The Long Game 120: Increasing Your VO2max, Identity-Based Health Practices, Seeking Discomfort, Biographies Instead of Business Books
📱 Dating Apps Burnout, Foreign Aid Doesn't Work, Superblocks, Learnings From New Social Apps, Squat Shoes, and Much More!
Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at Vital, and this is The Long Game Newsletter. To receive it in your inbox each week, subscribe here:
In this episode, we explore:
The effects of different protocols of high-intensity interval training for VO2max improvements
Identity-based health & wellness practices
Biographies instead of business books
Dating apps & the sexual revolution
Why foreign aid doesn’t work
Let’s dive in!
🏃♀️ The Effects of Different Protocols of High-Intensity Interval Training for VO2max Improvements
If you care about longevity, you want to increase your VO2 Max as high as possible. Here’s why. In short, it significantly improves your survival probability.
This paper is a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and gives the best way to improve your VO2 Max.
To examine the effects of different protocols of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on VO2max improvements in healthy, overweight/obese and athletic adults, based on the classifications of work intervals, session volumes and training periods.
Systematic review and meta-analysis.
PubMed, Scopus, Medline, and Web of Science databases were searched up to April 2018. Inclusion criteria were randomised controlled trials; healthy, overweight/obese or athletic adults; examined pre- and post-training VO2max/peak; HIIT in comparison to control or moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) groups.
Fifty-three studies met the eligibility criteria. Overall, the degree of change in VO2max induced by HIIT varied by populations (SMD = 0.41–1.81, p< 0.05). When compared to control groups, even short-intervals (≤30 s), low-volume (≤5 min) and short-term HIIT (≤4 weeks) elicited clear beneficial effects (SMD = 0.79–1.65, p< 0.05) on VO2max/peak. However, long-interval (≥2 min), high-volume (≥15 min) and moderate to long-term (≥4–12 weeks) HIIT displayed significantly larger effects on VO2max (SMD = 0.50–2.48, p< 0.05). When compared to MICT, only long-interval (≥2 min), high-volume (≥15 min) and moderate to long-term (≥4–12 weeks) HIIT showed beneficial effects (SMD = 0.65–1.07, p< 0.05).
Short-intervals (≤30 s), low-volume (≤5 min) and short-term (≤4 weeks) HIIT represent effective and time-efficient strategies for developing VO2max, especially for the general population. To maximize the training effects on VO2max, long-interval (≥2 min), high-volume (≥15 min) and moderate to long-term (≥4–12 weeks) HIIT are recommended.
More on finding fitness benchmarks here.
👤 Identity-Based Health & Wellness Practices
It’s not new that most of what we think and do comes from our identity or the identity of the person we aspire to become. This leads to polarization in society because people stop thinking rationally about things and approach everything through the lens of their identity, and downstream of that, you get a culture war. Unfortunately, health & wellness isn’t spared.
Keto, low carb, lifting, cold exposure, sauna, meat, and supplements seem to be one political & cultural side.
Veganism, vegetarianism, running, cardio, triathlon, and meditation seem to be another political & cultural side.
These are just examples, and you’ll, of course, find a lot of counter-examples, but I think it’s fair to characterize the two buckets of practices like this.
It’s unfortunate because if there were one thing that could bring people together, it would really be health & wellness practices.
This article gives a funny perspective on exercising and social classes:
“I'm really into lifting weights right now,” I said. “Trying to get strong.”
The lawyer’s wife, a marathoner and family therapist, appeared startled, as if concerned about my emotional state. She looked me in the eye and said, “Why?”
Sociologists, it turns out, have studied these covert athletic biases. Carl Stempel, for example, writing in the International Review for the Sociology of Sport, argues that upper middle class Americans avoid “excessive displays of strength,” viewing the bodybuilder look as vulgar overcompensation for wounded manhood. The so-called dominant classes, Stempel writes—especially those like my friends and myself, richer in fancy degrees than in actual dollars—tend to express dominance through strenuous aerobic sports that display moral character, self-control, and self-development, rather than physical dominance. By chasing pure strength, in other words, packing on all that muscle, I had violated the unspoken prejudices—and dearly held self-definitions—of my social group.
Everything is about signaling—unfortunately(?)!
