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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘iraq’

Sunday musings 11/8/15

Sunday musings…

1) Chignon. American Pharoah. Still.

2) Kindness. “The world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild.” –Mary Karr

3) Varied. It’s quite amazing to me, after all these years, that there still exists such a misunderstanding about the difference between variability, randomness, and frequency when it comes to CrossFit WOD programming. People both laud and criticize a program for having too little or too much of any of the three. Worse than that, all too typically an evaluation of one particular program usually follows at most a week or two of evaluation and inspection.

Look for instance at CrossFit.com. For 15+ years now we have before us the sine qua non of CrossFit programming, a bright shining beacon to constantly varied functional movement. Major exercises come up regularly, but they are presented in a dizzying array of formats. Peripheral, ancillary movements come up in general programming seldom, if at all. There is a form and there is a pattern here: 3 on/1 off, with variability in load, duration, and complexity. There is a style here: for example, mono-structural strength is presented as a stand alone WOD. After as little as a month of study you should be well aware of what type of CrossFit programming will be found here.

So, too, should it be at a CrossFit Affiliate. Constantly varied should be just that, but programming in this manner does not preclude the inclusion of a “bias” in the training. Whether it be strength, endurance, or competency in gymnastic maneuvers, it is perfectly OK to express this sort of tendency. Indeed, it may be a way for an Affiliate to differentiate itself in the ever-crowded space the commercial version of CrossFit has become.

The point is this: it is pointless to make a statement about a particular version of CrossFit without examining it over many weeks. Once examined it is quite reasonable to state that the style of programming does not suit you, or does not fit your needs, but it is equally unreasonable to smear that programming because it does not match your personal desire regarding frequency or style. For example I find no use for WODs dedicated to movements seen in Strongman competitions, and yet you’ll not find me speaking poorly of either this type of programming or gyms that have this bias.

Heaven knows there are so many CF gyms in most locales that you should be able to find pretty much anything you need. If not, there’s always a return to our roots, a return to the days of the garage gym. You could do much worse than following Coach’s programming on CrossFit.com in your own little cave. Just remember, the proof of any program, at least a CrossFit program, is not in the process but in the results.

You can’t fake increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

4) Veteran’s Day. What do we owe the men and women who served our country? I guess more specifically, what do we owe those who served in a capacity in which their lives were threatened? This is a question that has meaning both as a society of citizens and also as a nation of individuals.

We will celebrate Veteran’s Day on Wednesday. I like to think that in my little corner of the world Clan bingo expresses a collective thanks in all walks of our lives. More importantly, though, is the fact that we all acknowledge that each of our service men and women had a uniquely personal experience, and we try very hard to respect that when we engage them as Veterans.

Perhaps it’s generational on the part of either the Vets or in general, but there is certainly a very different ethos surrounding each of the wars or conflicts they survived. This may say more about us, we who did not see conflict, than it does about them. My exposure as a physician to WWII, Korean, Viet Nam, and now Iraq/Afghanistan/Kuwait literally seems like 4 wholly different experiences. My reaction is simple and straightforward: I make no assumptions, and I offer goodwill and kindness.

One of my football coaches broke down and sobbed over what he’d seen and done in Viet Nam, and my Dad wouldn’t touch a gun, categorically refusing to speak about Korea. No matter. I, we, are indebted to both, and all who came before and after them. We are a stronger, richer society because men and women like them stepped forward and stood tall.

Happy Veteran’s Day to each of you who served, here chez CrossFit. Happy Veteran’s Day Cat. I owe you a call. Happy Veteran’s Day Pop. I owe you everything.

I’ll see you next week…

bingo

Sunday musings 8/30/15

Sunday musingsā€¦

1) Summer rain. Out my back window I look our upon two guys riding jet skis in the rain.

They might get wet.

2) PC. My alma mater, in what seems to be a trend, is calling the students beginning their college journey “First Years” instead of “Freshmen”. WTF.

I am now officially part of a small but hopefully growing rebellion against ludicrous speech.

3) Easy. Easy? No, it isn’t easy. It’s never easy. Simple, perhaps, but never easy.

Trust me.

4) Victory. “You know, in the old, old days there was no World Series, no real championship. For most teams, the idea of winning was finished by July. So what was there to care about? Each series, each game. Day by day. The rest of it, the big dream [of victory] was not their business. It’s a better way to live.” -Cubs fan.

