I have fond memories of family vacations at the beach... running around all day, and then checking out the "reverse swimsuit" in the bathroom mirror that evening. Burn, baby, burn. The following week as part of our grooming ritual my sister would pull impressive sheets of dead skin off my back. Groovy.
OK, so that probably wasn't the healthiest thing in the world. Many of us probably had similar experiences, and so the current conventional wisdom of applying sunscreen anytime we go outside seems to make sense. Sun exposure equals skin cancer, right? Well, it's not that simple.
There are many benefits of sun exposure. Vitamin D is the obvious one. Every cell in our body has a receptor for this hormone, and having optimal levels minimizes the risk of a whole host of health issues. Reducing sun exposure may lower the risk of melanoma, but it simultaneously raises the risk of many other forms of cancer that are much more common. Sun exposure increases nitric oxide production which relaxes blood vessels lowering blood pressure and improving immune function. And check this out - the mitochondria in our cells are sensitive to the infrared spectrum and use this light to enhance energy production. We're similar to plants in that way.
Now, take a look at the ingredient list of sunscreen, and consider the chemical shit-storm you are applying to your skin. Your skin is an organ... and a very important one. It keeps all the nasty environmental stuff away from your internals. Would you rub that lotion on your liver, heart, or lungs?
For the hour-a-day (or less) that most of us spend outside we are better served by not using sunscreen. Of course, for long days at the beach it's better to use sunscreen than burn, baby, burn, but choose one from EWG's list to minimize the toxic load. Or better yet, if you're old like me just cover up with a hat and shirt. You won't be Instagram worthy, but the ride home will be a lot more comfortable, and your skin will thank you.
The other day I was listening to a podcast about artificial intelligence (AI). It looks like this stuff is no joke. It's coming, and it looks pretty big... tsunami big. Ironically, the turning point came when they figured out how to design a computer to mimic the way our brain works - a neural network. This approach allows a computer to program itself... to learn, essentially. This technology has been used to create software that performs real-time language translation. A task it can now perform faster and more accurately than any human translator.
Think about that for a minute. In one fell swoop there is no more need for human translators. That's a significant amount of jobs. Where will it all lead? As a good friend of mine (shout out, Kathy) used to say, "Who da fuck knows". Wanna hear the scary part? AI has reached the point where it can now design better computers than human engineers can. Machines making machines. Does that sound like Terminator to you?
To me, all this potential change reinforces the importance of being grounded with primal knowledge. We've already gone around the block with technology thinking we could design something superior to nature. Instead, we found poor health and chronic disease. The world may change, but our needs will stay the same - whole foods, moving well, sleep, mindfulness, and connection. Come with me if you want to live.
An interesting thing happened the other day. My daughter came home from the gym, and I suddenly noticed that she was freaking shredded! She's been serious about working out for over a year now, so I knew it wasn't that. It had to be due to something more recent. We eat a whole food diet and have for years, so that wasn't it either.
I was concerned, so I asked her what was up. She confessed that she had always snacked on processed junk at school and after school at friends' houses, but that in the past month she cut that out and only ate the foods she brought from home. I laughed because I had been unaware of her little snacky snack ways. Kids hide a certain amount from their parents. They operate under the principle that the less you know... the better off they are. Haha. I was the same way.
I'm actually glad things went down the way they did. She learned a valuable lesson that she'll never forget because she learned it herself. Processed junk can really sabotage your efforts. Once you mindfully balance the pleasure and pain associated with a behavior it's easier to take control. Props to you, Maia. Oh... she is going to be sooo embarrassed when she reads this.
You may not see him as frequently, but he's working as hard as ever. Back when I started at Go Primal, Kian was already a longtime GP veteran. That was before we had an official box. Kian and a select few would convene at an undisclosed time (I think it was noon) and conduct covert Crossfit operations. I remember one of my first Crossfit classes at the new box. I was nervous. Amanda told us to form teams of 3 and grab a rower. I thought, "Shit... nobody's going to want me weighing down their team". Kian motioned to me and said, "C'mon Rich. You'll row with us". I'll always remember that act of kindness. It went a long way towards making me feel comfortable.
Shortly thereafter Kian suffered a back injury. He had been having periodic back issues for years. After working with Kevin of GP they came to the conclusion that mobility restrictions were at the root of the issue. Kian took a hard look at his goals. Was the goal to snatch 185... or was it to move well and not risk injury? Kian had heard about Gymnastic Bodies and decided it was a good fit for his new reality.
Gymnastic Bodies is an online program that uses instructional videos and structured programming to teach progressive levels of gymnastic skills. Kian has been following the program for a year now and is very happy with it. It has allowed him to improve his mobility and strength... while developing some Instagram-worthy skills.
Admittedly, the program is lacking in general conditioning, so Kian rolls into GP twice a week for a metabolic butt-kicking. Thanks, Coach Chris. He's noticed that he isn't as sore from these intense workouts as he used to be which he attributes to improved efficiency of movement. He does miss the excitement of Crossfit. I'm sure it was hard. We all know how much fun it is. I give him a lot of credit for having the fortitude to reevaluate his fitness goals and find something that better served him. See you around, Kian.
