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Healthy Animals – Bond, His Girls, and Postural Improvement

18 Feb

How do we know a healthy animal when we see one? It depends on the animal, of course, but fluid physical movement is a good indicator. Think about wildlife documentaries where the cheetah is racing across the Serengeti to catch an impala. That film footage looks awesome in slow motion, the great cat’s body rippling with strength.

As animals ourselves, we humans are instinctively good at recognizing the health level of other animals. It is a survival mechanism. In our hunter-gatherer days we had to be able to see which animals from the herd of deer we were stalking were going to be easiest to put on the menu.

Also important was recognizing which members of our tribe were likely to produce healthy offspring with us. One of the clearest signs of good health for our hunter/gatherer forebears was the pelvis in motion. Fluid pelvic movement indicates good blood flow to the region, efficient digestion, strong muscles, fertility and ease of childbirth. As modern, civilized humans we often sum up these qualities with a single word when referring to other people – ‘sexy.’

A very important piece of the James Bond mythos is 007’s interactions with sexy women-folk. In Fleming’s novels the women who catch 007’s eye are usually described as curvaceous, athletic and in their early to mid-twenties among many other commonalities.  Basicly the Bond girls are young and healthy female human animals.

The old saw “you’re only as old as you feel” is a sound one. Fleming’s Bond is in his mid-to-late-thirties. It’s inferred many times in the novels that 007 is tall, slim, and fit. When he is sent to Shrublands for physical rehabilitation one of the treatments he receives is traction in order to lengthen his spine and improve his posture (never mind that the traction session nearly killed him – that was a fluke).

It can be argued that the key to feeling young is in developing and maintaining good posture. And for our experiment the key to developing and maintaining good posture through elongating our own spines is the Gokhale Method as presented in her book 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back.

In 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back Esther Gokhale (“GO-klay”) details her method of posture improvement and pain erasure through adjustments of the typical body positions we find ourselves in every day: sitting, standing, lying down, walking and bending over. She has been developing her method for over 15 years and each of her 8 steps are very easy to adopt.

First on the agenda is the position she calls “stretchsitting.” You can watch her 2 minute video about it here.  In this particular position you are lengthening your low back by using the backrest effectively and opening your chest up by ratcheting your shoulders back. I started practicing this position myself two weeks ago (4 Feb. 2012). It’s actually fairly rare that I find myself sitting in a chair (“stacksitting” is Lesson 3 in the book) so it still seems a little weird when I practice sitting this way. For someone with a job that requires a lot of sitting, I imagine stretchsitting would become normal within a week.

I’ve asked a few of my friends to adopt the Gokhale Method and allow me to track their progress as posture improvement case studies. All case studies will start with stretchsitting. If you’re experimenting along at home, please feel free to post comments about your own experiences with the Gokhale Method. The result I’m hoping for is that the system will be something that my massage clients can easily incorporate into their lives, something that allows them to easily minimize – or completely eradicate – their back pain issues.

I also like the idea that everyone around me will be tall and sexy.

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James Bond’s Elixir of Life?

18 Jan

“007’s profound state of health may be due, at least in part, to compliant bartenders.”

If only all prescriptions could be so good.

In our quest to bring to light all the awesome stuff the literary James Bond does that contributes to his kick-ass  daily life, we have to look at his vices as well as his more healthy habits. The character does a hell of a lot of drinking and smoking when compared with what might be considered acceptable in this day and age.

But what if it turned out that those 007 behaviors that we 21st Century folk think of as being detrimental to ones health turned out to actually be good for you?

This article from the British Medical Journal (1999) presents some fascinating research:

“As Mr. Bond is not afflicted by cataracts or cardiovascular disease, an investigation was conducted to determine whether the mode of preparing martinis has an influence on their antioxidant capacity.”

It is concluded that 007’s signature “shaken, not stirred” martini is “more effective in deactivating hydrogen peroxide than the stirred variety…” The H2O2 is a source of free radicals that can contribute to ageing and disease and the martinis are counteracting its negative effects.

So, I’m taking this as evidence that drinking martinis in the James Bond fashion is not only badass but also beneficial to my health.

Thanks, Medical Science!

The 007 Experiment Bookshelf – Shrublands Edition

2 Jan

The post entitled The Bodyweight Exercise Bookshelf gives the rundown of the primary books we’re using for the exercise part of the 007 Experiment. But Bond’s fitness level isn’t maintained by exercise alone. Yin to that yang – relaxation and recovery from exertion – are the topics of this entry.