A number of folks in the CrossFit community have recently weighed in with thoughts on the essential tension between training and competing. Some have a standing of sorts, and others just have a keyboard. It’s a topic I’ve pondered and one I’ve certainly discussed, here and elsewhere.

As is so often the case I’ve struggled to find a fitting vocabulary, one with terms that more adequately express both the issue and my viewpoint. Freddy Comacho, Master’s athlete and OG with chops, recently offered his take and in so doing shared with all of us a very nice diad: training v. testing. My anonymous Cubs fan above (a vet, incidentally), adds a little poetry to Freddy’s prose.

One of Coach’s many strokes of brilliance is the concept of measurement. You know, observable, measurable, repeatable. We measure our results pretty much every day. For most of us, indeed for most of the rest of the exercise and athletic world, measurement is the stuff of competition. We keep score so that we can declare a winner. Winning begets a champion.

Herein lies a fundamental misunderstanding of Coach’s creation: measurement in itself does not necessarily denote competition. At least not one in which we make a conscious decision to push on to some sort of concrete thing we might call “ultimate victory”. The training/testing conceptualization is very helpful.

If I give you notice that you will participate in a task, one in which all of the variables are known to you beforehand, a reasonable person will go about preparing for that task by mastering the specific skills necessary (practice), and acquiring capacity in the specific areas of fitness required to express those skills (training). A very nice example of a program set up to accomplish this is CrossFit Football. All of the domains in the competition are known beforehand, and the fitness program is targeted at those to the effective exclusion of others. A classic marathon program is another very good example.

A training program without metrics is one that is unlikely to succeed. Measuring in training allows one to assess micro-trends of the program. One accepts discomfort in training, but at the same time one is mindful of the need to avoid true injury while doing so. Testing, on the other hand, is different. By definition testing requires the exploration of limits. The limit of strength or endurance. The point at which technique fails for whatever reason. Testing identifies the macro-trend: am I/is my program succeeding? One must necessarily push beyond discomfort, push on to some version of victory.

It’s here where the wisdom of my Cubs fan is evident. One must be ever mindful of our place in the standings. There are meaningful games to be played for all of us, even those “playing” on a team that has been mathematically eliminated by July 4th. “Each series, each game. Day by day.” This is us. For the most part we are the people Coach was thinking about when he went all mad scientist on fitness. Freddy (and Chyna) can indeed dream “the big dream”, but for the rest of us it’s really “[d]ay by day”.

We measure, as Coach has taught us, because it improves our training. We should be looking for a trend toward IWCABTMD in the measurement of our training, but in doing so we should be testing our limits, pushing to those points closer to failure, a bit more infrequently and more cautiously perhaps. We have much to gain by focusing on the daily training, caring about each at bat or each game rather than the overall standings or a championship. To be in the game, to choose to be measured, to care about each individual game no matter where you stand is a concrete victory itself.

My Cubs fan, the Iraq war vet: “It’s a better way to live.”

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at August 30, 2015 7:05 AM

Agreeable?

When did a difference of opinion become a de facto conflict? When did the evaluation of another come down to whether or not they hue to a fine line of agreement on a single, or a few, or G0d forbid, every issue? When did this phenomenon morph into one in which a difference of opinion then becomes the basis for labeling another as ‘good’ or bad’?

Am I the only one who’s noticed this?

I’m not talking about a difference of opinion which is then followed by a concerted attack, one that forces you to identify the holder of the other opinion as ‘bad’ and enemy. There’s nothing new to see there. One only has so many cheeks to turn. Eventually you need to fight or flee an attack, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

On a personal, local, and national level we could once identify broad stroke issues on which we could generally base a level of agreement or disagreement, very few of which would be a ‘deal-breaker’ when it came to civil discourse. The first part of this, the existence of broad stroke issues, remains true. What is fundamentally different in my mind is how un-moveable many of us have become on ever more minute details as we drill down from the 30,000 foot view. All well and good, I suppose, to seek fidelity to an ever more granular level of agreement on whatever issue is at hand, especially in this age when we have ever greater ways in which to find and connect with people of a like mind.

