There is a Right Answer

As the old saying goes, opinions are like assholes: everyone has them, and most of them stink. That’s particularly true in the fitness world, where ideas about the most effective ways to work out, eat and live healthfully abound.

Let’s say you want to head to the gym. Should you be spending your hour on CrossFit, yoga, pilates, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, high-rep toning, steady-state cardio, high-intensity interval training, kettlebells, barre, Zumba, power-walking or something entirely different? For each, you can find a commited cadre of acolytes, pushing their approach as god’s obvious gift to the world.

And, indeed, there are upsides to nearly anything. But just because lots of things are ‘good’ doesn’t mean that others aren’t ‘better’ or ‘best’.

To figure out your ideal choice, however, you’ll need to determine your goal. To paraphrase Alice and the Cheshire Cat, if you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t much matter which road you take. But as soon as you do have an outcome in mind – reduced bodyfat, a better 5k time – some paths turn out to be far shorter than others.

So how do you choose that best path?

In fact, there’s a method for determining best answers in the real world. It’s called science. Here’s how it works: you come up with an idea for something you think might be effective. And then you test it out.

Or, in greater detail:

1. You ask a question.
2. You do background research, to come up with potential answers.
3. You construct a hypothesis about an approach that you think might work.
4. Then you test your hypothesis by doing an experiment.
5. You analyze the data from your experiment, and draw a conclusion.
6. And, finally, you communicate your results.

Of course, the vast majority of experiments turn out to prove that a hypothesis isn’t correct. But that’s okay. As Edison said, he never failed, he just first discovered 2000 ways not to make a lightbulb. Still, if people come up with and test enough hypotheses, eventually the truth begins to out. That’s how we now understand the basics of everything from particle physics to kidney function. And, in exercise, nutrition, stress-management, sleep, and a slew of other fitness-relevant areas, smart research has been bearing out innovative hypotheses for decades or more.

Of course, following and understanding a large body of research is difficult and time-consuming. And, at first glance, a lot of research seems to conflict with other research, especially when you’re not versed in the nuances of the questions being studied. So most people go an easier route: they simply look at what’s popular, getting good press, or being done by people around them, and use that as a reasonable heuristic instead.

That’s how you get a slew of people doing cleanses and juice-fasts, for example, which are both totally en vogue these days. And, unfortunately, both totally worthless. (In case you’d care to nerd out, here’s a thorough debunking.)

So just doing what everyone else does isn’t a reliable route. In fact, doing what everyone else does is, instead, a pretty reliable way to get the same results that everyone else gets. And in a country that’s plagued with overweight and obesity, where only 8% of us each year achieve our New Years health resolutions, going with the wisdom of the crowd doesn’t seem a terribly smart approach.

Instead, we think you should do in fitness the same thing you do in most other facets of health: follow the advice of highly educated and extensively trained specialists, who you trust to study, follow and understand the relevant science on your behalf. If you’re diagnosed with leukemia, you look for the very best oncologist you can find, under the assumption that they know far more about treating cancer than you do, and certainly more than some guy who volunteered as an EMT in college.

So why would you expect that reading Men’s Health, or hiring someone who played on their college football team, would be a reasonable way to find the best fitness solutions for your life?

We think the gold standard in fitness is the same as anywhere else: find highly-educated, extensively-trained specialists who nerd out on the science for you, follow their advice, and get real results.

That’s what we’re trying to do at Composite: we want to be your outboard fitness brain. Science has best answers for you, best practices that will help you achieve your health and welness goals. We find them, and help you implement them in ways that work in your life. It’s not easy, but it is simple: it’s science.

Trim

A slew of pundits have observed that we now live in a ‘rental economy’.  We no longer buy hard drives; we rent space in the cloud.  We don’t buy music or movies; we rent them from Spotify and Netflix.  We rent Zipcars by the hour for day trips, rent Citibikes to jet around town, rent rooms from individuals when we travel using Airbnb.

