The "Beige Diet"

Here's a fascinating story about a teenager who ate virtually nothing other than chicken nuggets for fifteen years.

We probably all have a few fast-food regrets lurking in the dark corners of our memories, but this strikes me as beyond the pale. How could it ever come to this?

Two Tiers, Revisited

As you have read earlier this year, my new, freshly revised training regimen reflects a two-tiered approach to training. Up to now, though, the "two tiered" aspect of the training hasn't been immediately obvious.

Let's take a closer look at the twice-a-day exercise regimen and try to understand it as a two-tiered fitness approach. These two tiers, expressed as two daily workouts, are analogous to the three levels in last year's marathon training regimen. The difference between Level 2 and Level 3 was the inclusion of the morning workouts.

Tier 1: Strength Training
We can just as easily go the other way. Rather than opting out of the morning workouts, we can opt out of the evening workouts. Doing that, of course, we are no longer training for a marathon, but that would certainly be appropriate for someone who is focused on strength training. Hence the 2012 program contains a built-in strength training tier in the morning workouts.

These Tier 1 workouts start with minimal cardio and some plyometrics. As the regimen proceeds, we phase in regular - but light - cardiovascular exercise in the form of jumping rope or running. One who is focused on building strength will likely not need any more cardiovascular exercise than that.

But I do recommend maintaining the cardio across Tier 1. These days, the strength training fad is to opt out of cardio. Doing so, however, detracts from an important step in strength training: fat-burning. True, a few well-placed HIIT workouts pack a better fat-burning punch than a few morning runs. But I have yet to see any evidence for the superiority of long-term HIIT compared with long-term endurance training. Frankly, it is a lot easier on your body to go for an easy run 3 times a week than to crush through two HIIT workouts per week. It's easier on your mind, too.

Running has the added benefit of strengthening your abs in a way that crunches, planks, etc. cannot. Running improves the strength of your oblique muscles while you burn fat. What could be better than that?

Tier 2: Endurance Training
Nevertheless, if you opt out of Tier 1, you're presented with the same Level 2 evening endurance workouts we had in last year's training regimen. We can call this Tier 2 - an endurance program for people seeking to perhaps complete their second-ever marathon.

1 + 2 = 3
Putting it all together gives you a Level 3 training regimen for a more experienced marathon runner seeking to get a leg up on the competition. Or, perhaps, someone uninterested in running a marathon who is simply looking for a long-term plan to shed fat, build muscle, and get in the best shape of his/her life!


Health Care Laws Suck

The National Journal reports on a study of the impact of the Massachusetts state precursor to the "ObamaCare" law, noting, "Massachusetts residents who were once neutral about the law now say they oppose it, the study found."

It seems that no matter what people think they want prior to the passage of new laws, once they have the opportunity to actuallyexperience both possibilities, they inevitably prefer the way things were prior to socialization. This study confirms this.

The study also shows that 22.8% of people in Massachusetts did not get the care they needed. I checked the 1999 US population figures and a report from the New York Times circa-1999. There were 44.8 million uninsured in the USA in 1999, and a population of 276 million, working out to about 16.2% uninsured. 

So there is a greater number of unserved Massachusetts residents under the health care law than there were across the country in 1999 (in percentage terms).

Once again, hard empirical evidence demonstrates that these laws do more harm than good. The "status quo" is better than the Massachusetts state law, and better than "ObamaCare."

I hate having to beat a dead horse to a bloody pulp, but those of us who have experienced a wider variety of health care systems inevitably prefer more market-based solutions and fewer government-based solutions. Faithful Stationary Waves readers should not be surprised by the superiority of the market.

To improve the US health care system over and above the pre-ObamaCare environment, the US should seek out more market-based solutions and fewer government subsidies and mandates.


Web Traffic at Stationary Waves

One of the nice features of Blogger (and probably other blog applications out there) is the fact that it automatically generates traffic information by the day, week, month, etc. You don't get to do a deep dive into the traffic database, unfortunately, but Blogger produces sufficiently many metrics for me to track what types of viewers are reading the blog, where my web traffic comes from, and what people tend to read.

The results are full of interesting surprises. For example:
  • I get a surprising amount of web traffic from the People's Republic of China, despite the fact that Google IPs (where this blog resides, given that it is a Blogger blog) are blocked in that country. 
  • I get regular web traffic from Germany, Lithuania, India, and Bangladesh.
  • Most of my Ron Thal related web traffic comes from paises hispanohablantes
  • A large percentage of my heavy-traffic hours occurs during what are "off-hours" for me, i.e. between the hours of 2am and 7am.
But what surprises me most of all is the fact that - setting aside outliers - most of my readers seem to prefer my economics posts more than my fitness or philosophy posts. That is, if the number of "hits" are a good proxy for reader preference, people seem to be drawn most to my economics articles.

Music posts are a strong second-place.

