Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tignes Mid October

Gareth testing out some World Cup slalom skis – off piste – where skis are meant to be used! Still has the arms flailing around too much and weight just a bit too far back – but good basic mechanics. Great snow for this time of year.
Aprés Ski like it is meant to be…. zero degrees water! The exhilaration after leaving the water is powerful – due to adrenaline. The stress/shock of the water adapts and fortifies many aspects of the body – from the hypothalamus to the vagus nerve.
Sea of clouds in the valley – bright sunshine up high…

Gareth trying to avoid hydrocution…

Just surviving….

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cold Thermogenesis

The intention  was to go swimming at Bozel “Beach” (1400m altitude) where the the water was 6 degrees – but unfortunately the lake was half drained due to maintenance and there was only enough water for the ducks. We had to go all the way up to Champagny Le haut at 1560m where the stream water was at 0.5 degrees – seriously cold. I’d been swimming in the lake at Tignes a few days earlier at 1 degree so it wouldn’t be impossible – but fast running mountain water is even harder than swimming in a lake. The idea is to provoke a stress response through the skin – involving adrenaline. This not only adapts the body to the cold but also to stress, pain and a whole host of other positive things including increased sensitivity to insulin. The water has gone cold early this year due to weeks of clear skies allowing all the heat to radiate away from the ground.

The mountain in the background is the Grande Casse – next to Tignes.DSC05356

Getting ready! Pretending to swim in a rock pool.


Ian Under Water 0.5°C












Bright lobster red from the cold – doesn’t even feel cold once getting back out. Being already well adapted (down to 8 deg) there is no shivering. The idea of cold thermogenesis is that the heat begins to come from brown fat – directly through the mitochondria and not from mechanical movement (shivering).




Monday, October 10, 2016

Cold Water Swim

Okay - I've never been able to swim front crawl - but somehow 10°C water seems to make it work - probably survival instinct! It's October the 9th and in just two weeks the water temperature has gone down from 17.5°C to 10°C and probably lower because it was colder further out and I couldn't measure it there. The skies have been clear at night and and at 1400m altitude here at the Bozel "beach" it's been close to zero at night - with no clouds to stop the heat radiation from the water. In another week it's going to be a real challenge to swim here - but by the end of October the lake will be emptied for the winter. The body adapts quickly to the cold water as long as you go in regularly. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Making it all Work

The Mystery Bug

Springtime this year was filled with a cautious optimism over the forthcoming road cycle racing season. Almost two years of a ketogenic diet and a full year practising exposure to cold temperatures - with no winter bugs or health setbacks - meant that it was perhaps time to see the fruits of all this effort. Naturally, the next thing that happened, immediately after the end of the ski season at the start of May was that out of nowhere a debilitating fever struck. Fifteen days of fever, involuntary fasting and hospitalization, plus another six weeks of recovery meant that there was now a considerable and unexpected setback.


Goals can sometimes be dynamic and shift. Summer’s goal would now be to climb back up that hill and try to get at least some athletic performance before the entire season was over. The problem was that for almost two years now, since stopping eating carbohydrates, performance was declining not improving and that was even without the debilitating fever thrown in. 2015 season had seen a change of plan where due to difficulty recovering from races I stopped participating early in the season and focused on a modified training program - the “Maffetone” approach. I wanted to be able to develop the capacity to work hard but at a lower and apparently more aerobic heart rate. Despite lots of nonsense on his website and from his forum moderator his logic appeared to be the best out there - so this meant avoiding any exercise classed as anaerobic so as to allow the underlying aerobic system to improve and grow properly. All the signs were that this was the right thing to do. My heart rate had been maxing out at 172 bpm (slowly declining with passing years) and yet I was often sustaining 165 or even 170 for an hour or so during training - obviously very anaerobic. According to Maffetone this would only be corrected by a long period of “pure aerobic” training due to any anaerobic work inhibiting aerobic development directly. In real terms this just meant endless plodding slowly on long bike trips or when running. To ease the boredom I got through some pretty heavy audio books that I’d never have the patience to sit down and actually read. By the end of Autumn 2015 this approach pretty much assured that any fitness that was there to begin with had gone. Moving forward to the May 2016 fever episode and putting on belly fat even on a ketogenic diet - things were really not looking good at all.

Maffetone also proposed a system of calculating an aerobic training heart rate for a threshold which he calls the “aerobic threshold”. Not only is it doubtful that such a thing exists but strict formulas are being used when we know there is a variation of up to 20% in heart rate between individuals. In this case I just used nasal breathing as a guide instead. Being able to breathe comfortably both in and out of the nose is a strong sign of aerobic function for several reasons,  plus the heart rate corresponding to it is not very far from Maffetone’s formula derived value. After about ten months of this pure boredom - winter included - not only was there no fitness remaining but all my enjoyment and enthusiasm had vanished. 

On top of all of the above I had totally changed technique - incorporating movement patterns taken from Chi Running. The goal was to develop more efficient movements, protecting the lower back and joints and using the core muscles and glutes more, instead of over-relying on the quads. Everything was counter intuitive but direct physical feedback made it clear that it was correct. Changing major movement patterns at my age after riding bicycles since being two years old definitely carries at least a temporary performance penalty.

To sum up  I had...  
  • lost  performance through major technique restructuring.
  • lost significant muscle and strength though fasting in 2014.
  • removed easy, fast energy from carbohydrates from August 2014 onwards.
  • lost all my fitness through Maffetone plodding from June 2015 through to March 2016.
  • been wiped out by an unknown bug in May 2016 that took months to recover from.