What I don’t get is the subsequent labeling of any and all others as “bad”. Unworthy. Lesser in some way because they do not agree at every level with a particular–very particular–point of view. As I remember it the “80-20″ Rule pretty much applied to belief systems as well as business: if you shared 80% of your beliefs with another that was plenty good enough to allow a friendship, and certainly enough to inoculate against a conflict. Now? Seems like something more like the “980-20″ rule: only the smallest amount of the most trivial difference of opinion is permissible. Anything more than nuance between people and they’re going to the mattresses. Anything more than nuance and we’ve identified something other, something lesser, something to destroy.

What’s up with that?

You could say that anything other than full devotion to a cause , concept or worldview is not pragmatism but something more akin to weakness. An inferiority of spirit, perhaps. You could say that nothing other than total fidelity to some grand theme or concept is acceptable and brook no deviation from a one, true path. I would say that the world is infinitely too complex to approach life in this manner. I would further say that to do so needlessly isolates you from people who might very well bring infinite joy to your life despite differential nuance or even a fundamental disagreement on any one issue. Living and letting live rather than seeing a difference of opinion as identifying the other as an enemy might just mean a more pleasant life filled with more people who might be better described as friends, or at least friendly.

At the very least perhaps we could just agree to disagree and be on our way.

 

In A War, But Not At War

There are real wars afoot. Not silly PR wars or Rap Battles or video games, but real, live shooting and killing wars. Admit it, you’ve barely noticed.

As I prepare to launch into a new topic for my next round of “serious” reading (I am slowly working my way through the very heavy science in “Waterlogged”) I stumbled upon a curious historical overlay. My daily newspaper sat on a coffee table under which sat a picture of a paper from the 1940′s. We have been at war in the United States, no matter how you care to characterize that war, for much longer than the entirety of WWII. Yet the tenor of our homeland experience could not be more different.

The books I’ve got cued up are “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain, and “Redeployment” by Phil Klay, the first discovered in that newspaper above, the other from an interview of the author on the radio while driving to work (note: Evernote is brilliant for remembering that kind of stuff). Thus far I’ve successfully avoided reading a full review of either, having discovered in the first 2 sentences of a NYT review that there’d be more editorializing on the reviewer’s part than reviewing. Your mileage may vary, of course, especially if you agree with the reviewer.

What’s drawn me to these two particular books, indeed what has drawn me to this topic, is the conversational emphasis in both. Each is written from the points of view and in the voices of soldiers and Marines talking about being in a war. Driving to work this week I was struck by the complete absence of these voices in my life. Looking at the front page of a newspaper ca. 2014 beside the image from 1946 it’s clear that my experience is not unique. We have had men and women in a war for some 12 years now, but we are hardly a nation AT war, at least in comparison with our nation ca. 1946.

We barely talk about war, about Iraq, Afghanistan, or Al Qaida at all, while America in the 40′s talked about little else. If my experience is typical there is very, very little conversation that occurs between those who have served and those who have not, even though the length of our present wars has likely generated a similar number of war veterans walking among us then and now. Were the conversations of war only on the front page back then? Was there so little discourse about what it means to have been in a war when the veterans returned in the 40′s, too?

The United States has experienced exactly 3 incidences in which our country has been attacked since the Civil War. All of our wars and conflicts since then have been prosecuted on the soil of other lands. This is no less true now than it was in 1945, no less true following 9/11 than it was after Pearl Harbor. The towering strength of the U.S. economic engine insulates us today from the daily sharing of the war effort as completely as our new information technology makes the wars almost completely available for viewing. Interesting dichotomy, huh? War footage on demand, up to the minute, up close and personal, no war bonds or fuel rationing required.

It’s different now, you say. It’s not the same now as it was then, you add. Is that really true, though? All wars are unjust and all wars are just; which it is depends only on which team you’re on at what time. Did those who hated the wars of yesteryear hate them any less than now? Is the aftermath of being in war any greater or lesser now than then? Never having served, never having been in war, I have no standing to say, but from afar it doesn’t seem any less terrifying to have been detonated by a mortar in a WWI trench or bazooka in a WWII tank or an IED in a Humvee in Fallujah.

And there’s my point. I don’t know. There is no conversation, no opportunity to know. I don’t know why that is. I don’t think we need to re-introduce war bonds or ration nylons (imagine the carnage at Victoria’s Secret) to know we are at war. What I do think is that we will continue to have a disconnect between young people in a war and their country not at war until we engage in those conversations. War always seems to find us, for whatever reason, even when we are mostly minding our own business. We should know more about what it means to be at war.

When you come home from the War I’ll be ready to listen and to learn whenever you are ready to talk.