Life Hacks.

We are about to start an adventure with the diet: Robyn has found a ketosis diet that she can understand because it uses NZ ingredients. So she’s going to try it, and I will support her.

But in the meantime, some hacks that are helping. They are counter intuitive, and your mileage will vary.

  • Don’t use a smartwatch. I am a fan of the Pebble, but… it talks too much. I spent too much time watching it, and counting steps not working on fitness. It woke me at night. So I took it off while travelling (changing time zones is a hassle) and found I slept better. Put it back on, same experience. So I’ve taken it off. I’m using an old automatic watch, that just keeps the time
  • Slow down, way down. Over Christmas we were in Central where we have a 8 km walking track (according to Endomondo — put your phone in your pocket when you go out). We started walking it comfortably. After two weeks we were walking it fast. We did not notice the difference in perceived effort. But the fast walk left us sore for a day. Moral of the story — you need an accurate heart monitor (most wristwatches are not accurate enough, yet) or you need to go slower than you think to remain aerobic.
  • Go to bed early Our weakness is that we are both night owls… but I work in with nurses, who consider my usual start between eight and nine am banker’s hours. Ideally I’d do the Tim Ferris full set of hacks. But… go to bed early, do music practice before bed (so I’m not watching screens) and keep the room cool all help. Aim for eight or nine hours, particularly if a man
  • Lift heavy. For guys, it pushes testosterone up. It makes you stronger. If you cannot get to the gym, do weighted squats, pushups, situps, weighted situps, lunges. Two to three times a week, short and intense.
  • Avoid sugar. I have to do this, I’ve got metabolic problems. I’m not talking about those. But if I eat the standard Kiwi junk food (A slightly less sweet version of the standard American diet) my injuries start to ache, and I get irritable. It is mucch better to be calmer. If you need calories, eat something fatty. That cake or sweet selection will make you worse, as I rediscovered working at a clinical job when everyone was bringing in Christmas cookies.

One final thing. At our age, we are looking towards function. Losing weight and being fit helps one’s cognitive skills. Playing music helps one remain psychologically flexible. Praying about your concerns means you can sleep when the stress level is high (which I was forced into over Christmas, one of the worst times of the year on my side of the family).

Prioritise these things. Work can wait.

The daily apple score card and how we did.

Let’s start this with a fairly long list of things that Mark Sisson has noted this year. I am going to then comment on them, as Mark uses odd blogging code. Mark is generally an honest dealer, and this is his list.

1. Vegetable oils are still really, really bad.

2. Keto works.

3. Everything has a circadian rhythm, and the circadian rhythm affects everything.

4. What the Healththis year’s token vegan screed, came out to rapturous applause. In one of my favorite pieces of the year, Robb Wolf took it apart piece by piece and, in doing so, definitively commented on anti-meat hysteria and bad science in general.

5. We learned that the sugar industry has been stifling anti-sugar research results for decades, surprising no one while enraging almost everyone (with an honest bone in their body).

6. We learned more and more about ancient human evolution and migration. It turns out that our history is even crazier and more impressive than we thought.

7. Human gene editing drew ever nearer to the mainstream.

8. Awareness of digital media’s effect on our health and happiness grew.

9. There was serious debate over whether we’re educating and parenting our kids the right way.

10. Even as health and food-related tech has largely come up short, there were some promising developments.

‘That is Mark’s list, complete with the links. A fairly good summary. But Mark has not had a stressful year, and this one has been a doozy. The plans we have had changed because family. But looking at this framework, how have we done?

