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Tim Ferriss: The Human Experiment Blog

February 25, 2007

Exceeding Human Limits of Strength, 1015-lb. Bench Press… and a Favor

Filed under: Physical Performance — timferriss @ 5:50 pm

As promised, here are a few photos and videos from my excursion to the limits of human strength. Before I get into all the testosterone-laden goodies, however, I would like to ask you all to vote for my friend Peter Scully’s company 38 North, which was nominated for Best Promoter in SF. Just go here for two seconds and help him out.

Now, off to the manly arts.
The first clip features Ryan Kennelly, multiple-time world record holder in the bench press. He completes a 900 lb.+ lift but ends up bursting blood vessels in his sinuses and eyes due to the unhuman blood pressure such a lift produces. He cleaned off and attempted larger lifts later. Note the “gear” — double-ply bench shirt — that is used to project the arms forward and increase lift poundages. This accessory can add 50-200 lbs. to some lifters’ bests, making them a recipe for suicide when there is a rip. In all cases, these athletes are risking death with each lift (see the second clip for proof).

The second clip makes it clear why good spotters are a necessity.

The third clip is the one and only Scot “Mendy” Mendelson, who almost locks out a world record 1015 lbs. — he actually pushed the lift up an additional 2″ after his shirt tore. I’ve worked with him for nearly 6 years, and he is arguably the strongest human on the planet.

The last clip is footage of the first person ever to lift and place a 450-lb. “Atlas Stone” in competition. These are perfectly spherical balls of stone. I can deadlift over 400 lbs., but I attempted to lift the lightest of the stones prior to the event and couldn’t even budge it. Most injuries, one strongman told me, are not in the lower back as one would expect, but rather in the biceps and pecs (chest muscles) as a result of the compression required to keep the stone in place.

Don’t try this at home.

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February 20, 2007

My Weekend: 57-Year Old Carrying 880 lbs.

Filed under: Physical Performance — timferriss @ 3:43 am

This last weekend, I attended the FitExpo in Pasadena, CA, an assorted circus of powerlifting, strongmen, bodybuilding, and other cultura fisica. I was a major sponsor and captured some incredible footage, more to come in the next several days, but this one was too good to wait on. The question is, of course, if a 57-year old can walk with 880 lbs., what’s your excuse? After all my bitching about a sore shoulder and being past my prime, this made me ashamed of myself.

Even crazier goodies to come.

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February 16, 2007

Book Review: One Person/Multiple Careers - A New Model for Work/Life Success

Filed under: Uncategorized — timferriss @ 12:00 am
If you’re not satisfied with answering “what do you do?” with a single job title, if you want more time for your passions and — above all — more life, One Person/Multiple Careers is THE book to read.

I struggled with the one-career-one-identity workplace for ages, and the more than 100 case studies in this book present a different reality. Marci, whose journalistic pedigree makes the stories and lessons flow, shows us all how to combine seemingly unrelated careers, overcome overload, and master the new “slash” approach to the game of life.

This is a must-read for anyone who asks themselves “is this all there is?” on Monday mornings and dreams of doing — and being — more. Stop pigeonholing yourself and selling your diverse talents short.  From Publisher’s Weekly:

For those already slashing through multifaceted professional lives, Alboher’s collection of profiles of people juggling multiple roles may offer the comfort of knowing others are doing the same. For those recently separated from a job or seeking greater fulfillment from life, Alboher’s fascination with people working through dual existences may reveal an alternate path to success. Her book is less about making career changes than changing how one defines a career and making adjustments for a more satisfying life…

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February 11, 2007

Online Travel Planning vs. Booking

Filed under: Uncategorized — timferriss @ 2:53 pm

Rohit Bhargava made an astute observation over at Influential Interactive Marketing about an apparent gap in online travel planning — most places that claim to help you plan actually sell you advertiser-supported travel packages, and those that help you book seldom help you plan.  If the intrepid traveler doesn’t yet know where to go, where should they start?

Good question.  My thoughts on the subject:

To me, the problem seems to be, not combining community and e-commerce (which can be done with separate sections of a site that aren’t interrelated), but doing so in a fashion that flows naturally from destination consideration –> reading reviews –> planning a hypothetical trip (or trips) –> comparing cost options –> booking. I’ve been through more than 25 countries, and keeping all of this information in one coherent place  is the trick.