The reason this surprises me is because when I talk to some of my more faithful readers, they voice a preference for the exercise stuff. Yet, after a few consecutive days of fitness posting, my traffic invariably dies down. It warms up again once I publish something about politics or economics.

What are your own personal favorite SW topics? Leave a comment and let me know what you like best.


Another 18 Weeks

If you're planning on running the Ottawa Marathon, your 18 weeks began yesterday. I kicked things off pretty strongly yesterday, but it is a long and arduous process to go from where I am now to where I will want to be on Ottawa Race Weekend. Still, 18 weeks will be over before we know it.

As I mentioned previously - and hoped to deliver a few days ago - I've been working on a re-vamped 18-week marathon training regimen. Before I dive into that, I'd like to discuss the previous one a bit, and provide some explanation regarding what's changing, and why.

Out With the Old
There are a few things driving my decision to update and improve the training regimen.

The first reason is simply that no training regimen should ever be considered "perfect" or "complete." By providing an update, I am making tweaks and improvements that come from my last year's experience. The program itself was developed from my 20+ years competitive running experience; but it is the first time I have developed  something so lengthy and comprehensive. As such, there are potential improvements to be made. That's not to say that the existing regimen is bad, but rather that it can still be made better.

The second reason for the changes comes from two injuries I suffered last year. The first was my well-documented pulled calf muscle that ultimately forced me to pull out of Montreal. The second was a very minor sore back I suffered caused by some heavy weight training while I was recovering from that calf injury.

I have long maintained that running is a safe and effective activity (perhaps the most effective activity) as long as you maintain proper running form. The 18 weeks as I laid them out last year certainly do not encourage sports injury, and my pulled muscle was the result - as I now know - of inadequate stretching. Nevertheless, I had to make some tweaks to avoid needless risk. First of all, the morning workouts present a weight training approach that is also reflected in the afternoon running workouts. In an update, I no longer want that to be the case. I also wanted to place a greater emphasis on stretching.

The third reason for updating the training regimen is simplicity. As I have learned from my winter cross-training, there is a lot to say for having a more simplified exercise regimen. Most of these gains pertain to intellectual shorthand, true, but even that is significant if you have a lot to think about. ;)

In With the New
The new regimen presents a similar, albeit more refined 18 week training regimen for marathons. While I am undertaking this program with Ottawa Race Weekend in mind, you may of course begin and end the program at any time.

The current spreadsheet is in a slightly unfinished state. I am not quite finished outlining exactly what I want to present. However, I wanted to provide the full regimen to my readers so that they can get started immediately. If you already started the old program yesterday, you can easily switch back-and-forth between the two programs at your leisure. They are complimentary.

The new link is here. I will also update The Marathon page accordingly.

Good luck!


Life, Health, and Choices

Not long ago, I blogged about the nature of fitness as I see it; namely, that we are confronted with trade-offs during every health and fitness pursuit in which we engage. In that article, I discussed how the build-up of strength-oriented muscle is a goal that is in many ways counterproductive to the goal of building up one's capacity for cardiovascular exercise.

Of course, health and fitness trade-offs don't really end there. The simple fact is that everything you wish to accomplish in life takes time, and is therefore in competition with life's other priorities. Many of us aren't yet ready to tackle the question of how best to tailor their workout regimen to their goals. Instead, many are simply struggling with how to make health and fitness a priority, given the other aspects of their busy lives.

The Unavoidable Truth: Life Ends In Death
Many of the people who are uninterested in health and fitness excuse their perspective by acknowledging their bad behavior, and then saying, "We're all going to die of something, someday!"

These folks mean well. In fact, they're expressing something very important: Don't sweat the small stuff, don't fret over grey hair and wrinkles, because it is an unavoidable fact of being comprised of organic material. From the moment we're born, we are slowly rusting and working our way closer to our own inevitable demise. We are all indeed going to die of something, someday.

It's good to remember that no matter how healthy we are, some aspects of our lives will never change. We will grow old and wrinkly, we will lose speed, strength, endurance, balance, and our ability to recover rapidly after an injury. With time comes more injuries, more aches and pains, more body fat, and fewer first-place trophies. Part of being a well-balanced, mentally healthy person is learning to transition from the child who dreams of athletic excellence, to the person at the top of their game, to an aging person who should no longer expect to win the race (or to even place well). In the long run, our bodies face a final and inescapable limit to which we must all yield.

Unfortunately, though, I think our less health-conscious friends are missing something more important than all of that.

It's About Quality of Life
I don't exercise to combat age, turn myself into a top model, or live forever. Moreover, I think people who are motivated by such things are setting themselves up for a long life of misery caused by fighting the inevitable (see above).

Instead, I work out because I want to ensure that my quality of life is good, no matter my age.

We have all met senior citizens who can barely walk from place to place, their muscles completely atrophied, their bones brittle, their spines bent, and so forth. Such people are quite unfortunately ripe for sudden falls, inhibited reaction to emergencies, and so on. Beyond the immediate risks they face, they have greatly reduced mobility and often suffer a sense of isolation as a result. Another way to say this is that their bodies are in a state such that their quality of life is diminished.

