Saturday, 9 August 2014

Why, how and consequences

This article has come out of many years of thinking about why I train, how I train and the consequences of this. I have taken many turns in writing this article so it is much more like talking aloud to myself. When I first started this blog my training revolved about the natural method, and the biggest influence of this was the philosophy of altruism. I decided I needed to be strong and useful so that if something were to happen, I would be better equipped to help myself, or others. I took ‘be strong to be useful’ to heart and begin strength training. I also took up parkour and martial arts. I have made this part of my core life philosophies; I will make myself strong, physically able and useful . . . even to a fault?
Not safe, but fun parkour training
A few years ago I started listening to the Paleo solution podcast, and heard Robb Wolf’s idea of the triple point. The elements of the triple point are health (moment to moment wellbeing), performance, and longevity. Using the triple point we can think of different physical endeavours e.g.:

-Extreme calorie restriction might lead to better longevity, but poor performance and health.

-Extreme performance will come at the expense of longevity and health.

-Optimising health (moment to moment) would mean undergoing no stress (read: training) which would mean low performance and eventually both longevity and health would suffer.

Note: The triple point is affected by nutrition, training, life stresses, environment etc but I will be discussing the affect training has.

After thinking a lot about this I feel as if a reasonably high level of performance should lead to very good longevity and optimised health over that longevity (though not moment to moment as the stress of training is rather high). I have put a lot of thought into the level of performance that would optimise the triple point, and at what level health and longevity would be negatively affected.
I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that it is not necessarily high performance which would negatively affect the others markers, but specialised performance. Too much strength training or endurance training negatively affects health and performance, but a blend of the two would likely optimise it. It would seem the generalist optimises the triple point, maybe even regardless of how high the performance is pushed.

I considered crossfit, as they appear to be generalists but anyone watching the crossfit games can see that level of performance is likely detrimental to health and longevity. I believe this is because regional and games level athletes are specialists in work capacity. The sheer volume of work required is detrimental. Maybe there is an upper limit on performance even for a generalist.

Precision to a rail is never easy
It is at this point I wonder where the line is between optimisation and detrimental performance, certainly it differs for individuals. I often think that the level of performance I am aiming for might cost me some health and longevity. Maybe having just a few performance goals might be okay, but to train the gymnastics, weight training and combative to a high level leads to a level of stress which affects longevity (and possible long term health). Or maybe it doesn’t, and what is considered high level is actually optimising the triple point. I don’t know. At any rate I feel that if the performance levels I am aiming for affect longevity, I will accept that. I believe the altruism of the natural method may include sacrificing some longevity for performance in order to protect yourself and others.

I think the performance affecting health and longevity is most likely true when training combative skills and any structural conditioning that goes along with it. I suspect training martial arts, particularly to a high level likely has a higher injury rate than weight training. One could easy be very fit and able with no martial arts training, and I suspect they would have better longevity. I chose to study martial arts in addition to weight training as it has its place in the natural method and could become necessary to protect myself or others. I’m not saying martial arts training is dangerous in any way, just more dangerous than not training. Unless you find yourself needing self defense skills, I’m not sure where this would fall into the triple point.

Largely the topic is a thought experiments for thinking about how we should train and live our lives in order to optimise the while experience. I want to optimise the triple point, but am willing to sacrifice if I need to because of the natural method philosophy. I suggest you think about the triple point and how your training, nutrition and life affect it.

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