Going Against the Grain

  • Instincts in a natural environment
    • Conserve energy
    • Gain some fat
  • Strive in an unnatural environment
    • Expend energy
    • Stay lean
  • Don’t understimate
    • Social pressure
    • Personal habits
  • Examples
    • Biking
    • Swimming
    • Running
    • Climbing
    • Golf
    • Home

As animals, it is our instinct to conserve energy. In a natural environment this is essential because the food supply is limited. Finding ways to do things with less effort will give us a survival advantage. Gaining fat is a good thing.

Unfortunately, we live in an unnatural environment where most of us have an unlimited supply of food. Gaining fat and conserving energy is not in our best interest – we just get more overweight. Modern society has advanced to the point  where it is detrimental to continue with this behavior. We must consciously find new ways to expend energy and stay lean.

Do not underestimate the effects of society as you try to change your behavior.  Your actions will seem crazy and out of place as you do the opposite of everyone else in many situations. A person who rides their bike to work while everyone else is driving is viewed as different at best, a fanatic at worst.

Your personal habits can get the best of you as well. It is natural to try to find the closest parking spot, so you have a shorter walk to the door. When you get inside, you will head for the elevator without even thinking. It takes a conscious effort to take the action that results in more effort. You have to go against the grain.

Let’s look at a few examples contrasting the conventional wisdom versus going against the grain.

  • Biking
    • Conventional Wisdom
      • Be aerodynamic – tighter clothing, shave off your hair, streamline your helmet.
      • Be light: light bike, less load.
      • Be efficient: find the optimal gear and cadence.
      • Keep your momentum: always keep going despite traffic, conditions, and other dangers.
      • Stand up when you go uphill.
    • Going against the Grain
      • Add drag with paniers, loose clothes, and hair.
      • Add weight with a heavier bike and load up the paniers.
      • Explore different gears and cadences. A low gear and high cadence will make your muscles quicker, faster. A high gear and lower cadence will make your muscles stronger and more powerful.
      • Make frequent stops. Getting a heavier bike and load going from a dead stop will increase your strength and power while upping your cardio. It’s also safer to stop when in doubt.
      • Sit down as you go up the hills. Use the highest gear possible and feel your strength increase from one week to the next.