For diabetics like myself, this is all the more important. Not maintaining my health means suffering blindness, amputation, and organ failure in the long run. Any of these comorbidities is sufficiently debilitating that I can literally not imagine my life in such a scenario.

The fact is, I want to postpone these things for as long as possible. I may die at a ripe age, or I may die much sooner than anyone expects. No matter when I pass on, though, I want my quality of life to be as high as possible.

In short, I may not be able to control how many moments I have in life, but I want each one to count. That's what health and fitness is all about; not living forever, but really living, no matter when our time comes.

But Hard Work Is a Drag
Nevertheless, many of us feel that always eating right and working out hard is an unpleasant weight on our shoulders. The idea here is not that health and fitness are bad, but that they encroach on the pleasantries life affords when we ignore them.

For example, there is an obvious conflict between eating lots of spinach and binging on chocolate cake. More to the point, there is an obvious conflict between being able to eat a strawberry milkshake every day and maintaining a healthy waistline. In this way, many feel that pursuing a healthy body is a force that prevents us from pursuing a delicious treat.

Similarly, we might rather catch up on our favorite television show than head to the gym and do 90 minutes of HIIT.

So, a lot of people get into a little bit of mental trap: Should I be healthy, or should I do the things I really want to do? They find themselves torn between their impulses and their ability to stay healthy.

Good Health Isn't Negative
There is no easy way around this conundrum. A lot of it depends on the particular individual's sense of motivation. Plenty of people only ever work out so that they can eat a lot of treats or party hard on the weekends. Other people became health-conscious as a result of body issues that they sought to correct through diet and exercise. Still others just don't have a lot of time.

Unfortunately, there is no magic switch that you can set to the "on" position in order to change your whole mentality from being sedentary to being fit and healthy. To a certain extent, you have to be cognizant of the benefits of health and fitness and, in the end, favor those benefits over the temporary thrills of a daily doughnut and some good daytime television. I can't tell you that one thing that will turn your life around from sedentary to athletic.

What I can tell you is that those of us who favor healthy lifestyles don't feel restricted by them. We don't dread our daily workout(s). We don't make faces when we are confronted with a plateful of vegetables, and we don't "miss" not eating several slices of pie at Thanksgiving.

Simply stated, being healthy is something we're interested in. The healthier we are, the better we like our lives. We don't weigh tradeoffs between sleeping all day and having a beach-ready body. We simply understand that having a beach-ready body is fun; so fun, in fact, that it seems more fun to us than sleeping all day.

I talk to people all the time who believe that being healthy is difficult, hard work, and totally not worth it. While all of these folks have their own reasons for feeling that way, what they all seem to have in common is the inability to understand that a healthy lifestyle isn't in any way restrictive for those of us who pursue fitness.

Can this love of health and fitness be transferred to those people who feel otherwise? Maybe yes, maybe no. The one thing I know is that if you have chosen to pursue a healthy lifestyle, you will be a lot happier if you conceive of that choice from a positive perspective rather than a negative one.

Confucius is said to have said, "Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life." This rings true for health and fitness: find and pursue diets and exercise regimens that you enjoy and suddenly your whole perspective changes. Rather than missing out on chocolate cake, you gain plate after plate of healthy, delicious, guilt-free food. Rather than grudgingly trekking to the gym after work every day, you get to essentially play all evening long as soon as you get out of the office.

These aren't restrictions, they are incredible benefits.


SOPA, PIPA, and Other Things That Sound Like Baby-Talk

Faithful Stationary Waves reader IL asks:
Why haven't you written about SOPA? Shouldn't it be a Things That Used To Be Legal?
Technically, no... not yet. Until the legislation passes, it's more of a "things that will soon be illegal." That said, IL is right. The SOPA/PIPA issue is certainly an issue that falls within the scope of the blog. Why haven't I written about the issue yet?

One reason I haven't written about SOPA is because I see the legislation as being totally inevitable. I'm not a pessimist, but my past experience with all-things-federal-legislation leads me to believe that there is no point protesting "raising awareness about" the issue. This legislation will pass. The question is not if, but when.

Another question might be, why will this legislation pass?

The Great IP Debate
The answer is that virtually everyone in the world believes that "Intellectual Property," ("IP" in the libertarian vernacular) copyrights, patents, etc. needs to be protected.

Arguments in favor of laws protecting IP are typically based on the claim that unless we grant monopoly protection to the originator of an idea, no one will have any incentive to ever come up with an idea. Whether or not you agree with this claim, the simple fact of the matter is that the evidence that backs up this claim is truthfully very weak. It is difficult if not impossible to empirically demonstrate that no good ideas would ever be had if we opted out of granting monopoly protection to the originators of ideas.

