Crossfitters compete at the English Indoor Rowing Championships

A couple of weeks ago, several members of the Crossfit community in Manchester attended the English Indoor Rowing Championships. They put on a good show, though sadly not quite the medal haul of last year’s English Indoor Rowing Championships but a fine showing nonetheless:

– Timothy Haddon, 8th Men Open Hwt
– Dominic Beardwell – 17th Men 30-39 Hwt
– Matt Foster – 4th Men Open 500m Hwt
– Daniel Green – 7th Men Open 500m Hwt
– Timothy Haddon – 16th Men Open 500m Hwt
– Dominic Beardwell – 7th Men 30+ 500m Hwt
– Matt Foster et al – 5th Men Open Team
– Jane Holgate – 2nd Women 50+ 500m Hwt
– (Hope I didn’t miss anyone?)

Unlike last year, I won’t gush too much about how Crossfit enables creditable performances even in sports for which it doesn’t specialise, but I am seriously considering entering myself for the 2011 EIRC. My weightlifting weight of 77kg is just a few kilograms over the 75kg lightweight rowing category, and my current best 500m time of 1:27.1 would be good enough to win the 500m 30+ Open in the lightweight category, so it’s awfully tempting, if I can just get to the weight close to the time for entry. Why do these things all seem to come just after Christmas?!?

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Michael 4 March 2010, 11:59 pm

    Hi Colin,

    Coincidentally happened on your blog again after looking for some Crossfit info and noticed your entry on the rowing!

    I feel bad now, like my comments from last year have influenced your decision not to gush.

    That’s a damn good 500m time, 0.1 seconds better than my PB, doubtless a result of your greater power.

    A second coincidence is that I am vaguely considering entering BIRC 2010. At 78 kg and steadily decreasing, I’m confident I can make lightweight, and if I can drop 8 seconds off my pb and go sub 6.30 (a big ask but possible) through training in the 8 months preceding, then, unless an international class or exceptional amateur or club lightweight turns up, I have a shot at winning either the open lightweight or 30-34 lightweight category.

    However, I wonder if it’s worth it. If you’re hugely reliant on people not turning up to do well, it’s somewhat diminishes the achievement. Thus, sub 6.30 would have got 1st in 2009 but, when a host of top club and national lightweights turned up in 2001, it would only have got you 27th.

    This is not to suggest you shouldn’t enter. I think you should, especially as with specific training and the spur of competition, you’ll go even faster.

    I think I’m just being negative to talk myself out of the many hours of gruelling training I would have to put in…

    By the way, I feel sure you can lower your 5000m time too! Sub 19 seems attainable. Of course, that distance is predominantly aerobic as opposed to the 500m and would necessitate training of that sort, whereas there’s significant crossover – I believe – from your weight lifting to the 500 m.

    But really, 2000m is the blue riband. You mentioned you only did it once before. Might I inquire as to your time?

  • Colin McNulty 5 March 2010, 7:47 am

    No worries Michael, don’t feel bad.

    I’m pretty pleased with my 500m PB, last time I looked it put me in the 90th percentile on the concept2 site, although it was a year or 2 ago now. My mate Matt Foster got a blistering 1:23.3 in the Open 500m Hwt though, missing bronze by 0.6s. But at 6’3 or something, he’s got the build for it.

    I’ve just realised I forgot to post a link to the results page for the English IRC

    Well I don’t think I’d go for the BIRC as they don’t do a 500m, and as you point out, that’s my strength. I’ve only ever done a 2000m twice (I forgot about one time before), and the first time was my best at 7:23 (I think, defo 7:20 something). With some specific training I reckon I could get down towards the 7 minute mark.

    Your 6:38 is a very fine time! As you say though, is it worth it? Rowing is rarely more than a warm up exercise for me and to be honest I don’t really enjoy it. Occasionally a 500m sprint will come up, or 5000m as this week, and you get on and do it, but it’s not a big part of my training and right now, as I’m focusing on the BWLA Masters Weightlifting competition. Certainly a 500m leaves me feeling horrible for some time afterwards and is not something I relish doing, ever.

    Dunno about a sub 19min 5000! I’d be happy with sub 20min next time. Next time, in the dim and distant future. 😉 Maybe I’ll go to the EIRC next year, I’ve been threatening it for a while, but at 6 foot myself, I’d need to have a very austere Xmas to stand a chance of making the light weight division. How tall are you?

  • Michael 8 March 2010, 10:57 pm

    I’m 5 foot 11 and a half inches.

    You have to go where your motivation lies. I’m guessing the weightlifting fulfils your respective need for athletic competition and demonstration of your prowess. No need to find another one. Though, your 500 m time might indeed make it worthwhile if you can lay off the pies…On that note what’s your body fat level like? You look fairly lean so losing that 2 kg might be a stretch…

    Sub 7 min is definitely doable for you and is the benchmark for a very good erg time for men. However, 2000 m hurts so much more than 500 m. Be wary!

    I started a 2k today and quit at 1100m in at 1.45 pace. It was a very useful experience because it proved to me that my heart just isn’t in it. I like the idea of going to BIRC but I don’t actually want the reality.

    Whatever happens, we gotta keep training. Do you ever just want to quit and eat your bodyweight in chocolate and despair? A friend once pointed out one of those programmes on startingly obese individuals – you know, Half Ton Man or 500 kg Juggernaut or whatever – and stated that he sort of envied them in a way, in that they had given up completely caring about their bodies and were thus free from all the discipline and time and effort and self-denial that went into following a fit lifestyle. I mean, I know it’s not really an option…That way lies madness and self-loathing.

    I guess I envy your direction. I’m kind of directionless.

  • Colin McNulty 9 March 2010, 6:07 am

    Blimey Michael, you don’t sound like a happy chappy at all right now.

    We’re roughly the same then, though I’m an inch taller and currently at 80kg; I need to loose 3 kg in the next 3 weeks! My Tanita scales put my body fat at 15.5% yesterday and last time I was at 77kg (Nov last year) it read 14%. To within 1 percent, this correlated with the the body fat calculation method use by the Zone books.

    When I started all this, just over 3 years ago now, I was 30% body fat and my goal was to loose half of it, which I’ve achieved. I’d like to see if I could get down to single figures, but I’m not sure that’s really achievable, without some overriding need to do so. As you say, chocolate has it’s appeals!

    That’s one of the reason’s I decided to cut out the sugar (and booze) for a year, to see just eating healthily would get me down there. However, there’s no reason to deprive yourself though. In 2008 I drink wine and ate chocolate every night and still lost 3kg throughout the year, just by eating Zone’d meals throughout the day. And I know a lot of top drawer Crossfitters who pig out every Sunday.

    For example, one of the guys from Manchester who stands a really good chance of making it to the 2010 Crossfit Games in America, every Sunday eats about a kg of chocolate + pizza + a tub or 2 of ice cream. But, he Zone’s / Paleo’s throughout the rest of the week, and he’s ripped, strong, fit and fast. My point is that, if you forget the high carb, low fat dietary crap and eat right, you don’t need to miss out on chocolate or other things you like occasionally. (Though I did go off the rails in December and put on over a stone! Which is why I’m now having to get it all off again. That wasn’t clever really.)

