Friday, December 5, 2014

4 gift ideas to create WELLTH - a book a sensor a stimulant an energy source - Fire Up the Season.

'Tis the season of giving, and boy do i have what i think are absolutely AWESOME ideas to help the ones you love experience joy and wellbeing - all over the map in prices, so you have LOTS of wonderful options.
Whether celebrating Festivus or Solstice
it's fun to share some wellth with the ones you love
(image source
Today, i'm going to offer you food for thought on four wellbeing things:

  • a paradigm shifting book on physical practice - the CardioCode
  • the one sensor i can recommend on multiple levels - for the sun - sunsprite
  • a couple things in the coffee space from flavour to skills beans to pour over
  • and still cooking - what may be a paradigm shift to make cooking more fast fun efficient and enjoyable - with induction

Hope you enjoy, and perhaps get inspired with related ideas to help your loved ones OWN their wellbeing practices.

Idea 1: Books

If you already have a fitness practice

"what books would you recommend" in the strength space, a wonderful sports columnist asked me recently - he mentioned a bunch - not the one i'm about to recommend -and i said, well, there's really only one right now - and i'd suggest you read it first as it may change your mind about the other ones.

The book is Kenneth Jay's CardioCode  - download

That's it. This is the only book on the list, and there's a reason:

It's a kind of paradigm shift for those of us who love strength training and have thought of cardio as more of a supplement than a primary.

From reading this book, you'll get that that perception of cardio may just be a bit wrong. You'll see why especially if you're doing a lot of strength work, your heart valves NEED this kind of cadio/vascular work.

If you already do primarily aerobic work from step to long runs, this book will help you understand how to tune that practice and assess it on multiple levels to make sure you're spending your time on the trail as effectively as possible.

I hope to do a more indepth review/interview with KJ about the book, but for now, suffice it to say, the emphasis of the book is to get at helping us (1) understand what cardio vascular training really is/means (not what we usually think eg long slow endurance or occasional fat burning intervals) (2) what CV training means (3) how to assess baselines and progress across multiple factors (not just heartrate zones, oh no. we're talking power power power) (4) why CV training in the way described in the book may need to become the dominant form of training.

For those who know KJ from his Kettlebell days, Cardio Code is not a repudiation of strength training; it's a refinement of previous practice - it comes to terms with how doing One Thing of anything when talking complex systems like the body may not be ideal. KJ seems to be exploring how to develop optimal approaches to training to support optimizing the performance for which we as humans seem best designed.  The next time KJ talks about weights, it will likely be around power/force generation rather than lifting raw loads for the sake of. I'm not prescient - he's been posting about Fast Force First for awhile on Facebook.

This book is what ya might call "important" - and part of why i think it's important is this alignment - as i see it anyway - of exploring what it means to be Human - physically in particular. And how to be a Great Human - physically.

Other books that treat CV related training do so as a means to an end: do this to be a better rower, cyclists, runner. And that's fine. KJ's focus - again, this is my take - we haven't talked about this - is that he's interested in how to become an optimal KJ - for his own sake. And that he's sharing this rationale with the rest of us so we can optimise up, too.

It's not that other folks haven't been talking about functional, primal and all sorts of basic movements and practices for ages. You will be hard pressed however to find another book that goes into the basics behind why the kind of intense CV work KJ describes. Or offers ways to baseline performance.

I've said intense a few times. CV training in this book is intense. It's not sit on a bike and casually spin. It's work. Again, the book takes you into why/how of working this way in order to achieve very particular adaptations.

I'm kinda in love with the book because it shows research on what are the BEST mechanisms to achieve these CV adaptations. Guess what they are? Running Rowing and Biking. I rarely see that combination - especially getting down with the research on rowing. and i love to row as my cv power hour and channel Xeno Muller.

On biking if you cycle (i like to ride (hills in the rain, oh ya) and row; run is usually recovery) - there's good literature review of what's going on there and why but the two main performance examples illustrated throughout the book are running and rowing. And that's fine. If you're into cycling this book will let you know why you'd want a power meter - and there are some good books in that space - but neither focus on the why's for wellbeing like KJ does - they focus on dialing in power for performance. So if you're a power cyclist - you will benefit mightily from this book.

Examples Live: As we speak KJ is also running a 6week protocol for rowing to improve his 2k row time. Folks can follow the program on facebook, run it themselves etc. He walks the walk and the book lets you know why this might be a Good Idea for getting into the CV intense space. And because he's always online on FB it's easy to engage and get feedback.

If you're super interested, KJ has started a course on the cardio code, too, to help you get one with the measures and techniques.

Really, read this book. It will tune your mind in new ways

Very short list, eh? really, i just don't want to suggest anything else till we're all on the same page with this one.

Idea 2: Sensors

Here comes the Sun:

Ya fitbits. wifi scales; calorie counters; hours slept - all things that count - what are we doing? That's
a post coming up. What the heck are we doing with these numbers. Really i'm asking what's our model for these devices? Are they helping to make us healthy? For instance: are 10k steps the big win, or is it movement frequency - maybe fewer steps - that is the big win - and that's harder isn't it? how build a sensor to help us move more frequently? It's not as simple as a jawbone zapping us every 20 mins - it's supposed to do that only if you haven't been moving - but doesn't know if you're standing - and movement is pretty insensitive. 

SO i'm feeling a little dubious about measures without good models as part of building resilient knowledge.

BUT there is one sensor that i think is just fantastic in its completeness.

It's something called sunsprite. I THANK Ben Rubin of Boston's Change Collective (formerly of Zeo) for telling me about the folks at Sunsprite and this awesome tool.

Gotta do a big review of this too, but for right now why spend money on this over a fitbit or anything else? because it will help you Dial In Better more quickly and easily and effectively than just about anything else with the LEAST cost/effort of any of those other awesome things AND it's the one key thing, especially to be aware of in this dark season, that most of us simply are not dialed into - at our loss. Having a plateau issue? with weight loss or strength or stress? put some light on it and see what happens. 

Sunsprite happy dance

A video posted by @m.c.phoo on

The simple simple premise of a whole lot of complex science is: get a bunch of sun (or bright white light) at the start of your day, and you'll feel SO MUCH better - and sleep better. 

The monitor simply tells you when you've gotten 10K Lux worth of radiation. 10 LEDs on a sensor - brilliantly powered by a solar battery - clever or what - let you know how you're doing. That's it. 

What's really scary is how dark UK days make it almost impossible to get that level of sun. I've walked 5miles in dark grey days and gotten to 4 only. WHereas a bit more sun - 30 mins and all in. I'm exploring using a litebook or philips goLite as ways to pump up my exposure. 

The thing is, getting the sun/light DOES make a difference to quality of life pretty quickly. Do it for a week and notice better sleep - less interrupted - less stress too.  I dunno. it's freaky.  

The research i've been going through shows that for everything from mood/affect to weight management, syncing our various circadian clocks earlier in the day with a solar jolt does amazing good - quickly.

So why the sensor?
 If the intent is to develop a light practice, a sun focus, this tool helps build in some feedback on success or not.  There is a bluetooth phone app you can also use to observe patterns of light - would be nice to have a build in affect / sleep quality perception tracker too to make correlating light and mood and rest together. But perhaps that's a developer opportuntiy.

 If you've hit a plateau with your wellbeing practice, if you're dealing with stress, poor sleep, mood stuff - or just not feeling like you're firing on all cylinders - get some more big light. And if you want to see how you're doing - and get a nudge to keep this in mind - the tracker is the only sensor i can happily recommend right now as connecting model and measure so elegantly.

Idea 3: Stimulants - and so much more 

 Coffee - Consider the source: Go Local and International

Do you know someone who really loves good coffee? Coffee can be so wonderful.
i've been tweating over @mcphoo a variety of articles about coffee and green tea and how they are good for so many things  - and i mean the whole food/thing that is coffee and tea - not isolated caffeine. 

Coffee because of its strange flavour possibilities can be so nuanced. It's wonderful to have a really good cup of coffee. One where you really don't want to put anything in it. I mean it. Recently i started making hand cut french fries: slicing up the spud, baking them in the oven. We could not believe the flavour - ketchup took away from the natural savory sweetness of the spud. Great coffee is like that - it's so good it doesn't need anything else - that starts to kill it. You know?

Not that there's anything wrong with a fantastic latte - esp with latte art - but that's a different drink that a lovely cup of coffee. They are different. That's a latte this is a cup of coffee, you know? 

Coffee Beans make a fantastic gift: the bag is kinda squishy, you can shake it - and it gives off a fabulous aroma. What's not to love?

AND if you do a google search for your area, guaranteed you'll find roasters who will mail out fresh roast beens. Read the reviews online - find out who people recommend - look at what feels good. This can be a hugely affordable and personal gift all at once.

Roasted Single Origin Beans. If you have someone in your life that enjoys coffee, you may want to find out how they make it at home: if they like to buy beans and grind them at home, consider getting them some single origin coffee beans. Just check for roasters in your area. Mail order is easy; beans come fast and fresh roasted - just ask when the beans do get roasted - try to get under a week old. In the UK i just got some from a roaster called RaveCoffee that was roasted the day before it got to me. 

If they get beans ground: you can still get them fresh roasted beans and ask to have them ground - for the kind of coffee they like - a press pot grind is different than drip is different than epsresso. So are the roasts. Lighter for pour over; darker for espresso - not always but usually. 

You may want to get a couple types of beans that are very distinct from each other for flavour. Kenya AA is very different from Ethiopian is very different from Guatamalen. Which is great - it means your pal can start to explore tastes and learn more about the beverage they love.