All of which is excellent.  We get access to more, while paying less.  So much less, in fact, that it’s possible to completely forget that you’re paying at all.  You signed up for LinkedIn Premium while you were looking for a job, trialed a Hulu subscription to find an obscure TV show, signed up for Audible to listen to business books while you commute.  And though you’ve now stopped doing all of those things, the subscriptions remain, small enough to overlook on your crowded credit card statement.  Sure, none of those subscriptions break the bank individually.  But, en masse, they add up.  Your available balance is dying a death of a thousand cuts.

Enter the very smart Trim, a new free web service that analyzes your credit card and bank statements to pick out recurring subscriptions, then lets you cancel the subscriptions you no longer want with a single click.

It’s the first step in a larger vision, one where a machine-learning software-driven assistant keeps an eye on your personal finances, so you don’t have to.  And while I’m excited to see how the company evolves, it’s also more than useful enough in this initial iteration to make it worth your time to quickly sign up.

Head on over, and purge away.

Fitness is Composite

As the old joke goes, the First Rule of CrossFit is: “always talk about CrossFit.” It’s a famously exercise-obsessed crowd. But from ten years of growing the largest CrossFit gym in the world, I can tell you even that group of die-hards makes it to the gym, on average, about 2.8 times a week.

Which means their other 165.2 weekly hours are spent doing something else. Put another way, what people do in the gym is less than 2% of their total time pie.

Of course, training hard has lasting effects that spill over into the rest of an athlete’s life. Beyond the psychological impacts, there’s the more concrete EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, an afterburn of increased oxygen intake following intense exercise that raises calorie-burning metabolism for hours to come. But, by and large, exercise, even hard and relatively frequent exercise, is just one small part of the bigger picture.

Indeed, in those other 160-some hours, we eat, we sleep, we socialize, we feel stress, we sit and stand, we move or we don’t. All of which contributes to or detracts from our health and wellness. Historically, gyms have been rather narrow in their focus: they dictate what happens when you’re in them. But, to achieve a sustainable high level of fitness, you need to think about what happens outside of them, too.

Which is all to say, fitness is composite. It’s an array of elements that work together to add up to the complete whole. And, in the future, the most succesful gyms will need to help their members succeed in that holistic way – maximizing their success, improving their choices, not just when people are working out, but all 168 hours of the week.

Composite

For the past week and a half, I’ve been scrawling diagrams, lists and mind-maps on stacks of blank card stock with a Sharpie, littering my desk and walls with the results. It’s a scene straight out of A Beautiful Mind. But, as a result, I feel like the outlines of Composite, my next project, are finally coming together.

It’s a feeling I’m used to, a sense that I’m standing on the edge of a boat, looking down into the deep, where I can see the outlines of something big below, just need to wait for it to slowly make its way to the surface.

In the case of this new fitness project, there are three ideas that have been bouncing around my head for a while, which I think form the core:

  • Fitness is Composite.
  • There is a Right Answer.
  • Excellence is a Habit.

And, relatedly, three legs of how that plays out in implementation:

  • Get a Coach.
  • Leverage Technology.
  • Build Community.

I’m still expanding and refining, still charting out the roadmap going forward. But I think I’m closing in on preliminary launch. And, as part of that, I’ll be circling back to unpack both of those trios of ideas, which I realize currently only make sense (and even then, only sort of) inside my own convoluted brain. Stay tuned.

Word

When I was a kid, my father would constantly use slang he’d picked up from my brother, me and our friends. Slang that was, inevitably, about three years out of date.

Now in my mid-30’s, I understand. I have no organic tie to what the cool kids are saying. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on trying to keep a finger on the pop culture language pulse. Thanks to the internet, even old white guys can figure out what words are happening right now. And with 2016 upon us, it’s a good chance to take a look at what to say – and what not to say – if you want to look like you have a clue. In other words, bae, if you’re still using ‘on fleek’, your squad is going to look pretty basic. (Equally done: YAS, I might be turnt but I can’t even with all the feels.)

To start the year off right, here are 12 words that are au courant:

1. Snatched.

The new ‘on fleek.’

“Have you seen Tina yet? Her new haircut is snatched!”

2. Lit

Awesome.

“Just made it to Tom’s house; the party is lit.”

3. Boots

An intensifier added to the end of a verb or adjective.

“I haven’t eaten all day and I’m hungry boots.”

4. Sis

The new bro.

“Sis, you going to the show tomorrow?”

