The Efficiency of Inefficiency for Fat Loss

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently as I begin a new phase of my strength and conditioning. Usually, in sport, we abide by the SAID principle when preparing for an event. The Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand principle says that if you want to get better at throwing, you should throw. If you have a power lifting meet, you should be practicing the three lifts. You will specifically adapt to the demands you place on your body. It’s a miracle of evolution and part of why we survive as a species.

This is why when you see a runner run, they look like a gazelle and have perfect control of their breathing and heart rate, but if you put them on a bike, they are uncomfortable and struggling to breath. Runners run, cyclists bike. That all makes sense.

But can it ever be a bad thing? I believe it can. Specifically in the realm of exercise for fat loss and cardiovascular health. If you’ve spent any time in commercial gyms, you have seen it. Think about the chronic cardio folks who endlessly do the elliptical machines and never make progress. They have decided which cardio equipment they prefer, and within about 90 days, their body adapts to the demand, becomes efficient at the motor pattern, and thus requires less metabolic output to maintain a given resistance or speed. This is not preferred for metabolic conditioning.

I notice this when I do a Maffetone LSD (long slow distance) block of training with a heartrate monitor. His protocol is for building a cardio base which will stretch the chambers of the heart and provides more stroke volume per beat of the heart. This will lower your resting heart rate and improve your health. Read more about that here. When doing this kind of training with one kind of cardio, I notice that within a few weeks I have to drastically increase my perceived output to keep my heartrate in the proper zone. This is an observable adaptation. It makes the work less pleasant, more monotonous, and more fatiguing. But there is an easier way!

The answer is inefficiency.

That is, select a novel stimulus every few weeks. Or even several in the same session. By having a long list of options available, you are avoiding adaptation and maintaining novelty. This is inefficient. This is what we want. We want to be the runner who is trying to swim or ride a bike. The person who is interested in general physical preparedness wants to be “bad” at the movement they use for cardio.

So if you feel yourself in a cardio rut, or notice that you aren’t moving towards your goal, might I recommend something you suck at?

Incomplete list of cardio options:

  • Heavy Hands Walks – Using 3-8lb dumbbells in your hands, and some 3-5lb ankle weights and just go for a walk. You might have heard the wisdom that “every pound on your feet is like 5 pounds on your back”. In this case, that’s what we want.
  • Ruck Marching – Put a 10-25lb plate in an old backpack, or get a weight vest and go for a walk.
  • Cycling
  • Walk/Jog/Run
  • Swimming
  • Jump Rope
  • Hitting a heavy bag
  • Kettlebell work/weighted carries
  • Stationary bike
  • Airdyne
  • Stair mill/Stepper
  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Rower
  • Shadow boxing/grappling
  • Ground work/ crawling
  • ETC.

This post is specifically about cardio, but the same goal of inefficiency can be extended to strength training too. By the end of completing Dan John’s 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge several years ago, completing the 500 daily swings became ‘easy’. SAID at work. I think that having access to many lifting implements, and rotating their use in a timely way (while avoiding chronic program hopping) will lead to better general conditioning over the long term. Coach Dan John agrees. I can’t recommend his work and programs enough for the generalist athlete. In a similar vein, Louis Simmons’ Conjugate/Concurrent method also leans heavily on this concept.

If you are just getting started in cardio or strength training, then everything you do will be inefficient. Enjoy those noob gains. Everything works, until it doesn’t. Understand your plateau is just a result of millions of years of evolution. Then find something efficiently inefficient to do.

If you need me, I’ll be training for The Fall.

Being inefficient with a 65# weight vest.

Yours in Inefficiency,
Mark

The Special Application 9mm Carbine for Home Defense – Part 1

If you read my posts on the Ruger 10/22 (part 1, part 2) that I set up for home defense, this post will contain echoes and similar logic to that series. That particular .22 now lives at my parent’s house as their home defense rifle. Since we had a gun-void, I sought to fill it.

The Mission:

Find a carbine that my entire family could confidently use for self defense in the home, be willing to train with despite being recoil/muzzle blast-sensitive shooters, and keep at a reasonable cost. The ultimate goal is to build shooters with sufficient skill to make high pressure shots with no-shoots downrange on low probability targets. The only way to get there is if shooting isn’t a chore or abusive to the senses.

