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Archive for May, 2018

Fitness or Sport? A Proper Place For High Intensity Training

The CrossFit Games Regionals were on ESPN yesterday afternoon. What? Wait. No? No, I guess you’re right. It wasn’t ESPN, was it. As it turns out the Games have shifted over to CBS Sports. Totally missed that memo. Of course, I only surf to the Games site once or twice a week anymore so I can be forgiven. Thankfully I was marooned at home with nothing left on either my Honey-Do list or my own Wish List, and ESPNU was all kinds of messed up so I couldn’t watch the D1 Lacrosse quarterfinals. Surfboring around cable I stumbled on the Regionals and received my annual reminder about what CrossFit is and who is supposed to do it.

In short the CrossFit Games as exhibited in this year’s Regionals is to CrossFit as the Indy 500 is to your daily commute: almost everyone needs to do the latter, but almost no one can, or should, do the former.

You could certainly say that I am treading on thin ice by proclaiming that you and I have no business doing anything but gawking at Regionals athletes doing full-on Regionals WODs here on .com. Fine. Here is why I feel this way; the incessant urge to emulate Games-level athletes and to turn every CrossFit WOD into a training session for competition risks the undoing of what makes CrossFit (and other high-intensity offshoots) a potential solution (or integral part of an irreducible Rx, to coin a phrase) in solving the population health problem in Western societies. It really could be as easy as eating fewer processed carbohydrates, being stronger, and training at relatively high intensity for periods of time in the 8-20:00 range. Stronger and leaner with greater aerobic capacity is all pretty much any of us needs.

Everyone who has ever owned a Box or coached a CrossFit class has seen the danger of extending the “you vs. you” competition outward into the “Sport of Fitness (TM)”. Clients who leave a gym because the trainer refuses to teach them how to do a CTB butterfly PU when they can barely do a single dead hang PU. Fledgling CrossFitters who insist on rebounding box jumps instead of stepping down because their times suffer when they do. “Linda” or “Diane” done As Rx’d with rounded lower backs, chins held high because, you know, you gotta Rx the Open WODs if you want to go to the Games. It’s really hard to exaggerate how disheartening it is to listen to a client say they are leaving a gym because they don’t feel like you are the best fit for them. Then you look at their data and discover that they are down 15% BW fat, have doubled their 1RM Deadlift, can now do “Fran” Rx’d in half the time they first did it with an empty bar and a green band, all injury-free.

Form, then consistency, then and only then intensity. This is what you need for fitness. The siren song of competition is strong, especially during our Games season. Shout out to those trainers, both within the CrossFit business universe and out, who continue to hue to this orthodoxy. Functional movements, irreducible exercises performed properly at a level of intensity that is high for an individual, coupled with a diet that is designed to fuel performance in the gym and in life is what we 99.9%’ers need. Distilling this prescription into a measurable and repeatable program is the essential genius of CrossFit. That some of us get to do it as part of a community is that much better; friendships formed through shared experiences, especially shared strife (and what is “Fran” if not shared strife), are also an integral part of being healthy.

After my (ca. 2006) WOD I sat down with some left-over steak and a handful of nuts to see how Dani Horan was doing in the East. A little sore and energized, the only thing that was missing was another CrossFitter there to join me in watching the spectacle.

Professor Dunbar Says To Call Your Mom

Professor Robin Dunbar poses that the maximum number of individuals with whom a human can maintain social cohesion is 150. Hence, “Dunbar’s Number”. Essentially “social cohesion” means that you have some degree of awareness of who another person is beyond simply their name and their Twitter handle. Further research seems to show that we can follow 500 acquaintances (we know a bit more than just their name; for example, we might know to whom they are married), and we can match some 1500 faces to names. As I’ve written before we then cone down through various circles (friendly acquaintances, casual friends or “buddies”, close friends, and best friends), and there is a nearly constant movement in and out of all but the closest inner circles. (HT NYT and Teddy Wayne for the reminder).

How has electronic communication altered this dynamic? It turns out that there is rather little change in the numbers involved. Weird, huh? You’d think that FB, Twitter, Snapchat, and Messenger would have increased the numbers but in fact Dunbar’s more scientific rationale–the size of the neocortex determines the number of contacts–holds true no matter what type of communication connects your network. Dunbar does have some thoughts on SM and its effect on relationships and they can be summed up thusly: remote connections maintained electronically crowd out the possibility of newer, closer friendships created locally and in real time.

My bet is that you can easily confirm this in your own groups as I did just the other day. A friendship 15 years in the making, one that was probably on the border between “buddies” and close friends, has been on the wane after a retirement and subsequent move south (and up), it’s gotta be 10 years ago now. A (very) brief interaction around a death in the family is the sum total of our engagement for a couple of years, yet I have managed to remain connected through occasional social media “engagement”. What remains of our friendship is my memories of times together, and perhaps warm feelings on both sides when those memories arise.

But Dunbar is right; mourning the friendship that was keeps the slot occupied and therefore unavailable for a more intimate, current, local friendship.

Key to all of this is the “how” of our interactions. Mrs. bingo and I organized a spur-of-the-moment Happy Hour at a local bistro that turned into a raucous up too late bacchanalia with our inner circle. Cell phones were pocketed throughout (with the tacit agreement that we could text if our kids reached out) and we hugged each other, punched shoulders, and shared all manner of concoctions through the night. Yes, it all started with a group text, but that was simply the flint struck to light the campfire for the evening. We were together in the realest sense of the word.

