Older people who exercise have younger cells than healthy young people who don’t exercise.
Older people who exercise heal faster than healthy young people who don’t.
An exercise-trained older population has better repair mechanisms down to the cellular level.
Older elite athletes exceed the health and fitness of many youth athletes.
But what about more average exercise enthusiasts?
Researchers at Ball State University and its partnered hospital in Indiana decided to look at people in their 70s who aren’t elite competitors, but who had consistently worked out in some respect for the past 50 years: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00174.2018
Their findings confirm that regular exercise (even among non-elite competitors) keeps the musculoskeletal system outrageously youthful into older age. The cardiovascular system was ONLY able to stay about 30 years younger, hence why the New York Times article title doesn’t say “50 years younger”, despite lab results showing no major difference in muscle cells between trained 75-year-olds and healthy 25-year-olds.
Other mammal studies affirm this all the way down to the intracellular level: https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1096/fj.201600143RR
Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario found that trained older mice actually had HIGHER capillary to muscle fiber (C/F) ratios than young mice. Literally, trained older mice have more youthful muscle cells than untrained young mice.
As a credentialed and certified strength coach, trainer, and nutritionist with over 65,000 hours of professional experience, I’ve witnessed the equivalent of these researchers’ findings many times. In my own experience, I have findings which EXCEED theirs. That is, I’ve worked with older populations who heal FASTER than youth athletes. Eleven years ago, I observed a cardio-respiratory measurement on a 70-year-old triathlon enthusiast (NOT elite competitor). His measured Vo2 max was 68.0. This EXCEEDS teenage and 20-something competitive athletes: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23118070/
More recently I’ve had the opportunity to witness active older clients heal more rapidly than specific youth athletes or otherwise healthy teens. One of my mid-70s clients IMPROVED fitness at a faster rate post-knee-surgery THAN a teenager in my peer group recovered from a light muscle strain. Elderly active man healed a surgically damaged knee FASTER than healthy teenager recovered from minor muscle strain. Think about that.
Unfortunately, many youth athletes are encouraged to rest completely after even minor strains, which PREVENTS the very capillarization that allows muscle and connective tissue to heal. As we saw in the McMaster mouse study, older populations who exercise have more localized stem cells than youths. Really, dwell on this. Excessive directives to be sedentary actually make the injured tissue MORE fibrotic (aka - older). Meanwhile, elderly athletes who continue to exercise will keep more growth agents nearby, removed damaged tissue and cell waste faster, and overall improve tissue health better than young athletes who are sedentary too long.
Lengthy cardio training makes you fatter. This includes running. If there is no strength training included in a chronic cardio trainers' program, indeed, that person will get light, because he or she is burning off muscle and bone tissue. In 2006 a massive review of over 12,000 runners helped clarify many misconceptions about chronic aerobic exercise, especially running: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864590/.
The summary is that as we age, we must become MORE active (and there is still a reduced yield of returned results), and that even when chronic exercisers stay very active and maintain the same weight they have a statistically significant increase in waistline. This is why people find that they keep attempting the method which “worked” when they were 20 years younger, and they just keep getting worse results.
It’s not so much that aerobic exercise is always inherently obese-making. It’s that aerobic activity is purely CATAbolic. It breaks down everything, including organs, bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscle. Thus, as we age, we are increasingly liable to lose only lean tissue when we lose weight, resulting in an ever-fatter frame, no matter how hard someone tries. This is the case even for elite ultra-endurance athletes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3794477/. In fact, they get relatively fatter in only 5 days of an ultra-run. Most people wouldn't notice, since they begin with fairly lean frames. But endurance athletes go UP in body fat percentage the more extensively they train or compete.
How do we combat this?
A small portion of it is an inevitable function of aging. Systemic IGF and other hormones which keep us healthy and protect lean tissue WILL drop as time soldiers forward. This is an incontrovertible biological fact. So we must do everything we can to emphasize overall health and fitness. This means sleep. This means rest. This means recovery. This means heavy weights and sprints. This means protein. This means holistic sensibility.
To clarify, since your body is aching to get worse, you have to send signals which overcome that. This means intensity of exercise MUST go up, not down. And that, of course, will mean more recovery is needed and more nutrients to recover are needed.