Pair with: Saagar Enjeti: MSNBC Says FITNESS Is Fascist
🧠 Better Thinking
📚 Drop the Business Books and Pick Up Biographies Instead
I came across this great quote on the merit of reading biographies:
There are thousands of years of history in which lots and lots of very smart people worked very hard and ran all types of experiments on how to create new businesses, invent new technology, new ways to manage etc.
They ran these experiments throughout their entire lives. At some point, somebody put these lessons down in a book. For very little money and a few hours of time, you can learn from someone's accumulated experience.
There is so much more to learn from the past than we often realize. You could productively spend your time reading experiences of great people who have come before and you learn every time.
I wanted to send this message to myself:
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🔨🔨🔨 Seek Discomfort
New month, and it was time for a new personal challenge. If you want to progress and push things forward, this might help you:
I’ll share some examples in the following editions of The Long Game.
Pair with: Relentlessly Resourceful & Endure.
📚 What I Read
👨⚕️ Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic: How Trauma Works and How We Can Heal From It
First, a definition:
Dr. Paul Conti: I would describe trauma as anything that causes us emotional or physical pain. That surpasses our coping mechanisms, that makes us feel then overwhelmed, often overwhelms our nervous system, both body and mind, and then really leaves a mark on us as we move forward. And trauma can be acute. A single traumatic event, an assault, a car accident, an injury in combat. Trauma can be acute. It can also be chronic. So the chronic impact of, say, ongoing abuse or ongoing neglect, or even ongoing marginalization. And we see so much of this has come to the forefront, whether that’s gender identity or it’s racial. How many people are trying to exist and doing their best to not just to thrive, but doing their best to survive amid circumstances that are constantly telling them that they’re less than, or that they’re at special risk? That’s chronic trauma.
I started reading Trauma, and I like it so far. I found particularly interesting the characterization of trauma as a virus because, if left untreated, it spreads itself to more and more people.
A short description of the book:
Trauma is everywhere and so many of us are silently affected by it. Stressful, challenging and frightening events can happen to anyone, at any age, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted. Left unchecked, difficult experiences can have a lasting psychological effect on our wellbeing.
In Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic, leading psychiatrist Dr Paul Conti sets out a unique set of tools anyone can access to help recognise the signs of trauma, heal from past hurt and find the road to recovery.
Drawing on the most recent scientific research, Dr Conti breaks down the topic into clear sections, looking at why trauma happens, how it manifests in the body and what we can do to move past it. In the book, you'll discover the three different types of trauma you might face, as well as practical exercises and solutions for getting to the root of the problem.
This is an important, life-affirming book, one that invites you to empower yourself against trauma, own your life experiences and learn to thrive, not just survive, in the wake of life's difficulties.
📖 Learnings from the New Wave of Social Apps
BeReal and Clubhouse are big inspirations for what we’re building at Vital.
On the problem of innovating on the format vs. the network structure:
This compounding loop that is built on smart product design has propelled BeReal past 8m DAU. But will it be enough to overcome Meta’s competitive advantages?
I think not.
My general framework for answering these types of questions is to try to see the difference between content formats and network structures. Content formats (like Stories) are easy for large networks like Instagram to copy if they align with their network structure and purpose. But novel network structures (like the TikTok “for you” page) are much harder to copy.
BeReal has invented a unique and valuable content format—but the network structure is pretty much the exact same as Instagram for most people. It uses your phone’s address book to find people who you might know, which is commoditized and already exists on Instagram and every other app. And the purpose for using the network (sharing candid photos from your life) is already well-served by Instagram Stories. So I think when we hear news that Instagram is testing a version of BeReal in their app, my first reaction is that it makes total sense and will probably work pretty well.
Lesson #3: Product judgment is more skill than talent
Good product judgment is hard to define because it’s empirical; you’re only proven “right” after the fact and over time. It’s also a skill more than it is pure talent; you have to practice to get good and stay good at it. Arguably the most important way to invest your time is to deeply understand how users:
Experience your product (so much so that you can even anticipate how various target user segments would react to changes in your product)
Experience other products (know the evolving socio-cultural trends and understand the products that may compete to serve similar needs)
Product thinkers say that some combination of expertise, empathy, and creativity underlies good product judgment; deeply understanding the product and the market directly through users will help with all three. This doesn’t have to mean building a UX research function early. The best results can come from doing it yourself (see lessons #6 and #22) and drawing on the collective wisdom of a team.
