Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fitness Tests

When I turned 47 I decided to spend a good part of the next three years improving myself physically. The plan was to be stronger at 50 then I was at 25. I had let myself get out of shape and was once about 12kg overweight. Aches and pains were starting to beset me and I caught myself thinking that this was all part of the normal aging process. Before this fitness regimes were all a bit open ended with no particular goal in mind except general physical fitness. I remember once taking out a gym membership for $300 and only going twice.

Now I am 15 months into the program. This is the longest period of sustained exercise and weight control that I have done in my life and hopefully it is now an ingrained habit. One thing that I have noticed is that my aches and pains have disappeared. I used to get quite a sore left knee, clicking and sore Achillies tendons, groin pain and a little back pain from time to time but not anymore although I am careful not to injure myself. It seems that strengthening the muscles around the joints protects them from wear and tear and joint deterioration can be reversed.

I’m thinking that now is the time to set some goals that would define what being in good shape means.

This is my first draft of tests of physical fitness:

Running - One mile in under 7 minutes
Push Ups - 50+ without pause
Chin Ups - 15
Plank - 3 minutes
Side Plank - 2 minutes
Jogging - 10 KM
Cycling - 150 KM

I haven’t included any weight lifting tests here as I don’t own enough weights or do very heavy lifting. I imagine lifting half your body weight in a military press might be a good test – I’ll have to think about it.

I wont do all the tests in one go. Soon I will attempt to run a mile as fast as I can and post the results.

The Active Survivalist Anthem


Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Road Rage

Quite simply, rage or anger is to be avoided at all cost. The most common form of public anger we see exhibited today is road rage. Almost all drivers seem prone to it and all have seen it in others. It’s understandable yet ugly and quite stupid.

The Active Survivalist needs to remain calm at all times in order to maximize the chances of long term survival. The burst of adrenalin that accompanies an attack of road rage is probably not good for your heart either although I'll have to research that. You’re not thinking straight when you are angry and you will do foolish, self-destructive things. Remember the last time you saw someone losing their temper and how foolish it looked? Are you impressed with such behavior? I doubt it.

The Active Survivalist is also getting on in years and long past the time when tests of manhood are needed or appropriate. Road rage could easily transform into actual physical combat which should only be resorted to in extreme cases of personal survival, preferably with superior weapons which are not usually readily at hand while driving to work. Remember that a small percentage of the population are psychotic criminals and there is no way you want to interact with them. That guy that cut you off maybe one of them or under the influence of something or other or both.

If you are reading this blog your intelligence is likely to be rated in the top 10% of the general population. This means that 90% of drivers are of lesser intelligence than you. There’s no way you want to be interacting with these dumbos! Just get to your destination with everyone in one piece and with no rushes of adrenalin.

Try to think the best of everyone. That guy who ran the red light might be rushing to work having been told the day before by his boss that if he was late one more time he will be fired. Or that woman pulled out in front of you so you are angry now because like you never, ever, pulled out in front of someone in your entire life – yeah right.

My theory about road rage is that people project their own intentions onto others and so get angry because they think they know the reasoning behind the bad driving. Often this reasoning is flawed and the bad driver simply made a mistake or misjudged. Even if they did it deliberately you yourself have been known to do such things as well so it’s hypocritical to get so angry.

Some people try to educate other road users through rage. It’s probably ok to educate other people but utilizing rage is not the way to go about it. You have to be subtle or educate by being a good example yourself. If you are not the police then it’s best to mind your own business especially when it comes to driving. I remember someone once wrote a letter of complaint to my boss about how I was driving 115kmh in 100kmh zone – we all had a bit of a laugh about that. Complaining just makes you look like a grumpy old man with no sense of humour.

You might find it helpful to adopt techniques to avoid rage. Pretend all other drivers are your mates or family – you’d let them in wouldn’t you? Pretend you are a secret agent attempting to traverse the city with as much discretion as possible – an incident will only call attention to yourself.

And finally why not relish the opportunity of a road incident to test your self-control? To not sound the horn or tail gate a person even under severe provocation should be seen as a personal victory. A victory that might see you living another day and train you for other incidents.

Extend this thinking into all aspects of your life and avoid anger altogether giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. It's for the sake of your own survival.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Product Endorsement

Ever since turning fourteen I have been plagued with a bad complexion. Not full-blown acne, just prone to break outs that I find quite embarrassing, especially now that I have reached middle-age. I thought it was only supposed to last a few years not thirty-five years! Anyway, a significant percentage of the population does suffer from bad skin for a very long time and I have often wondered why. Is it hormonal? As the onset of pimply skin comes with puberty I always believed it was but then maybe it is just the change in the composition of the skin - it becomes oilier once reaching maturity and pores get clogged.

A few years ago I went to the doctor prior to traveling to New Caledonia for a singles week at Club Med and I asked if there was anything that would help give me clear skin. She prescribed a mild anti-biotic that worked really well, almost over night, returning my confidence. It was called mino-tabs I think. However it's effectiveness seemed to wear off over time and I wasn’t too keen on taking anti-biotic for a long time anyway.