On the other hand, there is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence in support of the claim that ideas (and markets, and profits) flourish when patents are eliminated. A really great anecdotal example of this is the Chinese black market. There, you can find piles and piles of "cheap Chinese knock-offs." The thing is, those "cheap Chinese knock-offs" are really just "inexpensive Chinese knock-offs." In other words, they are in every way identical to their "genuine" counterparts, at a fraction of the price.

And we're not just talking about clothing here. There are great knock-offs of electronics, computers, phones, pharmaceuticals, and so forth. The question is, if someone manages to produce a great shirt or a great phone, why shouldn't they be allowed to sell it?

The only argument that has ever been put forth against this question is the idea that if Chinese knock-offs were allowed to flourish, poor Gloria Vanderbilt or Ralph Lauren would no longer have financial incentives to manufacture their own designs. But does anyone actually believe this?

Goodwill: Capitalism's Forgotten Middle Child
In the world that existed prior to Pat Riley's trademark on the portmanteau "three-peat," companies used to actively pursue an intangible market asset called goodwill.

Of course, the idiocy of the accounting industry has turned the concept of goodwill into little more than a slack variable that sops up any amount of business valuation that cannot be fully accounted-for by financial statements. (These folks have virtually no cognitive time-horizon whatsoever.)

Originally, though, everyone knew what goodwill was. Goodwill is your ability to know with certainty that when you walk into a Starbuck's and place an order, you will get a Starbuck's-quality cup of coffee every time. There may be other, superior coffee shops out there, but none with the same level of goodwill enjoyed by Starbuck's.

What this means is that when you find yourself in a strange city and you want a cup of coffee, you don't have to "guess" about the quality of a local coffee shop. You can go straight for the Starbuck's brand and know exactly what you can expect.

There is nothing stopping Ralph Lauren from acquiring true goodwill without IP monopoly protection. What that would require is that Ralph Lauren's clothing would have to be of a cut and quality that justified its comparatively higher price. People would need to acquire confidence (earned by hard work on Ralph Lauren's part) that each and every time they purchase a Ralph Lauren garment, they're getting something that will last a long time and that will remain in style for more than a single season.

You see, someone might be able to roast a coffee bean as well as Starbuck's. They might even be able to come up with a roast that tasted identical to a popular Starbuck's blend. But unless they put in the hard work winning over customers by offering a superior product at an attractive price, they will never acquire the same level of goodwill enjoyed by Starbuck's.

Clothing counterfeiters (and, for that matter, producers of generic pharmaceuticals) may very well be able to copy an existing product exactly. But unless they are capable of offering a consistently good-quality product at an attractive price, they will never win market share over their "reference product."

Similarly, I can learn how to play all of Prince's songs, hit the club scene and aim for fortune and fame; but I will never be as good a musician, songwriter, and performer as Prince, so I will never be able to "steal" Prince's music from the standpoint of real market share and comparability. I need goodwill to do that. I need to be as original and virtuosic as Prince. That's the difference.

Goodwill, when allowed to flourish, makes or breaks a producer in a way that "Intellectual Property" will never be able to do. At best, these government monopoly protections are a pale imitation of what free markets produce on their own, naturally.

At worst, these monopoly protections will squash the few remaining freedoms we enjoy today, all in the name of protecting millionaire film makers who already receive sizable federal grants to produce movies that simply aren't as fun as they used to be.

But there is no point protesting. The lobbyists always win. They can win the legal battle, but please do not allow them to win the philosophical battle. There is no tenable argument in favor of intellectual property. Remember this, and remember that in absence of intellectual property, we have something better: Goodwill.

Note: I have provided Wikipedia links in this article in solidarity against SOPA. 


Happy 20,000th Birthday to Stationary Waves!

Sometime today I anticipate getting the blog's 20,000th hit. Will you be that lucky site visitor? I sure hope so. If it's not you, I hope it will at least be someone a lot like you.

It's hard to believe I've had 20,000 site visits since I started the blog a few years ago, but I am honored to have received so many readers. The other day, I noticed I had a visitor from Malawi. I have received regular site visits from China despite the fact that Blogger.com (this website's host) is blocked in China. I receive regular site visits from my good friends and loyal readers, occasional comments from big-timers like Steven Landsburg, site references from even-bigger-timers like Ron Thal. What can I say? I'm happy to have a readership, and I hope to continue to provide good blog content to all of you.

With that, I'm done with the navel-gazing. On to the important stuff!


Must Watch!

Okay, so I'm slow on the uptake, and I'm just seeing this video tonight. But it is genius. Weird Al has created his greatest album since Off the Deep End. Genuinely good stuff, folks, and a good message to boot. Please partake.

Centralization of Power Is Not Small Government

Obama's recently announced intention to reorganize six trade offices is being reported as an effort to reduce the size of the federal government. I wonder how anyone could possibly believe that claim.

Condensing a number of federal departments will certainly cut short-term costs and eliminate ambiguities in governance. But establishing a cradle-to-grave subsidy system for American businesses analogues to the cradle-to-grave subsidy system that envelopes the general public can only spell greater government expenditures in the future, as the welfare system inevitably expands.

Socially, this sort of thing creates a general reliance on government. Slowly, as people become less familiar with the unhampered free market, they begin to view the subsidies they receive as a very real part of capitalism. (You can think of it as being along the lines of, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare.")

Economically, government market interference simply undermines the authority of consumers in the marketplace. Those products and services that would be most rewarded by consumer-generated profit in an unfettered market lose out to those products and services artificially supported by the taxpayer.

The result is fewer of the things we want (as measured by the things we choose to buy), and a greater number of the things we don't want (as measured by the things we do not choose to buy).

Mark today on your calendars as the day I predicted that this reorganization will further encroach on market freedoms and expand the prevalence of corporate welfare.


Making Money

I've been having my own, private Rich Dad, Poor Dad internal dialogue lately, thinking about how best to make a lot of money. Not being much of a mini-JP-Morgan, financial advice from me is probably not worth much. So, take this with a grain of salt, but here's how I see it...

The person at the end of the chain always fares worst. Think about land development:
  • The farmer who sells his huge field to a land developer makes the most money for the least effort. All he has to do is sell it, and he makes a pile of cash.
  • The developer makes the most money overall, but has to do a little work. He has to sub-divide the lot, which takes time and often involves politics with the zoning board.
  • The construction company makes a good amount of money, but also does the most work. Measuring effort against gain, they only do okay. 
  • The consumer who buys the house makes no money, over-pays for the lot, provides all of the ongoing repairs and maintenance, ends up with a lot much smaller than the farmer had, and only makes a profit years later, when the true ROI is difficult if not impossible to calculate.
Conclusion: You want to be the farmer, or at least the developer. There is no point to being the construction company because you can make the same amount of money with far less effort, and you basically never, ever want to be the end consumer unless you have to be. (If so, don't expect to make any money.)

You can apply the same principle to cars. The buyer of a used car pays all the costs and reaps none of the benefits. Buying a new car is at least one step better. You might be able to unload it for $3K-$5K once you've paid it off, which is a little better than $0.

You can also apply the same principle to personal banking. The reason investing is more lucrative than saving is because you're not the endpoint of the chain. You're somewhere in the middle. You won't make as much as a the bank, but you'll make a lot more than the humble penny-pincher with a savings account.

At least, that's my philosophy.

Bangla Word of the Day

পাঠানো  (verb) - To send, as in a letter.


Fitness Trade-Offs

The new trend in exercise is the embrace of "total body fitness." You can see examples of this in CrossFit, Hyperfitness, "Primal" fitness, P90X, and so on.

These fitness philosophies - along with many other similar theories - share some important common attributes that put them all in the same basic "category" of fitness philosophies. They all differ from traditional fitness plans in more or less the same ways.

Today, I'd like to discuss how these modern training philosophies differ from the classic approaches, and in particular the relative merits of each. You will soon see that neither the newer philosophies nor the classic theories represent the be-all, end-all panacea of training, and that the best approach of all involves your own personal goals and some realistic expectations about exercise.

Traditional Exercise
In the old days, choosing an exercise plan was relatively straight-forward. If you wanted to be a runner, you chose a running plan. If you wanted to bulk up, you chose a weight-lifting plan. For a long time, these two approaches developed more or less independently of one another.

During the 1960s and 1970s, however, exercise scientists and competitive athletes began to discover just how beneficial resistance training was for endurance athletes. Great runners adopted training philosophies that involved traditional weight lifting - modified, in that lower weight/more repetitions was viewed as optimal. Meanwhile, the muscle-building world of fitness continued to explore strategies to pack on more and more mass, favoring a higher load/fewer repetitions model.

To a certain extent, these two worlds were somewhat critical of each other, with the endurance world questioning the cardiovascular health of the muscle-building world, and the muscle-building world questioning the overall health of dedicated endurance athletes. Even the nutritional plans endorsed by these two groups differed widely from each other, one favoring low fat/high carbohydrate diets and the other favoring high protein diets.

Modern Developments
Nevertheless, the endurance training world continued to incorporate more and more information from the muscle-building world. The benefits of resistance training on joint strength, bone mass, and anaerobic output were just too good to ignore. Moreover, a massive amount of scientific research and experimentation went into developing muscle-building regimens (probably because the development of such regimens became and extremely lucrative commercial industry).

This went on for years, until we finally reached a point where many former endurance athletes began reducing their endurance training significantly and adopting a "total body" approach to fitness.

At the same time, many former body builders went the other way. After suffering a lot of muscle fatigue and injury pertaining to sudden blasts of weight lifting and an oscillating arm day/leg day plan, many people began to explore calisthenics, plyometrics, and "high intensity interval training" (HIIT) in order to get cosmetically appealing bodies without diving into complicated body building regimens.

These two groups were bound to meet in the middle somewhere. I couldn't tell you whose plan came first, but many were developed and today that "middle ground" of "total body fitness" can be observed in plans like P90X and CrossFit, where neither muscle-specific resistance training nor extended cardiovascular training is seen as positive.