In the 2006 survey of over 12,000 runners, we find that even the most avid runners, logging many miles per week, do not IMPROVE on average. If they’re lucky, they maintain weight, but keep losing lean tissue anyway, which ultimately makes them fatter, if only a little.
Sure. There are outliers. But the primary takeaway is this: aerobic conditioning is best utilized to improve cardiovascular health. Body composition is best changed through heavy resistance training/sprints and nutrition. If you love to run, run. If you want to get leanER, don't run.
I had a client who genuinely loved her workouts so much that when work travel interrupted her schedule she had a predictable/precise trend in self-sabotaging nutritional behaviors. When we figured out how to implement SOME sort of enjoyable workout even on her most scattered work weeks, she 100% nailed her food.
That was around 10 years ago. Even before then, I came to believe that a lot of self-assessment can dramatically improve through the lens of budgets. For example, everyone has an inherent daily decision-making budget. Let’s say it’s 12 decisions a person is capable of making in a solid rational and productive fashion. Routines reduce the decision loss, resulting in surpluses. Each successive day can save up more good decisions. Lack of routines and discipline tends to rack up debts. We begin borrowing from the next day. We reach a point in chaos where we not only have no good decision-making capacity left for our day, we’ve borrowed so far into the future self that we BEGIN a day with nothing to spend AND a crushing interest rate that’s overdue.
Rich get richer. Poor get poorer.
Likewise, with enjoyment, when we fail to hit our daily budget, we tend to run a debt. Then we look ahead to weekends, holidays, and vacations (ie - escapes) as a way to forget the debt temporarily. Unsurprisingly, we don’t pay off our debt by ignoring it.
When we combine considerations for the two, we find that the general idea of dieting is a non-starter. On average, people are nowhere near their enjoyment budget and years pre-spent on their decision-making line of credit. Sacrificing food enjoyment and adding more food decisions literally CANNOT work.
Think about this way: if you are at a 1 out of 10 on daily enjoyment requirements, and -37 on what should be 10 remaining good decisions, what is going to happen at the end of a day or week? Naturally, you are going to do whatever is easily available to attempt to rectify the situation. If you get some dopamine high from eating “unplanned” food, that’s what you’ll do. It’s not failure. It’s not weakness. It is a natural consequence of the landscape.
Instead, I encourage people FIRST toward discovering daily joys and low-decision-cost routines. Depending on what type of deficits you’ve been running, it could be a while before you’re reasonably allowed to approach nutrition from sacrifice and subtraction. We have to add enough enjoyment to place the person in a resilient environment. We have to pay off the decision-making debt to a reasonable degree before simply attacking with more decision costs.
If you aren’t close to hitting any enjoyment, you won’t get closer by removing more enjoyable items. If you are overspent on decisions, you won’t make better ones by adding more to each day. The structure you implement has to have a NET improvement. Your mind and body won’t allow anything less.
This is the only reasonable approach.
I’m all for doing difficult things. There’s value in delayed gratification and disciplined drive. But the reason why they work WHEN they work is that those individuals are reducing decision costs by having structure and routine. Those people are learning to take joy in the struggle which they believe will pay off in the future. NO ONE is pushing through when he takes NO joy in the struggle. NO ONE is pushing through WHEN she disbelieves progress is possible.
Tend to your enjoyment. Observe your budgets. And productive fitness and dietary behaviors will become self-evident.
Inactive people have a high incidence of joint replacement. Lack of stressing the heart and circulatory system creates heart disease: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/01.atv.0000158311.24443.af?download=true. People with low lifetime adversity have worse mental health than those with moderate levels: https://doi.apa.org/record/2010-21218-001?doi=1. We may think we want to avoid difficulties. Ironically, that seems to make life worse. Without some significant challenge, systems merely weaken.
One day you see an interview with Justin Bieber talking about thoughts of suicide. You read a news story about a perfect model killing herself. The next day, you catch the word “depression” in dozens of headlines about billionaire celebrities. Having it easy isn’t the same as having it good.