Exercise and mainstream healthy eating didn’t seem to have any effect except perhaps to make it worse. The sweating associated with exercise probably doesn’t help. Then I began to think about why the anti-biotics worked. The reason must be because the problem is bacterial. Sweating feeds the bacteria or gives it a nice, warm, damp place to live. I often noticed that patches of bad skin would spread and frequent washing seemed to only make it worse.

The answer is to kill the bacteria. Now there is a readily available product that does just that. It’s a miracle and I urge anyone who has a problem like this to seriously consider using it. The product is Johnson & Johnson’s Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser.

I used it twice daily for two or three weeks and then just daily in the morning. Now my skin is perfectly clear – it’s amazing. The active ingredient is Benzoyl Peroxide. It gives a nice cool-burning sensation and you can just feel those nasty little bugs dying by the millions. Some chemical remains on the skin after rinsing and this continues to work during the day.
Most Active Survivalists wont have a requirement for this product but their children or even grandchildren might.
Highly Recommended!

Update: I still use this product at least five times a week however I am starting to wonder if my change to a more paleolithic diet and intermittent fasting has brought about a cure. The only way to prove this, sort of, is to stop using it - I am afraid to do that though because my skin is so good now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Magic 200 Minutes

After much thought and practical experimentation I have come up with the figure of 200 minutes as the ideal total time per week to perform reasonably rigorous exercise. That's exercise like running, fast cycling, weights and other gym type exercises - exercises that leave you puffed and sweating. This equates to about four hours per week which is actually 240 minutes but then it takes into account periods of resting during the routines.

Four sessions of one hour each per week, say on Tesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday should suffice. This is actually not all that much although it is enough to reshape muscles and ward off weight gain and probably not enough to risk over-training. Any more than this and one runs the risk of over-exercising and experiencing a bit of metabolic breakdown resulting in a forced rest period of several days to a weeks duration.

This advice is for the middle-aged and above as I am sure a younger person could safely do more. However I see no benefit in doing more for the Active Survivalist unless they are training for a specific event. This level of exercise should be able to be maintained indefinetly forming an exercise habit.

If more exercise is required my advice would be to increase the intensity of the exercise rather than increase the time it takes to exercise. Run faster, lift heavier in carefully adjusted stages so that you move the joints the same amount of times but do more work. This will build strength and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries. You should also go hard on occasion so that training routines are not stale old slogs. After all when you are out there pushing hard, heart pounding, sweat dripping and gasping for breath you are truly alive. To be able to do this is what being an Active Survivalist is all about - it is Active Survivalist heaven.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Actively Turning Back the Clock

"A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity to aging-related disease and premature death. Inactivity may diminish life expectancy not only by predisposing to aging-related diseases but also because it may influence the aging process itself,"

The above quote is from a recent study done at Kings College, London. You could title this, "inactively speeding up the clock." One thing is for sure and that is staying active is not going to do you any harm as long as you are careful. It becomes more and more essential as you age. Eventually aging will get get a stranglehold on you but you can delay its onset considerably so why grow old before your time? People don't seem to realise that by being inactive and overeating you are accelerating yourself toward an early grave

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Sad Week

From TheTimesOnline April 16:

Six students and a teacher were killed when they were swept down a flooded river during an adventure course in rugged New Zealand bushland yesterday

The 16 and 17-year-old students were part of a group of 40 from Elim Christian College in Auckland who were attending a week-long course with the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre near Turangi, 320km (200 miles) north of Wellington.

So young with so much to look forward to and now no more. I believe these children were let down by adults and by a culture that believes that outdoor adventure sports are essential for young people. They were barely more than children and they were canyoning in the mountains of New Zealand during stormy weather. Adventures are risky and are really the realm of expendible young men who know and take the risks. We shouldn’t expose children to such dangers.

Why am I writing about this on my Active Survival blog? Well, if we manage to prolong life dramatically it will be interesting to see how we approach adventurous activities. Let’s say they manage to prolong life indefinitely. Do you think people would still race motorbikes or sky dive? If your body regenerated itself forever how long would you expect to live for? It seems a strange question but regeneration will not guarantee immortality. A fatal accident could still occur and while I don’t have a reference I read somewhere that Insurance company data predicts that we will have a fatal accident every 1600 years on average. If your body never aged eventually your plane is going to crash and burn.

The Active Survivalist needs to stay sharp, stay alert and not take undue risks.

Advice to parents: Don’t let your children get involved with anything to do with rivers – they’re fukkin dangerous. I’m quite angry about it actually.

It may be overeating and not obesity that causes health problems. When you think about it obesity is generally a result of overeating and weight gain is probably a healthy sign. After all the body is processing the extra calories and storing them for use at another time. The ability to gain weight is a healthy sign in an individual whereas unexplained weight loss while one is eating plenty would be an unhealthy sign.

When the fat starts to build up in places where it shouldn’t then severe health issues are to be expected. Fat in and around the heart and liver and inside the cardio-vascular system are potentially fatal.