    I know what you mean about the 2000m. I haven’t actually admitted this before but last time I tried a 2000m, I too went for a 1:45 pace, I too quit at 1100m! In recent years it’s one of the very few times I’ve not finished a workout I’ve started. It was the reason I decided not to go to the IRC this year, my heart just wasn’t in it.

    I actually don’t like rowing, it’s boring, it sucks very quickly, and you don’t get the same feeling of achievement that weightlifting gives. Don’t get me wrong, weightlifting can suck for it’s own reasons and you can get very frustrated, but when you make a lift you’ve been going for, it’s awesome. Plus there are milestones that mean something, like the first time I: lifted my body weight over my head, that was a special moment; did a 100kg clean (and jerk); body weight snatch etc.

    But I’m never going to be a good lifter. I don’t have the right body shape for it; my arms and legs are too long and basically, I’m not strong enough! I also don’t intend on putting the years of specialist training in that would be required to compete properly. I’m content in the knowledge that Crossfit can put me in the top 10% of pretty much anything I choose to do, whether that’s weightlifting, or rowing or whatever.

    I understand your malaise and feeling of listlessness though Michael, though how old are you? I know personally I work very well with goals. I’d like to get the British Masters Champion title, that’s the first goal. There’s also the possibility that I could qualify to compete in the European Masters Championships. Not a hope of not coming last mind, but just to go would be an experience. Realistically though, I need to wait another year till I fall into the next weight category and the qualifying total comes down, lol! The EIRC rowing could be another goal one day, maybe next year, if the no booze / no sugar routine gets my weight down consistently near the 75kg mark.

    Oops, that was a rather long reply! Last thing then, whereabouts are you Michael? Crossfit is slowly expanding throughout the UK, I think there’s something like 17 affiliated gyms now and might be one near you. I can’t imagine doing anything else to be honest, it completely changed my life and I think you’d love it.

  • Michael 11 March 2010, 1:37 am

    Yeah, my apologies for letting my existential despair infect your blog. I guess if you feel disaffected enough, it can creep out anytime. I’m 33, so make of that what you will. Seriously though, sorry for that.

    As regards your attitude to rowing, it really is subjective and individual. Knocking chunks off your 2k time, getting fitter and fitter, is practically the sweetest feeling available to someone who trains. It’s really just the same as any prolonged goal based endeavour.

    Sure, on one level, it can be boring, and a lot of people can’t stand it particularly for that reason. I think, to an extent, people just lack the mental practice at training extensive sessions. Sometimes, I can get on the erg for 10 minutes as a warmup and find it boring; yet, I used to do 90 minutes sessions without too much ennui. Just got to get your mind right, Luke. But again, if one isn’t interested in the first place, it’s that much harder. You can’t force interest.

    Your weightlifting totals are ridiculously good. Bodyweight snatch…Fuuuuck.

    You need to get down to 77 kg for the BMOWC in 3 weeks? Shit, that’s not much time. How much time in between weigh-in and lifting do you get? I see you ‘only’ need to lose 5 lbs in 18 days now…Good luck! Having spent years doing drastic and severe dieting, I don’t envy you, though you look like you know what you’re doing.

    Continuing on the matter of diet and fat, I’ve now read your posts tagged under diet (as an aside, I now realise most of the questions I ask you have already been answered indirectly in other posts, so apologies for that, though that probably won’t stop me continuing to be lazy…), and am childishly excited to make some pointless comments of my own!

    Firstly: wow, you were at 30% body fat. That is bleak and depressing. The worst I got was 22% and that didn’t feel good. I can only commend you heartily for coming back from the brink. That is one tough journey.

    Secondly, I wouldn’t trust the Tanita to give an accurate reading, though if you can standardise conditions of testing, I have no reason to doubt its reliability, and that’s really what’s important, being able to check you’re losing fat, rather than quantifying it with a number: you’ve either got too much or you’re happy with where you are.

    Thirdly, I’m certain you can get to the 12 % you mentioned in your post of 02/09/2008. There, you talked of how people didn’t want you to go lower that the 15 % you reached. My suspicion, guided by a perhaps snobbish dismissiveness, is that people who don’t train and watch their diet to a high degree of discipline have a certain distance from the intimacies of manipulating the human physique, and consequently are unaware both of what is possible and what is worthwhile. In short, they set their sights too low. You are the arbiter of whether it’s worthwhile of course, but 15% is too high for someone of your training and application, I think.

    And, once you get to 12%, I suspect you might find yourself wanting to go lower for aesthetic purposes. The big impediment to doing so is the focus and discipline required. Virtually anyone I’ve met who has maintained low body fat has made eating – what they eat, when they eat – plus regular training, naturally, a major part of their life. Their next meal is always planned in their head. There is no shortcut. Consequently, the more responsibilities and demands in your life, the harder it is. But it is doable, and once you have the routine fixed, and your habits adjusted, it gets easier (though it never stops requiring discipline, just as training 6 days a week never stops requiring you to turn up and train. Basically, like virtually everything in life, you have to want it enough.) And, if you allow yourself a cheat day, like that Crossfitter you mention, you can deal with the restrictive nature of eating clean the rest of the time. You can, as you say, treat yourself.

    Having blah blahed zealously all that spiel, I too fell off the wagon for the second half of 2009, putting on a stone of fat as well! I went from 10% – just maybe 3 – 5 lbs away from looking AWESOME, well, by my standards – back to 15%. But! Since the end of November I’ve been back on my usual lean diet and am back down to 12 %. It’s been coming off steadily – approx 0.25 of a percentage point of fat per week – but I’m vaguely worried that it’s slower than before, like my body’s got used to the shock of the experience before and is hanging on to the fat sluggishly. Anyway, the message here is: I’m SURE if you stick to your zone diet – and cut out the booze and sugar – the weight will continue to gradually come off and 12% will be a matter of time, as you yourself recognised in your post of 02/09/2008.

    I currently follow a low carb, high protein plan of small meals once every 2 hours – not specifically Zone (I only really have carbs in the morning and before and after training, and my portions are bigger than prescribed under the Zone) but similar and incorporating much of the Crossfit diet philosophy as expressed in their 100 word summary. However, I also have a cheat day where I eat absolutely any amount of anything I want, followed by a fast day of just water, and that seems to maintain fat loss while allowing the sating of temptation. Maybe you could try it as the next step in diet experimentation and blog your experience. I know you had a bad time with your Carb-over but after a few weeks you learn to adjust to the feeling and accept the day’s lethargy and the sugar highes and crashes as part of the price. Crash and burn baby!

    Finally, you are absolutely correct that having specific goals is the key to performing well in training. The levels of pain and time I’m prepared to commit to a goal when I perceive it to be worthwhile can seem in retrospect astonishing to me. I look back at periods when I was training for a specific target or event and almost can’t believe I was willing to do what I did, apply myself that much, suffer to that extent. Great days!