    1. We still use vegetable oils. Two types: Coconut oil and olive oil. We have stopped buying margarines, canola oil, peanut oil and other high smoke oils. Instead we have turned the heat down on pans so we don’t smoke the pan out. Or if we are going to, we use a gas barbeque
    2. Keto is freaking hard when you are diabetic. I am, and when I go low carbs (under 50 g a day), which I can do, I have to cut my medications way back or I fall over. And scare Robyn: a couple of times this year I’ve gone hypo, the most scary was during a one hour hike. I now have carbs in the car for emergencies.
    3. Our circadian rythyms ended up where we did not expect them. Both of us were evening people, and would work cheerfully until 2 am, but did not really want to get up until nine. But this year I have had too many early starts. But travelling knocks us around, particularly 4:30 am starts to get on the first flight elsewhere
    4. We tried going vegan. We like meatless meals, but we gained weight and felt awful. It lasted two weeks.
    5. Sugar is not good for you. We have tried (and not completely succeeded) in getting sugar substitutes out of our diet: unfortunately it is needed for some baking, and when we feed the kids once a week we tend to give them food they like. We do keep some sweets for hypos and high cocoa chocolate: these have less functional carbohydrates than most energy bars.
    6. I don’t care about human evolution. What the migration findings show is that our data is partial, and our ideas of what paleolithic life are speculative. Empirically, a high carbohydrate diet is bad for you.
    7. It is better to live a lifestyle that limits the damage from your genetic heritage than look for a miracle cure. When it comes to babies, young women, have them. We do not want to live in Gattaca.
    8. The trick to coping with electronic media is to stick to one task. I’m not that concerned about my cellphone affecting my neurones than being distracted by them. You need face time with people, and to talk to them. Even if you are introverted, as I am. If stressed, go for a walk, three times a day if needed. If you can’t concentrate, go for a walk. And keep on reading new things. I suggest it is not reading books and thinking that makes more of a difference, and TV, facebook and twitter are not reading. There is a reason I post poems on the main blog.
    9. I continue to subvert the next generation’s education. Whenever possible. The diet advice they get is wrong, the exercise advice is wrong, and their lifestyle means that many of them are broken and injured far too young, or give up too soon. The alternative and scary places, like crossfit and paleo, are far safer than the accepted teaching.
    10. Unless you are on insulin, ignore your blood sugar. The monitors we have are life saving for those on insulin pumps and the new wearable tech will eventually be good, but the current versions are no better than my Pebble. It is good to have goals on the amount of exercise you do, because low intensity volume counts, but it is more important to have structured high intensity workouts.
    11. Finally, I did not stretch enough this year. That needs to be corrected. But then, I also need to have lower stress. The signs I am improving are that I’m playing music and developing film. I aim to do more of these things next year.

For the rest of the year, we are based at the family crib, which is simple, and will eat at home, walk, and be with one another. Next year we hope our box is resurrected.

Have a good Christmas.

Christmas and time off.

One of the odd things about the antipodes is that Christmas is the start of the holidays for many people. It is just starting to get warm: we have had some good weather. But we have spent a fair amount of time in hospital, because one of the parents is sick. And one of us has been travelling. And a lot of work needs to get done.


  • We have not done anything intense. Walks and slow jogs. It is not time to lift heavy or sprint. You will hurt yourself.
  • We have tried to eat well. Though this has been a challenge; one night we had haggis, four kinds of meat, vegetables… and then pudding, with dancing in between to settle the newly acquired fat nicely. After days like that, we generally don’t eat until lunch, or later.
  • We have gone to bed fairly early, and got enough sleep. At least some nights
  • And finally, now that the relative is out of hospital and recovering with us, we are caring for her.
  • We have maintained our own health. That has meant visits to the dentist, the optician (for both of us), and ensuring the house is clean, well ventilated and peaceful
  • We are eating our own vegetables. After failing with broccoli, silverbeet (swiss chard) and kale over the winter, the spring crop of lettuces have almost kept up with our salad consumption

This may not sound a lot like training, but the consequence is less stress, and that means less stress hormones to modify, and a paradoxical weight loss.

This reminds me of what I did when I was a kid. I would stop training around exams. Then I would build up mileage, with low intensity, then add in threshold runs, then hill work, then intervals over a six month schedule. At the end of that I would compete… or be injured. This is called periodization. It involves building a base level of aerobic fitness and then adding to it.

Now I am older, that base level of fitness has to include some strength work, or I will not be able to build the aerobic base.

But Christmas is coming, and that means time off, a base to build, and I hope home for our crossfit team in the new year.

Stairs and consistency.

Tonight we are tired. We have walked about two hours around the shore, including some wading in the sea and scrambling over rocks. Two years I could not have done this. And yesterday I ran up stairs.

This is significant. When I moved to Dunedin I found that most hills have stairs that lead to the higher streets. I went up them and down them… slowly. I was not used to such, I was unfit, and I was slow. Yesterday I ran up them, with minimal tightness, and at a good pace. I found myself using techniques to get going…

  • Taking a skip step to load my dominant leg (right) before taking off.
  • Leaving room so I could chase the person in front
  • Hunch forward, chop stride, high knees and use arm for pace (this is faster than two at time.
  • Slow recovery down

I used to do these things when I was competitive three decades ago.

So what happened? It has not been an easy week. We have been fighting off the flu, the diet has been somewhat clear but not perfect, and our weights are plateaued far higher than we want them.

We have done something physical every day we were not sick. Either intense and hard, or very slow (read walking) and quite long. It is moving into summer, and we are using the evenings.

My inspiration here has been Scott. I could not do his workouts — though I used to things about that crazy when I was quite young. But he is disciplined, he is consistent. His diet is based on a quasi zone approach, and worth considering.

Consistency matters, diet included. My old coach, Daz linked to this via facebook.