Instead, these new methods emphasize combined strength training movements and plyometrics to build up complimentary muscle groups, creating a powerful new approach to training.

Some Criticism of the Modern Approach
Without a doubt, the fitness world has benefited from these new developments in exercise philosophy. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to view the classic approach as senseless and antiquated (as many people do). To understand why, we first have to understand some shortcomings to the modern theories.

Greatly Reduced Cardiovascular Activity
First, none of the new theories (except perhaps Hyperfitness) place any importance on cardiovascular activity. In some extreme cases, adherents to modern theories have suggested that they are getting a good cardiovascular workout because their heart rates become elevated during exercise. Of course, heart rates also become elevated during cardiac arrest, but that is hardly evidence of heart health!

The arguments against cardio typically revolve around either the belief that "cardio doesn't help you lose weight," or that cardiovascular training doesn't promote "total body" health. Mark Sisson takes things even further and even suggests that large amounts of endurance training promote "addiction" to carbohydrates and increase the risk of diabetes.

Of course, both of these claims are patently false and unsupported by scientific evidence. Modern science favors diet over exercise (of any kind) for the purposes of weight loss. No medical scientist in their right minid, however, would suggest that cardiovascular exercise is bad for you, or even that it is inferior to other forms of exercise with respect to overall health benefits.

Over-Consumption of Animal Proteins and Fats
Invariably, these modern fitness philosophies pair up with "primal," "paleo," or other "low-carb" dietary regimens. All of these diets place an emphasis on animal proteins - either by way of meat or dairy products - and monounsaturated fats. I have nothing against meat, dairy, or monounsaturated fat, however the philosophy is flawed.

Research suggests that the body can only absorb so much protein, in the neighborhood of 20% of your total caloric intake. If you eat more protein than that, your body will simply pass it through the other end. This is important because it demonstrates that low-carb diets often only achieve weight loss by replacing calories that your body can absorb (i.e. carbohydrates) with calories it cannot absorb (i.e. too much protein). The resulting weight loss comes not from a "superior diet," but rather from the fact that the body is unable to use many of the calories consumed. In the meantime, the excessive animal fat and protein intake puts a strain on the liver and kidneys, which causes other problems down the road.

Moreover, the animal fats being consumed are often saturated and actually bad for the body if consumed in excess.

Lack of Clear Specialization
Perhaps the most immediate problem with the modern approaches, however, is the fact that in pursuing a goal of "total body health," one never develops any particular fitness advantage. "Total body health" won't help you win a marathon faster, nor will it help you lift a sack of concrete and carry it up a spiral staircase. You need specialization to achieve those things.

CrossFit adherents would argue that lack of specialization is precisely the point. Rather than being particularly good at any one activity, they say, CrossFit athletes can run reasonably fast, lift reasonably heavy things, jump reasonably high, etc. No one aspect of health is diminished (except, as already noted, cardiovascular endureance).

But ask yourself: Would you rather be kind of okay at everything, or pretty good, actually at one or two things? Put another way, would you rather be a famous singer who can't dance, or someone who is okay at both singing and dancing, but not good enough at either to impress anyone?

Strengths of the Modern Approach
That being said, modern exercise philosophies have revived some long-forgotten training ideas that can make a huge difference in anyone's fitness plan.

Perhaps the best thing about modern fitness approaches is the revival of plyometric exercise (mostly movements involving jumping). Plyometric exercise, if not over-done improves the body's ability to translate strength into speed. Therefore, engaging in regular plyometric exercise will help anyone jump higher and react faster. This improves agility and grace, and also strengthens the joints and tendons. Neither high-endurance nor muscle-building fitness approaches offer the same benefits that plyometric training does.

Core Strength and Stabilizers
Sport-specific training often ignores the peripheral "stabilizer" muscles that are involved in virtually every athletic movement. No amount of calf-raises or leg-presses, for example, will build the muscles required to simply stand on one foot. This is why runners and body-builders alike often lack so much balance and grace. By emphasizing combination movements that require a good amount of balance, modern training regimens typically offer greater development of the stabilizers than people would ordinarily get.

Classic strength training is also a relatively inefficient way to build core strength. Modern training might, for example, replace crunches with burpees. Crunches are muscle-specific, whereas burpees give multiple core muscle groups a simultaneous workout. As a result, the "core" muscle groups often fare better under modern exercise theories than they do under traditional ones.

Variety is the Spice of Life
No doubt about it, the wide variety of exercises employed in modern training regimens keep the athletes interested every single day. A months-long exercise regimen that doesn't offer a lot of variety can get drab, and that impacts motivation.

Punchline: The Trade-Off
The inescapable fact of working out is that we face limitations.

For one thing, there are only two kinds of muscle tissue: one is good for strength, and the other is good for endurance. Building one type of muscle tissue comes at the expense of the other. No matter how badly we would all love to be Arnold Schwartzeneggers who are also world-class marathoners, it is physiologically impossible to do this. We have to make a choice about how much of each kind of muscle tissue we want.

For another thing, there is only so much time in the day, and only so much exercise we can do without hurting our bodies. Once we have adequately stretched and worked-out, often two or three hours have gone by. We don't all have that much time to spare every day. As a result, we have to make another choice regarding how much time we can commit to exercise and what we can reasonably expect from that time. If you can only spare 30 minutes a day, you will almost certainly not have enough time for sport-specific training. If you have a great deal of time, and you fill it all up with non-specific CrossFit movements, you will peak in the middle somewhere, without ever having realized your full potential.

Finally, there is a high level of subjectivity involved in the word "fit." For some, "fit" means being able to lift anything and occasionally run around the block. For others, no matter how much they can lift, they will never consider themselves "fit" if their hearts race after climbing a couple of flights of stairs. For still others, winning a marathon is pointless if they don't like the visual appearance of their upper body muscles. What constitutes "fit" depends entirely on a person's own, individual goals, and the approach they take will therefore also differ.

The point is that we must learn to see fitness as a system of comparative strengths and weaknesses from which to choose. "Everything" simply isn't possible to attain.

Conclusion: My Approach
When I unveil my two-tiered fitness approach later this week, you will see that it offers a good framework from which to achieve moderate levels of muscle building and, if desired, a hefty amount of cardiovascular exercise.

I have adopted this approach first because the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise are many and indisputable. Hearth and lung health is perhaps the most important aspect of health for achieving longevity and a high quality of life well into old age. Without it, rich foods hurt the body more, energy levels deplete, brain chemicals change such that depression and stress start to mount, and so on.

At the same time, science has proven again and again that without regular strength training we all run the risk of injury. This can occur during exercise, or it can sneak up on you one day when you slip and fall at an old age and break a hip. These are serious problems that can only be addressed by improving muscle strength and preventing atrophy whenever possible.

If you choose to follow my approach, you will want to have a good idea about what your personal goals are. By offering a two-tiered approach, I am giving you the option of favoring muscle mass over cardio, or vice-versa. You should have all the information you need to achieve your own ideal blend of each.

But make no mistake, both are important aspects of physical fitness. No new-fangled fitness fad will ever replace the time-tested, scientifically validated benefits of cardiovascular health and low-fat nutrition plans.


Happy New You

You know, I just can't resist.

For me, health and fitness are a way of life. I am not the type of person who over-indulges during the holiday season, puts on weight, stops exercising, and then suddenly declares after New Year's Day that I am turning over a new leaf and reinventing my body. I adhere to a daily exercise regiment and maintain a proper diet every day. My occasional indulgences satisfy my cravings; I have no need to take things further than that. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle each and every day is its own reward for me.

What I am, on the other hand, is a person who loves any excuse to become highly motivated and ambitious. Undertaking a personal initiative is a lot of fun. Any excuse to do so is a good one.

Therefore, I just can't resist using the coming of a new year to gain some new motivation and recommit to maintaining my status as basically the healthiest person I know. It is precisely because I am committed to daily exercise and a healthy lifestyle that I like to avail myself of each and every excuse to go the extra mile.

It's Going To Be A Great Year For Everybody
So here we are in the year 2012. I just returned home from a trip to Bangladesh, I cut my hair, got over a cold, readjusted to a (healthy) Western diet, and now I'm ready to take on a new commitment to fitness. It's time for a new me, and it could be time for a new you, too. You might be like me - healthy, fit, and no particular reason for a drastic change. Or, you might be that other kind of person who over-indulged and now wants to reclaim your healthy lifestyle for the new year.

Put another way, you might be like me in that you enjoy endurance training, like to run races (or marathons), and are looking for a way to reach a new personal best. Or, you might be someone who wants to slip down, shape-up, and look great for that beach vacation this year, seeking maximum results for minimal effort.

Great News
Either way, Stationary Waves has you covered. Over the next couple of days, I'll be developing a two-tiered training regimen for anybody. This year we're building on the 18-Week training regimen I established last Summer, improving the methodology, and expanding.

Tier 1 consists of a quick, easy strength and toning regimen that anyone can do at home. All you need is thirty minutes a day (at the most!), a set of free weights or resistance bands, and an empty spot on the floor. You'll tone up, build some muscle mass, improve your posture, agility, and dexterity, and be more than ready for that trip to your exotic location of choice.

Tier 2 can be added for crazy fitness whack-jobs like myself, who haven't yet had their fill of road racing, marathoning, or whatever else you might be aiming for.

Of course, the combined regimen will help you achieve your true inner fitness potential.

So Stay Tuned
I'll be unveiling the new plan within the week. In the meantime, take the time to review the old plan, the philosophy behind it, and the tools required for what is sure to be a terrific challenge.