This took us to the start of July 2016 - so clearly much progress was being made!



Obviously any sensible person would call a halt to this nonsense by now - but being sensible is not one of my strongest traits. (My strength lies mainly in postponing things!) There were some clearly positive things happening too that just couldn’t be ignored. In fact one huge and completely unexpected thing had happened through the ketosis. Within months of removing most carbs from the diet my maximum measured heart rate had gone up from 172 to 192 bpm. Is that even possible? I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone - but that’s what happened. Despite all the formulas out there for calculating age related maximum heart rate (so that you can then deduce heart rate training zones) I happen to know that when people are not sedentary throughout their lives that their maximum heart rate remains the same at all ages - and in my late 20s it used to be 198 bpm. The heart is also supposed to work 28% more efficiently on ketones than on carbs so this is all quite interesting. Prior to sinking into terminal decline a few good races had shown that performances were apparently not impaired by ketosis - yet training was definitely rendered unappealing and sluggish. It seemed that only either adrenaline or carbs could get things started. When on carbs (all my life up to this point) I never needed to warm up - but now it felt like unless there was the adrenaline of competition (which causes glucose production) then a 40 minute warm up was needed - by which time I’d rather by 2/3rds through the entire workout. At least I now knew why people do warm ups - and why elite cyclists warm up for 40 minutes before a time trial.

In 2014 I’d done a lot of fasting - each week for 2 to 3 days and then intermittent fasting as well. Body weight dropped off but so did power so I was no faster cycling uphill when skinny as when fat. However the second positive aspect of ketosis was that there were no energy swings - no bonking - even on one race of almost 8 hours with no food.

Those positives plus the new found ability to cycle comfortably for an hour or two in sub zero temperatures in just a cycling shirt and shorts (part of the cold exposure effort to produce brown fat - linked into ketosis) meant that despite hitting rock bottom in May 2016 there was no serious option of returning to consuming carbohydrates.

To sum up the positives…
  • Maximum heart rate up from 172 (and slowly declining) to 192
  • No more energy swings or bonking
  • Cold Thermogenesis and Adaptation working extremely well (no pain even in freezing water)

Reset Button

Despite the determination to continue the rejection of carbohydrate consumption - which is difficult as they are thrown at us from all directions in modern society and especially in sports education - there was no obvious solution to the contradictory and mixed results. The necessary reset however wasn’t too complicated in the end. The bug was gone so it was also time to get rid of Maffetone and fasting - the things that were not proving productive in any way.

Maffetone turns out to be wrong for a fundamental reason - he totally ignores the “lactate shuttle” mechanism. This mechanism is a direct channel by which the mitochondria consumes lactic acid - which is produced by the anaerobic system.

Utterly Simplistic Explanation of the Anaerobic System

Anaerobic respiration is called glycolysis and it produces energy very rapidly - from glucose - but in small quantities. For a while the body can handle that so it’s used for running away from tigers. Obviously that won’t get you very far but it works if it gets you quickly to safety. When you do this you breathe very rapidly and in doing so expel lots of CO2. What this does is block oxygen supply to muscle tissues as it reduces carbonic acid levels in the blood practically instantly. Anerobic respiration doesn’t use oxygen and you go into anaerobic overdrive to escape that tiger. There are many other aspects but we’ll stick to the relevant ones here. The energy molecules produced are called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) and each glucose molecule gives us two ATP.  There is a byproduct called “pyruvate” and when in tiger evasion mode we really aren’t interested in it. However this very fast production of both ATP (burned up fast) and pyruvate (not burned up) ends up in a few minutes with a huge pile of pyruvate - which converts to Lactic Acid and then - to over simplify everything - clogs the system and brings us to a halt - probably resulting in a tasty tiger snack. This is what happens to you towards the end of a 400m sprint when the legs just seize. All of the above takes place in muscle cells.

Utterly Simplistic Explanation of the Aerobic System

Inside each muscle cell there are many thousands of much smaller cells - called “mitochondria” which have their own separate DNA. Way back billions of years ago they were actually separate bacteria - but that’s another story. The mitochondria are not interested in tigers - they are the nuclear reactors of the body. The ATP quantity produced by mitochondria is 15 times greater than by glycolysis. More impressively - per gram of weight mitochondria produces 10,000 times more energy than the sun. For fuel it uses the waste products of glycolysis - pyruvate and also fatty acids, ketones, protein and alcohol and the burning process is called aerobic - because it uses oxygen as a catalyst. As long as we don’t see a tiger the pyruvate is gobbled up fast enough that everything is processed in harmony and there is no conversion to lactic acid - so the anaerobic system just acts like a top up to the other fuels going into the mitochondria.

Utterly Simplistic Error of Maffetone

Maffetone’s claim is that any tiger based training stresses the system so much that the mitochondrial system cannot develop. However he misses one really big issue. The mitochondria are clever little critters and they can learn to love eating lactic acid directly. This is called the “lactate shuttle”. Instead of lactic acid clogging everything up it becomes dinner for the mitochondria. This means the body can operate at anaerobic heart rates and yet the mitochondria are not impaired at all - they love it and develop even faster. They don’t blow up either - provided your main source of energy in the first instance is fat. Considering the average untrained body has about 160,000 Calories of stored fat to use and only about 400 Calories of stored carbohydrates - the sensible choice is quite obvious.