Those we trusted with health advice told us to eat vegetable oils, focus on the fat and calorie content of foods and exercise more. They also had scant concern for sugar. The food industry paid attention and pushed the ‘healthy eating’ barrow as hard and fast as it could.
Our food was filled with vegetable oil and sugar and that was ok as long as it was ‘low in saturated fat’. The dietetics industry merrily accepted the sponsorship of the food producers and sung uncritically from the same hymn sheet.
But now we see the grisly consequences of that gormless obsession with saturated fat unfolding before our eyes (provided they haven’t been destroyed by vegetable oil induced macular degeneration).
The evidence that sugar and vegetable oil is crippling us is now abundant, but those in charge of health advice refuse to act. These same experts who have presided over three decades of culpably negligent public health advice, now refuse to either acknowledge their error or change their foolhardy ways.
That advice must change immediately. We cannot afford to throw millions more of us under the bus driven by the egos of academics and fueled by the blood money of the processed food industry.

You need quite a lot of volume at low intensity. Vary it. Beach walk. Run, Swim, move the wood, weed the garden, go dancing. I get quite a bit of this at work.
But you need to make your diet things without nutritionist labels or heart ticks: vegetables and meat. We try to stick to the outsider of the supermarket: if it is a box, avoid it.
And you need to, two to four times a week, do something really intense. Such as sprinting up stairs, lifting weights, or gymnastic movements. You will need to scale (main reason to have a coach is so you scale correctly) because the training effect comes with intensity.

And regardless of age, if you are sensible (the main reason I don’t use supplements is that pain is a good limiter), you will improve.


This week I found myself ravenously hungry. We have been away from crosscut for about four weeks… and we need to be there, at least two, ideally three sessions a week. Our main rule is to scale everything. To make things worse, our box team are transitioning to new ownership and quarters.

The diet is cleanser now we are home and this has improved Robyn significantly. I’m the one struggling.

So on the last day at the old gym the workout was

12 — 9 — 6 bar muscle up/thrusters.

Instant scale to ring rows, but my upper body strength is markedly down, scaled that to wall balls. Then the coach said — some of the guys are doing Fran, why don’t you do 21 –15 — 9 reps of ring rows and wall balls.

I did. In 4:38.

I’ve dubbed it “Franette”. The scaled Fran that will leave you gasping for air. You scale the ring rows: Rx is horizonotal (ie pulling vertically). I did not do that.

Robyn did thrusters and ring rows a minute faster at 15 kg.

At our age, scaling is an art. The balance is between injury and fitness, and this year, with this bunch, I have had no serious injuries. We just have to accept that it will take longer.

Anxiety, Depression and exercise.

We often say that exercise helps with anxiety and depression. The question then is how much: the answer on a case control study is not very much.

Using a large population cohort study, we have observed that relatively small amounts of exercise can provide significant protection against future depression but not anxiety. This protective effect was seen equally across all groups, regardless of the intensity of exercise that was undertaken or the gender or age of the participants. Assuming there is no residual confounding in our final model and the observed relationship is causal, our results suggest that if all participants had exercised for at least 1 hour each week, 12% of the cases of depression at follow-up could have been prevented.

SO what should you do if you are oppressed, anxious, and worried? Have a walk. Lift some weights. Do something. Because it will help prevent you developing an anxiety or mood disorder.

The post holiday post.

Firstly, It was a good holiday. We saw a lot of places. We managed to walk between ten thousand to fifteen thousand steps in a day. Our usual means of monitoring this — pebble watches — gave out because we bought the wrong charger, but I used the cellphone sensor and google fit to monitor this. Some days we made over twenty thousand steps, as when we got the Berlin Zoo.

And we had some fairly spectacular meals. We confirmed our love of proper pizza — which is not cheap. Robyn realised that Cantonese food is very starchy i

We did not attend a Crossfit gym until we were back. In Canada we took the grand kids walking — and realized that dance classes do not encourage aerobic fitness, as initially they were all struggling but (being young) after a week they were able to walk 3 km at a time. .


Chris — 2 kg weight loss over three weeks.
Robyn — weight stable, but a dress size loss.

On the first day back at crossfit, we managed to be within 80% of our maximimum doing a one repitition snatch (Chris 50 kg, Robyn 35 kg). However, the following day we did not run in the morning, as the stiffness and soreness intensified. I am informed that I am far too stiff at present.

The joy of travel

This was a travel week, plus recovery from the flu. The diet was not good. Not good at all, and the weight has increased by a kilo. Robyn did better because she was able to do a lot of walking while I was sitting on my tail listening to lectures.

Diet matters. Which does not include coffee.

Competition is a primary driver for many of our members, so it’s not surprising that affiliates use challenges to encourage members to focus on good nutrition habits.

But consider the extent of any nutrition challenge.

On average, affiliates will run two to three challenges a year that range between 30 and 60 days. That means members might not prioritize nutrition for half the year or much more.

Now consider why most of your members decided to join your affiliate: The overwhelming driving factor is weight loss, and nutrition must be discussed in order for them to see the results they are looking for. We know that it is not possible to outwork poor nutrition at the gym.

