Falling, Stress, and Anaerobic Training

Posted by Brian PCF
Oct 04 2010

During Part V of a recent Radio Lab episode, Garrett Soden was recounting the first trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Garrett wrote a book on this strange human phenomenon of seeking out ways to fall, called “Defying Gravity“. Here’s a short description from Editorial Review:

Defying Gravity tells the astonishing story of how gravity pioneers transformed an ancient terror—the sensation of falling—into the modern thrill that powers extreme sports, monstrous amusement rides, and a youth culture obsessed with “getting air.”

This got me to thinking about something I read in Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution about short duration stressors versus long duration stressors and how our bodies react:

We are genetically wired for dealing with acute (brief/infrequent) stress. This stress answered with some kind of physical activity (fight or flight) that made use of that glucose and fat released from the liver. Then things returned to a relatively ‘mellow’ norm.

Now I would take this a step farther in the context of evolutionary biology and say that we are not only “genetically wired for dealing with acute (brief/infrequent) stress”, but wired to seek it out.

Granted this is a completely non-empirical conclusion, and also one of those statements that gets eaten up by clinical observation versus general observation, but I’ll just lay it out as a thought experiment:

Those hunter-gatherers that took the biggest risks and survived, where the ones that got the biggest reward – genetically speaking.

My thoughts on this are as follows:

1) Our forebears that could successfully innovate and hunt/compete with the alpha predators during the Pleistocene era were most likely to survive.

2) Same goes for those that could successfully migrate faster than the alpha predators.

So those individuals and tribes that not only survived, but sought out that fight/flight reaction (in these rather grand and singular instances), and survive where most likely to pass on their genes during a time when species where dying out at a phenomenal pace (and possibly a desire for immigration of any type is built into our species as well).

Un le pas si Grande Cloture…

That desire for the hormonal simulation of fight/flight that is built into our being is most closely replicated by three things:

1) Falling
2) Fighting
3) Competitive Anaerobic Training aka Crossfit

Coming soon….
Part II: What We’re Not Built For – Lengthy, Persistent Stressors.

4 Responses

  1. jeff j 2 says:

    Very similar biology in heart function/heart failure. Neuronendocrine systems designed for fight/flight have severe long term detrimental effects on cardiovascular system. Most modern treatments for heart diseased are aimed at blocking/reversing those effects. If interested look into betablockers in the treatment of congestive heart failure.

  2. Brian PCF says:

    I will definitely check that out for Part II, thanks Jeff.

  3. Zack says:

    Incidentally, you just wrote an excellent summary of the business book “Who Moved My Cheese.”

  4. Brian PCF says:

    Zack – I’ll read that if you read MCDP 1…and beat me in a poker game.