The Resource Problem:

Ammo costs and availability are a factor. We have a limited income, so a more affordable caliber makes sense for us. In my experience, less expensive caliber doesn’t mean spending less annually on ammunition, it means buying more ammo for the same price. More ammo means more practice, which means more proficiency.

We also don’t have $1200 for an AR-15 pattern 9mm carbine. We have a cost ceiling that we need to stay under. I have a pile of Glock pistol magazines that largely go unused since I’ve switched to Double Action Pistols. Using Glock magazines would be a nice bonus to save on support gear.

We have a time limitation. I need to maximize the training time, and blunt the learning curve by picking a platform that lends itself to quick proficiency. We rarely get time together, period. So finding time to go to the range is exceedingly rare. I have to strive for efficiency. Rifles are easier to shoot well. Four points of contact with a rifle beats two points of contact with a pistol. A red dot sight makes the learning curve easier for getting hits.

The shooter consideration problem:

For the shooters in my family, I need to be very considerate of recoil, and muzzle blast. My wife is quickly turned off to shooting a 5.56 rifle at indoor ranges due to the chest thumping concussion and flash that an AR-15 gives. She’s good for maybe 30 shots before she’s done. If concentration and focus is gone after one magazine, then competency will be impossible given the rarity of our range trips.

My wife isn’t a shooter. She wants to understand and be able to run all of our guns, but she doesn’t love shooting like I do. I have to be considerate of her time and pick something that she might enjoy more than an AR or shotgun.

I’d wager that many of you might be in a similar boat. It’s really time to bump the obsession with terminal ballistics down the list and keep context at the top. Despite what the ‘5.56 AR-15/ 00 buckshot or nothing’ crowd says, it’s more important that all the shooters meant to use a firearm can achieve a certain level of competency. If that means a .22LR, then that’s what it is. I wanted to give a 9mm carbine a chance, so here we are.

The tactical problem:

This is the reason we want a rifle that anyone in the house can use. My greatest concern is the shooting problem of a home invader with a downrange no-shoot. Not that it needs saying, but in the real world, it is very likely that there will be no-shoots forward of the ‘180* range safety line’. In fact, it’s quite common in home invasions for a husband to answer the late-night knock on the door, only to be overrun by bad guys. If I’m downrange, I want to make sure my shooters are competent enough to shoot them well, and not shoot me. It’s a self-preservation thing.

Story time to drive the point home. One of Tom Givens’ Students had to make a difficult shot with her husband down range:

A struggle ensued, during which the homeowner was shot in the thigh by one of the suspects. The homeowner’s wife was at the front door to greet her husband, and saw the attack. She ran upstairs, got her handgun, opened the bedroom window and engaged the suspects with several shots from the window.
She hit one suspect, and both fled.

Here’s another:

As the husband neared the front door, he heard the dogs growl and ran back to his bedroom, arming himself with a can of wasp spray, the records say. A man charged him in a hallway, and the husband sprayed the wasp spray in the intruder’s face, but it had no effect.

“The fight was on,” the records say. Both men tumbled to the floor, and the wife ran out with a baseball bat and struck the intruder with it until it broke, according to the documents.

After about three minutes, the husband yelled to his wife for help, “not knowing how long he could hold out in the fight,” according to the records. The wife “ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and stabbed the suspect several times until he quit fighting.”

These instances are not rare.  That’s reason enough for me to want good shooters in the house.

The Result:


I decided that I wanted to try the Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm. It checked a lot of the boxes that I had for this purpose. There’s a lot of reasons I went with this over some of the other options out there. I’ll make a quick list of the big ones:

  • In 9mm. A caliber that all of my handguns shoot. I have plenty on hand, and one caliber streamlines things. It’s also the most affordable ‘duty round’ caliber.
  • Easily takes an optic on the section of picatinny rail on top of the receiver.
  • Takes Glock magazines. From 10-round to 33-round happy sticks.
  • Similar ergonomics to the Ruger 10/22. The rifle that my wife has the most time on.
  • Affordable. I got mine for $425 on Brownells. That’s extremely reasonable for a rifle.
  • Adjustable length-of-pull with included butt-pads
  • A section of rail that can be used for a weapon mounted light. I always try to have a light on long-gun.
  • Has the ability to break down in half for transport and storage (not necessary, but a nice feature)

Next up will be some details on running it faster, optimizing the setup, and designing a training program.