If members only focus on nutrition for less than half the year, are they going to see the results they hope for?

I have twenty days away from hone this month… what to do?

  • Walk. I generally take two taxis per place: to the hotel. Then I walk or use public transport. This doubles my walk distance a day. it helps if you are not staying in the conference hotel (and on the last trip I was). It also helps if you are in Europe.
  • Two meals a day. Seriously difficult at conferences, but conference food has led me, on every second trip, to spend a day in the hotel room with NVD. (If you don’t know what NVD is, be glad). Better to eat breakfast at the hotel and have dinner. Between times, drink.
  • Try new stuff. Particularly street food or restaurants for dinner.
  • Visit the cultural and scenic sites. During conferences take one session a day off and look at the town. You cannot concentrate eight hours a day
  • Use compression socks on long flights. Deep vein thrombosis occur in the fit and unfit
  • Accept failure. You won’t find a gym everywhere. You will be tired. You will be in situations where you are socially obliged to eat what you normally avoid. You do not have to be one hundred percent consistent. You will make mistakes, when tired particularly

After the flu we did hit the gym on Thursday: Friday we had been asked out. The workout was five sets of ten deadlifts at 60% maximum in fifteen minutes. I dropped the weight to 45% of my maximum and found I had to scale the subsequent metcon down to virtually nothing because of exhaustion. Robyn did better: but two days later we are still tired and very sore.

I expect that when the trip is over I will feel the same. Because travelling is best dealt with as building endurance.

Recovery and travel.

This week was without crossfit. Why? Because the flu got us both, and recovering from that takes… weeks. Robyn has had a considerable loss of weight, as I did last week. Which shows that if you are febrile, your metabolic rate remains high while your appetite plummets, and your waistline goes in.

Over the next few weeks we are away. I usually lose weight when travelling, for a few reasons.

  • Our Crossfit coach has us in a buildup phase, where he is working on building strength. This generally increases muscle mass, and this weighs more. Doing this when recovering from something this nasty is stupid.
  • Time zones make my body clock go haywire, and I stop eating
  • In North America, everything tastes wrong. Sorry, but true.
  • I increase walk distance, because I’m not using a car, and generally not watching TV

We will need to increase low intensity work, but this will happen. We will be walking.

Net loss this week: Chris zero kg (after three kilos last week) Robyn 2 kg.

Influenza B joys.

Do you want to lose weight rapidly? Go off your food? Be sleepless, because of coughing?

The do what I did. Have the flu jab, but get in anyway.

Post flu: 3 kg loss in one week

Seems like every year we hear we are in for a whopper of a flu season and that you had better hurry up and get that flu shot.

Well, this year is no different… but there’s a little ammunition to add some punch to this year’s advice.

It comes from the “land down under.” That’s right, Australia.

Right now, they are in the middle of a winter flu season that soon will be heading our way. And by taking a peek at what is happening on the other side of the world, it’s possible to make an educated guess about how things will be in our neck of the woods.

Turns out, their flu season, which began in July, has really been a rough one. Triple the cases compared to last year and so far, triple the deaths.

The good news is that the vaccine against the four possible strains of influenza making the rounds of Australia and New Zealand has been fairly effective. That means what we are going to use for our season should be effective as well, that’s provided there is little mutation of any of the strains as they make the journey to the northern hemisphere.

What happened locally is that the Influenza B variant mutated halfway through winter. This has ripped through the hospitals: most wards are three to five staff down a shift and thus we continued to work until we could not stand. Which in my case, was Tuesday. Spent Wednesday and Thursday basically in bed. On Friday I could just string emails together.

And, the advice from the paleo people: avoid carbs, avoid stress, and avoid sick people… don’t work that well when you a senior doctor on an acute ward. It is stressful. Carbs are used as stress modifiers by the nurses [1]– one of the things that happen when I’m not at work is that I don’t eat half as much, and basically no bad carbs, because my stress level, even with the flu, is half that working on the ward, and just because it is mental health does not mean that people do not get viruses. One third of the people admitted to any such ward have an undiagnosed medical problem, and poor diet, high stress, and overcrowded living conditions are fairly standard for such within our communities. [2]

(But, you may say, the other blog has continued. Yes. It took me three hours to write a blog post that usually takes me 30 minutes).

The main issue now is recovery. We are travelling for a month, starting around my birthday until Labour day. Need to recover. [3]

Robyn is down a kilo. But she avoided the flu.

1. The only way to ensure that I don’t eat the Tim Tams with them is to go hard paleo. Ensure I have enough protein in the morning, and I take my breaks away from the ward.
2. It helps if you have a clean, dry house and you don’t share the viruses when unwell. Which we did. Robyn is (so far) OK.
3. That means scale everything down to way below what I am capable of.