In the first chapter of Thunderball, a severely hungover 007 is called to Headquarters to see his boss. There he receives an upbraiding regarding his most recent physical and sent off to the health resort Shrublands for 2 weeks. At the spa Bond receives the injunctions:

“Strict dieting for one week to eliminate the toxins in the blood stream. Massage to tone you up, irrigation, hot and cold sitz baths, osteopathic treatment, and a short course of traction to get rid of the lesions. That should put you right. And complete rest, of course. Just take it easy, Mr. Bond.”

007 comes out of Shrublands feeling like a new man. Then he spends the rest of the novel getting all sorts of jacked up again. And we love him for it.

Rather than hie ourselves off to a spa at the Civil Service’s expense, the 007 Experiment will make do with easy, daily self-treatment. We’ll skip the dieting, the enemas, the sitz baths, and the traction for the time being. Focus here is on massage and “osteopathic treatment.” Wikipedia says osteopathy “emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function of the body and recognizes the body’s ability to heal itself.” We’re going to rid ourselves of lesions in the muscle tissues and we’re doing it with the aid of a rubber ball, gravity and two kick-ass books:

First is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies with Amber Davies, 2nd Edition, published by New Harbinger Publications (August 1, 2004). Average Amazon.com Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars based on 362 customer reviews.

* #1 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Aging > Chronic Pain

* #9 in Books > Medical Books > Medicine > Internal Medicine

* #11 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Disorders & Diseases

That’s a fine pile of rankings and very well-deserved. I’ve been using the information in this book for my massage therapy clients and for self-treatment since 2004. It’s like a cook book full of the recipes for alleviating pain symptoms, both chronic and acute, with massage. The essence of this type of trigger point treatment is to locate the tender knots in the muscles that contribute to the pain symptoms and massage the pain away. This book is full of trigger point maps, easy to follow treatment details and anecdotes about people who have experienced the benefits of the therapy. That rubber ball mentioned above is for massaging all sorts of body bits. A tennis ball works just as well. Everyone needs a firm ball and this book.

To further enhance the benefits received from trigger point therapy we want to improve our posture.

8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot by Esther Gokhale, published by Pendo Press on April 1, 2008. Average Amazon.com Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars from 222 customer reviews.

* #1 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Aging > Back Pain

* #2 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Aging > Chronic Pain

* #7 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Exercise & Fitness > Injuries & Rehabilitation

Full of photographs showing examples of folks on both the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘much to improve” ends of the posture spectrum, Gokhale’s (say “GO-clay”) book provides adjustments to sitting, standing, lying horizontally and walking. Where other posture training or back pain relief methods center around 30-45 minutes of daily exercises, Gokhale just teaches you how to do the things you’re already doing in efficient ways. This is THE book for those of us who want to continue moving through life with the supple grace of a jungle cat.

Don’t let the simplicity of these health maintenance methods fool you. This is powerful stuff that can have profound effects.

Bathe Like Bond, The 007 Shower Experiment

21 Dec

Someday in the future I expect to get asked questions like this one:

“Hey, 007 Experiment Guy, how can I start living like James Bond within the next 30 seconds? Also note: I can barely afford a daily package of ramen noodles – so please don’t tell me to buy a Rolex Explorer online.”

Yes, in many ways we humans seem to live in a time-starved world and the only people who have patience are medical doctors who don’t spell right.  But in this case we’ve got a solid answer for our hypothetical and broke question-asker.

Step-by-step:

  1. Move away from your computer.
  2. Go to your bathroom.
  3. If you weren’t already naked, disrobe now.
  4. Step into the shower.
  5. Blast yourself with water from the cold tap only.
  6. Wonder if you should be taking advice from people on the internet.

Elapsed time: approx. 30 seconds

We are introduced to this hardcore version of the James Bond Shower in Chapter 2 of the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, first published in April of 1963. After quickly downing a quarter of a bottle of Taittinger Blanc de Blancs, Bond “…then went into the bathroom and had an ice-cold shower and washed his hair…” Perhaps 007 drank the champagne to fortify himself for the chilly ordeal that followed.

What’s nice is that in order to emulate 007 in his ablutions you needn’t become a member of the Polar Bear Club outright. In chapter 11 of From Russia, With Love, published 6 years before OHMSS, we learn about the contrasting shower Bond likes to take following the calisthenics he performs to alleviate boredom. Here he showers under “very hot then cold hissing water for five minutes.“ You get to start with hot water – yay!

Why does Bond torture himself this way?