    At the moment, I only really have the aesthetic goal of getting to 8%, doing a one arm pull up, and increasing my number of handstand push ups, and while these are all important to me – especially the first – as you have discovered, I am lacking something…

    On paper, Crossfit is perfect for me in nearly every way. Ridiculously macho, majorly intense, demanding and rewarding an ascetic lifestyle and perfect for obsessives.

    I do think I would need a lot of guidance and instruction and peer support rather than just trying to learn it all myself. I live around the Croydon area, so Crossfit Surrey is probably the place to go to.

    I don’t know what’s stopping me committing. I’m stuck in a rut but I think I’m afraid to leave that rut and challenge myself. That’s just pathetic really.

    Anyway, thanks for your attempt to steer me in a rewarding direction and I offer a framing apology for the gauche length of this post.

  • Colin McNulty 11 March 2010, 4:50 am

    That’s another epic comment Michael; I like it! You and I appear to be very much alike, with the obvious exception that you’re a night owl and I’m a lark, seeing as I was up at 4:30am this morning.

    I will reply properly to your excellent post soon, but right now I need to use my morning energy for work. Spouting crap on a blog can wait till this evening when I’m brow beaten from a day at the office.

  • Colin McNulty 11 March 2010, 7:19 pm

    First off Michael, no need to apologise. It’s a sad reality that only 1 in 1,000 visitors to this blog ever bother to comment on anything they find here, so I’m happy for the interaction. I understand all too well the feelings of disaffection; is it the mid life crisis or is it just the realisation that life probably isn’t going to amount to much more than what you’ve already achieved?

    In your teens, you are the future; the world is your oyster if you will. In your twenties you’re enjoying both youth and relative affluence and carving your way in life, love and career. There are specific goals to achieve: that house, that girl, that job, that holiday. By the 30’s most people have reached a plateaux, having been ground down by a decade of early starts and “the man” and the realisation that they are no longer the current generation.

    I suspect that “life begins at 40” because the kids are starting to leave home, affluence and free time are maximised and people are realising that half their life is over, probably the best half! Scary huh?

    You are right that people do do well with goals and the feeling of achievement at reaching them or beating targets. Oddly it seems built into our genes to want to achieve specific goal, how else do you explain stamp collecting and train spotting? I suspect that hormonal / natural high related rewards are in play that trigger a feeling of euphoria at having accomplished a stated aim. I also suspect that it doesn’t really matter what that aim is.

    To be honest, I hate 90 min sessions in the gym. Crossfit workouts are typically 10-20 minutes long (there are exceptions) and even when you’ve factored in warm up, skill practice and warm down stretching, it’s rarely more than 60 minutes for a whole session. The short, constantly varied work outs, are definitively some of its strengths.

    The body weight snatch took 3 years to get, and I’ve only done it once!

    Losing the weight shouldn’t have been a problem. I’m down from 13st5 on 1st Jan to 12st6 this morning (was 12st5 yesterday, grrrrr), but I did fall off the wagon for a week a month back. I’ll get round to posting my weight loss graph at the end of the month. Last minute fasting / dehydration should solve the last couple of pounds. Either way, it’s a steady 1.5ish lbs per week, which is a perfectly health weightloss rate. Nothing too drastic and certainly not “severe dieting”. The weigh in is typically 9-10am and I believe I’ll be lifting around 3-5pm, so plenty of time to rehydrate and eat.

    Agreed about the Tanita, though it does correlate with the Zone prescribed way of measuring (based on wrist and waist inches and weight) to within a percent. Either way, I always weigh myself at the same time: first thing in the morning, after wee and before any drink.

    I agree with your snobbish dismissal. A case in point is all the disbelief over how fast the actors for the film 300 got into incredible shape. To be honest, if it wasn’t for wanting to compete in a certain weight category, I wouldn’t be bothered about my weight, only size, shape and the ever elusive 6-pack. If fact, I only decided to try to reach the 77kg category, because I’d hit my target of 12 ½ stone (80kg) and I wasn’t sure it was even possible for me to get as low as 77kg, it was just an experiment. When I did hit 12 stone, and 14% BF, I could see the 6 pack starting to poke out so figured another couple of percent should be achievable.

    So yes, eating is already a discipline. Every day I plan my meals in the morning, and as I work away from home, I actually plan the week’s meals when I go shopping on a Monday night. To be honest, food is just fuel mostly so I eat pretty plain food: every meal is some derivation of: meat or fish, fruit & veg, nuts, olives or cheese.

    Typically I’ll eat the same thing all day too, just cos it’s easier that way when cooking for one. E.g. earlier this week I roasted a whole chicken, so I had roast chicken for 8 meals running (I eat 4 times a day as that suits my schedule better, usually: 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm). Then yesterday I defrosted a freezer pack of salmon fillets, so yesterday and today is salmon all day (with tomatoes, peppers and plums). Currently there’s a pack of prawns defrosting, so that’s tomorrow’s food. All that + a pint of milk a day.

    You have a cheat day once a week? Once this comp is out of the way, I’m definitely considering trying that (though it would blow my no sugar new year’s resolution out the window). Is it no limit cheating and all day? Do you restrain yourself at all? What about the booze?

    I’m not sure about the day of fasting after though, that would be tough. Similarly I know people who do Intermittent Fasting, and that doesn’t sound like fun at all. I don’t do well when I’m hungry. I also have to consider the fact that my very boring job means that I have a tendency to eat when I’m bored, so eating regularly helps pass the day.

    Specific goals are pretty much the way to achieve anything in life. My father used to say: “Aim at nothing, and you’ll hit it every time!”. A one arm pull up, that would be awesome. I’m a long way off handstand press ups too. My upper body strength needs a lot of work.

    You’re right, Crossfit is right up your street. I don’t know the guys at Crossfit Surrey (I don’t think) but any Crossfit affiliate is worth going to. Even if you can’t attend regularly, I know people who make a special effort to make the trip to their local affiliate once a month, for the coaching, the camaraderie and the community.

    Don’t be scared to step out of your rut. When talking about exercise or diet to people, it’s incredibly difficult to get people to change. The old phrase, you can lead a horse to water… is very true. The way I see it, with anything new, take 2 weeks and try it. Commit fully to something for 2 weeks and see how you go. Everyone can generate the motivation to do something new for just 14 days, in the knowledge that there’s an ending in sight. At the end of the 2 weeks, take stock and see how it went. If it’s a life changing experience, than that’s marvellous. If it’s not and you ditch it, then you’ve exchanged 2 weeks effort for a greater knowledge of the world and yourself, and you have a new story to tell to boot; a fair exchange if ever there was one.

  • Michael 12 March 2010, 12:27 am

    That’s a really excellent and thoughtful post, Colin.

    I’m honoured by the fact that you chose to post a reply at 4.50 am and impressed that it was so coherent. It takes me several hours just to shake off the physical torpor and the sense of despair and suicidal ideation present at every waking. I jest but I think it’s revealing how together you are so early on in the day.

    1 in 1000? That is depressing. It’s a damn good fitness and diet blog with a well judged balance of personal reflection, anecdotal interest and general observation.

    “Is it just the realisation that life probably isn’t going to amount to much more than what you’ve already achieved? “. I really hope that isn’t the case because I haven’t achieved much! Hence the disaffection.