In simple terms the training to maximise aerobic potential should involve intervals - but not super fast then super slow. The interval should consist of about 80% max for a few minutes followed by around 40% for a few minutes - repeated. Training occurs during the slow 40% phase due to the mitochondria eating up the lactic acid that was produced. If you go too slowly at this point they just go to sleep instead. Group cycling is great for this because you can pull like crazy in front for a while and then fall back and wheel suck to recover - boosting your mitochondrial nuclear reactor. Goodbye Maffetone!

Where else did Maffetone go wrong?

The simplistic “age based” formula for aerobic heart rate threshold covers up a huge issue which is even more significant than the one already discussed. The problem is hidden in the “WHY” age matters…

The Missing Link

Maffetone is basically saying to people that if you are old and slow then get used to it. You are not going to get much faster. Well think again! He might have had success with Ironman athletes in their prime but what happens when you take hardened couch potatoes and try to turn them into performance athletes? Likewise what happens when you remove sugar from lifelong carb addicts?

Utterly Simplistic Explanation of Ageing

The bottom line is that the nuclear reactors - the mitochondria - are the key - not carbs and not even specifically the training. Mitochondria use electrical charges from chemical sources. There are five engines in a chain in each mitochondria and each one of them can have blockages. Blockages cause electrons to spill out and they in turn create “free radicals” which wreak havoc on DNA and everything else. The mitochondria end up damaged, mutated and inefficient. This damage accumulates so that by your mid nineties as much a 95% of your mitochondria may be mutated and practically useless. Some animals have fairly electrically leaky mitochondria - rats being an example. The rat lives for about 4 years. Pigeons have a similar metabolism but with very non-leaky mitochondria so they can live for 35 years. However we do have some flexibility and so you can choose to some extent the path of the rat or the path of the pigeon.

The Path of the Pigeon:
  • Avoid overeating as it causes major electron leaks as there is too much ATP and so the engines are blocked while waiting for you to use up that ATP. Loads of free radicals are produced.
  • Avoid excessive carbohydrate consumption (considered normal levels today) which prevents fat metabolism and so deprives the mitochondria of its main fuel - forcing glycolysis to take over and producing high levels of free radicals.
  • Damaged, mutated mitochondria can be purged. The best way to purge them is through exercise. Exercise also stimulates biogenesis of new mitochondria.
  • PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinone) - literally found in stardust - stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis. Fortunately it is also found in dark chocolate and can be supplemented!
  • CoQ10 stops the engines from blocking - by age 40 we already lose half of our natural production - so take a supplement - 100mg to 200mg. This also acts directly as an antioxidant as well as stopping the electron leak.
  • L-Carnitine takes fatty acids into the mitochondria and empties the garbage. Like CoQ10 it diminishes significantly with age - supplement Acetyl-L-Carnitine 2 to 3 grams per day. This stops free radical production too.
  • ATP once used up leaves ADP behind and a difficult to produce sugar called D-Ribose is needed to provide the resources to turn this back into ATP. We lose D-Ribose with age so supplement 2 to 3 grams per day.
  • Brown fat does not lose electrons as they are simply turned into heat - which is what pigeons do and is why they live so long. Human babies do this too. We increase brown fat levels through Irisin (hormone - discovered June 2012) production from both endurance exercise and from adaptive exposure to cold. Take cold baths or showers regularly.

We don’t have fixed energy levels depending on age - they are dependent on how we take care of and feed our mitochondria. Treat the mitochondria right and your training will be able to safely follow - but no amount or type of training will sort out energy levels and performance without attending to this directly. Carbohydrate dependence masks this underlying issue (by ramping up glycolysis) and although it works for a while it will lead to trouble somewhere down the line. Those who have developed a solid aerobic system since youth appear to have an advantage which can be sustained throughout their lifetime - but this always appears to have its roots in very intense work - not in slow Maffetone style aerobic plodding.

The Test - Racing

Applying all of the above eventually I was ready to put it to the test in the Dromoise bike race in late September. The race was 119km long with around 1800m vertical of climbing. There is the race for the winner here of course but each competitor is also in a personal race constituted from all of those cyclists at a similar level. I must admit that the race was great for the first 70km, stimulating and exciting whether climbing or descending. Then at around 70km - after the descent from the second of three major climbs, my right leg went into complete cramp. The left leg was pretty close to doing the same but just managed to avoid locking up. That was the end of the race really. From this point onwards the battle was against myself more than against anyone else. Pushing on the pedals to accelerate was impossible so people who overtook couldn’t be chased and that leads to isolation. Holding a steady pace was possible but it was against the wind now for 50km and one big climb involved too. Several attacks of severe cramps eventually left the right upper quads in a bit of a mess by the end of the race. On the positive side the time was still good and within the so called “gold standard” for the age group and about 90th out of 144 in the age category - which was respectable considering most participants were keen club racers.

Since “feeding the mitochondria” my training had switched from being a tiring plod and difficult to recover from to being a stimulating pleasure with fairly fast recovery. This race felt the same - but now it was without carbs - not even eating during the 4hrs 36 minutes. The limit had simply been fitness. It takes more ATP to relax a muscle than to contract it - so when you overdo it the muscle just locks up in contraction. However, I had a plan for where to go from here. Two days of rest and the legs had fully recovered despite the cramps and energy levels were already high again. This ensured that both running and cycling training could be done and still provide a complete two day rest before the next race in exactly one week’s time.

Race 2 - Last Chance

This was actually my 3rd race of the season but not with all the right procedure in place. I was properly following “The Path of the Pigeon” now!