Part of Bond’s shower routine is due to the era he was living in. Medical historian Peter Morrell explains how in 1950s Great Britain, your average working class family members bathed once a week in a tin tub with water heated in a kettle on the coal burning stove. Bond is decidedly middle class and could afford a water heater but I believe he used it sparingly, partly because he’s a badass and partly because he had the austerity mindset that was common in post-WWII Great Britain. Cold bathing wasn’t torture, but habit.

Did this contrast shower help elevate his mood? An oft-cited medical article about the role of norepinephrine in depression casts doubt on this idea. However, in his book The 4 Hour Body,  Tim Ferriss points out that contrasting showers have effects that stimulate the immune system, evident in the increase of circulating norepinephrine. Maybe immune system exercise translates as pleasant emotions. From personal experience with the contrast shower I can say that whatever your mood just prior to the icy dowsing, you’re in for a system reboot.

How is this going to help me get ripped?

Being cold helps you burn fat. Cold to the point of shivering increases metabolism and burns evil ‘white’ fat by stimulating ‘brown’ fat to use the stored energy to keep the body’s core temperature steady.  The less white fat you have covering your sexy abs, the more visible they become. This Daily Mail article goes into further detail about the cold water effects on body fat.   Our 007 is described in From Russia, With Love as being 183 cm (6 feet) tall, weighing 76 kg (167.5 pounds). That’s about the same height and weight as Justin Timberlake, a fellow that few folks in the world would consider overweight. At the time of this writing I cannot give any information about Mr. Timberlake’s bathing habits (it probably involves swimming around Scrooge McDuck-style in a bank vault full of cash and women).

SexyBack circa 1957.

Ok. What’s the drill?

Someone whose bathing habits we do know a bit about is swimmer Michael Phelps. In addition to the Olympic swimming thing, apparently this gentleman is also afforded the luxury of ingesting 12,000 calories per day. Which is rather a lot, by most estimations of caloric intake, yet he decidedly does not resemble a whale. NASA boffin Ray Cronise drew inspiration from this factoid and added science to it in order to discover how someone could ingest so many calories yet still be built like, well, an Olympic swimmer. The calories-in/calories-out, eating/exercise math didn’t add up. Cronise’s “eureka!” moment came when he recalled that the energy Phelps’ body was putting into maintaining his core temperature in cool pool water accounted for the difference. Cronise experimented on himself and lost a lot of fat in a short period of time in the process. His fat burning successes piqued Tim Ferriss’ curiosity and Ferriss, in turn, created the following protocol (excerpted from The 4 Hour Body):

“Take 5–10-minute cold showers before breakfast and/or before bed. Use hot water for 1–2 minutes over the entire body, then step out of water range and apply shampoo and soap to your hair and face. Turn the water to pure cold and rinse your head and face alone. Then turn around and back into the water, focusing the water on your lower neck and upper back. Maintain this position for 1–3 minutes as you acclimate and apply soap to all the necessary regions. Then turn around and rinse normally. Expect this to wake you up like a foghorn.”

I appreciate how Ferriss’ steps are reminiscent of the Hokey-Pokey. I wouldn’t recommend, however, standing on one leg in the shower while shaking the other leg “all about.”

To make your literary James Bond Shower even more authentic, you might avail yourself of some Pinaud Elixir Shampoo as mentioned in OHMSS. That link goes to a nifty article about it from jamesbondlifestyle.com. Should you have some extra bottles of the stuff lying around, you might consider making a bit of money from selling your surplus at $150 a bottle to keenly interested parties posting on this thread from the awesome shaving website badgerandblade.com. That’s worth a lot of ramen noodles! Bond’s preferred bath soap is never mentioned in Fleming’s books – perhaps he didn’t use any, but this lively thread from Absolutely James Bond (abj007.co.uk) might help you figure out the aftershave situation that will get your face smelling like that of our favorite fictitious espionage agent.

Warning to the gentlemen readers: This shower protocol will also increase your testosterone levels and enhance your libido, according to The 4 Hour Body and this badass article from The Art of Manliness. Please bathe responsibly.

The Bodyweight Exercise Bookshelf

13 Dec

The original series of James Bond books written by Ian Fleming are serving as the inspiration for this experiment in health and fitness. As mentioned in the previous post, it was an excerpt from From Russia With Love that provided the list of exercises I’m performing. But just as “The World Is Not Enough” for Bond, one paragraph of information about press-ups and leg lifts is not enough detail to build an exercise regimen.

Using the power of the internet – which with every passing day seems more and more miraculous to me, what with all the photographs of cats, I did a bit of research on the topic ‘bodyweight exercise.’ There’s a lot of it to go through and some of it is not pretty. Luckily, I eventually found some seemingly solid books for getting this experiment under way.