    I like your bleak and accurate summation of this business of living and getting older. Still, you’ve got to rage against the dying of the light. I put this to my father and he responded, “Yes, in an acquiesent sort of way.”

    I agree that the striving for goals is clearly genetically hard wired and an obvious evolutionary advantage. We need purpose and we need challenges. The big problem, of course, is that it precludes contentment. Satisfaction is fleeting. We always have to keep striving.

    I remember feeling quite tearful after getting my 6.38. It wasn’t enough. It didn’t satisfy. And I remember calculating precisely how long the sense of euphoria and pleasure lasted after getting my first handstand push up: it began to trail off after 2 minutes and had entirely dissipated after 5. There’s that bleakness again, huh?

    I wonder if I went to bed with Scarlett Johansson, afterwards, would I be cursed with a similar sense of niggling emptiness, thinking, “Ok, i obviously need to aim higher…I need Katrina Kaif…or maybe I need them both at the same time…”

    Long sessions can be dull; I guess that’s their comfort.

    Do you think you could ever get to a 100 kg snatch? 1.25 x bodyweight is elite Crossfit level.

    That’s good about the weigh in; I remember reading that you can afford to lose up to 1kg through dehydration – and providing you have adequate time for rehydration – perform at 100 %.

    So, in the absence of competing at a certain weight, you would be more concerned about aesthetic considerations?

    Yeah, I was dimly aware that you must know at least as much as me about the discipline of healthy eating and yet I still went ahead with my quasi lecture…once typed I was loathe to remove it. Your diet looks good! (I can’t believe you eat the same meal 8 times consecutively! In other words, your obsession is weird, mine makes perfect sense!) Is is not possible to squeeze some snacks in between those meals, to maximise the thermogenic effect of eating? Say, nuts and seeds? I swear by soya nuts. Which is to say, I eat them and they’re not too bad and they’ve got a shitload of protein, excuse my French. Plenty of water, I take it? How about your pre and post workout nutrition? Do you use protein shakes?

    Interesting how eating in this way becomes a more of a fixed routine rather than a spontaneous response to hunger.

    Cheat day is no limits all day! Though, I have a basic guideline of keeping to a generous 12 hour window. Like I say, that’s a guideline, not a rule. As regards alcohol, it’s permitted, however I don’t drink, and I would counsel moderation if only so as not to impact next day training, and because I take excessive alcohol consumption as having more of a deleterious impact than excessive food intake on a one off basis, though that is purely a personal belief. Everything else is up for grabs! The first few times, there’s a tendency to eat as much as possible in something of a desperate flailing manner but after the 3rd or 4th time, you find your gastic limit and begin to relax within it and maximise your enjoyment of the removal of restriction.

    The fasting day isn’t too tough. No matter how much you eat on your cheat day, you will get hungry about tea time or mid afternoon the next day. But it’s only mild to moderate hunger; it doesn’t make you feel weak or lightheaded. That said, I do it on a weekend so as not to affect work and so as not to subject myself to unnecessary or unexpected temptation, and though I train that day (you don’t have to of course) I do take it easy the rest of the day, physically and mentally. I suspect, like that Crossfitter you mention, one might be able to cheat without the fast day and maintain weight, but to actually lose fat with this programme, the fast day is necessary to offset the huge caloric credit.

    To be honest, I was highly reluctant to engage in throwing all that bad food down my neck, for similar reasons to your desire to avoid sugar. I then read a piece arguing a high carb, high calorie day helps to replenish leptin depletion, and actually increase fat loss. I thought back to the times I had been ultra disclipined for a month, resisting all temptation and seeming to lose fat slowly; then lose it for a couple of days and eat huge amounts of chocolate etc. in the evening, get back to eating healthily and seem to see a reduction in fat after a couple of weeks. It helps to lose fat. Or, at least, it doesn’t hinder it, providing you fast. And it stops you succumbing to temptation the rest of the time. In the past, I would regularly feel hungry and despondent around 5.00 and plough into the biscuits and chocolate around me at work. Now, I just think, no, wait 3 days and you can have whatever you want. Also, being able to indulge in all the foods you crave, reduces the craving for them. So, you give in less, but you feel the pull less.
    I guess it all depends on how hard you find it to stick to your diet without slipping off the iron road.

    I’ve been training the one arm pull up for a while and it’s damn hard. I nearly have enough strength to do controlled negatives, and that should accelerate results but I’m no longer confident I can achieve it. Supposedly, 1 in 100000 men can do it. It took me about 6 months to get my handstand pull up which tips you off either to the inefficacious nature of my training or my inherent lack of upper body strength. It’s the damn genes, man! My dad jibbed me.

    You’re last paragraph is so on the money. It took me years to change my diet, to learn – and accept – that high carbohydrate diets will not get you lean. I could have never have given up bread until last year when I decided that this year was the year I tried everything to get the body I always wanted.

    And now, I face the same decision with my fitness programme. I do have to make a change, somewhere in my life at least. Perhaps everywhere.

    I fear I lack your courage and self-belief. I shall dwell on what you have said.

  • Colin McNulty 12 March 2010, 5:01 am

    Another quality reply Michael, and once again I’m up at 4:30 reading it (sigh). Stupid body, I know more sleep is good for you, but sometimes it just decides it’s had enough. Go figure.

    Anyway, I’m travelling home today so have packed my laptop up already (last night) and this reply comes to you courtesy of my iPhone which necessitates a short reply. I’ll try to reply properly later. First I need to read it again!

    As an aside, given the rather personal nature of this conversation, I wonder if we should take this to email?

  • Colin McNulty 12 March 2010, 8:00 pm

    I used to be an 7-8 hours per night person when it came to sleep. Any less and I’d be irritable. Then when I switched to the zone, I saw an almost immediate 1-2 hour reduction in the amount of sleep I needed, and could easily survive on 5-6 hours and still wake up (without an alarm clock) and be bright and breezy in the morning. These days I try to get more sleep by going to bed earlier. Some books I’ve read recently really beat on about the health benefits of sleep, which I’m inclined to believe.

    Maybe it’s a bit more than 1 in 1,000 I’ll have to check: right there were 63 comments in the last 30 days, out of 13,000 unique visitors, though that includes all my comments and your multiple ones. If we assume then that roughly half are from duplicate commenters, that works out at about 1 in 400-500 visitors actually comment. Actually that’s better rates than YouTube gets, lol !

    The way I see it, life goes downhill if your health fails and/or you lose that desire to strive and just start coasting, waiting for something to happen. I’ve sorted out my health issues. In fact, that’s just reminded me, I took a life expectancy test a couple of years ago at http://www.livingto100.com/ and Crossfit and the Zone added 10 years to it:

    http://www.colinmcnulty.com/blog/2007/07/09/calculate-your-life-expectancy/

    I couldn’t resist, I’ve just taken it again: my new life expectancy is 88, up from 85 three years ago and up from 75 four years ago. There’s a new post in this, hoho.

    You are right of course about the evolutionary advantages of achieving goals, but Michael, you take OCD to a whole new height. Timing the euphoric effect of hitting a goal and charting its ensuing tail off. Superb! I am in awe. I have to ask, what do you do for a living? You are certainly showing some of the talents of an accomplished Analyst.

    Ok strictly speaking it wasn’t an OCD thing to do, but I lump that level of analysis in with it, as both are inextricably linked in my psyche. Speaking of OCD, you may like my Obsessive Crossfit Disorder post, if you haven’t seen it already?

    Getting back to the point, if goal setting and goal achieving are evolutionary tools, then surely so is the resultant disappointment? If it wasn’t, then you’d not feel motivated to set or achieve the next goal. As I grow older, I find myself less inclined to get pissed off about this sort of realisation. You can no more overcome your dissatisfaction at achieving a goal, than you can overcome a million years of evolutionary development.

    In the same way, I don’t decry my desire to eat piles of carbs, it’s built into my genes. If it wasn’t, my ancestors wouldn’t have survived and I wouldn’t be here now. So thank evolution for your carb cravings, they bring life! Of course now, with the abundance of carbs, that evolutionary imperative appears broken. Give it another 100,000 years though and evolution may have caught up with carbs’ abundance, as we slowly evolve a weaker insulin response.

    That assumes of course that evolution is still working. Something which I’m not too sure on to be honest. At its simplest, evolution is survival of the fittest. In order for the cycle to work though, your genes must give you procreative advantage (longevity does this for men, not so much for women beyond 40). Herein lies the problem, modern day medicine is interfering with the evolutionary mechanism for removing defective genes from the pool.

    I am a typical modern day example of this: In my early 20’s, my wisdom teeth started coming through and had to be removed, but not before I got an abscess in my mouth. The dentist booked me in for the removal op and first I had a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection. I don’t really like taking antibiotics unless I have to, so I asked her what would happen if I didn’t. “You may get lucky and survive.” she replied, “But more likely, you’ll get blood poisoning and die.” !!! I promptly trotted across the road, holding onto that prescription very, very tightly!

    Now as is obvious, getting wisdom teeth in our 20s an 30s is an evolutionary trait, based on millennia of young adults’ teeth falling out. They are replacement teeth and should have plenty of room to emerge. Clearly in our modern day healthy dental hygiene environment, they are a nuisance and without antibiotics, evolution would now select for people who’s wisdom teeth never came through.

    The point is that since that incident, I’ve become a father and passed on my wisdom teeth generating genes. The antibiotics (and arguable the subsequence removal operation) saved my life and interfered with evolution’s attempt to clear me out of the gene pool before my genes were cleared out, along with their irrelevant wisdom teeth. The irony is, perhaps the only groups of people on this planet that are still evolving, are those without access to a 1st World healthcare system!

    Hmmm, I have digressed in true Ronnie Corbett fashion, (shame not to!) now, where was I? Ah yes, I take the view of not begrudging my evolutionary responses to stimulus. I see them, I identify them, and acknowledge them for their valuable place in bringing my particular set of genes, into my particular bag of bones. I then simply try to look the other way when I walk past!

    Interestingly I was talking to my brother about this last night. There’s a sweetie vending machine between my desk and the coffee machine. Right at eye height are Bounty bars, and I do love Bounty bars! I absolutely can’t walk past them without wanting to stop and get one. I could get annoyed by my desire for them. But it’s just a million years of genetic development, no point getting upset about it. A similar process is undoubtedly down to your suspected dissatisfaction with your Scarlett Johansson fantasy, lol.

    Oops, this is turning into another long one. What else was there: “Long sessions can be dull; I guess that’s their comfort.” That’s deep mate.
    100kg is certainly achievable. Mark, my Crossfit coach competes in the 62kg body weight category and can snatch over 80kg, which is way more than 1.25x. There’s no reason I couldn’t do 100kg. Am I going to? No. I simply don’t want it enough to devote the next 5 years of my life to it, but I have no doubt I could if I wanted.

    Last time I tried dehydration, I didn’t do very well dehydrating to be honest. Got a cracking headache and only lost ½ lb. If I need to, I’m going to try a new method this time, litres fluid per day: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the 5 days run up. I typically drink 3 litres of water per day + coffee. 12st5 again this morning, so 4 lbs to go.

    To be honest I’m only slightly motivated by aesthetics. I hit the target weight of 12st7 that I set myself. I hit the target of getting back into my 32” jeans. Sure a 6 pack at 40 would be cool, but it’s only a whim really. I already look massively better than I did 3 years ago, even better that I did at 18 to be honest. I can’t complain at that.

    I only eat repetitively be during the week, because I currently work away from home and am cooking for 1. I just don’t mind it like some people would. Nuts and seeds are zoned in as fat sources, mostly it’s almonds. I’ve never tried soya nuts. I eat a 3 block “meal” about 1.5 – 2 hours before exercise and typically have another meal within 1-2 hours afterwards. Not for any specific reason, other than that’s just what happens. I’ve never done protein shakes, I prefer the real thing!
    One of the zone diet tips is not to eat when you’re hungry; as to do so makes you more likely to over eat, especially on the carbs.

    > The first few times, there’s a tendency to eat as much as possible in something of a desperate flailing manner

    ROFLMAO, I can so see that happening to me! I may give it ago, especially given your believe that it actually aids fat loss. Have you got a link to a good article on that? I’ve seen my mate who does it dead lift 190kg for 5 reps this week. That’s astonishing! He has a slightly different take of diet again, he drinks 4 pints of milk a day, and has next to no other carbs, maybe a tin of tomatoes and single piece of fruit + meat + fat of course.
    I’ll try it without the fasting first I think. 😉 Did you mean you go no limit on the Sat and fast on the Sunday? Oddly I find temptation at home worse than temptation at work. When I’m at home, there’s a kitchen full of food to eat (I’ve had to start hiding the nuts from sight!), whereas at work, I take in my days food in the morning and that’s what I’ve got to eat all day. There is no more, and I can resist the vending machine, tuck shop and canteen without too much difficulty.

    I can well believe a one arm pull up is a 1 in a million event.
    Giving up bread is what most people balk at, simply because it’s such a fundamental part of the modern western diet. I like to describe bread as simply edible packaging that is stuffed full of salt, fat and junk carbs and has very little nutritional value. Bread exists only to stop you getting messy fingers when eating your prawns and mayonnaise! Similar for pastry and your steak and ale pie. Barry Sears was right when he said, it’s easier to change someone’s religion, than it is to change their diet.

  • Michael 20 March 2010, 5:51 pm

    Sorry for the late reply, Colin; been a bit distracted.

    That was rather a comprehensive post.

    I personally don’t feel it’s necessary to remove this conversation from the public domain, though I appreciate the sensitivity of your suggestion. I think we’ve addressed my respective anomie in as great depth as is worthwhile. In any case, I wonder if the relatively more exposed nature of posting on a board as opposed to in a one-to-one email promotes a greater effort at curbing self-indulgent revelation and unproductive whining. Thus, posting here keeps me honest!

    Unless, of course, your concern is that I’ve breached the parameters of appropriate etiquette in my posting. I don’t think that’s what you mean.

    I work in admin, which is as banal and meaningless as you would expect.

    Though I may fulfil minor requirements to be an Analyst, I imagine I lack certain talents, which is to say, all the other fundamental ones.

    Other people have accused me of possessing an OCD-ish streak.

    I read the post you indicated and I think you are right to argue that the ritualism and routineism prevalent in many people is human and not necessarily a disorder. And, to digress slightly, at one end of the spectrum there is in all dedicated trainers – there has to be – an element of obsessiveness. Obsession, focus, application, discipline, desire, call it what you will – this is necessary for maximal progression. Obsession is what the lazy call dedication, so runs the cliché.

    But here we’re really talking about a certain level of self-reflection. And, to link it to our evolutionary discussion, whether it’s productive and useful or not. Clearly, one can see why it would be – for example, divining flawed motivation or logic or the worth of a pursuit – but like all mental tools, it can be misused and abused to excess. As Milton said, the mind is its own place and can make a hell of heaven, a heaven of hell.

    I regret that we’re banging up against the limits of my intellect with regard to evolutionary imperatives, selected-for inherited traits and flaws in natural selection. Even though we’re just dipping our toe, I’m close to out of my depth.

    I envy your evolutionary sang-froid, your acceptance that the way things are is the natural order, even if it admittedly seems to work partially on wilful distraction.

    I think I resent that evolutionary biology is such an impediment to free will and autonomy. It dictates our desires and needs, denudes our individuality, and reduces us to intellectually well groomed animals. We all end up chasing antelopes, often the same one. And there isn’t really a way to avoid chasing antelopes all together, and still feel entirely comfortable and happy and fulfilled. To fight our biology is like cutting off an arm to prove a point. To show you can. To show you are the master of your own universe.

    I can’t help, for example, wanting to sleep with Scarlett Johansson, just as I wouldn’t be able to help the resultant feeling of something missing; afterwards, I would still be looking for a heightened experience, a new sensation, something else that would induce contentment. And that, whatever or whoever that would be, wouldn’t work either because nothing would. This essential lack is what it is to be human. And I still haven’t come to grips with that. And yet further, I would still delude myself that there is something out there that would entirely satisfy. And that delusion is as real a feeling as the sexual desire. Thus, I’m trapped in a futile cycle of longing and dissatisfaction, and worst of all, being aware enough to lament it but unable to step outside of the imprisonment.

    Yep, I’ve kind of gone on a bit too much here…

    100 kg snatch: I too have goals I know I could do but can’t be bothered to work towards. That’s a good and necessary thing, something I can accept. Sufficient motivation has to be a given, and self-selects for goals.

    God, I don’t envy your putative dehydration protocol! I need probably 4 litres minimum daily – I’m a sweater – so to go for 1 doesn’t bear thinking about.

    I think aesthetics as a motivation in my case – and probably a lot of people’s – springs from low self-esteem (you may already have picked that up…) and also that old obsessive perfectionism. It’s good that you don’t really feel that pull to a great extent; it corresponds with your apparent self-possession and greater ease.

    I question any purported efficacy of protein shakes but they work out to be perhaps the cheapest source of protein, they get into your system quickly, they’re especially appropriate for pre and post workout nutrition, and they taste nice. That they haven’t had any noticeable effect suggests that protein deficit is not a problem I have.

    I’m surprised that you don’t have any protein and carbohydrate immediately after training. This seems to be a consensus good move.

    “One of the zone diet tips is not to eat when you’re hungry; as to do so makes you more likely to over eat, especially on the carbs.” That’s the kind of counter intuitive advice I love! The key in that case would be to not ever get hungry, I guess. So keep eating!

    “Have you got a link to a good article on that?” Now I’m beginning to regret my zealotry. I have a link to the article that persuaded me to do it but I suspect it won’t satisfy the scientist in you: http://www.topfatlosstrainer.com/2009/12/12/cheat-day-for-rapid-fat-loss/

    Shit, I deadlift – on a good day – 150 kg for 8. I did 180 kg once, with poor technique. Your mate is very good. Interesting diet he has. The question of individual difference is difficult to resolve.

    That’s right, no limit Saturday, fast Sunday.

    Harder for you to avoid temptation at home, I imagine, because you have a family.

    “I like to describe bread as simply edible packaging that is stuffed full of salt, fat and junk carbs and has very little nutritional value”. That’s a fairly definitive judgement!

    Food is such a pleasure, it’s hard for people to restrict it to the extent we deem appropriate.

  • Colin McNulty 22 March 2010, 7:00 pm

    Distracted? I trust everything is ok? I was rather distracted this weekend: the wife fell over and has ripped several of the ligaments in her ankle. She spend 6 hours in A&E on a Friday night and is now hobbling round on crutches, not fun. So I’ve been rushed off my feet all weekend.
    Ironically it coincided with me finding a Pose running coach in Manchester, who happens to work out of a park just 10 minutes from my house. I’ve arranged a session for me, the Missus (if she’s well enough) and the nipper.

    Yeah blogs can keep you honest, although this one has come back to bite me once or twice. I wrote something on here a few years ago not long after I started, that wasn’t as complimentary as it could have been. Some year and a half later, someone found my old post and got the hump. Eventually it got back to me via my Crossfit coach, who got some stick because of my association with him. Apparently they decided I must speak for all Crossfitters and so he got the brunt of it. Still I sorted it out, using one of those archaic pieces of technology: the telephone! 😉

    You’re right, I didn’t mean that you’d breached any etiquette. I have a public blog, so I’m not one to dive to the relative secrecy of email. I accept that there’s an element of wearing your sleeve on your shirt if you do something like this.

    Admin, like any job, has it’s own particular challenges, banal meaningless may well be one of them. Sadly my current role at work is also fairly pointless, being one that purely satisfies some managers ability to tick the right box, but it at least has low pressure levels. If I may be so bold, self esteem is something that you do need to work on Michael. The fundamental skill of a business analyst is a structured and inquiring mind, something you clearly have. OCD should be considered an asset, well in my book anyway. I embrace my inner OCD with pride! 😉

    Indeed it is often the case that dedication and obsession are indistinguishable. In fact, I’d say that outwardly there is probably nothing to separate them. The difference is all in the state of mind of the person. I recently read the autobiography of Sam Walton, the found of Wal-Mart, a one time richest man in the world. He was obsessed, there’s no doubt about it. Any are no absolutes in mental “disorders” (I use the work lightly) only scales of grey, a scale we are all on at some point.

    I’ve never read Milton but the fella was right. The mind is a powerful thing. In a slight digression, I was chasing a mouse round the house yesterday morning (brought in by one of the cats who lost control of it) and I could see when it caught sight of me, it breathing so fast I thought it was going to pop. For some reason, I remembered the only time in my life I’ve ever come close to fainting, just from seeing someone give a load of blood, and I wondered what the evolutionary point of fainting was, especially from just seeing a scene. I can only assume it’s a automatic “play dead” ploy when you see a lot of blood, as something pretty dramatic has probably just happened, to you or others close by. My rather vague point, is that just from looking at something, the power of your mind can cause involuntarily unconsciousness. That’s a pretty amazing and powerful ability.