Thanks for reading,

Mark

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You Can’t Teach Heart…. Right?

There’s a common saying in combat sports (and other high risk endeavors) that goes, “You Can’t Teach Heart”. As in, either you’re born with the gameness to fight, to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, run into the burning building, and continue to fight in the face of adversity and possible injury… or you’re not.

This phrase has one of two effects on the observer. One, the person gets fired up and feels they’re part of a special class who is willing to fight with heart and overcome adversity. Two, a person who sees someone exhibit great Heart and can’t fathom themselves ever being able to keep up and they subsequently never start.

I would like to propose that ‘Heart’ is a skill like any other that can be built through years of dedicated work, working towards a meaningful goal, a willingness to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of that goal, and the discipline to keep showing up. I will agree that there are people who seem to be naturally fearless and talented at maintaining a winner’s outlook. There are those who were born with the attributes that allow them to excel quickly. I’m not writing this for them. Those of us who question if we have what it takes are not lost. There is hope for us and ample room for growth.

My path to cultivating Heart has been through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. So I’ll be talking about heart through that lens. Why BJJ? Because improving at Jiu Jitsu requires:

  • Discipline to keep showing up.
  • Repeated and Demoralizing defeats (Ego calibration)
  • Collecting and assimilating techniques (motor learning)
  • Discovering your personal strengths and many weaknesses (self-reflection)
  • Developing your athleticism (multidisciplinary pursuit)
  • Mental toughness (Heart)

There’s lots of ways to show Heart in BJJ. Lots of ways to stretch what you can tolerate and develop grit. I’ve been at it almost 8 years,  my BJJ honeymoon has been over for a while, so I feel I can speak about this a bit objectively and with enough experience to be useful.

Cultivate Heart

If there is a genetic component to heart, I feel like I probably was given a minimal share. I am full of fear, low confidence, self-doubt, and generally don’t care for competition. I’d rather go with the flow and fly under the radar. I’m the kind of person who you probably wouldn’t expect to love a combat sport. Here are my observations for what it takes to improve your Heart. To turn from an easy-quitter to someone who is likely to see it through.

  • Maintain an internal focus. Try to learn to be completely present and to understand and accept yourself. Make it less about winning, and more about improving yourself an incremental amount day to day. Strive to say, “If I had to fight last week’s version of me, I’d win”.
  • Keep showing up. Even if you feel the majority of your workouts are placeholder workouts, just keep going. Suppress the negative self talk and say to that voice, “you shut-up until we get this work in” and just go. If you are resolved to your ultimate goals, you’ll be able to see past bad workouts and demoralizing defeats. It seems heart is developed at the edge of your willingness to continue being uncomfortable. At your quitting line. So the more time you spend with opportunities to suffer, the quicker you will develop heart.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be the biggest fish in the pond. If you’re no longer challenged, you need to expand your group of training partners or your goals to continue your personal growth. Luckily this has never been an issue for me, but I can see it in others.
  • Maintain a growth mindset. If you come to view shortcomings as obstacles to overcome, rather than excuses to quit, you will continue down the correct path. If you believe that Heart is a skill to build, and you work at it, you will find you are able to do things that take more Heart than you thought you had.
  • Understand that having Heart ultimately is about Love. Love of the game, love of your people, love of the journey. You might start your martial arts journey because you’re fearful or angry, but if you don’t grow to love the journey itself, you’ll burn out. The people who are dominant through anger or hatred eventually get beaten and crumble mentally. If you’re coming from a place of love, even failure is motivating. Be love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t think of many higher pursuits than self-improvement and self-understanding. I will continue on this path as long as my body and mind lets me. I hope you got something useful from this one.

 

If you want to read more on this topic, check out A Fighters Heart.
Regards,

Mark

Guest Post: Progress, Stagnation, and Helping Your People

This is a guest post from my close friend Scott which was spurred by some conversations we had about stagnation, frustration, and moving past training plateaus. We have been discussing being truly helpful to those who come to us for advice and support. Scott is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and a dedicated multidisciplinary self-defense practitioner. He walks the walk. He had great thoughts on the subject, so I just asked him to write something for you guys. Here it is.

 

A post shared by Mark L (@growingupguns) on

Negative Self Talk

Sometimes we get into our own heads. Sometimes we let people get into them who don’t belong there.

