string-bean tendons-of-steel body type.  Fortunately, a revelation occurred to me a a couple months ago to put things in perspective. 
     If I lose, say, 10 lbs and my climbing does not improve, what difference did the weight loss make?  On the other hand, if my climbing drastically improves but I happen to gain a few pounds in the process, who cares?
     Of course, this leads me to what should be a fun post on defining climbing "success."  But alas, that is for another time (coming soon).
     Recently I've re-read Eric Horst's "Training for Climbing" which expands upon the principles in his "How to Climb 5.12."  I've been trying to wed the things I'm (re)learning from the his books as well as my previous track records / experiments.  I agree with Horst that trying to climb low carb is a terrible idea.  The biochemistry is fairly straight-forward, at least sometimes.  The most readily available source of energy for the body is glucose (e.g.: some form of carbohydrates).  So I think my current project will look something like this:

Goal:  160 lbs (72.57 Kg)

  1. Get stronger.  I'm fairly lean already.  If I happen to loose a few pounds, cool, but my priority is improving my performance.
  2. Trying to publish something that is an accurate mirror of what I actually practice.  Often times I publish something and inevitably start to go astray, not necessarily awry, but the prescribed "plan" is not longer an accurate descriptor of my current practice.  I'm trying to find something that I can stick to since I've already found a variety of things (evidenced in this blog) that "work."
*Updated 6/1614:  As I (partially) anticipated, my baseline, being based on a couch-potato day, was too low of an estimate for a day of mild activity (much more common than potato-ing it) without additional exercise.  I also speculate that the additional carbohydrate addition on "workout days" was a bit too aggressive.  Other updates shown in blue-italic font.
  • Protein:  100g (1.4g/Kg - upper end of Horst's recommendation)
  • Carbohydrates:  100g (Generally the maximum on most 'low carb" diets)
    • 140g:  This is no nearly "low carb" and the keto-fans can rant all they want, but while there are no "essential grains", they do / can serve a very useful biological function.  Anyway, all I did here was add another (generous) serving of carbohydrates to my previous estimate.
    • Fiber:  In an attempt to weed out garbage carbs from helpful ones I usually check the 'Dietary Fiber' content.  If it is less than 4, its probably not that good for you.  4 is kind of an arbitrary number, but taking a look through my cabinets, it seems to be good cut off point.  The exception being one of those daily servings of carbs can be of a high glycemic index and low fiber (this is for quick absorption post-workout).
  • Fat:  77g (Between 1g / Kg and 1g / Lb of body weight)
    • I find this to still give good balance on non-training days.  This leaves me with a diet containing a little less than 42% fat which is still the largest caloric contribution of any macronutrient on non-training days; which was my plan from the start.
  • Calories:  1500 (baseline for a couch-potato day)
    • With the recent carb buff this has been bumped up the the mid 1600 range, so ~1650 calories.
  • Protein:  100g (Same as above)
  • Carbohydrates:  Add ~0.5g / Kg of Body Weight / Hour of Exercise
    • This accommodates varying degrees of daily activity
    • Its up to you to decide what counts as "activity" and understand the difference between hungry (biological need for fuel) and bored.
    • Initially I set this at 1g / Kg but that was bit too aggressive and my base non-training days were too conservative.  The new updates have a somewhat low protein content but are fairly balanced (~24/34/42 Protein/Carb/Fat).  As training hours increase for the day, marcronutrient ratios scale to a much higher carbohydrate content (>60%) while protein drops fairly low (although attempts should be made to keep it around 15%) and fat content levels off at about 20% which should still be sufficient.
  • Fat:  77g (Same as above)
  • Calories:  *** (Dependent on exercise / activity level - AS IT SHOULD BE!)
Other Notes:
  • Mostly Low GI (Glycemic Index) carbohydrates on crag days and throughout regular (training or rest) days
  • High GI meal within 2 Hours of training session
  • Avoid (not exclude) refined grains, sugar, and things that don't grow.
  • Load up on vegetables
  • Fruits / Grains / Beans / Other Starches per above GI guidelines
  • Contemplating a mobile app to keep track of things:
    • I actually find this extremely neurotic and compulsive and works against the sustainability of changes most people seeking in spite of coveting "the dieting secret."  However, I'm explicitly seeking performance improvement, sustainability is an afterthought.
    • A simple checklist on my phone does the trick.  After sketching some sample daily menus I was able to, as before, chunk things down into terms of X servings of Vegetables, X servings of lean meat, X servings of fat, etc... and simply check off each item throughout the day.  The neurotic part only has to happen once and sooner or later you'll probably have the list memorized anyway!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Summer of Code: A Hobby

    Sorry to disappoint anyone who was looking for the annual Google event, but rather a far more modest endeavor.  School has been out for a couple weeks now and not having any courses or a job scheduled for the summer can only mean one thing for me.  An opportunity to indulge my inner [nerd]gear-head.  That is, this will most certainly be a "summer of code" for me.

     I make now effort to hide my FOSS and Linux fandom.  On the other hand I'm learning to ration my zealot cards.  A "comparing distributions" ("flavors" of Linux) post seems a bit cliche' at this point in time as there is a great deal of information already on the inter-webs; though it may come in the future from here.  Anyone who has spent any time on this blog knows that that I can span pretty farm from a stereotypical analytic / mechanistic behavioral personality.  However, I find that hobbies such as computer science, provide a nice counter-balance to the more existentially weighted side of my brain.  But such projects remain just as I have mentioned.... "hobbies."  I am not a programmer and I do not work in IT.  I have no (plans to obtain a) degree in computer science, and anything I can or have to offer has come through putting my nose on a grindstone and pouring over Google searches and forum posts.
     More to the point, there is a philosophy behind that this kind of thinking and that is the constant push for new.  Better?  Perhaps.... My recently found free-time (who knew that ever existed!)has afforded me an opportunity to oblige the internet gods and let my left-brain get grinding.  This is, of course, also a nice change of pace for this blog.  I'm sure the summer will hold plenty of climbing updates, and a *hint, hint* new nutrition post is in the works.  Nevertheless, its an exciting time.

     Basically I'll spare you the speech on "Why you should(n't) switch to Linux" and, rather, let you do your own homework and make that decision for yourself.  For me the decision was made nearly two years ago.  I won't say I "never" looked back, but through many a all-nighter, many beers, a lot of coffee, much Google-ing and hair-pulling, and not much else other than the joy of doing it I'd like to think I've gotten somewhere.  Maybe that isn't any further than before, but its certainly not the same place.  I've also started to use GitHub and that is where you will be able to find far more information on my summer projects.