    My sang-froid (great word!) is simply a matter of mental efficiency. I try in all walks of life to not expend mental energy (worry if you will) on things that I can’t change, and instead focus my efforts on things that it is in my power to influence. Like my snatch, which went much better this weekend than last week’s debacle.

    “Intellectually well groomed animals” – superb analogy. I think I’m going to use that one. It is sadly a part of human nature to fight biology, in the micro sense, and “nature” in the macro. I have no doubt that humans will ultimately destroy this planet’s ability to sustain a sizeable human population, but nature will recover once we’re all long gone, though it may take millions of years for that to happen and allow the next evolution of man (or similar). But now I really digress.

    Don’t worry Michael, you are only wrestling with the fundamental human question of “What is the point?” No pressure or anything, but no one has quite worked this out yet. Yes there are many answers that people think they have found, how else does the scientific mind explain religion’s grip over the majority of the world’s population? For some, it boils down to the genetic need for procreation and furthering of your particular bag of genes. Wealth for others. Sporting achievement for some. “Helping people” perhaps. But for many, there really isn’t one. My view is that you need to take the wins where you can get them, hence my entry in the British Masters next weekend. If you haven’t already, having a kid is also very high up my list of satisfying and self fulfilling things to do.

    I’m hoping that the dehydration won’t be necessary. I’ve only tried it once before and it didn’t go well at all. I am still 2 lbs over weight though with 6 days to go though. I’ve got to be very good this week; I’ve bought: a chicken, some fillet steaks, salmon fillets, smoked salmon, 2 punnets of tomatoes, some plums, kiwi and peaches, almonds and cheese. I’m ditching the milk for a week to help out.

    Who doesn’t want a 6 pack? The question is, am I willing to cancel the Easter chocolate fest etc to get it? I enjoy the fact that I am faster, fitter and stronger at 37 than I was at 18, and I look it. But there is a limit how much I’m prepared to give up for that. It’s a question of finding the balance and my view of where that balance is, is constantly being refined.

    I have not done a proper study of protein shakes, but I think I remember reading something about it being short string protein vs nature’s meat, which is long, or something? Anyway, in my book a nice blue steak beats a protein shake any day. 😉

    My routine means I eat a full meal usually within an hour of finishing training, so I’ve never felt the need to eat something immediately after. Maybe I’ll try it one day.

    I loved the “Don’t eat when you’re hungry.” advice too. Which is why I eat 4 meals a day, typically around: 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm during the week.

    Thanks for the link, I’ll take a look when I get the chance. For me, food is mostly just fuel. Yes it’s sometimes tasty fuel, but it’s a necessity of life first and foremost. Life would be much more convenient without it, e.g. just requiring an hour a day in the sun for photosynthesis from our green hair, would have been a much more efficient design!

    150kg deadlift for 8 is very impressive, more than I can do. My 1 rep PB is 160.

  • Michael 28 March 2010, 10:40 pm

    Oh, you know, just this business of living.

    Sorry to hear about your wife. I trust she is doped up with painkillers and anti-inflammatories. I wish her a speedy recovery, naturally.

    That’s very interesting about your blog contretemps. Sooner or later, you will piss someone off.

    The trouble with self-esteem, I think, is that while it may be a product entirely of the mind – and as such, within our power to control – it masquerades successfully as something naturally and entirely engendered by life events. Thus it appears malleable only through action rather than thought, and is predicated on what happens to you, rather than ideally how you perceive what happens to you. To annex self-esteem from actual experience is a mighty task.

    Obsession is a good servant but a poor master. It’s difficult to work out sometimes where obsession ends and the ‘I’ begins. Who has control? Is control an illusion? Would you always have done what you did? Do we have any choice but to embrace our OCD?

    It is often stated that we have but realised a fraction of the power of our minds. In individual terms, the achievements in my life that resonate the greatest are those where I tried my hardest for a great length of time and accomplished things I wasn’t certain I could accomplish. And yet, there is a danger in supposing ourselves more capable than we are. We are not all Prince Hamlet, nor are we meant to be. As such, putting a ceiling on one’s own possible limitations seems both pragmatic and presumptuous, mature and yet fearful. Sensible? Or sad? A decision we must all make to our own satisfaction.

    To be phlegmatic, as you are, in the face of tribulations is perhaps the most fundamentally useful skill in life. Shame we can’t easily transplant such abilities.

    “What is the point?” Indeed. To quote Kenneth Williams, “Everything is so shit, I really can’t see the point in anything, it’s all so fucking shit.” Ahem. As you note, the meaning of life has taxed one or two other people at some point…

    “For some, it boils down to the genetic need for procreation and furthering of your particular bag of genes.” I can never understand these people, who usually offer this with a blithe shrug of the shoulders. Where’s the meaning in that?!? They’re content to defer entirely to a biological imperative. Count me out. I need to look for something more.

    “If you haven’t already, having a kid is also very high up my list of satisfying and self fulfilling things to do.” I’ve thought about it, although it does rather depend on overcoming certain other apparently insurmountable obstacles. But, without implying that this was even a subsidiary motivation for you, the idea of fathering a child primarily to fulfil one’s own need for meaning strikes me as a fundamentally bad idea. Plus, it would likely interfere with my monumental self-absorption. Kidding. Well, sort of. Really, I mean it would require a self-abnegation for which I am not yet ready.

    I find myself cycling between nihilism – which isn’t really a particularly sustaining choice, day to day – and then distraction through the pursuit of personal achievement, and hope in the solace of love. Yet these latter two states, like nearly everything we do, are about avoiding the truth of the reality of life or finding comfort apart from it. They are unsatisfactory fudges that avoid the issue, and I think this is reflected in the transience of their power. They can only work for so long. Love – romantic love – is ephemeral and imperfect and nebulous to the point of unreality; personal goals, once achieved, must be immediately recalibrated and fixed higher – their contrived nature practically encourages second guessing as to their essential worth. Art, sport, sex, food: it’s all either distraction or comfort. We must find a philosophy that looks life in the eye.

    Thus I’m led to Albert Camus and his belief that in the face of the absurdity of existence, we must reject the alternatives of religion – a leap of faith that doesn’t convince – and suicide – an abdication of freedom – and embrace the meaninglessness of life. We should stare down and accept without resignation the absence of purpose. Camus was a braver man than me. I would rather take refuge in distraction. This is acceptable to Camus, provided you always recognise that distraction as purely that, a pursuit or experience invested with artificial meaning as a distraction from the true absence of meaning. That kind of doublethink or, dare I say, half-arsedry is beyond me. Or is it?

    On that note: “My view is that you need to take the wins where you can get them, hence my entry in the British Masters next weekend.” Yeah, you might as well win – which is trying to win – as opposed to lose. Seriously, good luck! I hope it went well. Well done on nailing the weight. You’re the damn scientist of your own body! Although, while prefacing this comment with an apology for pedantry, I must point out that you misspelled ‘lose’ as ‘loose’. This particular error immediately sows doubt in the mind of the reader as to the writer’s overall competence, and I really wouldn’t want anyone, particularly a casual browser, to get a false impression about your blog and dismiss it as a result. He said, patronisingly.