How can we further combat this “crowding out” effect of modern electronic communication brought on by the availability afforded by our ubiquitous, irresistible smart phones? Easy. It’s in the name of the tool: phone. Short for telephone. Initially “cell phone” after the towers that were first erected to transfer…wait for it…telephone calls. VOICE! Voice, once taken for granted, has now become so exotic that I have been informed that I must first make an appointment to call someone on the phone. Indeed, the voice call is only slightly less rare (at least between friends) as a handwritten letter.

Therein lies the solution my friends. Your handheld computer is a telephone. It’s not even all that retro: Captain Kirk famously spoke into his communicator (“Beam me up, Scotty.”) in the future of Star Trek. Call your friends. If that seems a bit too anachronistic or archaic indulge in a video call. Hear them/see them between those occasions when you can shake hands or hug. More voice, fewer posts/texts/messages/snaps/tweets, especially for anyone in the “buddy” circle or closer.

Now, get off the internet and go call your Mom.

Forgiveness for the Tiresome

“We forgive those we find tiresome, but not those who find us tiresome.” –Duc de la Rochefoucauld

The capacity for forgiveness is nearly bottomless in humans. One need only think of the indignities piled upon children by indifferent or self-absorbed parents (Mommy Dearest, etc.) that are barely remembered by adults who love and cherish those same parents. Best friends regularly forgive transgressions directed toward one another, often to a point of irrational amnesia. “Tiresome” could be a synonym for “difficult”, the fatigue implied being that which follows the effort necessary to be in the company of such an individual. We tend to be tolerant of all types of behaviors that could be so described in all types of folks for all types of reasons, don’t you think?

Ah, but if someone else let’s on that it is YOU who is the tiresome one at hand, that is quite a different kettle of fish, eh? To be found tiresome by someone else, especially someone else whose company you’d like to keep, is to be found undesirable. Not just wanting in some respect, lacking in some regard, but somehow not worth the effort. Something about your very essence is literally too difficult to deal with to even try.

There is a tiny little silver lining here, of course. Sometimes each of us may, indeed, be tiresome. This silver lining comes with a tiny caveat: if we have become tiresome through the development of some newer activity or belief, one who now finds us newly tiresome may actually be doing us the favor of alerting us to the effect of our new self. However hurtful the revelation might be we are afforded the opportunity to reassess the importance of our latest evolutionary change.

“Must we really talk about your post-WOD vegan recovery shake? Again?”

Unforgivable? Perhaps. It probably depends on who it is that has found you tiresome in your evolved state. We all, in some way and at some level, want to be liked by those who we find likable. What Rochefoucauld finds unforgivable is that some part of our very essence is tiresome to another. This likely occurs quite often, but another quite human trait shields us from the indignity: humans tend to shy away from cruelty at close quarters. They may not necessarily be kind, but at their core most people are not cruel. We understand that to say out loud that you find another person “tiresome” is to choose to wound that person. However tiresome we might find a particular behavior (e.g. dissecting your “Fran” performance with a non-CrossFitter), it is quite different to find and declare an entire person to be “tiresome”.

In my long and eventful life I believe I have been wronged on occasion. For the most part I have forgiven, or at least made an effort to forgive even those who have found the whole of my being to be tiresome. At that I have been mostly successful, though I confess I never forget. For any times I may have slipped and declared someone else tiresome I ask your forgiveness.

I understand if it is not forthcoming.

 

The Kids Are Alright

If you are of a certain age, and for sure I am of that certain age, you remember a time when young people were given the latitude to learn from their mistakes. More than that, though, is that young people were routinely forgiven for having made those mistakes. There was a kind of statute of limitations if you will. Stupid stuff you did or said as a teenager was wiped clean from your “record”. Heck, if you met a young person who seemed to have made it through without making any of those typical dumbass kid things you were a little skeptical.

Not so much anymore, eh? In this day and age of foreverness of every action and every uttering it sure seems as if we are no longer willing to let kids learn from their dumb kid mistakes.

Several of the boys who were drafted by the NFL last week are perfect examples. One of them said some stupid stuff on social media, got smacked for saying it, and has clearly expressed that he is aware that he was a knucklehead. Another chucklehead had a car accident, and yet a third had a beer or something, got caught and received the logical immediate consequence. There were a dozen similar stories. From the looks of it each one ended with lesson learned. Why, then, do I know about all of this when we are discussing 20, 21, or 22 year olds who did this dumb stuff when they were in high school?

Youngsters are impulsive and impetuous and they make decisions that are absolutely baffling to folks who are…ahem…less young. The elders on the ground are supposed to teach kids that all decisions have natural consequences in the hope that they will make better decisions. Once they start making better decisions it’s time for all of the rest of us to wipe clean the hard drive and stop piling on with punitive consequences that no longer make sense. Let’s let kids learn from their mistakes when they are young, like we did. Most of it is harmless if they do, indeed, learn the right lesson.¬†Should you really have to account for that speeding ticket you got at age 18 during a job interview when you are 50? Your Dad took the car away for 6 months and you haven’t had a ticket since.

The kids are alright. Cut ‘em¬† some slack.

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