An Excellent Read from Allisstatus This Morning

Keith Hudson over at Allistatus has written an article that reflects two of my own strongly held beliefs. Typically, he blogs about current political events, but this morning he delves into more ethical territory, which is, of course, my bread and butter.

Writing about the arrest of a celebrity chef for petty larceny, Hudson writes:
Apart from “not knowing what came over me” and various other attempts at plausible explanations — that he may be suffering from early onset of Alzheimer’s, for example! — why didn’t he just say: “Sorry Guv, I was naughty and you found me out”? We’d all understand.
 My own previous bout of criminality convinced me that personal guilt is not about any internal sense of morality but of fear of being found out.

Left to their own devices, people will do pretty much anything as long as they can get away with it. I would further add that this is the most important justification for wearing one's ethics on one's sleeve. People have a tendency to "play dumb" and hope to get away with behaviors they very well know to be unethical. They only seem to cool it when you call them out.

So when you see someone being unethical, even in simple circumstances, I think it's important to tell them to cool it. Look them in the eye and tell them that you know what they're doing and you do not appreciate it.

You don't have to be confrontational and mean, of course. Often times a polite smile and a simple acknowledgement of their actions suffices to help them think twice about such things.

To that end, Hudson points out:
However, if there is any morality at all, it is the practicality that honesty pays — most of the time, and in most of our dealings. Without this strategy, usually acquired fairly early in childhood — and spontaneously from our peers quite as much as from fear of parental punishment — then society wouldn’t possibly be able to work for more than a day or two. In almost every transaction we carry out, even in business as well as socially, there are moments of time where we trust someone else’s word and they trust us before anything can be written down. Even in many billion dollar deals between rival businessmen (particularly Asian) there are still moments during a verbal understanding when one can renege on the other at profit. This seldom happens. If deception or exploitation is involved it’s usually over matters which don’t happen to be discussed (kept quiet by one of the parties!) and reveal themselves later.
Naturally, I wholeheartedly agree.


Debt and Subjective Value Preference

Enough has been said about the core issue of the blogosphere's recent debt discussion. I have left a few comments around, most notably at Robert Murphy's and Steven Landsburg's blogs. Other than that, I don't have much to say about the core issue.

However, something Steven Landsburg wrote got me thinking about a tangential issue, namely, whether or not a person can benefit from something to which they are morally opposed. Here is Landsburg talking about benefits:
Therefore nobody currently alive (or, in Bob Murphy’s Abraham-and-Isaac model, no member of the older generation) has any reason to object to deficit financing. Deficit financing expands your opportunity set, which you cannot be a bad thing (for you). [sic]

Here are a couple of scenarios:
  1. Let's say someone offered to give you a million dollars. Great news, right? You'd take the money, right? 
  2. What if the person making the offer was the kingpin of the local mafia? Would you still take the money? 
Now, subjective value preference implies that there are people who would definitely answer yes to both questions. There are also people who would definitely answer no to both questions. I would guess that the majority of people would answer yes to question #1 and no to question #2.

That majority of people demonstrate why Steven Landsburg is wrong when he says "Deficit financing expands your opportunity set, which [ ] cannot be a bad thing (for you)."

What I mean is, there are plenty of us who feel funny about getting a government handout or passing debt on to others for mere personal gain; just as there are plenty of us who feel funny about getting a free million-dollar prize from the mob.

Landsburg assumes that the "benefits" offered by deficit spending are unequivocal benefits to anyone in the country. Really, what he is assuming is that we all value these kinds of "benefits" exactly the same way he does.

But the truth is, many of us value such benefits differently. This is because we all value everything a little bit differently from everyone else. Not only is it possible for people to value certain "benefits" negatively, it is entirely expected (unless we are talking about "pleasure, as an abstract concept" or something).


Boudreaux on Public Debt

Apparently, in my absence, there has been some discussion about the ethics of public debt in the blogosphere. The major players seem to be Steven Landsburg and Paul Krugman. Both take the position that there is nothing particularly unethical about leaving huge government finance debts to future generations.

Don Boudreaux replies. His reply largely consists of an exposition on Buchanan's public debt ethics. It is a decent response to the core issue, but I feel it misses the most important point.

Mises' analysis of credit expansion teaches us not about having to pay the piper eventually, but rather about the severe market distortions that credit expansion causes. Government deficit spending is - make no mistake - an act of credit expansion. Credit expansion does - make no mistake - distort markets and sends society along a growth trajectory far lower than it would otherwise follow. This is the key point to the Austrian framework and the major moral of the Misesian story.

Government debt isn't unethical because future children have to pay it back instead of us. Government debt is unethical because it robs society of its most efficient use of scarce resources. It takes from us the satisfaction of our own most-urgent wants and presents us with piles upon piles of things we do not want, such as housing bubbles and war.

Today, rather than having a cure for diabetes or a machine that renders fossil fuels obsolete, we have war and social security. That we exist in a land of war and airport security instead of peace and economic plenty is the real curse of government debt.

That's why it's unethical.