For a span of years my private insurance premiums were $3,000 per month with a yearly max-out-of-pocket between $40,000 and $80,000. And we spent it. Our physical storefront between rent, utilities, and insurance is over $60,000 per year. In the truly independent sphere, there’s no maternity leave, FMLA, PTO, calling in sick, calling in late, vacations, medical, dental, 401k, pension, job security, nothing. Zero support structure and spending $160,000 per year BEFORE house, cars, food for kids, etc. (and don’t forget Uncle Sam has to take his cut) was an IMPROVEMENT, by the way. In the employed world, it was a non-stop nightmare. My wife’s employers eliminated her division, pushed her out with an NDA, and worse. From 2009 to 2010 my employer attempted to avoid paying 75% of my compensation. Most people’s descriptions of caustic workplaces sound dreamy to us. We never had it as good as what many people call “toxic” or “impossible.”
I’m thankful for it. I’m healthy. Many times I’ve felt a desire for some stability; but then I observe how average people get bent out of shape over a delayed Amazon order, Starbucks line, social media post, or news story. A lot of lives out there are too easy; and it’s making people mentally unhealthier.
In conversations about the horrors we faced for at least 15 years, my biggest concern is that a lot of listeners appear to have such incredibly unchallenging lives that they can’t even imagine what I’m saying. They don’t seem to know this; but it’s evident in their remarks. I once had a client say, “overhead must’ve plummeted when you went independent.” Another interjected, “you should go for SIX OR MORE weeks,” when I said we were going to Greece in 2019. I’ve heard “must be nice” more times than I care to remember. And those were kind and smart people. Their jobs, pay, and lives were/are/will-be so secure that they have no context to discuss real life. The volatility that is my norm exceeds their wildest nightmares. Dealing with government employees over permits for one of our business ventures was elucidating: these people’s lives are way WAY too easy to even begin to understand the difficulties of small businesses.
This finally stuck with me when I saw a trending hardship story from a multi-million follower influencer. Tens of thousands of comments were pouring in, commending him for staying strong through such a hard time. When I listened to him describe hitting rock bottom, however, the list of “impossible challenges” included running late on private school tuition for his kids while his wife’s business was doing just fine. And as I listened more intently, his description of a “hard time” was my definition of having “made it” and becoming wealthy. He and many of his followers genuinely believe a cakewalk is “character-building difficulty.” Ok. Wow. Now I get it: a lot of people’s lives are TOO easy. That’s not good. That’s amplifying he mental health crisis in this country.
A lot of you out there are pushing through a challenge which others can’t even fathom. Not most of you. But some. Some of you are going through horrors unimaginable to the rest. And that’s good. We need challenge, especially when we don’t want it. The things others say to you aren’t only unhelpful; they’re anti-helpful. Even kind, well-intentioned, smart people will attempt to comfort you by saying sentiments which strike like hot daggers. I get it. I really do. I’ve dealt with it for almost 20 years. But believe me: you’d be surprised what you can endure. Even your own definition of impossible you may be able to endure. And you’ll be healthier than many around you for it.
I marvel at the faith of Can’t-DOists. It exceeds the most pious of pilgrims, the most reverent of reverends. It eclipses the ecclesiastical. It shames the saints. It outmatches martyrs, mosques, and monks. It passes the Pope and all his priests. We shudder at zealots who would kill, bomb, fly planes into buildings. But the Can-t-DOists, my boy, have them all beat. The Can’t-DOists murder hope itself, and, by extension, destroy whole worlds. They grin while they do it, without a fleck of doubt, and certainly no disappointment.
Can’t-DOists have so much faith in the unseen O’Great Impossible that they believe in the O’Great Impossible even when they are looking directly at the possible. It’s remarkable, really. I almost admire it. I have never had as strong of faith in anything as the Can’t-DOists have in the O’Great Impossible. To them, He explains all, predicts all, does all.
Their numbers are strong, their dogma clear: the best way to avoid failure is simply never try. Better than that, don’t even think about trying. Better than that, don’t even hope. Better than that, have an authoritative organization declare something impossible even AFTER something is PROVEN possible. That way, we don’t waste our precious energy on thinking about hoping to try to improve.
