Apologies for the lack of updates recently. Two weeks ago, my neck started to lock up whenever I tried to use a computer, watch TV or read a book for a more than a few minutes resulting in hours of excrutiating pain accompanied by blinding headaches and waves of nausea.
Natures way of saying I needed a break. Tried everything natural from stretching to supplmental anti-inflammatories, but finally had to succumb to getting on some kind of “hard-core-pain-reliever-hobby-kit” from my doctor yesterday.
He says its stress related compounded by a poor ergonomic work set up, but it just means that I’ll do what I can to update where possible – it’s hell not being able to journal or do much of anything else with regularity.
I am listening to A LOT of podcasts however.
I hope everyone is well. One of those reminders to NEVER take one’s health for granted. Always be thankful when the days are pain free and the energy levels are high. Abundant health and happiness makes you one of the richest of people on the planet.
What I’m Reading
The Sports Gene – David Epstein
I touched on a review of this book a few weeks ago mentioning that I loved it so much I immediately started rereading it again.
Epstein wades deep into normally contentious territory and examines the often debated topic of nature vs nurture through the lens of sporting achievement.
The debate has become even more polarised in recent years due to the erroneous and sensationalist media reporting of the Anders Ericsson’s 10,000 hours rule inferring that given a certain level of dedicated, focused practice, training can ultimately trump talent.
The public loves an underdog story, but this prevailing paradigm is wishful thinking at best and typically deceptive reporting at worst.
Based on the research and a more practical view of the glaringly obvious reality, it seems Orwell’s dystopian overlord-pigs were right – “All men are created equal, but some men are created more equal than others.”
For anyone that’s faced a 7 foot tall basketballer on the court, competed against a myostatin deficient bodybuilder or raced a Kenyan long distance runner in a marathon knows that no matter how many hours or specialised training they receive, common sense would dictate that they will never surmount those innate genetic advantages.
Through an impressive amount of research and rational argument, Epstein shows the answer to elite achievement to be more nuanced than the black and white dichotomy of talent vs training. Rather; it’s a marriage of the two, a complex interplay between one’s environment (the software) and genetics (one’s unique hardware) influenced further by a range of other factors including luck, environment, age, exposure to the right coaches etc.
The answers, when it comes to individual biological genetic diversity are fraught with complexity and never fit into an “either/or” dichotomy. In the end, we are all a universe unto ourselves. We’re all unique snowflakes and the training prescription can never be a cookie-cutter, one size fits all template – it needs to be individualized.
The stories and examples Epstein highlights in the context of this ever expanding research make this book an extremely compelling and entertaining read and ultimately a work of immense value to trainees, coaches or anyone with a passing interest in sports and the science of athletic development and human potential. It’s easily the best book I’ve read on the topic and I look forward to reading anything Epstein puts out in the future.
Islam and the Future of Tolerance – Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz.
This short book, written as a dialogue between Harris and former Islamic extremist Nawaz, explores some of the often misunderstood nuances of Muslim theology along with the existing barriers to peaceful secular coexistence and promotion of human rights within the Muslim world
Harris is one of my favourite intellectual voices and I devour anything he writes along with his “Waking Up” podcast. Anyone following with his work and media appearances will be familiar with the points he makes in this book, but it’s interesting to see them juxtaposed against the discussion and countered by a similarly rational and intellectual Nawaz.
Minus the typical hyperbole and labeling that typically accompanies such debates, the resulting discussion is respectful, measured and restrained providing an excellent template for others to follow when advancing this kind of vital dialogue in the future. I recommend it to anyone who wants an intelligent and rational overview of this important and multifaceted topic.
What I’ve Been Watching
During the Cold War 1970’s, there was a time when the game of chess captured the public’s attention and a young American challenger, Bobby Fischer became a cultural rock star for a time.
Lou Zwick, director of Glory and the Last Samurai directs this docudrama biopic which features Tobey Maguire who admirably captures the eccentrically brilliant yet tormented Fischer who carries the burden of the Western political world’s hopes on his shoulders in challenging the Russian world chess champion of the time, Boris Spassky.
I love the Fischer story and also recommend the book “End Game” by Frank Brady as well as the documentary, “Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011) – the mind games and intrigue, then thin line that separates genius from madness. A great film about a fascinating and ultimately tragic figure.
Louis Theroux – Drinking To Oblivion
Louis Theroux is the David Attenborough of our generation – albeit a documentarian on the human animal in all it’s diverse cultural, “zoological splendour”.
I’ve been following Louis Theroux’s works since the early 90s and he continues to produce amazingly provocative and original perspectives on topics from his uniquely disarming interview and unassuming presentation style.
If you’ve never checked out his episode on Bodybuilding, stop what you’re doing now and watch it immediately!
Theroux is the master of gaining rapport like no other interviewer; He has the astute ability in insinuating himself in his subjects’ lives and getting them to open up in the most honest and revealing ways.
His documentaries have evolved over the past decade taking on a darker and more serious tone compared to the wacky subcultures he investigated in the 90s.
This episode looks at the devastating effect of alcohol addiction on a range of people living in London – the destructive force it’s become on their lives, their loved ones and the rising health care services needed to cope with the rising scourge. It’s essential viewing for anyone that knows someone who walks the all too common fine line of drinking and alcoholism. Really looking forward to his upcoming Scientology release.
What I’m Listening To
Dan Solomon is a long time writer and historian of the Iron Game and has worked for most of the top industry publications. On recently leaving Blechman’s sinking ship MD Magazine, he has recently launched the site, Digital Muscle – a blogosphere of various industry writers. This podcast used to have him at its helm, but he’s delegated things to Ben Pakulski and Chad Nichols.
I listened through the archives the other day and found it bloody brilliant in terms of its coverage of recent events, training tips and gossip. It stays on topic, keeps things relevant and is intelligent listening for the thinking man – everything Palumbo’s podcast isn’t. Dave’s Rx Channel has better video coverage, and DM needs to parlay its resources into that expanding niche, but in the meantime this radio show is one of the best out there for all things bodybuilding.
Quote of The Week
“Studies of athletes have tended to find that the top competitors require far less than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach elite status. According to the scientific literature, the average sport-specific practice hours to reach the international levels in basketball, field hockey, and wrestling are closer to 4,000, 4,000, and 6,000, respectively.”
Excerpt From: David Epstein. “The Sports Gene.”
Recipe of the Week
I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this recipe over the past few months and use it to make healthy, grain free tacos and fajitas. They’re amazingly pliable and resilient and you;d never guess that they’re made of cauliflower.
Add some shredded chicken, yoghurt and salsa to them and the taste is out of this world. They store well, but might not last long enough because they just beg to be eaten.
Perfect for the low career or dieter wanting to ditch the bread without any of the sacrifice. With a bit of modification, you could easily adapt this to make a delicious pizza base. Experiment with the herbs and spices you use – I go with garlic and onion powder, salt, pepper and some cajun spices.
Cauliflower – Whole
2 eggs and 1/4 cup of egg whites
Spices to taste
1) Cut the cauliflower into florets and blend in a blender (or hand grate if you have a million hours)
2) Microwave in a bowl for 3 minutes – take out and stir and then microwave for an additional 3 minutes.
3) Prepare the eggs in a separate bowl by whisking together with spices.
4) Pour the hot cauliflower into a tea towel covering a bowl. Allow to cool for 10 mins and then wring moisture from the cauliflower into the empty bowl.
5) Stir in egg and spice mixture
6) Form into taco – tortilla size wraps on a baking sheet and bake either side for 6-8 minutes on 400 degrees F or 240 degrees C.
7) Add in toppings of choice.