The closest I’ve found to date is, and what I think will be even closer when it debuts:  The latter will allow you to funnel options based on your expected budgets and style of travel. I have no vested interest in either company but know one of the founders of the latter.

As an aside, I recall my best trips as being borne of a willingness to improvise once landing instead of excellent planning.  This forces you to actually interact with your environment instead of just capturing it on Flickr.  PDAs and sophisticated hour-by-hour planning often destroys — for me — the most enjoyable facet of travel: unexpected discovery.  My advice: learn all you can to ensure you’ll be safe when you arrive, then take off the training wheels and get lost.

• • •

Losing 10 lbs. of Fat in 2 Weeks? It’s as Easy as 1-2-3 — Take the 1-2-3 Challenge

Filed under: Physical Performance, Weekly Tips and Tricks — timferriss @ 3:26 am

I recently visited the helpful Mutual Improvement Blog, where I came across a post on health, diet, and exercise goals. It was a good list insofar as it contained the steps most people have been taught are necessary to be “healthy”. The problem with becoming healthy is that it is made to be COMPLICATED by everyone who purports to be an expert. You can’t sell magazines month after month unless there is constantly something new and sophisticated.

Here was my response to the author’s good, but overwhelmingly long for anyone changing life-long habits, list:

I think I can help simplify this a bit. Two-second background: I help design training and nutritional programs for Olympic athletes, around 30 world records thus far. The most impressive specimens, all of which have less than 6% bodyfat, do the following three things:

1. Consume 1 gram of lean protein (chicken, fish, or micellar casein powder preferred) per lb. of lean bodyweight (subtract your fat) per day. Some split this into three meals and two shakes. I prefer four meals (9am, 1pm, 5pm, 9pm) and one shake after exercise. A piece of animal about the size of your palm (similar to a hamburger patty) is around 30 grams.

2. Carry a Nalgene bottle full of water with you at all times. As soon as you drink it all, fill it again. This will help your liver to oxidize fats and eliminate waste products that cause skin problems.

3. Resistance train with free weights or machines 2-4 times per week. I prefer machines for safety and ease-of-use. I only spend 30 minutes twice per week in the gym if I’m not competing. You don’t need any more than one set to failure (5 seconds up, 5 seconds down rep cadence) with the following exercises: leg press, overhead press, seated row, bench press, back extension, abdominals, calf raises. This workout will last you less than 15 minutes. Finish with 10 minutes on a stationary bike to minimize soreness the following day.

That’s it.

If you only do these three things for two weeks, you will lose a massive amount of bodyfat and improve cardio-muscular function, increase bone density, decrease cholesterol, and build smoother, cleaner skin. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

Last recommendations, have the same professional at a gym measure your bodyfat every month, and have your physician draw blood for comprehensive blood tests every 6 months (you’ll have to pay $100-400, depending on what you want tested).

Have fun, get lean, and get simple.

• • •

February 6, 2007

Making To-Do Lists “Doable”

Filed under: Weekly Tips and Tricks, Productivity — timferriss @ 1:43 pm

Merlin Mann, the productivity wunderkind behind 43 folders, has advice for anyone suffering from growing to-do lists that never seem to end:

Framing your work in the physical world is easiest when you imagine what’s being done, and the best trick here is to simply phrase your task in a form like: “verb the noun with the object.” That means instead of reminding yourself with the mystery meat of “Year-end report,” you’d more accurately first “Download Q3 spreadsheet from work server.” And, instead of “Get with Anil,” you’d probably want to “Email Anil on Monday to schedule monthly disco funk party.” Get specific in whittling the task down to one activity that you can accomplish completely at a sitting. “A sitting” will vary for you, but I try to never plan a task that would take more than ten minutes (your level of busy-ness might command even smaller-sized tasks).

Consider, for example, how an oversized to-do like “Prepare the big presentation” might be improved upon by zeroing in on the physicality of a first step like “Draft four ideas for our presentation’s theme.” Where the former task provides no purchase for a sensible ascent, the latter gives us a fat handle for getting started with something that already feels familiar: we know how to type, and we definitely know when we see four of something. So, this is a sensible chunk of work that can be done.