It’s a great sales pitch: ASPIRE to be a slug. Don’t just be vindicated in your inaction, when you can be virtuous by giving up. You can signal your virtue AND your faith by telling others the good news: don’t even try. Evangelical Can’t-DOism is a fervent bunch, always ready to help others: “before you waste your time, remember, all things are impossible through Him who weakens us.”
The true believers are astonishingly well-represented by medical organizations, who will proclaim certain conditions as hopeless AGAINST the evidence. Despite documented diabetes reversal, most experts will say it CANNOT be done. Even though we have images proving that some people rebuild joint spaces, the Arthritis Foundation itself won’t even entertain the idea 40 YEARS LATER. Even though bulged discs come and go, most will say it’s only a one way trip. Even though LACK of exercise worsens all cardiovascular conditions, the American Heart Association warns many against moderate intensity exercise while still hyper-promoting specious drug therapies.
When we strip away the grift and financial interests getting in the way of science, we are still left with a problem: people aspire below mediocrity. And this is where the Can’t-DOists’ proselytizing really strikes a chord, because, well, it’s aiming below THAT. What many of these experts and organizations are REALLY saying is, “ON AVERAGE, the average outcome is that things keep getting worse.” Well, no shit. But saying THAT isn’t going to fill any donations baskets, is it? It’s better to definitively declare, “CAN’T BE DONE!” That clear-cut disempowerment, my friend, is how you run a bona fide Crusade.
People with kidney disease end up with GFR levels below 60 and creatinine levels above 1.35: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/creatinine-test/about/pac-20384646. Imagine my horror when my GFR came in below 40 and my creatinine above 1.76 at the beginning of November 2021.
The general belief in medicine is no one is coming back after a GFR of 30. Time to sign up for the donor list and dialysis, get your affairs in order, and hope the life insurance policy pays out for your family like it says it will. People who are down to a single kinda-functioning kidney routinely pull creatinine levels at 1.8 and up. Needless to say, it was pretty jarring to see my own lab values similar to those of dying people.
“Defeated” doesn’t really encapsulate the experience. Some people might have this happen, and think, “well, at least I can start exercising, cut out the sugar, stop drinking, etc.”. But for me… what’s there to clean up? I routinely fast. I do lengthy raw juice fasts quarterly. I exercise. I’m on whole food as my baseline. I haven’t really had any alcohol in years. I attend to my sleep and stress management. I’m on no medications. I supplement vitamin d, c, omegas, occasional minerals. From a practical perspective, what else could I do?
Trying to figure out what risk factors I even had was dicey. Sure, I’d been vaccinated AND had breakthrough Covid infection after vaccine; and there is a growing body of evidence that healthy males under 40 in particular have higher risk of myocarditis after vaccination. There is more ACE2 expression in the kidneys than in the lungs and heart combined. So, it stands to reason that vaccine plus infection plus something about my unique genetics made my kidneys specifically vulnerable. But again, what practical takeaway did that really afford me? What could I actually DO?
I could blame it on vaccine or infection or genes or both or all or some combination or something else entirely. But so what? What was I going to DO?
After feeling sorry for myself and accepting that I may be dying, I tried to get some clarity. I have walked clients through reversal of diabetes, reversal of bone density loss, reversal of joint deterioration, clearance of fatty liver, reversal of autoimmune diseases, and a whole host of “impossible” situations. I’ve watched people with “irreparably” destroyed spines recover fully to athleticism; and the natural healing of bulged discs is now a clinically-verified fact: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30610984/ . I’ve coached clients with Parkinson’s who improve in fitness. I’ve watched those with muscular dystrophy gain muscle size and strength. I currently have clients who USED to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerotic plaque build-up and USED to take medication for it. Even for myself, I once was debilitated with Lyme disease and nerve damage. I couldn’t reliably bend my right knee without issue from 2015 to 2017 while I can now deep squat over 600lbs. “Snap out of it!”, I kept telling myself.
The difference with kidney damage, of course, is that NO ONE really believed kidneys could regenerate… prior to 2014: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/06/adult-kidneys-constantly-grow.html. In fact, ask any kidney specialists or nephrologists who graduated before 2015, and they still don’t know this unless they stay on top of the literature. To this day, the current OFFICIAL position for organizations is that kidney damage CANNOT be reversed: https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/publications-resources/live-well-with-chronic-kidney-disease.html. Not just the CDC, but all authoritative organizations in medicine state the same thing: kidney health goes one direction. The most hopeful sentiment you’ll find in mainstream medicine is that we may slow the deterioration of kidneys: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/end-stage-renal-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354532
The only thing I could even think to do was drop body weight and lower my protein intake (and I wasn’t even sold on this idea, because it’s promulgated by the same organizations who don’t believe you can heal the kidneys). Nonetheless, between those and complete abstinence from any NSAIDs, I just couldn’t even think of another thing to actually DO.
The first retest, shown on the left, was a small improvement, but still VERY concerning. There are people with numbers like that who are essentially actively dying.
All the same, it WAS an improvement. So… patiently I kept on. The following month I had another small improvement. And February I had another. By March I was in “normal” range and I had begun to add some days of higher protein intake. VERY HIGH. In part, I wanted to see if high protein intake would worsen my numbers back to where I was in February or earlier. In part, I was tired of feeling like I was getting weaker and less athletic.
Not a big surprise, but the numbers improved again, confirming my suspicion that dietary protein is likely a red herring for people with compromised kidneys. After all, WHAT are you going to use to regrow the cells in the kidneys if you’re going to regenerate them? It sure as hell ain’t carbs. Moreover, carbs are going to reinforce insulin resistance, which damages all tissue, kidneys included.
Also, I have to add that the GFR is a calculation from creatinine based in part on body mass. Technically, my GFR is even better than the picture on the right because no one updated my weight since November (all visits since have been “lab only” blood draws); and I’m down 20lbs.
1.) The uncommon is always possible when we think and behave in an uncommon manner.
Be wary of bleak opinions, especially expert ones, when the opinion is coming from people who don’t think or act in uncommon and exceptional ways.
I don’t care for toxic positivity or effusive can-do attitudes. But we have to be on the lookout for the can’t-do experts who seem to be in endless supply.
2.) Less body mass is less work for all systems and organs.
This is incontestable. Among the average populace, this is a bit of a Catch-22, because they need to gain 30lbs of muscle to be somewhat healthy. At the same time, the average American adult is walking around with 60lbs to 150lbs of excess body fat.
In my case, I can pretty much be whatever weight at whatever percent composition whenever I want within 6 months. For this particular process of healing, I didn’t take great pains to save muscle mass so much as just clock in lighter. I prefer NOT to do things this way; but I was genuinely sick and needed to give the kidneys a fighting chance. This is NOT the best course of action for all people, because most don’t have a lot of extra muscle and strength they can afford to lose, nor do they really know how to rebuild it.
Long story short: learn to fast. Learn to do medically-strict ketogenic nutrition from time to time. Protein intake will eventually be a necessity. Thus, although I acknowledge the benefits of fasting and low-protein keto diets, healing is eventually going to require moderate to high protein intake (and oftentimes not much else), if only periodically.
3.) Gain some real understanding of lab testing.
One test is ONE DATUM. Diagnosis and prognosis off of even several tests is logically fallacious and a critical-thinking no-no. I’ve actually witnessed several people get “good” A1C readings WHILE their diabetes was worsening. And, when you understand how physiology works and what the test can and can’t evaluate, this makes perfect sense.
This always shocks people, but I know how to change cholesterol test outcomes in the same day. In fact, most chronic disease diagnoses are based on a single test which you can alter the very next day. I know. I’ve done it. And I’ve helped clients successfully contest their employers’ health care premium evaluation by retesting an improved blood lipid panel one to two weeks later.
4.) Keep reminding yourself that “average” outcomes are MOSTLY self-fulfilling prophecy. Look around. You can see people don’t try hard. As such, when you’re consulting statistics, be starkly aware that you’re observing trash behavior, garbage choices, uneducated and willfully self-sabotaging lifestyle.
When you perform even modest or moderate effort at anything, you’re immediately shifting into an outlier percentile. I don’t care at all to learn from the best of the best UNLESS they came from a severe disadvantage. We need to learn more from people who’ve achieved “the impossible” against all odds. We can’t learn anything valuable from people who have an aptitude, a knack, an inherent talent, a prodigious start, or an outrageously privileged beginning. What we need to know is how someone who “shouldn’t have been able to” employed an uncommon tactic to exceed all expectations.
