On Re-Reading Gifford’s Spring Chicken and Thinking About Improving My Health Span

Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (Or Die Trying)
Bill Gifford

I almost never re-read books. So the fact that I have now read Bill Gifford book on the science of aging twice should show you something about my current obsession with aging. As I said last time I read it, the book hits just the right point of science, personal reflection, and interesting anecdote. This stuff is catnip for someone like me – a middle age dude attempting to expand my “healthspan”* and maybe set some new PRs along the way.

My first read of this book was my gateway into following anti-aging research. This second read, and a lot of ancillary reading in this area, has left me focused on three things I’d like to incorporate more into my life: (i) fasting, (ii) cold exposure, and (iii) weight training. (I’ll likely write a separate piece about diet and supplements, which I’ve also been thinking a lot about, in the future)

Early research has shown that intermittent fasting, whether it be the popular 16/8 split or alternate day, appears to have a range of health benefits and no real down side. Assuming you’re a healthy person, and not at risk of developing an eating disorder, why wouldn’t you skip breakfast?

Same with cold exposure. Many, many health gurus talk up their ability to improve your health, but one of the few who has allowed his methods to really be tested is Wim Hof, who combines cold exposure and breathing techniques to, apparently, improve autoimmune system. Studies are starting to back up his claims (though some wonder if there’s a placebo effect happening).** Again, when done in moderation, there appears to be no downside to cold exposure. So why not take that cold shower?

Of the three listed above, weight training is the biggest no brainer. Unless actively engaged in strength training, a man my age could be losing up to 20% of their muscle mass. This combined with weaker core muscles and failing balance are leading causes in reducing one’s health span. So, while running remains my first love, I need to balance it with more time in the gym (and standing on one foot).

These three points are really just blips in this very informative book, but they’re the blips which stuck with me. Read it yourself to figure out what you can learn about getting older without breaking down.


* Health span is the period of your life when you are not only alive, but active and healthy
** I review the leading book on Wim Hof here.

Training Totals 4.30.2012

On my previous running blog every week I did a day by day recap of how much I had run, how long it took, etc.  But really, who the fuck cares?  Unless you’re some sort of elite athlete, reading a list of a bloggers weight training, or time on a bike, is just boring.  We’ll do away with that here and focus on the bigger picture of what the week meant in exercise and study, plus a short tally of time spent on various activities.


Average Weight: 190

Total strength and flexibility time: 4

Total cardio time (counting metcon): 1.5

Total exercise time of 5.5

Not a bad week, exercise wise, but not everything I was hoping for.  Things started off well, but faltered when I went to D.C. for a wedding and discovered that the hotel gym really fucking sucked.  If only I could run pain free, exercising while traveling would be much easier, hell, cardio in general would be much easier.  Unfortunately, it is not to be.  At least not for now.  Cardio-wise I’m stuck on the goddamn bike, spending huge amounts of time to burn very few calories.  As is clear from the totals above, I need to be spending a lot more time on cardio.  I don’t want to do it, but god help me I may have to resort to the elliptical later this week.

Strength training is going much better. It was a good week workout wise with an especially good session with an old friend where I finally got a sense of what my one rep maxes are for the three major lifts. Here’s the baseline:

Deadlift: 231

Bench:  175

Squat: 149

This is not very strong, but it’s a start. I’m beginning Wender’s 5-3-1 program this week and I have high hopes for what it will do for my overall performance.  More about that tomorrow.

Climbing, sucked this week, but in the best way possible.  I hadn’t been to the climbing gym in three weeks and it showed.  I’m fatter, and my technique has suffered.  I really need to be making an effort to (a) lose weight and (b) get to the climbing gym at least once a week.


I also plan to track my language acquisition and other stuff here. Unfortunately, nothing to report on that front.  I spent the week working and reading a silly spy novel.  Not impressive. More next week.