Clear action begins with clear thinking.  All that matters is what you do.  Focus on getting specific on ideal outcomes and next steps and that neverending to-do list will shrink quickly.  Fight the ambiguous — your life depends on it.

• • •

January 31, 2007

5 Tips for Nicotine Addicts

Filed under: Uncategorized, Weekly Tips and Tricks — timferriss @ 5:19 pm

I don’t smoke because — among other reasons — I was born prematurely and can barely use one lung.  That said, I know quite a few nicotine addicts who have trouble kicking the habit.  For the would-be non-smoker, the never-ending debate is whether to quit or reduce.

Simply pinning consumption down to X number of cigarettes a day doesn’t work for many because it’s not precise.  The first cigarette of the day is usually with the morning coffee or even earlier, and one leads to another for occasions ranging from the after food, during the commute, for the waiting period, during moments of stress, during moments of joy and so on.  Before you know it, you’ve reached your cap and have 20 hours to go!  Follow the tips below to prevent this and end the cycle:

TIP 1: Decide on the number of cigarettes you want to smoke in a day

TIP 2: Divide the day into 2 phases of 12 hour each. Phase I starts at 12 noon and ends at 12 midnight.  Phase II starts at 12 midnight and ends at 12 noon.

TIP 3: Decide that one phase is strictly non smoking; I would recommend you choose the 2nd phase between 12 midnight and 12 noon as your non-smoking phase.

TIP 4: Divide 12 by the target number of cigarettes. This is the number of hours that must pass after any one cigarette before you can smoke another.

TIP 5: Use this fixed schedule to establish an steady intake of nicotine that can be decreased over time.  If your intake is  standardized in this way, withdrawal symptoms  disappear within three weeks, after which point you can cut your smoking period down to 6 hours, 3 hours, and then no hours.

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January 13, 2007

7 Tips for Surfing Success from Brazil

Filed under: Sports and Drugs, Physical Performance, Travel — timferriss @ 4:07 pm

I just landed on the beautiful island of Florianopolis, Brazil to learn how to surf and stood up near a dozen times on my first day! This isn’t a testament to my ability but to the school I chose: Nexus Surf. In addition to a free cell phone and car for exploring the region, they have the best teaching method I’ve seen in the sport. I was so impressed that I asked the founder, Hans Keeling, to offer his top 7 tips for would-be surfers. For the record, I started with a 9-foot board, focused on having the top of my feet on the back edge of the board (almost grabbing the board with my toes), and practiced lifting my body up with my lower back for paddling vs. pulling my head back, which hurts like hell. Here are Hans’ tips:

1) Selecting the proper board size and shape for your height, weight and body type is crucial. Speak with an instructor or friend with solid surfing experience to see what they recommend for you. For beginners, a large board with plenty of width and girth is ideal, as this will provide a stable ride and better balance.

2) For beginners, make sure to choose the right conditions for learning. Ideal are days that are relatively calm, with small waves and gentle, rolling swells. Avoid crowds, which can be daunting for new surfers. Nothing can turn someone off on surfing faster than paddling out in intense conditions that are too much for their comfort level, so take it easy and build up your confidence for larger wave conditions gradually over time.

3) Before entering the water, take 5-10 minutes to warm up and stretch your muscles out, particularly of your arms, neck, shoulder and back. While surfing you’ll likely use certain muscles in an entirely new way, which without proper preparation and stretching can be quite sore the next day.

4) Once in the water, the first challenge is to learn to paddle correctly while on your board. This is your means to control your position relative to the waves and get to where you need to go in order to catch them. Lay down on the board, stomach down, back arched and head up, and find the proper equilibrium point for your weight to balance on the board — not too far back so that the nose of the board shoots up out of the water (you’ll paddle but won’t go anywhere!) and not too far forward so that the nose of the board “submarines” below the surface of the water (you’ll lose balance and submerge head first). Once you’ve found you’re proper balance point, begin to paddle with long, outstretched strokes, hands cupped or positioned as a freestyle swimmer would have them, alternating right arm then left. Each paddle should be deliberate and efficient, catching and pushing away behind you as much water as possible with the entire part of your arm submerged into the water — the more force, the more velocity.