I never once studied a success story who came from a wealthy family. I prefer a Fredrick Douglas, or a Mark Mathabane. I want to know how someone with less than I had has done more than I’ve done. In fitness, I don’t care at all what a lifelong super athlete has to say. I want to hear from the sedentary person who was on death’s door and transformed her life at the age of 60, 70, 80.
In health, don’t look at average outcomes or exceptional backgrounds. Look at exceptional outcomes that come from average or below-average backgrounds.
5.) Hate Dogma And Conventional Thinking.
I don’t think it’s enough to challenge the status quo. We must revile it. Odium is the only appropriate response to self-proclaimed fonts of authority. Only through extensive self-experimentation and genetic testing did I discover that plant-based nutrition is harmful for me. You can find lots of opinions on this and controversial gurus who say one thing or another. But I KNOW with total certainty through REPEATED testing that my labs worsen and risks of heart disease go up dramatically with vegan eating while labs improve and risk of heart disease plummets with animal-based dieting FOR ME.
The only high blood pressure reading at rest I ever had in my entire life was during a plant-based eating experiment.
6.) “What’s the plan if you’re wrong?”
I like this question, both for myself and for other experts. It helps to move people into their thinking brains and out of their ideology shields. It’s like an Occam’s Razor meets Pascal’s Wager. I’ve heard it rephrased by clients, one in particular I really enjoy, “what is your plan to get me OFF of this medication after I begin taking it?”
Imagine a person who feels motivated to learn guitar but has no guitar, learning system, teacher, time to practice, or plan to rectify that landscape. That person feels something, sure. But she isn’t ready.
Imagine a person who feels motivated to do anything else. Any skill. Any subject. Any language. Any change. Visualize what happens when he doesn’t make his environment include the tools to get there. I don’t question his emotions. He may feel incredible motivation. I just KNOW he isn’t ready.
Emotions are beautiful.
Emotions are not concretely who you are.
Emotions do often choose for you who you’ll be in the next millisecond. And indeed who you are is always becoming and never fixed. Some milliseconds you are motivated. Most you aren’t.
Healthy lifestyle readiness is not that. Ready is painful self-awareness. What WILL you do on your least motivated weeks of your life? How WILL you stay disciplined WHEN YOU DON’T WANT to do this? If you have brilliant answers for this, you’re getting close to ready.
Nearly every weight loss or fitness program in existence capitalizes on buyers feeling motivated. One of the largest, WW, after tens of millions of members, only has a few thousand long-term successes: https://www.calpoly.edu/.../weight-over-two-cal-poly....
That’s a success rate of bout 1 in 10,000, or 0.01%. This is worse than the unguided general populace. In the general populace, 10% of resolutioners keep going after week 6 (when all initial feelings of motivation wear off): https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/.../Results%20for.... Around 4% keep up what they say for a year, mostly, sort of.
Ready is not like that. Once you are ready, your discipline supersedes wavering emotions and feelings. When you are ready to change, you will continue to walk the steps of change WHEN you don’t feel like it.
Motivated is not ready. Motivated is not close to ready. Motivated is shorter than the blink of an eye. Ready persists.
As such, I DIScourage people who aren’t ready. I don’t want motivated. I want ready. Trust me: I’ve met many motivated people. I’ve met incredibly high net worth, famous, business owners, execs, well-known speakers, and self-proclaimed “A-type”s and “driven”s. That’s nice. Cool. But are you READY?
And mostly they aren’t. People will peak in emotion and confuse that with readiness. That isn’t readiness. It’s the opposite. You can see this with people who have near-death experiences, survive car crashes, cancer, near fatal surgeries and brushes with disaster and THEN DON’T CHANGE LIFESTYLE. They get a new lease on life and continue to eat, act, and think precisely the same way that caused their brush with death.
Wake up calls work for a moment. They’re highly emotional. They will invoke all kinds of feelings. And you WILL FEEL MOTIVATED. To quit smoking. To quit drinking. To quit various addictions and counter-productive behaviors.
That’s a flit of a heartbeat. It’s nothingness in the vast cosmos of reality. We don’t need that. We don’t even want that. We need ready.
More than in exercise or nutrition, I encounter this confusion with executive coaching clients and their professional journeys or career paths. A bad moment makes them feel motivated to leave. Lack of readiness keeps them there. A hopeful moment makes people feel ready to launch a business. They never launch, no matter how motivated they get, because they never ready themselves.
What steps WILL you take WHEN you have no time, kids are sick, work is crazy, you’re defeated, demotivated, and it all seems hopeless?
WHEN you have SOME good, honest, realistic answers to this, you are almost ready. When you are fully prepared to shoot down all of your own valid excuses and victim narratives, THEN, and ONLY then, are you ready.
Motivated is not ready.
December 2012: developed virtual template
April 2020: 50 virtual sessions/wk
June 2020: had to take most the month off to get a break, RV out West
August 2020: scrambling influencers, “sign up for my virtual coaching courses”
2010: I’m putting butter/ghee in coffee for extended fasts
2012: Bulletproof launches
2008: credit market imploded and sinks 100k on our business venture outright
2009-present: zero-overhead hobbyists, shooting YouTube fitness videos out of their moms’ basements, “this fitness business thing is hard”
2011: wearing masks on flights for our immune-compromised child
2006/07: purposely gained 100lbs, cut 70
2016: Fit to Fat to Fat show “first of its kind”
99/00: developed concept to take labs/blood tests BEFORE heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc.
2010: WellnessFX startup
1998: implementing foam roll, muscle balance, mobility drills
2004-2008: NASM popularizes foam roll and imbalance protocols
1989: taking notes on periodization from exercise science and nutrition science text books
2000: Glassman incorporated Crossfit, LLC
2007: split/lost left knee cartilage and rebuilt high level athleticism
2014: Lyme disease right knee dislocations/severe locking/joint damage and rebuilt HIGHER athleticism
2021: people, “hey, have you heard of knees over toes guy?”
And that’s the short list. I can think of a lot more, like shoulder dislocates, food scale for if-it-fits-your-macros, glucometer testing, heart rate variability, and ketone strips 20 years ago. And I’m a young guy. Imagine what the genuine old dogs feel like.
Shockingly, the American Heart Association let one slide through their filters; and they featured this published research showing protein benefit to lowered heart disease risk EVEN WHEN SOME PROTEIN COMES FROM PROCESSED RED MEAT: https://www.ahajournals.org/.../HYPERTENSIONAHA.121.18222. What I find a little laughable is that in the journal of publication meat is mentioned first. In the AHA’s summary on their website, whole grains (which are a terrible and incomplete source of protein) are mentioned first.
As I covered previously, the AHA has outrageously questionable ties to financial interests which drive their recommendations. As such, you’re going to observe really weird and conflicting messages anyway. But, like I’ve covered previously with any health topic and varied research outcomes, we have to find WHY seemingly-conflicting messages exist.
Protein is the driving mechanism in biochemistry. All immunity, bone matrix, and DNA replication relies on an abundance of available protein. Also, the pressure of the circulatory system is managed via nitric oxide whose synthesis is totally reliant on protein as precursor. Thus, as completely expected, we see a U-shaped relationship EVEN WITH HIGHLY PROCESSED RED MEAT. Why? Because it is STILL a complete source of amino acids. Too low, and it’s likely representative of the person eating too little protein altogether. Too high, and it’s clearly too much of the processed byproduct affecting the person. There’s a sweet spot, even for this vilified food.
The irritation remains, however, as grains don’t contain the most usable protein or an amount which is usable. Double negative.
Nevertheless, MECHANISM is where we can understand seemingly-conflicting findings.
This research explains why.
Moreover, fundamentally, people who set up their weeks with lots of growth are going to see vacation as a partly negative interruption. There’s no need to “get away” from what you’re looking forward to.
I first noticed this in my teens, when the idea of going on even a short trip without bringing my guitar was unconscionable. I loved playing; and I was consistently every day becoming better. The thought of going a single day without practicing was intolerable. I mean this precisely and literally. It’s not hyperbole. It’s not exaggeration. It’s not a rhetorical device. I would have just as soon skipped a dream vacation if I couldn’t pack at least one guitar. A single day without it was agony. I mean it. I can’t even narrow down the time frame of the photo included above, because it could’ve been any given day of any year, any trip, home or away, from ‘96-‘99.
I began noticing this more and more over the years as I came to love my weeks more. Even really paradise-like trips or family visits which I definitely wanted to do lost their dream-like luster when it began to dawn on me how some of my beloved growth and learning was going to be forced into a break time. NOT having access to my equipment, my rock climbing gym, my kids’ activities, my home library, etc., is not an upside. I’m gaining new skills I like every week. I’m having awesome experiences every week.
And then I started to notice that peers and clients who were in the midst of breakthrough or skill growth/learning just straight-up won’t take vacations while at that point. And they are a lot happier, healthier, and more resilient to stress.
Last week I asked about this with several of my peers in the strength coach, athletic, fitness model, bodybuilding, personal training, and nutrition communities. Some of their responses:
“There is no break during prep.”
“No.” (Answer to “can someone be taken seriously if they never go more than four consecutive weeks of on-plan?”)
A lot of the discourse centered on 16 weeks of targeted progress. What would an expert consider acceptable adherence if a person wants to see dramatic body composition improvement over the course of 16 weeks? The consensus is 16 weeks. Not just consensus. Unanimity. You didn’t misread that. Sixteen weeks of all seven days being productive. There are no off days if you want to expect to make progress. I could not find a single peer in my whole network who disagreed.
Does this mean people shouldn’t have holidays or weekends or breaks? No. But if you want to expect progress in a given time frame, regular steps backward don’t make sense. Obviously.
I was chatting about this with a client recently; and we were talking about how we just feel better when we exercise and stay active on vacation. My body feels better than when I was a teen or in my 20s, thanks to how I eat and workout. Why would I take a break from feeling good? Emotionally, likewise, I just feel better than any prior point in my life, thanks to the way my weeks are set up. Why abandon that? Seriously. Why?
One of the coaches I queried about breaks put in the caveat that if someone trains and eats on-plan during travel, that person may still expect progress, albeit possibly less. Personally, I have only tracked food tightly a few times during trips. But I think I'll start, given these recent conversations and reflections on the nature of progress/growth and breaks. I've increasingly wondered over they years, "why would I take a break from the very things which help me feel my best?" I don't have a single good reason. I just did it because that's what people do, not because it's what's best or most sensible. And as I drill down into the logic, I really don't see a good reason to discontinue anything which we find is providing benefit.
Sixteen weeks of tight consistency is rare. We all know it. Even two consecutive weeks of rigor in programming is outrageously rare. I have observed tens of thousands of members, peers, clients. I KNOW that people, as a rule, will not exert in healthy lifestyle sufficient effort. We have a chasm to face in our "all-in or all-out" narratives. But there's even more to it than that. The incessant break in consistency is paired with a second and bigger problem: the desire to look and feel virtuous. People will say things like “for how hard I worked, I would expect more progress.” Now, think about this. We've all said or thought something along these lines at some point. But really dwell on it. What is even the point of that sentiment except to look or feel virtuous? If you worked hard enough to make progress, you progressed. By definition. There’s no opinions or feelings needed.
We know that only two weeks of immobilization loses so much fitness that it takes six weeks to recover SOME of the ability: https://www.medicaljournals.se/.../10.2340/16501977-1961. Not all. SOME.
Consistent and regular investment in fitness dominates. We all know this elsewhere. No one says, “for how hard I invested in retirement last week, I should have a lot more built up.” There’s no “should”. No one cares about a few “good” days. Either your lifelong track record of retirement investment is sufficient or it isn’t. Likewise with fitness, your cumulative consistent track record is sufficient or it isn’t. There’s no place for “should.” There’s no place for virtue-signaling.
And if you’ve come to love it, there’s no reason to abandon productive structure. Skill development and growth is proven better at stress management anyway. We will certainly hit points where we have to escape overwhelm. There are places we’ll want to see and go. But there really isn’t ever a great time to repeatedly cease doing the productive things which help us learn and grow. We can and should take breaks from negative influences. But I’m not seeing a great substantiation for taking breaks from positive ones.