5. Cancel

To reject something.

“Should I but these shoes?”
“Cancel.”

6. Keep It

The opposite of ‘cancel’: approved.

“I just updated my profile pic.”
“Keep it.”

7. Hunty

The new ‘squad.’

“Sarah’s hunties are the best.”

8. Fam

Also like squad, but singular; a member of your group.

“He forgot your birthday? Fam, you need to DTMFA.”

(Side note: DTFMA, though not new, is evergreen, thanks to the inimitable Dan Savage. ‘Dump the motherfucker already.’)

9. Savage

Hardcore.

“I think she drank the entire bottle of tequila last night. It was savage.”

10. Goals AF

Outgrowth of squad goals, plus abbreviation of ‘as fuck’, meaning something you want.

“Did you see Joe’s new car? Goals AF.”

11. Extra

Try-hard.

“She put on makeup to go to yoga. So extra.”

12. Netflix and Chill

This one’s on the cusp of tipping from new to tired, but it’s having a second life as essentially an ironic version of itself. Come over and hook up.

“Hey baby, want to Netflix and chill tonight?”

Nota bene: if your game is strong, go with “Amazon and anal” instead.

Delicious

Though I’ve now spent more of my life on the East Coast than the West, as a Bay Area native, I have a special spot in my heart for the Golden Gate Bridge. So I was particularly happy to see this morning’s [Writer’s Almanac newsletter](http://writersalmanac.org) note that construction of the bridge began on this day in 1933. And I was even happier to learn that the bridge is painted International Orange.

Previously, I knew about International Orange only from my youth of marine biology internships, as the US Navy (followed in turn by a slew of ocean-related product manufacturers) made the color their official standard for life vests, wetsuit color striping, and general safety use.

It was a few decades after that standard went into use that icthyologists started investigating color perception and preference in sharks. And, basically, there was only one color that sharks were strongly attracted to.

Ever since then, International Orange has also been known as Yum Yum Yellow.

If you’re windsurfing the Bay, I wouldn’t get too close to the bridge.

Dokkodo

The great samurai Minamoto Musashi, better known for his Book of Five Rings, also wrote “The Way of Walking Alone” shortly before his death in 1645. A list of 21 simple instructions, it was a gift to his disciple Tergo Magonojo, along with the rest of his possessions, a week before he died.

Frankly, it’s an ascetic approach that’s often far from my own, which I find makes it particularly worth considering as a counter-balance to the many pulls of modern life.

  1. Accept everything just the way it is.
  2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
  3. Do not give preference to anything among all things.
  4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
  5. Be detached from desire your whole life.
  6. Do not regret what you have done.
  7. Never be jealous.
  8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
  9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.
  10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
  11. Do not seek elegance and beauty in all things.
  12. Be indifferent to where you live.
  13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
  14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
  15. Do not act following customary beliefs.
  16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
  17. Do not fear death.
  18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
  19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
  20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.
  21. Never stray from the way.

My Foolish Heart

It was the final song of a two hour session, so my chops were basically fried, but I love the song too much to have not recorded it:

Tradition

image

In keeping with custom, watched a movie (the excellent Brooklyn, with my parents and 92-year-old grandmother) and am now headed off to enjoy Red Farm.

Gut yontif to all, and to all a good night.

Joe Christmas

Yesterday, I headed to Bicycle Habitat, my favorite NYC bike shop, for a minor repair. One of the repair guys, as he worked, regaled me and his coworkers with a Christmas story specific to NYC, something that he had been told as a kid in the 1950’s in his very Italian neighborhood of Brooklyn:

Sure, everybody knows Santa Claus. And if you’re good, then Santa comes to bring you presents.

But if you’re bad? Well, in Brooklyn, you get Joe Fatinazzi.

Joe’s as fat as Santa, but he drives a green garbage truck, wears a dirty wife-beater, and slicks back his long greasy hair.

And if you’ve been bad, then late Christmas Eve, Joe pulls up, and leaves an old couch on your front lawn.

The whole time he was growing up, the repair guy said, each Christmas morning, before running out to look at what was under the tree, he’d peek out the window first, just to make sure he hadn’t gotten a couch.

Only in New York.