Local Baristas
What can also be fun is doing a Cafe Crawl - to find independent coffee makers - sans attitude - who will make coffee for you and talk about it with you. Loads of resources here too to put together a tour for your pal - that is something made with research and lots of love. In the London area for instance, Philip Wain is a total coffee area maven. In Boston for espresso and related espresso based drinks, for bean recommendations, well, you might check out San at the coffee trike 

Going Manual - for the slightly ocd coffee person in your life
In the UK startbux was quoted the other day as saying it makes Zero profit here (tax issue - starbucks/amazon not paying uk tax). 

Fantastic. Let's help Startbucks go even further away from worrying about profit. How? 
2) make your own (dam) coffee 

I don't mean espresso per say but that cup of coffee thing.
You may be thinking, i have a coffee maker, and i go to Starbucks or Nero or Costa because i don't really like the coffee pot next to my double carmel machiata for a million dollars every morning.

I understand. I hear you.
It's so easy to get coffee wrong - to be crap. 
But, it's also fun to get into making it beautifully - to OWN that cup of coffee.

There are many many ways to go here, but i'm going to touch on two i enjoy for one or two people servings - not for something to stand all day. 
1) aerobie aeropress (Amazon uk || amazon US link affil links) and 
2) hario v60 ceramic with filters with choice of sizes (1 or 2). (UK || US

They both cost about the same in the USD 25'ish mark. They each require practice to get right, but when you dial it in, it's awesome. And saying that - they're both different. The aeropress forces the water via pressure over the grounds (not unlike espresso/moka uses pressure); the pour over uses gravity of the water to flow over the grounds. 

There are many videos and how to's for both. In each case, you will hear about grams of water vs coffee -and water temperature, and how these all effect extraction/flavour. 

The amazing thing is, a coffee buddy who goes out for coffee and has a cup of coffee from time to time will amaze themselves if they just follow the instructions for instance that come with the aeropress - and make it dead easy to have a brave new coffee experience.

Here's a wee video i did about travelling with the aeropress -

And here's my fave way to make a wee Hario v60 pour over 

Life tuning events can happen so unexpectedly...
My thanks to Ed Cutrell for challenging me this spring/summer to give the Aeropress a try. 

Idea 4: Cooking 

- induction 

This gift idea starts to get into electronics and the price goes up. Double the price of that aeropress, and getting even more personal with the one you heart.

induction plus pressure cooker
mas macho.
see stock story
If your loved one has pots/pans on the bottom that say they can handle induction, you may want to give getting a portable induction hob as a gift - if they don't already have induction. Why?  It's a great complement to gas, and blows the doors off any kind of traditional electric.

Induction is cooking by magnetic field: so only the part of the element gets hot that is under the pot. really simple. And very very fast to get to any level of heating. Very efficient, too. It's so clean in how it works, it's just awesome. When it's off, like gas, it's off. And like gas, the only thing that stays warm is what the gas has heated - so it comes on fast the area cools fast. It's amazing. For the pressure cooker that i love the induction plate is its soul mate.

I first got turned onto induction watching a how to make a hanah grant Saxo bike team how to make an omelette video (take a look)

Then! i was staying at a place for a conference that had induction. WOW.

Some portables i can tell ya, are great in the mid range but are not great when it comes to simmering - so need to check how it does its temperature intervals. It seems that they may have a limited shelf life, given comments on amazon. But they're cheaper than taking the family out for a meal, so oh well.

Now, in looking for a better induction hob, i inadvertently found one that is the Ferrari of induction plates: the CS30001TS. Ferrari From quality to price. Designed and made in the UK for the catering 12-15 hours a day of use, it has 99 steps for tuning its heat. My portable has 10.

look - one surface, three pots going - and a half grape fruit
staying chill.
AND it has that funky blue light.
like neon lit license plates, or what?
If you're into the pro level - or just want to see what that's like, in the UK, do check out Induced Energy - they even have an induction set that works under a fabricated granite-type counter top - to no cutting holes in the counter to have a hob. Freaky.  If you are at that place where you can get one of these - let me know - would love to hear how you use and enjoy it to pieces.

Heh, they even have a two ring version - and after watching Little Paris Kitchen - where the wee wee flat has a two ring gas burner and toaster oven for all cooking - well you know - one could do a more space age version of that flat - and still save space.

And if none of this works techno wise, but your pal/family want to get more into cooking, then Little Paris Kitchen also shows, it don't take much besides fresh whole food to make flavourful feasts (check out use of limited space, dual gas ring and toaster over here).

Wrapping Up - An important part of giving, for the Reveal

Well here's a bunch of ways to support various aspects of wellbeing in i hope a few new ways at least - and sometimes a change in practice is as good as a rest.

If you try these, please let me know - give me a shout @mcphoo on twitter (kinda phasing out @begin2dig)

And have a great solstice season.


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