“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener
Since returning from AHS13, I’ve been consumed with listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History account of the life and times of Genghis Khan. Of course there’s a hell of a lot to the Khan story — roughly 10 hours worth in the case of Carlin’s treatment of the subject — but one thing that continues to stick out in my mind is this: that period in history (and the Khan empire) might very well represented the perfect marriage between the nomadic hunter/gatherer lifestyle and modern technology; namely, the horse and the bow and arrow.
If you’ve ever ridden a horse at full gallop, you know this to be true: it ain’t easy — both in terms of balance and strength. It makes “functional” Bosu ball training look like, well…Bosu ball training. But add to that the drawback and accurate firing of the Mongol bow. It’s estimated that the drawback of these bows required 160 lbs of force. Compare that to the modern crossbow which requires approximately 45 lbs of force. And the typical Khan cavalryman carried somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 arrows which were discharged at a rate of 12 per minute until his ammo were fully discharged, at which time he shifted to using swung, skull-cracking implements of doom. Just a regular day of punching the clock at the office of Khan, LLC. I’m sure the numbers can be argued, but still — repeat sets of high rep single-arm Kroc rows while balanced upon a steed at full gallop is a pretty damn impressive feat of strength, endurance and athleticism. With a heavy-implement swing finisher. Fueled by? Yeah — meat, mare’s milk, mare’s blood (yes, you read that right — blood), fish and the occasional “gathered” or “pillaged” something-or-other.
Note: it would be very interesting to find out if the Khan avoided the grain stockpiles of the non-nomadics they happened across in that region. After “extinguishing” all but the pre-pubescent males and helping themselves to every last useful item of the conquered (virgins included), you have to wonder what was done with any grain stockpiles. Anyway….
Now, this Khan story intersects with something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Namely, the idea that “programming” according to a 7-day week is simply not in accord with our natural, evolutionary rhythms. And believe me, I get it — our hand is forced if we’re training in circumstances where a competitive schedule is mandated — American football, for example. This is where autoregulation can somewhat “save the day”, as it attenuates, at least a bit — the Soviet “command and control” nature of training according to week/block, etc. (i.e., periodization). More on that next week…
Our bodies only recognize the day/night cycle, the lunar cycle, gestation periods, and the passing of seasons. I highly doubt that every 7th day was the Khan bro empire national “Kroc row with a bow” day. And there was certainly a seasonality to their activities. And I’m willing to bet there was a natural adherence to lunar cycles as well.
I’ve not kept to a “normal” weekly training block scheme for the last 20 years or so. But in the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve been in a position that allows near total abandonment of being beholden (at least in a training sense) to a weekly block schedule. I’m surrounded by physical culture outlets here in Austin, and my “office” is a gym. I think my gains during this period owe a hell of a lot to that freedom. If I look back over my training logs, I can see a natural fluctuation in intensities (as defined by percentage of 1RM, CNS “hit”, and gross physical effort) that follows pretty damn close to a 28-day cycle. If I were able to completely scrub my life of the modern 7-day work/life cycle, I’m convinced that my intensity swings would perfectly match the lunar cycle.
Total woo? What’s next — training according to your sign? Yeah, maybe. But I’ve proven, at least to myself, and in an n=1 sense, that there is something to this 28-day intensity cycle. I’m not trying to force square pegs into round holes, here — just looking at and tracking what I’ve done in the past.
And I’m a scorpio, by the way. Which, in astrological terms, can be equated to “Wolverine”. This, my friends, is true serendipity 😉
Anyway, the gist of what all of this means is that the old school bodybuilding model (6 x moderate intensity/week), the Crossfit model (3 high/1 off per week) and the classic HIT model (1 high, 7 to 10 off) are all, in my humble opinion, woefully inadequate. The correct way is a “wave and weave” modulation of intensities and modalities. An even more expansive conjugate for the masses. Because it’s not that the bodybuilding, Crossfit and HIT modalities are “wrong” per se — every modality has its place and compliments (roughly, with some minor tweaking) some aspect of the force-velocity curve — it’s that the non waving (of intensity) and non weaving (of modalities) is wrong. Or, at least not nearly as effective.
And look, I’m no pollyanna — I realize that the 7-day work/life cycle is here to stay. Which is why I believe that my Efficient Exercise style of HIIRT / wave-and-weave training is the best leveraging of modern technology and training methods to achieve ancestral health and wellness in a modern world.
I know this is a crap-ton to digest, and really it’s just scratching the surface of what’s pinging around in my mind. One day I hope to fully flesh-out these ideas in one, comprehensive piece. The TTP blog is just not the type of venue for this. But then, neither is a book really. The information changes rapidly, and on-going revision is a must. New technologies make such a compilation possible but, as of yet, I haven’t found the “just right” technology venue for such an undertaking. If any of you tech-minded folks have any ideas on this front for sure let me know.
How about a sample workout?
Well, it doesn’t get much more basic than this:
Trap Bar Deadlifts (low grip): 255/5, 345/5, 455/2, 485/1, 505/1, 515/1, 525/(miss), 455/5
To put some context here, this was the second workout back after having been off for 5 days attending the AHS symposium.
No AHS13 recap?
Other than to say I had one hell of a friggin’ blast, no. There are more recaps from insiders out there than you can shake a stick at. And, being a presenter myself might really bias my point-of-view. But I will leave you with this: I had the privilege of meeting Carl Lanore and Alisa Profumo of Super Human Radio, who were attending the show. Fantastic people for sure, and enthusiastic supporters of what we’re doing in the AHS / Paleo f(x) community. Check out this episode of Super Human Radio for a recap from a couple of physical cultural enthusiasts who were attending one of these events for the first time. It’s a unique point of view that you might not otherwise come across.
In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –