Emptying out the mailbag and clearing the history #5

Posted on February 13, 2015

(Last Updated On: May 19, 2017)

Other mailbags can be found hereKeep in mind a lot of this is email conversations, comment replies, or some random interesting things I’ve found. By their nature they are not as thorough or complete as a post on one topic.

Here’s what’s covered in this installment (click to be taken to the section):

Appreciating the scope of space:

How we’re going to travel through it, repeatedly:


I’ve slowly gotten more and more interested in space the last couple years. One of the challenges with human space exploration, especially longer duration flights, is exercise / movement based. I plan on writing about this in the not-too-distant future.

Business lessons from history

A client of mine mentioned the recent mini-series the History Channel ran, called Sons of Liberty. It reminded me of a similar series, The Men Who Built America. I thought both were very well done, despite Sons of Liberty apparently taking some, uh, liberties, with things. From what I researched, it was close enough.

I’m not usually a history guy, but both were eye opening and good ways to learn about the personalities which have shaped the States, such as our business practices. Some greedy, ruthless SOBs.

Hiring drug users

David Heinemeier Hansson is partner to Jason Fried at Basecamp. I cannot recommend their business book Rework enough. DHH is known to stir up controversy here and there, but it’s often thought provoking. I thought this was a worthwhile point of view from him regarding hiring drug users:

DHH Drug Users

Steve Jobs is often heralded as a creative genius. He often referenced his time on LSD as being a significant benefit in the course of his life.

The media tends to give distorted views of these things. We’ve all heard about the writers who were heavy drug users, committed suicide, etc. Just because we can name five prominent authors who did this doesn’t mean there aren’t a million who didn’t.

Regardless, if you’re hiring, it seems worth thinking about. If nothing else, a workplace of complete straight edges sounds pretty boring.

How quickly you lose the “if you don’t use it, you lose it”:

“The researchers found going from high to low levels of daily physical activity for just five days decreases the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels in the legs.”


Something to consider the next time you think, “Oh, I’ll get back into things in a month or two.” Or the next time you’re thinking, “I’m really busy right now. I’ll get back at it once this project dies down.” Because within a few days, things already start deconditioning.

Anyone from the sports world would likely read this study and go, “Well, duh.” It only takes a few days, at most a week, for someone very in tune with their body, like an athlete, to start noticing things reversing, getting harder, etc. A week of no practice and you’re rusty. A week of not lifting weights and you don’t feel as strong. The body is incredible in its ability to adapt, but this goes both positively and negatively.

Since I brought up space in this mailbag, one of the bigger issues with space travel is the loss of bone density and muscle strength due to weightlessness / less gravity. When astronauts get into space, this loss of muscle strength can be 20% in five daysWhen it comes to seeing extra calcium in the urine -because the bones are losing it- this begins like a day or two into being weightless.

You are always training the body, whether you want to be or not.

Planche push-ups

“I was wondering what your thoughts on planche pushups were? I’ve done them in the past and really liked them but wasn’t sure how you thought they would be on my shoulders. Not sure if you’ve seen them but it’s basically a pushup, elbows tucked with fingers pointing towards the toes. How do you feel about using them as the pushups?”

I usually avoid things like planche push-ups. It’s really hard on the lower back. Many may think it’s a great upper body exercise, but the thing holding the entire lower body up -which weighs way more than the upper body- is primarily the lower back. You can see how arched someone’s back gets in the pic I attached. (Compared to a plank, or crawl, where we’re often fighting the hips / lower back from dipping!)

If the feet aren’t elevated, then there is potential to make them work.

Planche push up lower back extension


When foam rolling goes awry:

“Hi Brian,

I read your “Best Damn IT Band Stretch Ever” article and I wanted some additional help.

I’m actually the opposite of the ‘most people’ you were talking about so I’m not sure if I should not do what you were describing or still do the exercises because they will still help. I have an extremely flexible and therefore weak back and have a posterior pelvic tilt. I’ve noticed (going through physical therapy for a car accident a while back) that my IT band is VERY tight, especially on one side.

Using a foam roller, I was breaking down fascia build up and scar tissue in my hamstring on the same side, when I noticed a knot in my GM just below where a normal person might have a back dimple. Rolling back and forth slowly over that section, my leg contracted and retracted unexpectedly and lost all strength. I stopped what I was doing and groaned my way off the foam roll (since I suddenly couldn’t use the leg) and felt an ache going from that upper GM section, through the side of the hip directly through the greater trochanter and wrapping back around to the back of my knee.

For a good 10 minutes I had no strength in that area, could only use the leg when very straight from ankle to hip and quite gingerly. I haven’t tried foam rolling that section for a few days now but I have tried to work a little of the greater trochanter and TFL section since then and it’s definitely slow going.  Behind the knee is also very tender, though that also could be the tight hamstring.

Let me give you a little additional information, doctors have thought that I might have a form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome though I’ve never pursued testing and throughout my youth I danced as my main sport, which definitely took advantage of my flexibility without building up much muscle to support it.

I look forward to your response!

Thank you so much for your help.”

Hey [redacted],

-I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for as I don’t believe you asked a question, but it sounds like you rolled your sciatic nerve and really irritated it.

-I wouldn’t be foam rolling, at all. More here: http://b-reddy.org/2013/05/20/issues-with-foam-rolling/

-Having a very flexible back is a good way to have a back that often doesn’t feel great. That doesn’t mean you want to focus on strengthening it though. You want to focus on it not being so mobile.

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