Here’s a partial list of The 007 Experiment resource library for those of you playing along at home:

The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline, published December 2003 by Dragon Door. 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon based on 66 reviews, * #37 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Exercise & Fitness > Weight Training

When adopting the exercise routine of a fictional Cold War-era British spy, there is a beautiful symmetry to studying training techniques from a guy born in the Soviet Union. Far beyond that bit of novelty, what really turns me on about Tsatsouline’s book is how he explains the concept of strength training as a skill. In an engaging voice and with lots of science backing up his concepts, he teaches about muscle control, how to kinesthetically recognize proper exercise form, and how to breathe effectively. This book focuses on only two bodyweight exercises, the one-arm push-up and the one-leg squat, but I’ll be applying Tsatsouline’s muscle control principles to four additional exercises found in…

Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength by Paul Wade, published February 2010 by Dragon Door. 4 and 1/3 stars on Amazon based on 17 reviews,

This book gives you bodyweight exercises from the perspective of the incarcerated. It’s nothing but ‘old school’ calisthenics honed in the gritty world of the U.S. prison system far away from fancy weight benches and flexing in the mirror. Wade admonishes the reader to start at the beginner level with all 6 of the exercises and stay at this level for at least a month in order to truly learn proper form and stay injury free. I am probably not going to do it exactly this way, but we’ll see. What I will do is take Wade’s calisthenics and apply some exercise-hacking know-how to them by way of another book called…

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss published December 2010 by Crown Archetype. 4 and 1/3 out of 5 stars on Amazon based on 1,618 reviews. Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408 in Books * #2 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Exercise & Fitness > Injuries & Rehabilitation * #13 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Diets & Weight Loss > Diets

Tim Ferriss first impressed the hell out of me with The Four Hour Work Week where he shattered my old limiting beliefs about what it means to earn a good living. In The 4 Hour Body he has done it again by considering the human body with the question “for all things physical, what are the tiniest changes that produce the biggest results?” I’m using this book and the accompanying blog to learn how to best determine my health and fitness goals and to track my progress. I’m not aiming to gain 34 lbs. of muscle in 28 days but Ferriss’ exercise and eating tips are really, really, really cool.

If you were to imagine The 007 Experiment is a class, these are the 3 foundational textbooks.

In the next post you’ll learn how to start showering like 007. And because I really get a kick out writing the words ‘The 007 Experiment,’ I’m going to do so again: The 007 Experiment.

Health and Fitness 007 Style

2 Dec

My buddy Damen is one of those people whose enthusiasm is infectious. One afternoon as we enjoyed a “few” pints of Czech beer we started kicking around ideas for new self-improvement challenges. As we were both in the process of rereading all the original James Bond books we decided to collate information about how the literary James Bond lives his daily life and incorporate some of that into our own lives. We already knew of some great online resources for information about the gadgetry, cars, clothes and such (here, here, and also here), so we reckoned we’d be adding to the wealth of data by collecting bits and pieces about eating and exercise from those Ian Fleming stories. Damen is tackling the eating info and I’ve tasked myself with the exercise.

So what does the literary James Bond do for exercise?

Here’s my primary inspiration, as I’m not going to take up golf:

“There was only one way to deal with boredom—kick oneself out of it. Bond went down on his hands and did twenty slow press-ups, lingering over each one so that his muscles had no rest. When his arms could stand the pain no longer, he rolled over on his back and, with his hands at his sides, did the straight leg-lift until his stomach muscles screamed. He got to his feet and, after touching his toes twenty times, went over to arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing until he was dizzy.”

-Ian Fleming, From Russia, With Love

The above is not a whole hell of a lot to go on but it’s plenty to use as a foundation for a fitness program. James Bond had no need for gyms full of spandex and machinery that harkens back to the glory days of the Spanish Inquisition. James Bond wasn’t necking gallons of creatine and whey protein and fistfuls of supplement pills. James Bond wasn’t looking to hulk up into a ‘roid-balled Mr. Olympia. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things if they appeal to you but 007 didn’t need them so…

In the posts to come I’ll be tracking my progress, regressions, aggressions, digressions, and impressions of the The 007 Fitness Experiment. I’ll be taking that short excerpt from From Russia With Love and figuring out how to turn it into a solid fitness regimen.

How will I cope with the lifestyle changes? Will I literally get too big for my britches? Will smoking 60 cigarettes a day turn out to be a crucial element in the 007 fitness equation?

All these questions and many, many more will be answered one way or another. I hope you’ll join me for the fun.