🍭 Brain Food
📱 Dating Apps & the Sexual Revolution
As dating apps take evergrowing importance in society, I found two interesting articles on this topic this week.
‘A Decade of Fruitless Searching’: The Toll of Dating App Burnout
Abby, 28, has been on dating apps for eight years, bouncing between OkCupid, Bumble, Tinder, eHarmony, Match, WooPlus, Coffee Meets Bagel and Hinge. A committed user, she can easily spend two or more hours a day piling up matches, messaging back and forth, and planning dates with men who seem promising.
But really, she is just over it all: the swiping, the monotonous getting-to-know-you conversations and the self-doubt that creeps in when one of her matches fizzles. Not a single long-term relationship has blossomed from her efforts.
Other aspects of the experience weigh on her as well. Abby, a financial analyst, asked to be identified by only her first name because she was harassed by one match, and said she has regularly felt pressured to have sex with others. She is not alone: A 2020 Pew Research Center survey found that 37 percent of online daters said someone continued to contact them after they said they weren’t interested, and 35 percent had received unwanted sexually explicit texts or images.
I think, on balance, we are worst off with dating apps.
Tinder turns 10 in September, prompting a moment of collective reflection about how apps have reshaped not just dating culture, but also the emotional lives of longtime users. Like Abby, many perennial users say years of swiping and searching have left them with a bad case of burnout — a nonclinical buzzword borrowed from workplace psychology that has been extended to topics including parenting and Zoom. As an article in The New York Times noted recently, people in the throes of burnout tend to feel depleted and cynical. For some, the only real option is to quit the dating apps cold turkey; for others, it is about finding smaller ways to set boundaries.
“People just get fatigued. They get overwhelmed with the whole dating process,” said Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who is a senior research fellow with the Kinsey Institute and chief science adviser to Match.com.
As a complement, I found this piece on the sexual revolution thought-provoking:
I’m a case study for her thesis. A cautionary tale. I knew this book was going to be difficult. And it made me realize it’s time to finish this essay –– one I’ve been trying to write for four years.
It’s a tough needle to thread. I’m grateful for the ability to control my reproductive cycle and make my own money. But that freedom has come at a price. The dark side of the sexual revolution is that even though it liberated women—unyoking sex from consequences has primarily benefited men.
I was first inspired to write this piece when a 19-year-old woman I used to wait tables with asked me: “Bridget, have you ever regretted having sex with a man?”
I laughed. “Yeah. All of them.”
That’s not entirely true. There was my first love in high school. And my first husband. But if I’m honest with myself, of the dozens of men I’ve been with (at least the ones I remember), I can only think of a handful I don’t regret. The rest I would put in the category of “casual,” which I would define as sex that is either meaningless or mediocre (or both). If I get really honest with myself, I’d say most of these usually drunken encounters left me feeling empty and demoralized. And worthless.
I know regretting most of my sexual encounters is not something a sex-positive feminist who used to write a column for Playboy is supposed to admit. And for years, I didn’t. Let me be clear, being a “slut” and sleeping with a lot of men is not the only behavior I regret. Even more damaging was what I told myself in order to justify the fact that I was disposable to these men: I told myself I didn’t care.
I didn’t care when a man ghosted me. I didn’t care when he left in the middle of the night or hinted that he wanted me to leave. The walks of shame. The blackouts. The anxiety.
The lie I told myself for decades was: I’m not in pain—I’m empowered.
Looking back, it isn’t a surprise that I lied to myself. Because from a young age, sex was something I was lied to about.
Pair with: Modern Feminism Has Failed Everyone - Louise Perry
I’ll soon be reading Louise Perry’s book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution and sharing the learning here.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🏥 Why Foreign Aid Doesn’t Work
It’s always more complicated than it seems.
🌇 Why Superblocks Are Peak Urbanism
One of the reasons it’s so good to live in Barcelona.
🔧 The Tool of the Week
👟 Squat Shoes
If you’re into weightlifting, I recommend getting a pair of real squat shoes. These have been a game-changer for me and made me enjoy squatting ass-to-grass like never before.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.
— Marc Andreessen
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