Experiments with mice have shown that limiting calorie intake has greatly increased life expectancy and this may not be because the mice have stayed slim but that their vital organs have remained free of clogging fat.

Metabolic Syndrome Triggered by Overeating, Not Obesity – This article is about research that has shown Metabolic Syndrome is a result of too much food sloshing around the system and not simply weight gain.

I would think that the way to avoid this syndrome is to take my advice and go for long periods without food while doing at least four hours a week of decent exercise, ie more than just walking.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Animal Fat – Is it bad for you?

A lot of people have bought into the idea that eating animal fat makes you fat. I guess it seems logical that fat = fat. Yet is this true? The success of the Atkins Diet seems to defy this simple logic.

I wonder if the pathway from ingested food to fat cells has been well studied. I’m sure it has and I will endeavour to find out. Does food enter the stomach, get digested, enter the bloodstream and then get deposited into the fat cells? Or is it a bit more complicated? The muscles have their own store of energy in the form of sugars for immediate use and this store can weigh up to two kilograms. Once this store is topped up I imagine that excess food is stored as fat. It is possible that fat is transported directly to the fat cells and bypasses the muscle stores however Atkins Diet which can be high in fat seems to prove that this is not the case.

Are carbs converted into fat? Certainly people on high carb low fat diets can get fat. What about people on high fat diets? Well there aren’t too many of those around but there are some. Inuit people traditionally lived on whale blubber and certain Indian tribes ate almost exclusively fresh meat. These people did not get fat. Western people who lived with the Inuit for extended periods of time found that they had to eat animal fat rather than just the lean meat in order to stay healthy.

The fact is that people are getting fatter and eating less fat. Many products in food stores are labelled as low fat but you only find out that they are high in sugars if you read the fine print. A sure way to gaining excess weight is to eat a lot of carbohydrate.

The next argument is that eating fat can clog your arteries. This may be true but my feeling is that you would need to eat quite a lot and be sedentary and have other bad habits for this to be a problem. If you ate a moderate amount of fat and exercised hard for at least four hours a week my guess is you would be ok and probably more than ok. Your body needs fat and cholesterol to function probably much more than it does carbohydrates.

Of course everything in moderation but don’t be afraid to enjoy meat with a bit of fat or eggs fried in dripping. Roast potatoes done in dripping are great also. Stay focused on keeping fit and eating natural, minimally processed foods that your body has to work on to digest. Meat and fat is natural, far more natural for human consumption than bread or rice for instance.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I was reading in the news the other day that dieting is going out of fashion and that the diet industry is making less money today. It seems that people are starting to think that exercise is the most important factor in the quest for weight control. I believe this is a common misconception and that people should focus on diet first and exercise next if their objective is to trim down. In the park where I do most of my cardio exercise I have noticed the same people year after year performing their exercise, which is usually just walking, yet not getting any lighter and maybe getting even larger.

For the obese person exercise can be rather inhibiting and off-putting and indeed it can be dangerous. For those carrying many pounds of excess weight the act of exercising will put an extra strain on joints and muscles that the lean person would not experience. This could lead to extensive damage of key areas like knees and ankles that could result in being practically crippled. The obese person should approach exercise with caution and develop an exercise routine that has the least joint and tendon impact as possible. Cycling and swimming come to mind as exercises that would be good at least until a normal weight has been achieved.

That said, exercise will have little impact on controlling weight. The key is calorie restriction. It is extremely difficult to work off an up-sized McDonalds meal yet it is very easy to forgo the meal altogether and eat an apple or a banana. You would probably have to run for twenty miles or more to burn off the excess calories consumed in a McDonalds combo.

Exercise is more important for controlling weight gain once the ideal weight has been achieved.

So back to dieting. I have devised all sorts of diets for reducing weight and I think that nearly all of them would work well which brings us back to the concept of the effectiveness of calorie restriction. The key is to avoid high-energy foods. Foods that are packed with easily accessible calories like processed foods high in sugar. These foods are digested almost immediately and saturate the blood with food that cannot be burned off quickly and so is converted to fat. If you avoid all processed food and that includes bread and rice and just stick to fruit, meat and vegetables you cannot go wrong. Forget about the totally wrong food pyramid above where you are advised to eat six to eleven servings or more a day of bread – have they completely lost their minds? Think about bread as a food developed by the masters to feed the slaves that build pyramids. The food pyramid is for active children or very fit and active adults.

It is true that exercise for many people is a bit of an appetite suppressant yet you could use other tricks like suppressing the appetite by drinking lots of water or even coffee. Exercise is great but don’t damage yourself by going at it too hard and making the mistake that exercise will make you thin.
The key is healthy eating in moderation with long gaps of five hours or so when you eat nothing at all. Avoid all snacks and try to have long periods where your blood supply is not saturated with food. Forget about breakfast being the most important meal of the day and take advantage of periods when appetite is low to fast - just don't over do it mid-morning when craving for food returns. Eat fruit instead of bread and never eat biscuits, candy or cakes.

Once you have brought your weight down you can then focus on exercise. You will notice that you will be more motivated to do exercise due to the increased energy and feeling of wellness that healthy eating brings about.