The “La Scott-Cimes du lac d'Annecy” is the last mountain race on the French calendar and would be my last chance to get things right this year. I didn’t expect to be ready as it was only one week after the Dromoise race but it seemed that recovery was good and there was no residual fatigue - though it rained hard during the night before the race and motivation was not strong.

Only two modifications were made to the huge pile of supplements for this race (BCAA - Branched Chain Amino Acids and stuff). Sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride were added. The baking soda is to stop cramps - just a teaspoonful in a water bottle. Some was taken before the race too with supplements - but one 700ml bottle to be used in the race had 500ml of mixed fruit juice with a huge pile of supplements and the bicarbonate added. The juice was only 10% sugars and when in ketosis the tolerable level of carbs is dynamic in relation to how many calories are burned in exercise - and it would be a lot on this day. The main reason for the juice was to make the horrible magnesium, sodium bicarbonate and all the rest of the supplements including Acetyl-L-Carnitine easier to swallow. Magnesium is used to relax muscle contraction. The “Rozana” mineral water I use has a high magnesium content already and magnesium chloride does cause diarrhea so only a small amount was added. You have to be careful because the mixture is explosive and I did have a significant eruption even through a supposed one way valve.

The “Scott” race is only 100km but with at least 2500m vertical. Being the final race of the season most competitors are at their fittest and the field is very strong. My only goal was to hopefully avoid another 50km of cramps. Quite stunningly I was able to maintain a high level of output from start to finish of the race - 4hrs 14mins. (I do my own timing for complete accuracy). What do I mean by “high level” of output? Over two and a half hours were spent with a heart rate between 165 and 175 bpm - with no drop off (Remember, 2 years ago my Hr max was only 172 bpm). During the final push to maintain position in the last 10km my heart was back up to 172 bpm - but a group of six working together annoyingly caught and overtook me just 100m from the finish line. During the race there were no stops and I only drank from the supplement bottle and one other 700ml bottle of water - no food. Breakfast had been high fat and protein - eggs, cheese and ham. This time I came 17th out of 30 in the age group in a significantly tougher race and was able to enjoy racing the whole way and not get dropped on the climbs. There were no energy dips, no cramps (thanks to the bicarbonate!) and it just felt good - better even than when being a carbohydrate addict and masking the mitochondrial issues by carb loading then guzzling gels and sugar during the race. With the carbs previously there were always energy swings and a need for more carbs. Heart rate would progressively lower during a race and by the end it would be impossible to raise it significantly. The carb dependent metabolism leans towards glycolysis and shuts down fat burning significantly. However, it appears that you can’t remove the carbs and hope to have energy unless you feed the mitochondria appropriately for your age and health.

The following link shows the Scott route through the Bauges Massif -  elevation profile, speed and heart rate data are included:
During the race there were five women who were at a similar level to me - which is great to see. Of course they were considerably younger but only one was still behind me at the end. Often I’d be surprised to catch up with people during the race. During the first climb from the start I overtook a lot of people and expected it to all end badly - but it didn’t. The second long climb was the hardest for me and I started to lose ground - but only by about 12 seconds behind the guys I’d been climbing with and easily recovered this on the following descent. It was after the second climb about 2 hours into the race that I started to drink from the supplement bottle. The third big climb - the Col de Prés - back up from Chambery into the Bauges Massif was scary because if it’s all going to turn pear shaped that’s where it will happen. I noticed that by switching off and just looking at the road in front of my wheel, concentrating only on the body, then I’d unexpectedly catch up with people. Looking ahead at the climb is just morally discouraging so it’s better to just focus in the moment instead. There was still a lot of climbing on the way back to the finish line but seeing that I couldn’t be dropped from the group that had formed was encouraging. In fact the last hour was the fastest by far, averaging almost 30 kph. On the flats against the wind there were always people to work with. My legs were starting to run out of steam during the last long gradual climb but heart level was still great and there were no cramps - so this was just a fitness issue being only the 3rd race of the year for me. The long descent to the finish found me isolated so I had to defend my position alone and the flats at the end are long, winding and interminable so it allowed a group working together to overtake me right before the finish line and there was nothing left in the legs to do anything about it.

After the race everything was good - but about 20 minutes later when talking to someone I found that talking caused a slight post-exercise asthma. I just had to relax the breathing - through the nose - for a few seconds and that disappeared.

Persistence and Information - Making it all work

Giving up the low carb diet would have been very easy when performance was just not really forthcoming and training tedious. However, performance has not been the goal - health has been the goal. Racing is just a testing ground and motivator - as well as a lot of fun. Nobody at age 58 races to win a race - they race to beat the negative forces that would otherwise turn them into useless, comfort dependent couch potatoes and junk food degenerates on multiple prescription drugs for chronic disease. They race to feel good - and it works. Without serious persistence and good information this just doesn’t happen. 
There are as many different metabolisms as there are people - each one being different just as their fingerprints are different so this can’t be ignored. Some people thrive on carbohydrates and others thrive on fat or protein - some in between. What we all have in common is a programmed decline in enzymatic support for the mitochondria. Some fight that off from a good base established in youth almost regardless of dietary abuse. It’s best however to find out what is genuinely right for you and to optimise health by having it all work harmoniously. The fact that there is a huge problem existing in general is seen by looking at the overall health of the population. In the US (which all other developed countries are usually not far behind) about 76% of the population is overweight with 36% of adults obese. Most people die from chronic sickness such a cardiovascular disease and cancer - despite a $3.75 Trillion medical industry. The third leading single cause of death is “Medical Errors” and depending on how it is rendered the information easily puts “Medicine” as the number one cause of death - in fact it’s a struggle to avoid representing it this way. The common denominator here is that doctors have practically zero training in nutrition - they are toxic drug dispensers. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/11/26/death-by-medicine-part-one.aspx

What’s clear here is that 50 years of the general population being told to eat low fat and focus on fruit, grains and veg and to trust in doctors and government advice is totally wrong. The basis of good health should begin with ketosis - fat burning and flexible metabolism and expand out from that base. If the mitochondria is properly supported then if it doesn’t work well for you - then and only then might carbohydrates be the answer - otherwise most carbohydrates are extremely unnatural in our diet. Your body makes all the glucose it needs from fat and protein - it is NOT an essential nutrient and too much of it (as in the modern industrial diet) destroys the health of the majority of people - and limits sports performance in many.