I recently was awarded my brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and even though most folks in the know would likely say that at this point I wouldn’t have a problem doing just fine in most jiu-jitsu schools, there are plenty if times when I feel like I have no business tying a jiu-jitsu belt on at all. This is me, introducing doubt that I know isn’t real but still takes a bunch of time to move past. The thing that helps me is talking to my coaches and training partners about these things and being reassured that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. That’s how a team or tribe is supposed to behave. To support each other, particularly when a member comes to you basically saying “I need help.” Sometimes it’s just a 2 minute pep talk, and sometimes we need hands-on, direct assistance with an issue. I’ve been fortunate to have a great jiu-jitsu training environment that provides that type of support in spades.

YOU’RE NOT HELPING

Having given an example of the ideal situation, let’s examine its opposite. What’s really unfortunate is that this opposite is a common thing. If we’re really interested in seeing the people who we would consider our friends, family, tribe members, etc., grow then this opposite needs to be addressed.

If you’ve ever told someone to simply just –
Be faster
Be stronger
Squeeze harder
Lose weight
Read more
Suck it up

…or any variant of the above, with no offer of actual assistance to the person asking, outside of those “recommendations”, you are far more of a hindrance than help and you probably should have abstained from commenting. Captain Obvious doesn’t have a seat at the table here.

what you owe your peers

Most folks who would have read this far are on some type of personal journey towards betterment in any number of varied pursuits. If we mean to make our individual selves better, to be a greater service to the whole, at some point we’re going to need some help in one way or another. If we’re smart, we’ll ask for it. If our people are truly our people, they’ll offer up their help and make good on that offer. That last part can become a rarity. Life happens to all of us, but if you say you’ll be there, move mountains. Don’t be that guy. Honor and Loyalty are real things that actually hold weight with your peers. If you don’t take yours seriously, the ones who do will have a hard time taking you seriously.

Also, on helping people… If you know someone is working towards something, let them know that you notice that. Not with criticism or resistance, but with positive pressure. Proclaiming “that’s stupid” to someone who didn’t ask (outside of a safety issue) is pretty rude and inconsiderate. I don’t enjoy being rude and inconsiderate to the people that I trust and care about and I’d bet they don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of it. Particularly if they are doing work that you aren’t doing. Don’t like lifting weights? That’s fine, but don’t dump on someone who does or ask them to skip a workout for sit-around-and-do-nothing time. If what a person is doing is important to them and will lead them to being a happier person, you should be a borderline cheerleader for them.

Dressing up for the part is on you, but a text or phone call saying, “how was it this week?” can go a long way towards helping your people stay on track. This appears to especially be an issue with significant others. I’ve seen way too many times one person wanting to pursue a goal and the other half of the relationship putting the brakes on it through complaining or resisting the idea. If you do that, you are hands-down being a prick. Stop that. Your selfish tendencies are preventing what is supposed to be one of the people you care for the most from realizing their goals or seeking out their own happiness are absolutely zero help in what is very likely an already strained relationship. We can’t make each other happy, but we should get out of the way when one of our people are making moves to find their own happiness. If it’s a training partner that is thinking about picking up a new routine, going to a new gym, taking classes with a different instructor, reading a new author, or trying a different diet, support them. Let your people know that you support them. Confidence breeds competence, and in turn competence breeds greater confidence.

If you happen to be a winner of the genetic lottery, try to be patient with those of us who aren’t. That’s not to say that those blessed individuals aren’t working, but the fact is that some things come easier to some than they do others. Just because a person doesn’t have sub-.25sec splits on a shot timer, hasn’t lost all of those 50lbs, can’t run an 8 minute mile, or doesn’t have a 2.5x bodyweight deadlift doesn’t mean that they’re not working, either. If you want to help folks, volunteer to actually show up and help. Just giving one sentence’s worth of criticism over the internet doesn’t really help anyone at all and kind of makes you look like a douchebag to the rest of the readers.

If the goal is to grow your family, team, or tribe, making sure that they not only know that they belong there, but are made to belong there through the shared efforts of the group is a good idea.

If you are one of those people like the rest of us – keep plugging away. Don’t let yourself talk you into quitting and definitely don’t let outside voices lead you off course. Find good people who like what they do and are good at what they do to surround yourself with.

“It’s not the critic who counts….” – Teddy Roosevelt

Scott F.

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