I told the story of how I got serious about fitness in a previous post featuring Ozzy Osbourne. That's right... the Prince of Darkness. Well, the other day I was feeling reminiscent so I pulled out that old exercise book and thumbed through it. 95% of it focuses on exercise, only 5% on nutrition... and nothing about sleep, stress, toxins, spirituality, or connection. Not how I would structure a book if I were to write one today.
But I realized that the reason it had such a profound impact on me is because it taught me how to create a nutrition and exercise plan that effectively changed my personal environment to make it conducive to my goals.
In Alcoholics Anonymous they have the concept of "People, places, and things" which means in order to change your behavior, you have to change your environment. When it comes to health and fitness we should all consider ourselves recovering addicts because we live in a world that is not conducive to our health. You can't opt out of our junk-fueled world, but you can create your own micro-environment. Stack the deck in your favor. Whole foods in the house. A training schedule with accountability. An evening routine that promotes restful sleep. Getting rid of the bullshit (people, places, things) in your life so you have time and energy for what you truly want. It's not easy, but it can be done.
You probably know that about 66 million years ago a meteor struck the Yucatan peninsula kicking up a huge dust cloud that blocked the sun and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. But did you know that this event also paved the way for us to inherit the earth? It's true. If that meteor hadn't flipped over the game board we never would have been able to get a start in this world.
Our species began about 200,000 years ago in Africa. What's interesting is that we stayed put in Africa for a long time... 130,000 years. That's a long damn time considering our restless nature. Don't you think? By that time (70,000 years ago) our numbers had dwindled to only about 2,000 people. We almost bit the big one. Then, all of a sudden, our fortunes changed. We migrated all over the freaking planet establishing magnificent civilizations everywhere we went.
Wanna know what changed our fortunes? Language happened. This enabled us to work together. Think about that. Being able to get along and cooperate saved our asses... literally. It's an awesome legacy and one that we should honor every day through kindness and compassion for all our brothers and sisters.
I recently got stood up for a date. As the minutes ticked by I thought back to the first time that had ever happened to me. I remember thinking, "WTF is going on? I'm on a date... but I'm not on a date". It was like getting punched in the face. I was confused, hurt, and angry. But time mellows us. On this occasion all I could feel was empathy for her. When the moment arrived she just got scared and didn't show up.
Woody Allen once said that 80% of life is just showing up. There are two parts to this. The first part is simply; All things are possible when you show up - Nothing is possible when you don't. But there is a second part that is more subtle...
"The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time."
- Brené Brown
I don't have a lot of talents, but one thing I've always been able to do is psyche myself up enough to show up... no matter how scared I was. Now, don't get me wrong. There have been some spectacular disasters! Only my best friend knows some of those stories. But I can rest easy at night knowing I've collected my 80%.
I just realized I owe a piece on krill oil that I promised from a previous post about fish oil. Here's the deal. Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustacean creatures that whales feed off of. Krill oil contains a lower amount of the omega-3 compounds EPA and DHA than fish oil, however, it has several advantages.
Omega-3 in krill oil is attached to a phospholipid while the omega-3 in fish oil is attached to a triglyceride. Since our cell walls are constructed of phospholipids the omega-3 in krill oil is more easily absorbed and put to use. Meanwhile, the triglyceride in fish oil has to be broken down before the omega-3 becomes available. This happens in the gut, and so a large portion of the omega-3 is eliminated in the intestine.
Another advantage that krill oil has is that it is naturally high in a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin. This makes the oil much more resistant to oxidation and going rancid, a problem inherent with fish oil. Plus, you get the benefit of this powerful antioxidant to fight your own free radicals. Finally, krill are at the bottom of the food chain, so they are much lower in environmental toxins than fish.
Water was a vexing issue for our ancestors. It was heavy and awkward to carry - no convenient containers except... their stomachs. So, upon waking they took a big, long draft from the nearby stream before heading out to hunt for the day.
Like other primal behaviors, there is wisdom in emulating this practice. Our bodies are accustomed to the rhythm of sleep followed by an influx of fresh water. While sleeping, our body is busy at the cellular level putting all the trash out onto the street for collection. Taking in a good amount of water (about 20 oz) allows all these toxins to be flushed out of our system. If we don't do this, our cells have to drag all those stinky garbage bags back into the house and wait for another opportunity to get rid of them. Yuck.
Bodybuilders follow this practice as do the Japanese. I find that interesting because I respect both groups - one for their attitude of self-experimentation in finding things that just work, and the other for the wisdom of their traditions. So, wake up, drink water, and go.
Got a kid who plays endless hours of video games? Me, too. Have them read this article... and check it out yourself. It's a thoughtful piece written by someone who clearly knows a lot about video games... and life. He points out that life is a game of managing your resources - the most important of which is time.
You spend your time with the choices you make. Here's the thing. Your internal state (health, energy, and willpower) determines the quality of those choices. You're likely to make poor decisions when you're tired or not feeling well. The things I talk about in this blog (exercise, diet, sleep, stress) are all practices for improving your internal state... keeping it high so that you are in a good position to make the larger choices - what you do for work, where you live, the people you let into your life.
The writer points out the symmetries between how life starts and ends. "At the start of the game, you had no control over who you were or your environment. By the end of the game that becomes true again. Your past decisions drastically shape where you end up - whether you're happy, healthy, and fulfilled... or not. In your final days there is far less you can do about it. That's why your strategy is important. Because by the time most of us have figured life out, we’ve used up too much of the best parts. Now, you'd best get playing."