Regarding competition there appears to be a sliding scale between…
  1. consciously doping and sacrificing health for results.
  2. unconsciously gorging on sugars with a closed down fat burning capacity.
  3. overcoming the sugar issue by overly intense and eventually destructive levels of training.
  4. a fat based diet with mitochondrial support and good long term health prospects.
It takes from 6 to 12 weeks to fully adapt the body to ketosis (fat burning) during which time there is an increase in uric acid. When properly adapted uric acid levels are lower than before starting the diet. Other than measuring breath ketones this is the best way to determine adaptation. Once adapted carbs can be eaten and processed without losing the fat burning capacity - as the metabolism is now “flexible”. The unadapted person cannot burn fat properly which is why they are subject to energy swings and bonking in competition. Excessive eating of carbs would kick someone out of ketosis but as long as it’s a “one off” the body returns to ketosis in a few hours and no re-adaption is necessary. During sports the best macronutrient supplements are Medium Chain Triglyceride oils like coconut oil as they are converted directly into ketones in the liver, simple carbohydrates as they won’t affect ketosis during exercise and the scale of consumption is dynamic - allowing more for greater or longer efforts and BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) which are broken down into glucose if required or used to repair and spare muscle tissue protein. However it’s the micro nutrients supporting the mitochondria (The Path of the Pigeon) which are the key as you start to age or just need a boost.


The motion pattern in Chi Cycling is different in that the hip moves backwards when the foot moves forwards on the pedal. This is the opposite of what people tend to do spontaneously. What this does is engage the core muscles in the recovery of the other leg. When sprinting or pushing really hard on a climb this connects the left and right through the core and the upper body can still remain relaxed and light on the handlebars if desired. It’s an amazing feeling. Part of the process concerns the timing of certain muscle use - everything starting at the centre - in front of the spine between the navel and the pelvis - the core, glutes and hamstrings engaging first to extend the hip then the quads and finally the calf muscles. Weight training is very similar in that you always work the big muscles first and end up with the little ones because otherwise if you tire out the little ones first then your session is already over. There’s a lot of awareness that gradually builds up with coordination and timing so that eventually the quads can once again be used at full power, body weight included in the pedal stroke and even pulling hard on the handlebars - but in an efficient manner that is in harmony with the body.

When all the other problems were mixed together it was impossible to know if the chi-cycling was working or not. It’s now becoming clear that it is great and works. It allows intelligent, dynamic alignment of the bone structure and access to undoubtedly a lifelong development potential that is just not present otherwise.


On the whole it’s unclear whether or not cold water immersion helps the body to recover from exercise. Personally I find that it certainly has a positive impact on stress and there is nothing better as a pick-me-up especially when it’s the day after a competition. Cold adaptation develops brown fat which is the safety valve for ATP that the pigeon uses and so helps overall mitochondrial health - so there will certainly be long term benefits of cold exposure at the mitochondrial level. Cold adaptation also re-wires the nervous system - especially the hypothalamus which controls body temperature regulation. The stimulation of pain (or temperature or both) receptors in the skin appears to be what triggers the adaptations - so there is no need to lower the body’s core temperature. It only takes about five sessions of cold exposure for pain to disappear in contact with cold water (from 0°C up to about 13°C ). The day after the Scott race Christiane and I swam for about 20 minutes in 12.5°C water and the feeling was excellent. Although shivering to warm up initially (sun was already down) later in the evening my body felt like someone suddenly turned a thermostat on - and that’s the famous Cold Thermogenesis kicking in - ATP being converted directly into heat without the need for mechanical action. 

Christiane getting into the lake 12.5°C still  looking great at 61 years old – must be doing something right!

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) 

Measuring HRV is a great way to independently gauge what is happening with your training. It is recognised as a clear way to spot over-training. All you need is a good heart rate monitor and a phone or tablet that will connect with it. There are several good apps but I like "Cardiomood" on Android best of all. My Mio Global Fuse LED wrist HRM is excellent too - far better and more reliable than any chest strap I ever used - and I've quite a collection of those. 

Last year all the indications I had were of over-training despite not doing a great deal. The HRV indicated that the Parasympathetic Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) was suppressing my resting heart rate at 36 bpm and body stress was constantly relatively high. I do have "athletes heart" which is fairly common - being an enlargement of the heart muscles. However I hadn't until then considered this as a problem - other than knowing someone who had trouble getting insurance specifically because of that. It turns out though that the heart depends very heavily on mitochondria - so that also means it depends on CoQ10 and L-Carnitine. It is so dependent that someone with a debilitating heart blockage getting only 10% of normal oxygen to the heart can be returned to normal activity with just those compounds alone - the heart works so much more efficiently at the mitochondrial level when those nutrients are available. Needless to say it appears now - as with Maffetone's hypotheses - that the ANS was not the issue at all - but low CoQ10, L-Carnitine and D-Ribose. Since supplementing my stress levels the day following a competition have been astonishingly low - around 24 on a scale that goes over 800 (850 being seen when training after the fever in May) - with a resting heart rate now around 46 instead of bottoming out at 36 and blood pressure averaging around 115/65.