    You could get a six pack like that *clicks fingers*. Zone it for 2 months and there you go. You don’t have to cancel the chocolate fest. Just make sure the chocolate fest happens once a month, say. Or do the fest-fast thing.

    Hey, I don’t really know what I’m doing with diet! I do a lot of things without really knowing or understanding the science behind it. Sometimes, the science is even against it! I succeed in spite of myself.

    I read your blue steak article. I liked its celebration of our suppressed atavism. And I’m far too much of a pussy to go for it. I much prefer to remain as distant as possible from the fact I’m eating something that was quite happily going about its business before it was brutally cut down to provide tasty sustenance for me.

    I’m off now. To distract/comfort myself.

  • Colin McNulty 31 March 2010, 11:34 am

    I sent an email to your hotmail account about something I didn’t want to discuss here, don’t know if you got that ok?

    There is no doubt that it’s easier to manage ones self-esteem through action. The physical reality of cause and effect is a powerful influencer on the mind. In a simple example, if you apply for a job that you think is a stretch of your abilities at a salary beyond your normal range, and you get offered the job, that is external validation of your worth which can be a huge boost to self esteem. Of course you aren’t suddenly better or worth more, your skills or abilities haven’t suddenly changed, all that’s happened is you have received validation from the world on something that you must have already considered in your own mind.

    However non of that precludes the ability of the mind to define its own self worth. You are who you are. You are capable of what your capable of. Belief is almost irrelevant to a fair assessment of your capabilities. Belief is a state of mind. Take my current situation for example. I know that I’m capable of running my own profitable business, working for myself, and being rich enough to be able to afford to live wherever I like and to not be a slave to the corporate machine. I have absolutely no doubt of that fact. The minor inconvenience of it not having happened yet, is inconsequential to my state of mind about it!

    Agreed that obsession is a poor master. However I believe completely in personal determination and choice. I can look back at my life and see a series of choices that have led me to my current position. Changing any one of which, would have put me in a different place. We have ultimate control of our destiny and must face the terrible responsibility that conveys.

    I don’t see life in the absolute terms you imply by “putting a ceiling on one’s own possible limitations”. Rather everything is ruled by the law of diminishing returns. I could qualify for the European Masters Weightlifting Championships this year. That is possible, though I would need to improve my personal best lifts in the both the snatch and clean & jerk. It’s possible, but would require probably months of totally focused dedication. It’s a value judgement I’m making to not go down that road. That’s not putting a ceiling on my limitations, that’s taking control and making a choice, and choosing to live with the ramifications of that choice.

    > To be phlegmatic, as you are, in the face of tribulations is perhaps the most fundamentally useful skill in life.

    That’s probably the weirdest compliment I’ve ever had, but I’ll take it. It is also a very male attitude to have. The fairer sex are much more in tune with their emotions, which can be a source of irritation to the logical mind, but that should not detract from the fact that their approach isn’t any less valid, just different.

    In a recent example of this, my landlady carelessly asked my advice on whether, having bought a new 3-piece suite for the living room, she should replace the coasters as apparently, they weren’t quite the right shade of red to match? After a moment’s thought I replied: “They are just coasters; a place to put my mug. I honestly have no opinion on what colour they are.”

    “You are such a boy!” she exclaimed.

    “And you’re such a girl! I’m glad we got that straight.” I retorted. The point being that we accepted that each other’s view was different, without resorting to the futility of trying to alter the other’s opinion. Being phlegmatic in the face of tribulations suits me, it’s not necessarily the right approach for everyone and other approaches to life have equal validity. Tell me, how do you feel about someone who is consumed with passion about something in their life, whether that be their job, or hobby, or some political movement etc?

    > the idea of fathering a child primarily to fulfil one’s own need for meaning strikes me as a fundamentally bad idea.

    Agreed, though a rather better idea than one I heard someone say to me recently, when I suggested we should limit families to a single child in order to bring the population growth of the planet under contol: “But who is going to look after us when we’re old and sick?” she said. I think creating life in order to supply yourself with a nurse to wipe your arse when you’re old, is a shameful reason for procreation.

    However, I fear you missed my point. I wasn’t suggesting that should be the motivation to father a child, rather that having chosen to do so (for whatever reason) I have found the experience to be wholly “satisfying and self fulfilling” and generally I thoroughly recommend it. Abstaining from parenthood denies yourself a vast swath of life experiences and emotions (not all good to be fair!) that you can’t get in any other way. If you wish to experience what it is to live, I would contend that by definition, you fail without being a parent. My daughter was very much wanted and desired and whilst there are some things in my life I would change, the decision to have her will never ever be one of them. I say that fully recognising that that’s not a very phlegmatic view and accept that I am undoubtedly influenced by biological pressures.

    > it would require a self-abnegation for which I am not yet ready.

    It is my experience that you are never ready to have children. There is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for the life altering event that parenthood brings. You can only decide to do it and ride the roller coaster to the end. If you wait till you’re ready, you will never do it.

    Michael, I suspect I will owe you a debt of thanks for introducing me to Albert Camus. My knowledge of philosophy is something I have neglected thus far in my life, but Absurdism looks like it’s right up my street! I have just ordered the Myth of Sisyphus which looks like it’s probably his seminal work (unless you’re going to correct me?) and should be an interesting read. I may be better able to respond to your ponderings once I’ve read it. However I would say now, that rather that “take refuge in distraction” that one should recognise it for what it is, and embrace and use it to suit our purposes at the time.

    To bring this back to the mundane, there are times when sitting your butt down and watching escapist dross on TV, is just what’s required. That is what most TV is good at: distraction, or a better word may be: escapism. For many years I played computer games… a lot! Yet even then, I accepted that they were just a form of escapism from the real world. Becoming engrossed in a game enabled me to forget the fact that I didn’t like where my life was (not) going, and to postpone the ultimate confrontation with myself that change required.

    > Although, while prefacing this comment with an apology for pedantry, I must point out that you misspelled ‘lose’ as ‘loose’.

    No apology necessary. I accept I am a pedant of the highest order and never get upset when people pull me up on my own failings, because to do so would be hypocrisy. Indeed it amuses me greatly that a large part of my work, means I am essentially getting paid to be a pedant! I am more upset that I made the mistake, than I am that you pulled me up on it, which is to say, actually not very much; I am only human and this is a fairly informal setting for discussion.

    Much of science is contradictory, especially when it comes to diet. Just search the net for whether sugar causes diabetes and you’ll see many wildly differing views. I follow 2 approaches: 1) Does the science seem to make sense; is it plausible; can I buy into it? 2) If so, does it work when I try it myself? Given those 2 tests, it is not necessary for me to understand the science in order to believe it and use it. Now that the competition is out of the way, I intend on experimenting somewhat in order to satisfy the (2) test above.

    Blue steak is an example of mind over matter. Just like blue cheese. Each time I eat them, it’s a conscious choice to over come my upbringing not to. They are worth it though.

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