health

Be Swole for Science: How our Evolution Encourages Exercise

Be Swole for Science: How our Evolution Encourages Exercise

I’ve written a lot about being fit lately, and one of my friends chidingly shared with me an article which discusses being "swole for no reason.” “Swole,” if you don’t know, is slang for being jacked, which is slang for being buff. The author, a writer, recounts his experience trying to get swole. After failing to achieve swoleness, the writer experiences "the delusion of getting out of shape as a form of martyrdom.” Writers don’t need to be swole. Wouldn’t it be silly for him to go out and get fit? How shameful it would be if he was swole for no reason.

From the perspective of evolutionary history, there’s a whole host of reasons for being swole, or for at least exercising frequently; even if you’re one of the intellectual martyrs who doesn’t care about how looking fit because only the inner-mind is beautiful or whatever. We evolved to use our bodies, and our bodies evolved to require use. Without activity to challenge our physical structure, humans become susceptible to debilitating diseases.

Thinking About Death to Deter Depression

Thinking About Death to Deter Depression

Some people find reminders of their death depressing, but thinking about death can actually make you happier. I first heard about this idea in Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken. Jane McGonigal designs and researches games, and in her 2011 bestseller, she explores the ways in which game mechanics positively influence human psychology.  McGonigal proposes that we apply the structures and mechanics of games as solutions to problems in reality.

One particular problem McGonigal discusses is depression. The World Health Organization calls depression “the leading cause of disability worldwide.” Being unhappy is a big issue, and thinking about death is one simple, although non-obvious, solution.

My Top 5 Resources for Being in Shape

My Top 5 Resources for Being in Shape

At some point in my life, I began to feel concerns for self-preservation and I eventually had a rare moment of awareness where I realized I should start taking care of my health. I must have gotten half-way decent at addressing the health issue because I've had friends, acquaintances, and even students ask me what it is I do to get in shape.

I always dodge the question and promise to follow-up with some helpful knowledge resources. After years of making this promise, I’ve finally delivered. Here are the top 5 resources I’ve used to get in shape and stay in shape. 

Erik’s Ultra Beginner’s Guide to Kettlebells for Ultra Beginners

I've always been a bit of a fitness nut, but until recently, I had never been particularly fit. When I was a student, I spent most of my time chasing strength and mass gains. I was strong within limited patterns, but I was otherwise weak and inflexible. I was muscular, but not very lean. And the bulk didn't make me look particularly great.

Once I graduated and started working at my first job, maintaining the long gym-sessions became unsustainable, so I started looking for more time-efficient ways to train. I had a little 25 lb. kettlebell from Onnit lying around, and I started to swap lifting sessions with kettlebell training. Rather than spending 2 hours at a gym a few days a week, I found it easier to train for 30-60 minute sessions on most days. I've since picked up more challenging weights, and the change in my fitness has been dramatic. I'm faster, leaner, more flexible, and I generally feel better.

I wouldn't shut up about how cool kettlebells were, and several friends asked me for training resources. I couldn't find a solid starting point for ultra beginners, so I made my own. I tried to collect all the introductory information that I felt I needed as a beginner so the guide ended up longer than I anticipated, but if you're curious about kettlebells, my Ultra Beginner's Guide to Kettlebells should be a good place to start. 

  • Part 1 is a short rant on why kettlebells are efficient training tools, especially for busy people.
  • Part 2 has my thoughts on picking a starting weight and recommendations for buying kettlebells.
  • Part 3 collects a list of helpful videos for basic exercises.
  • Part 4 has a list of helpful videos for slightly more advanced exercises. 
  • Part 5 includes a few resources for training routines and quick recommendations for protecting your arms and hands.

I've only seriously trained with kettlebells for a year or so, and I consider myself a beginner. If you train with kettlebells and you think I'm missing anything, please add a comment.

A Guide On: Using Blue Light to your Benefit

A Guide On: Using Blue Light to your Benefit

Altering your blue light exposure is a relatively easy way to hack your sleep and energy, especially since it doesn't require ingesting anything. If you're skittish about doing weird things to yourself, this one is pretty safe.

Blue light has been shown to be highly influential to the circadian rhythm, the biological cycle that makes us sleepy and wakeful. Blue light helps stimulate certain biological processes that make us energized -- this is great during the day, but horrible when you're hoping to get a night of good rest. Studies have shown that exposure to blue light can delay sleep onset (the period of falling asleep) by up to an hour.