Perhaps not only sports issues are being represented incorrectly due to unawareness of mitochondrial health - but also excess weight. It's certainly a significant part of that puzzle too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tallulah’s Skiing Report

Author: Bernard Chesneau

Before we talk about Tallulah fabulous skiing, it is required to become familiar with the philosophical structure of my ski coaching.

Background, Philosophy and Strategy

I live to express a higher version of myself and I ski to awaken the expression of that higher version of myself.

Therefore as a coach, my objective is to let skiers access the higher version of their own selves.

Expressing a higher version of self requires that a precise structure be used and properly followed:

The structure that I use is based on the “enneagram of processes” shown bellow.


This particular enneagram is built for skiing and is designed to set anyone free from skiing limitations. Notice that nine words are contained within a geometric pattern, all of which has very significant meaning. Also notice the two heads inside the geometric figure. The one on the right, along numbers 1,2,3,4 is conveying aspects of doing, whereas the left one beside numbers 5,6,7,8 represents the higher aspects of being. With this process, we have a tool to move out of fear.

Naturally great performance is achieved by bringing into proper alignment the interconnectedness of the many parameters governing skier’s actions.

Amongst these parameters we have:
  1. What is conditioning skiing, what makes skiing possible!
  2. What is the individual’s relationship towards outside conditions!
  3. What is the individual’s relationship towards self!
  4. How to optimise these relationships to best serve the skier!

Lets get started – Gravity – Number 9

The word GRAVITY is at the top, above number nine, is the master word. Skiing only exists because of gravity. Thus all skiing is conditioned by gravity. Gravity is the power source and it is what moves the skier. The law is that gravity is the mover and that the skier is the one being moved. It is how well the skier accepts being moved by gravity that governs performance.

Moving on to number 1- Slope

The pitch angle of the slope regulates the intensity of gravity’s power. Steeper slopes unleash more of gravity’s power and is felt as a jolt on the skier’s body due to the acceleration. The steeper the slope is, stronger is that jolt and how the skier responds to the jolt will determine the kind of relationship that the skier has with gravity, with circumstances and with self.

Two arrows shoot off from every point. I will explain the arrow’s significance further on down.

Number 2- Balance*

The “acceleration jolt” from the slope’s steepness will challenge the skier’s balance, which will need to be resolved.

*Note on balance for Ian only.
Ian I am fully aware that balance is not the word that you would use, but please accept it as I do here in the terms of the layman.

The most significant definition of balance that I have encountered is: Balance equals immortality, and immortality equals “un-manifested” potentiality. When balance ceases to be, “potentiality” is tripped into action and the dynamics of “physical manifestation” are set into motion. Thus in the physically manifested world, what appears to our senses and to our science can never be in… balance; for it were in balance, it would cease to physically exist. More on this when we have dinner.

(Not wanting to interfere with Bernie's excellent approach I've placed my own footnote regarding balance at the end of the report... Ian)

Number 3 - Technique

The resolution of balance problems is achieved with “technique”.

Number 4 - control

The successful application of techniques brings control and the skier feels that all is fine and most end the journey of their skiing progress right here at point 4 instead of moving on through point five, six, seven and eight where the higher and the naturally joyful aspects of self are to be found. Skiers failing to move on end up decaying on the “terminal intermediate” plane. Why is that?

Skiers fail to move on for several reasons:
  1. Sociological statistics reveal that the need for control and the need for security are the two most strongly and universally held beliefs in the mind of mankind. Man is so massively programmed to want to control everything. To a skier, the need for control translates in the need to control gravity.
  1. Gravity is not controllable, so what is the thing that skiers need to control but are not aware of?
  1. In skiing the thing that skiers are trying to control but are unaware of is their own emotions. The need for control exists, however is not the thrust of gravity that needs to be controlled, but one’s own emotions.
The ability to control emotions is what is required to access the higher-level of self.

To integrate the mechanics of higher self-expression and move beyond point 5, emotions need to be managed. 

To better manage emotions, let us remember this about gravity: Gravity is the mover and the skier is the one being moved. Therefore a proper working relationship needs to be established for it is how well the skier accepts being moved by gravity that governs performance.

When you are on top of a ski slope, imagine yourself on a date with Gravity and because gravity is the mover, it is the one who is in charge of taking you out, who is showing you around and who is in charge of bringing you down the mountain. Gravity is in charge of your movements, not you. Your role is welcome gravity’s power and to allow it to flow through your body in the most fluid and harmonious way possible.

Only those who are able to Cooperate (cooperation point 5) with their date instead of opposing it may move on because from point 5 onwards, the emotional focus is governed by the desire to cooperate with gravity instead of working in opposition to it. This is where the relationship with self begins. And this relationship with self is the true “raison d’être” of skiing. Better is the relationship with self; greater is the absence of emotional burden. In other words, external circumstances no longer condition response.

Once free from the effects of external circumstances, it is possible to exercise your will and choose the best actions to elevate your skiing onto the plane where everything flows harmoniously and without effort (harmony point 6) because gravity is doing the work for you. As gravity works, parasitic body tensions disappear to leave you with a wonderful sense of freedom (point 7). From this freedom the attainment of the expression (point 8) of the higher version of self is now yours.

