“Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones, which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.” – Henry Clay
Taking a short break from the Walk Through the Five Ts for the following story. We’ll get back to the Five Ts next week, but this, in my mind, is a very important topic. Especially in a “dose makes the poison” kind of way.
I want to say from the onset that I take absolutely nothing away from Ryan Leong, here. What an incredible story of grit and determination. Check it out:
But the one question that seems unexplored here is just how this condition came to be. A genetic predisposition? Sure. But maybe the extreme endurance nature of Ryan’s workouts, if not having outright caused the condition, at least exacerbated it? I think it’s a worthy question, and one that at least needs to be considered. And it’s a question that’s at the heart (pardon the pun) of the Health vs Performance spectrum.
Health vs Performance: a visual representation
Here’s more on the extreme endurance activity vs cardiovascular health question from cardiologist, Dr. James O’Keffe. Interesting stuff.
So what does all of this mean? My take is that one’s ability to tolerate endurance activity is a lot like one’s ability to tolerate gluten in the diet. Not saying that either is necessarily “good” for anyone, but it is a stressor that some people seem to have a Teflon-like protection against. And, in other people, this is a stressor that absolutely wrecks the house.
In fact, leveraging the most effective dose of exercise — and figuring out exactly what is the most effective dose — is pivotal in our Efficient Exercise program design schema. And this continual evaluation/re-evaluation process is also my top priority from a personal, n=1 prospective. Goals, Five Ts, Health vs Performance; it’s an unbroken chain.
Look, I get the competitive drive. And as a former football player (and current health vs performance “envelope pusher”) I’m the last one that ought to be throwing stones. But I think that If you’re going to train seriously and compete in these activities, at least know what some of the unintended ramifications might be. Be on the lookout for them, and be prepared to alter your training should warning signs appear. And a caveat: I can tell you from personal experience just how easy it is to ignore those warning signs. Because that’s what athletes do, right? We push through pain, and get back in the game.
And that drive can probably be justified if we’re getting paid to compete, or at least, having an education paid for. But let’s be realistic — some people compete for the simple thrill of competition itself. That competition is its own reward is enough for me, at this point in my life. And I get all of that, too. But still, stress hammers the body nonetheless, and we have to be ever vigilant for the impending cliff-of-no-return.
So compete if you must, and train like a demon in the process. Be true to yourself, and really listen to what your body is telling you. Take advantage of appropriate medical testing if you plan on pushing the limits of your body’s ability to tolerate the stresses you put upon it. If you’re in the habit of “playing hard”, ensure you also get in the habit of recovering even harder.
Note: Joel Jamieson was kind enough to send me one of his BioForce HRV (Heart Rate Variability) testing kits. I’ll be putting that to the test over the next few weeks, so be on the lookout for my assessment of what I think is some very cool technology.
And remember this: genetics are not density. We’ve covered a lot of ground on this subject previously here, here, and here. But the bottom line is this: Epigenetics have plenty to say, and can either turn these genetic switches into “hair triggers”, or go a hell of a long way toward blocking their expression completely. I’m no doctor, of course, but it just may be that if Ryan altered his training toward a more infrequent strength and power bias, it may very well reverse his condition.
I think it would at least be worth a shot.
And I’m not here to judge (or to say that she didn’t), but I believe Angelina Jolie should have seriously considered — and altered where applicable — the epigenetic factors in her life before taking such drastic measures.
In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –