Just More Thoughts On Caster Semenya

I’m crossing over into being part of the problem. Not everyone cares about this situation and certainly fewer people are informed but when it seems to be everywhere more and more people get drawn into believing they’re informed and taking a side.

But I cannot stop thinking about this and neither can a lot of people and it seems to me that I’ve wound up on a side and some people I like and respect feel different and wound up on the other.

So here’s the article that convinced me. A Victory For Female Athletes Everywhere I agree that Caster’s biological advantage takes away the reason we have a female designation in sport. If we don’t set aside a space for women in sport then men would dominate everything and this is actually an insidious case of that happening.

I see it as a case of The Needs Of The Many, yes it feels unfair to Caster and it’s natural people want to protect her, but it’s also unfair to every other woman running at the elite level and it’s the organizations job to protect the space those women inhabit.

If Caster isn’t allowed to compete and it fucks up the trajectory of her life that’s tremendously sad but she does have options. If she is allowed to compete it fucks up the trajectory of an uncountable amount of women’s lives, women who have no recourse.

I want to snip out a few quotes from an article in The Cut:

Semenya has elevated the bar of speed toward which all women runners can gaze, and hope to one day beat.

The problem is that all women can’t hope to beat it, not even elite women can hope to beat it. Because:

most females have about 0.12–1.79nmol/L of testosterone in their bodies versus males, who have 7.7–29.4nmol/L. Caster falls within the latter range.

and apparently there are some people who believe:

No conclusive evidence exists to suggest that testosterone correlates to enhanced performance.

Which is insane. The conclusive evidence is that we ban taking exogenous testosterone in sport. Shout out again to my review of The Virility Paradox, testosterone will make anyone better at almost anything. Bankers, investors, lawyers, soldiers, and oh yeah athletes of either gender show that more testosterone leads to more success.

My mind is zooming out to an uncomfortable place but it seems that some people are arguing at once that gender oppression is a problem and that gender doesn’t exist.

I guess what the line of thinking in the Semenya situation is, for my friends, we should protect anyone who identifies as female from anyone who doesn’t. And for me it’s how to do we protect those who identify as female from someone else who identifies as female?

What does it mean to identify as female if female doesn’t refer to anything? If it doesn’t mean testosterone levels or reproductive capabilities? Is it, at this point, just to belong to what you see as the out-group of a patriarchal society?


Running update: last big day before tapering

3 hour long intervals, plus some fueling insights

I ran a lot slower than my last 30k day. Partly just gun shy from how bad I hit the wall that day but also because I know I’ve got to save some power for the long race.

I still race like I spend. Have a hundred, spend a hundred.

It’s why my legs hurt and I’m broke.

But also I set the treadmill to periodic hills and the motherfucker went beast mode on me.

I like my incline around .5 to 2 and this was all 6s and 7s.

(That’s a great British slang pun for the majority of you who wouldn’t have gotten that.)

But today’s surprise was that while my cardio was fine what feels like my tendons were aching.

Because we went a week without groceries my protein was low this week and I actually felt great about this morning. I’m so lean and easy. I ate mostly donuts yesterday and had pancakes for dinner and I woke with the most tapered, unbloated, waistline I’ve had in months. Since I was a slow carber with the zeal of the converted.

But I’m sure I could use some amino acids and collegen now.

I ended up walking in the last half of the last interval, and I checked my heart rate because my level of exertion felt fine and sure enough it was just pain in my feet, ankles, shins, and knees that was making me want to walk.

To take my mind off it I texted my ex and mocked her a little for being single. Because… like the shirt says, you gotta run happy.

Working Out Should Come From Self-Love Not Self-Loathing

Now I wrote in the past that There Is Room For Negative Self Talk In Fitness and I’ve written a song about how self-hatred is a super power (Soundcloud) so this take is a little out of character for me.

But as hard as I am on myself and as much as I respect the discipline of other people who are hard themselves I think there is a dark side here, some moral problems, that came up as all dark, moral problems do, on Twitter.

A girl was posting before and after photos of her fitness and talking about them. One she said really made her sad still because she had taken the before picture as a way to punish herself when girls at school were bullying her for being fat. It made her cry to write about it then and it’s making me cry a little bit writing about it now.

It’s a photo of a well-dressed, pretty girl who’s kinda chubby. And because I read her tweets I also know that she’s smart and articulate.

And I’m so sad for that girl being so mad at herself because that should be enough. But society is so cruel and so demanding that that wonderful person ends up hating herself and at such a young age when there’s so much of life left that will be coloured by that hatred. It’s some heart-breaking shit.

Then she loses the weight. Her conventional, physical beauty shines through and now she gets into clubs no line, no cover. And that’s the happy ending.

That doesn’t feel morally right to me. That feels like she joined her tormentors and gave into the desires of a cruel and unjust society.

But at the same time, and as she points out, she also got healthy. She didn’t only get hotter by giving society what it wants she also extended her life and protected herself from disease and chronic conditions. That is a happy ending.

I hate myself because other people tell me I should seems awful but if it’s leads someone to loving themselves then can I really judge society so harshly for doing it?

Short answer yes I can don’t be a piece of shit to people.

My transition into fitness came from a sort of self-loathing but it wasn’t externally motivated. My self talk was you’re so unhappy, you feel like shit all the time, nothing makes you happy, what could possibly be worse about taking up running? And I could take some of that self-anger and a bit of that self-punishment and turn it into speed.

And once I got to distances and speeds that impressed me and also impressed others it was a bit easier to like myself sometimes.

At the same time though my body became more appealing to me (weird thing to say but you know what I mean) and to others and I’ve seen the dark side, the fear of becoming ugly again, the shame of simply bloating after a meal, and all that. And, worse I feel, the awareness of other people’s bodies as well.

I think the curse of knowledge in this case is best illustrated by height. I never thought about it before a girl I was wildly infatuated with summed up the reason we couldn’t date, even though we had amazing rapport, with not tall enough.

I, with all my supposed love-worthy qualities felt passed over like one passes over fruit in the supermarket. She threw away all the value of my life as casually as one agrees to a side of fries.

Evidently I’m hungry, two food metaphors.

Then I hated everyone taller than me. And shockingly they were everywhere, most of my friends were taller than me and I’d never noticed.

And the same thing happens with fitness. Once you care about your own you automatically see the haves and have-nots of others. I think it’s what makes cruel people cruel, they’re either so worried about their own short comings they revel in going for the kill on the short comings of others, or they’ve had it so easy that any short coming of another must be a choice and it’s deemed okay to be shitty about the choices of others and use shame as a corrective tool.

I know. I’m a drunk and I’m really intelligent. I’ve been on both sides of pointlessly attempting to use shame as corrective tool.

To try and pull this to a good feeling ending I’ll go a bit deeper on that and say that being a drunk has made me a more empathetic person all around and I think it effects why I’m not shitty about the fitness and body-types of others.

Being an alcoholic really, really sucks. Like, dozens of reallys and people don’t understand or acknowledge it. Someone said once about the idea that being gay is choice that no one would choose it then, no one would choose to get disowned, beat up, judged, condemned, excluded, etc just for the fun of being gay. And I feel similar about being an alcoholic, if quitting drinking were as simple as quitting drinking then everyone would fucking do it and there wouldn’t be any alcoholics.

No one’s making the informed conscious decision to lose their friends and family and all their money and look like shit all the time and end homeless for the fun of drinking oneself to death.

And it’s much the same with depression and self-hatred. You don’t choose to have it but you do have to choose what to do about it.

For the sake of getting in another reference to my songwriting, it’s why I wrote a song called As Sad As You Need, which is a much poppier song. Being depressed gave me the insight into the paradox of loving someone with a problem and that includes loving yourself. You have to accept them and want them to get better, that should be contradictory, so you have to say you get better for you, when and how you want to. When it’s you vs yourself or you vs society.

Whether the obese or addicted, the depressed or the anxious, we have to love them and ourselves enough to give them the space and time to get better.

In much

Still learning about fasting

I guess it’s fasting week on the blog people.

So after a 24 hour fast on Monday I noticed I felt like crap on Tuesday. I didn’t do much to refeed and get all my nutrients and chalked it up to that.

Some googling of course revealed that many people have had the issue of feeling fatigued the day after a fast (and that many many many people write blogs and forums about intermittent fasting) but no one really knows why.

Apparently one adjusts though. Dehydration, poor sleep, and carb withdrawal are the suspected culprits but I also wonder if it’s central nervous system fatigue.

Fasting is a bodily stressor you’re stacking on top of all the other stressors of a day like exercise and being around too many humans. So it makes sense to feel burned out the next day. Besides a wide range of recovery foods, meditation could be the answer.

Strength Training And Fasting

I remarked kind of sarcastically yesterday that I’d post an update about how fasting-Monday and getting-my-bench-press-strength-training-out-of-the-way-Monday interacted and you know what? Went Great.

Benching Monday morning on an empty stomach felt great compared to benching Friday evening. I was instantly stoked to do it again.

Then I got to work and banged out all my weekly stuff plus some additional office work and meetings, went for a swim, came home spent the evening with Liv, and ate my only meal of the day at 8pm for 24 total hours of fasting.

In the swim I felt weaker than baseline, each lap seemed to take a harder toll and require more recovery but I did break through into feeling good and did cover the same amount of laps.

The difficult part of fasting is the evenings. I know some people would imagine it’s running around all day but honestly it’s so much better being fasted. Food is really just a distraction and an excuse throughout the day. If you don’t start the blood-sugar roller coaster then you don’t suffer the blood sugar roller coaster. But in the evenings I get thinking about how I should eat before bed and won’t have time for a big breakfast the next day and Liv already made dinner and fast broken.

So expect another update Monday or Tuesday about benching fasted, if the higher numbers wreck me or if I’ve adapted.

How To Make Cardio Better When You’re Starting Out

A friend asked me for some advice because they’re starting cardio and it seems physically challenging (hi, friend) and as I rattled off four paragraphs of advice I tried to keep it brief and so this post is a chance to clear the last of the mental lactic acid and organize those thoughts better.

So if cardio is physically hard (but not emotionally hard because that’s a separate issue I’ve talked about a lot) here’s what you do:

Buy a new outfit. One that breathes and wicks away moisture and makes you feel like you look like a real work out person. Confidently disguise yourself as someone who works out.

This will also have the benefit of Priming Yourself. Look at images and listen to music that make you feel stronger and excited to work out. Watch Crossfit glamour shots and motivational speeches set to music, whatever, but get unashamedly pumped.

This seems like emotional rather than truly practical advice but I’ll summarize the vast majority of my reading of endurance lit (like my thousands of words on the great book How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald): it is harder if it feels harder. So make it feel as easy you can.

Warm up smart and breathe. Start off with some walking or super light, conversational pace, version of what you’re doing so all your energy systems have time to come online. In sport we call it blowing up when you go out too hard and your body shuts down rather than gears up for the long haul.

I did it once with swimming: I normally swam after running, so I was warmed up, but one day I jumped in the pool first, totally cold, and did a lap at my usual intensity. When it was over I felt like I was having a panic attack, total red line. The body doesn’t do well with a sudden rush of stress hormones. you gotta ease it in, lube it up.

And for breathing; don’t tense up when you breathe. Up being the key word, your shoulders shouldn’t rise. Your stomach will move out if your breathing correctly into your diaphragm and your neck and shoulders will stay level and loose. Breathe slow and deep at first and imagine the air getting through your whole body, your back, your stomach, imagine breathing down your legs like your whole body was hollow and you’re pouring in a liquid.

Then you can do intervals if you want. There’s a place for intervals and for steady state in everyone’s fitness life and beginners don’t think of intervals while advanceds forget about steady-state. You can make up whatever intervals you want, minute on/minute off, 4 and 2, whatever, just have a fast and a slow because it will train your body to down regulate when it can and up regulate when it needs to.

Finally, remember what you eat and what time it is. I’ve had Monday evening runs made harder by Sunday evening pizza. Try before work, after work, during work if you can, try big meal, small meal, no carbs, all carbs, just game the system until what feels wrong fades away and what feels right stays.

But do make sure you’re getting omega 3s and anything else anti-inflammatory and things like Qu10 for ATP production.

The benefit of all that testing is you’ll have gotten some miles under your belt and start seeing improvements regardless because really it’s a matter of time.

Training is always going to be hard in some fashion, otherwise it isn’t training. But training smarter will make the time before it feels easier much shorter.

My Advice On Being A Super Athlete With A Cold

A lot of videos I’ve seen focus on how you can train when you’re sick. But I think of it like saying you can go to the bank, withdraw five dollars, and then deposit the same five dollars. The question isn’t merely can you?, the question is can you be productive?

To which my answer is no.

You’re not going to have a productive of training while you’re sick, not physically and not emotionally.

Most people, athletes included, try to live in acknowledged denial of a cold – they know it’s there but their plan is to change nothing, just stack it on top of normal life and go on. There’s a mental temptation to treat injury and sickness as if they are cognizant enemies with pride of their own and you don’t want to let them beat you.

This is dumb. And you need to acknowledge that dumbness out loud to yourself.

If you have an injury you need to disrupt normal training and focus on healing the injury, make it priority 1, and you’ll come back quicker and stronger. If you ignore it because you don’t like it you’ll just drag it out and make it worse.

Well a cold is an injury. Your body needs to dedicate resources to fixing it. In fact, if you are a super athlete health psycho it’s probably overtraining that got you sick so you really need to back it off.

And if you are a super athlete health psycho you’re probably eating clean and resting well already so you’ll be over it in no time.

I know we like our suffering but it should be suffering for something. For the numbers, for the camaraderie, for the scenery, for the once in a lifetime feeling – not for making a normal day shittier just ’cause you can.

So take the excuse for a deload, maintain some dignity, pop a Halls Extra Strength and take a super hot shower, eat garlic and spicy foods, take lots of naps, and come back stronger, quicker. Endure with speed and grace rather than merely endure.