We have now moved through every point of the enneagram. Let’s consider the arrows.

Arrows are the emotional guidance system.

Each point on the enneagram has 2 arrows stemming off of it. How well emotions are managed is shown by where the arrows are pointing. Arrows may point towards emotional liberation or towards emotional imprisonment.

Looking at the arrows stemming the Gravity point 9.

From the Gravity point, which is also the top of a triangle outlined by points 3,6,9 and whose dynamics allow for correction; we are either drawn towards Technique (3), or towards Harmony (6) depending upon the nature of our love/hate disposition towards gravity.

Wanting to control gravity will stimulate opposition-based techniques, whereas moving into cooperation with gravity will promote the harmonious flow of movements. Fortunately for the skier stuck in technical opposition, atonement is made possible by replacing feelings of opposition into feelings of cooperation (with gravity). This is also how technique will mutate into the technique of harmony. This atonement is shown with the arrow that joins points 3 and 6 at the base of the 3,6,9 triangle.

Stemming from the Slope point number 1, we have arrows going towards control in (4) and towards freedom in (7).

If the pitch of the slope is too steep and the speed and acceleration is too much for you, you will want to repel gravity’s power instead of letting it work through you. And the date you had with gravity turns into a disaster, then and out of neediness for control your emotions will rush your body towards the control point (4) regardless of what your skiing looks like.

If you choose a slope that will not overwhelm emotions, and if you intend with your will and before you start the descent, to honour the flow of gravity’s power by letting it work freely with and through you, then you’ll have the opportunity, if you so desire, to experience the freedom (point 7) that comes from being moved effortlessly.

The Balance point number 2

When balance issues remain, the attraction is towards the control point (4) whereas when balance issues have been resolved, the higher version of self can finally become active and take you towards point 8. Point 8 is where all the magic gets to happen.

Notes on balance: On the technical front all balance result in from poor grounding with earth and on the existential plane, fore/aft balance issues relate to time. Learning back is the result of hanging onto the past, conveying the inability to embrace the present. Being centred stems from being at peace and in agreement with the present situation, and being forward is the anticipation of a future suggesting a discontentment for the present.

The control point 4

This point is a cull de sac as none of the arrows offer a direct exit into the desirable zone in 5,6,7, 8 where you should go. To get into the clear, slope and balance issues in points 1 and 2 must first be resolved.

The Cooperation point 5

This point is a wonderful fortress to be residing in because both arrows point towards what is highly desirable which is freedom (7) and Expression (8).

So how well did Tallulah access the higher level of self using the guidelines offered by the enneagram?

Starting with Gravity

Considering that Tallulah who is 5 years old had no issues whatsoever when taken up to 3449 metres because this is where the only beginner terrain is, shows Tallulah's extraordinary good willed nature towards Gravity. This good relationship with gravity was not only confirmed but also affirmed throughout the week. Tallulah’s personal nature is definitely orientated towards appreciating gravity power, if anything, I had to make sure that she doesn’t go OTT in the bombing department. He nature is definitely one “to go” which is great.


Slope issues could have been a real problem because we only had the ultra gentle beginner terrain at 3439 metres or the much steeper terrain bellow with nothing in between. No an easy proposition, let alone for a 5 year old. As there was nothing in between so we had to make the abrupt jump. I held Tallulah in my arms so that she could float over the tricky portions. In my arms she was relaxed and confident and eager to hit the go button once her feet were back on the ground. By the end of the week, I no longer had to carry her at all, even in the steep and narrow portion near the base of the Vanoise lift. Despite the potentially bullish aspect of the slope, the slope never discombobulated her. The need to hide into the control prison does not exist in Tallulah’s universe. Well Done Tallulah.


Tallulah has very good core stability and strength allowing her to stand nice and upright on her skis without any leaning back, which is exceptional for a five year old. This good core strength may probably be what is securing her bombproof confidence. The body has a strong and reliable connection with the ground and she is never fazed by the steepness of the terrain even when going a little too fast. When going fast she spontaneously made the adjustments without falling over.


The objective here was to introduce techniques that lead to harmony and this is where Tallulah’s go-for-it nature is a real bonus because she is not one to be wanting brakes. So I got her to experiment with edging her skis through her ankles so that she could experience “being turned” by the inbuilt turning radius of her skis. Kiddie’s skis are great because they have a tight 6-metre arc, which inspires much confidence. Again, because Tallulah is not afraid to go and has great core stability she does not feel the negative need for control and which is keeping her clear of most of the parasitic rotational movement that skiers are plagued with, she does most of her turning in carved mode like ski racers but at her level of course.


Even though I go on about cultivating the art of letting go of wanting to control gravity, Tallulah who likes to go fast, had ME needing to apply some tricks to keep her speed and her impetus in control, so I had to show her pizza slices and chips.


Tallulah spontaneously lets ALL of gravity work through her, which is why it is important that the next time she skis that she is kept on appropriate terrain so that this quality can mature a bit more so that if can more effectively be transferred onto skis.


Again the good core, and the go-for-it attitude, which is never burdened with counterproductive rotary movements, is very promising for the future.


Good core, well grounded balance and the wonderful desire to go, Tallulah is a little freedom machine.


Tallulah loves skiing and I loved discovering all of her wonderful attributes and we had great and surprisingly mature exchanges. I was forewarned that there could be trouble if she would not have liked skiing so I stayed very attentive and it has paid off because she now loves skiing. The fabulous weather also contributed to bless every moment.