5) One of the keys to great surfing is learning to analyze the conditions of the ocean. Pay attention to the prevailing currents, learn to read the waves, see where they are breaking and where they aren’t, if they’re hollow or full, and observe until you can identify the time between “sets”, which are groups of larger waves that roll in periodically and what surfers live for. When watching the waves, look for where the peaks rise and then start to break, and observe where the good surfers position themselves relative to these peaks to ride them — this is where you want to be! Be patient as developing this familiarity with the waves takes time — the ocean is an ever-changing medium, so only with time and dedicated observation will you begin to develop familiarity with its patterns and behavior. A great thing to do is to take at least 5-10 minutes before each surf session (combine with Step 3 above!) and observe the other surfers out on the water to get a feel for how conditions are at the moment and which peak is right for you.

6) In order to practice getting to your feet on the board, start on the inside set of waves, called the “whitewater”. With a sufficiently large board, even these small, petering out waves will have enough force to get you moving with enough velocity to get to your feet. Balance on a surfboard is not unlike balance on a bicycle — once you’re moving, it’s easy to balance and find your equilibrium, but if you’re stationary, it’s next to impossible. Once the wave catches you, put both hands flat on the board below your chest, and push your upper body up off the board, back arched and head up. In a smooth, fluid motion, you want to sweep your front leg up under your body as you bring yourself to a standing position. Which leg belongs in “front” will determine whether you are a “goofy” (right foot forward) or “regular” (left foot forward) surfer — one will naturally seem more comfortable to you, just as jumping off of one leg or the other is generally more natural for people. Once up on the board, keep a low center of gravity, knees bent and upper body balanced, with arms up around chest level to help finding your balance.

7) In order to get the hang of paddling, keeping your balance and the motion of getting to your feet in the whitewater, the key is practice, practice, practice! Once you feel comfortable with these steps, you’re ready to translate what you’ve learned to the outside sets (larger waves). No mysteries here, just applying the same techniques in a more dynamic environment, aka, the “big leagues”. Persistence and practice are again key, so get to it, be patient and most importantly, have fun!!!

• • •

December 31, 2006

2007 - Start with a Bang - 43 Folders and the Rational Mind

Filed under: Uncategorized, Weekly Tips and Tricks — timferriss @ 10:00 pm

2 Minutes and counting until 2007, EST. Sherry in hand, I wanted to share a quote from Scottish mountain climber W.H. Murray posted over at 43 Folders:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Here’s another one, this from Anne Lamott (author of Bird by Bird), to get you off on the right foot in the new year:

To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass.

Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Slow down, and when in doubt, take a few hours to eliminate the unimportant. Focus on less and you’ll have - and be - more. May 2007 be your best year yet! Whatever you’ve been dreaming of and putting off, do it. Fortune favors the bold.

• • •

December 30, 2006

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — timferriss @ 8:29 pm

So I was finally hit with a blog tag from Yanik Silver, the marketing genius over at Internet Road Trip. Here are five things you might not know about me:

1. When I won the national kickboxing championships in 1999, I cut from 193 lbs. to 165 lbs. for weigh-ins… in 18 hours. Don’t try this at home.
2. When I was 15, I studied abroad in Tokyo for a year. One evening, I asked my host mother to rape me the following morning at 8am. Okasu is “to rape.” I meant to use okosu and ask her to wake me up. It was an awkward moment.
3. I was a rodeo king in Wyoming at age 13, and I have the silver spurs to prove it. My specialties were pole bending (slalom on horse) and lariat (lasso).
4. I refused to learn the alphabet until late in 1st grade. My kindergarten teacher went to war with me about this, and I was forced to eat soap, earning me a permanent spot at the “bad table.”
5. I was born 6 weeks premature and was placed in intensive care for 3.5 weeks. My entire body’s blood volume had to be transfused 5 times due to severe jaundice (my liver didn’t function). Due to a surfactant deficiency, my left lung collapsed, and I was placed on oxygen. To this day, I cannot use most of my left lung. And you think you hate aerobics? Imagine doing it while breathing through one nostril. That’s how I feel all the time.

Since it’s my turn to tag, I will tag one of the few bloggers (and fine journalists) I know, Penelope Trunk. Go get ‘em!

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