Thank you
Bernard Chesneau

Footnote: – from Ian, regarding Balance. 

Its not an issue of terminology!

Perhaps your use of the word “balance” is to refer to the combination of stability, centering the body along with the perpendicular component of gravity (to the slope) in a passive role and appropriate coordination in relation to the function of the skis – also mostly in response. I would use roughly this collection of terms instead. You do use similar terms later on in the report so there is no apparent contradiction here for those particular goals.

The “layman” or “medical” term “balance” or "dynamic balance" would normally be applied to walking. The closest this comes to reality is in the "dynamic balancing" of a rotating object such as a wheel so that it doesn't wobble (which is technically a different issue altogether) however the doctor and ski teacher are actually referring mistakenly to d'Alembert's fictitious “dynamic balance” which is used in both professions – totally in error.

However none of that covers my reasons for studiously avoiding “balance” - not just in terminology – but literally physically and psychologically. The use of the term “balance” should at the very least respect Newton's three laws of motion. Balance is only found in the first law (statics) and skiing is exclusively about the other two laws. If the “layman” doesn't understand this – then back to school please because it's part of compulsory education – at least in the UK. The issue is not one of terminology but of a complete paradigm shift – one that Newton himself changed the world with. However I also know that the French are not taught Newton's laws other than their application through mathematical calculus – so even many highly respected PhD level engineers do not understand the paradigm at all. They end up believing mistakenly in the physical existence of fictitious forces that cause the fictitious “dynamic balance” - a mathematical trick developed by French mathematician Jean Le Rond d'Alembert  - one of the chief protagonists of the "Enlightenment". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_le_Rond_d%27Alembert – and the source of endless confusion to experts, medical doctors and laymen alike. Ironically he named “dynamic balance” to warn people that it is fiction (intrinsic contradiction of terms). However – all physicists do understand this very clearly because they are neither involved in nor hijacked by the mathematical techniques of engineering.

This issue is not about theory, it is about the practical aim of achieving the diametrically opposite set of physical actions and emotions that are unfortunately attained by looking for fictional balance or even responsive, passive control:
  • it is about generating dynamics by active use of the body and ski design through vigorously generating disequlibrium
  • trying as hard as possible to fall over and discovering that you absolutely can't and that gravity is not the master by a long shot (thanks to fundamental interaction with intelligent ski technology)
  • that balance is your greatest enemy and a huge deception leading to massively incorrect instruction worldwide and inappropriate individual intentions and results on a personal level. Trying to stay in balance and trying to fall over are absolutely not the same thing. Instability and fear mostly come from dealing with the consequences of a tenacious fiction.
The dynamic act of forcibly falling combined with the organisational effect of the ski causes the body's reflexes to be employed to spontaneously create a well-centered stability. This is an active - feedback driven - disequilibrium system - with the emphasis on "active", "dynamic", intelligence, reflexes and equipment design. Confidence comes spontaneously from sensing this mechanism clearly, unambiguously and related to reflexes. 

However – with intelligent guidance (as from Bernie) people can explore much of this naturally and by feel without ever realising how it works. They might just not reach the moon – like nobody would have without Newton. It took humanity until 1666 to wake up from being totally incapable of even understanding how a rock moves (Aristotle had it totally wrong and the whole of Western education copied and propagated his errors for 2000 years!) So the apparent simplicity of the issue hides a potential trap for all humanity – based on extremely counter intuitive realities. Newton gave us the key (thanks to Galileo) so any 13 year old schoolboy can understand it if he really wants to. Sticking to a false “layman's” understanding is as good as adhering to the stone age in comparison.

Note: Newton's Third Law has a catch! The two forces involved in equal and opposite reactions must not be acting on the same body. ie. A glass sitting on a table experiences two equal and opposite forces - gravity acting downwards and the table (elastic force) acting upwards. Both forces are on the same body so this is an example of the first law only - statics. 

Note: Based on the enneagram model (which appears to be very useful and effective) I would probably change out "balance" with "disequilibrium". "Self Organisation" would have to find a place on the other side (perhaps replacing "cooperation") - as it is the underlying basis of all learning (Edward De Bono invented the term "lateral thinking" to refer to the mechanisms of self organisation) and (at some level) everything complex that emerges in the universe - but only as part of  an open, dissipative, adaptive, feedback driven disequilibrium system - which all matter, information and especially life happen to be.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Daisy & Tallulah …in the beginning…

Thanks once again to Jay’s creative filming and photography we have a record of both Daisy’s and Tallulah’s introductions to their new sports – at 3500m altitude on the Tignes glacier. It’s quite a remarkable place to have a beginner’s slope and extremely dependent upon cooperative weather. The girls both coped well with the high altitude.













Friday, July 29, 2016

Daisy Snowboard Special

Daisy having decided that she wants to snowboard had the relative peace of the summer pistes of Tignes to learn in safety. Jay took on the job and looked after Daisy, giving her the benefit of his huge experience and capability – plus loads of encouragement. It was good to see Daisy smiling and enjoying the whole experience including the incredible weather, fresh high altitude air and scenery. Meanwhile her little sister was taking Bernie for a ski (they make a very brief appearance in the video) and her twin brother was making great progress at both giant slalom and slalom higher up on the glacier. Not to forget to mention Mike – who by tagging along with Alex and working quietly away at things by himself managed to make significant progress in a short time. Unlike the children Mike is partly dealing with “unlearning” – removing a few well constructed barriers to perception.  Meanwhile Daisy is happy just having fun…