10 Rules for Gym Life

Lessons from the Book of Our History

The present is the past rolled up for action, and the past is the present unrolled for understanding. – Will Durant

In 2010, two bonehead kids leapt from a plane without much of a parachute or any real understanding of how to safely land. By a stroke of luck, they survived the fall. Some think that ‘fortune favors the bold’; others, that ‘diligence is the mother of good luck’, but not me. I’m not here to make argument for either. In fact, I stake no claim over undiscovered veins of truth. I’m simply thankful to be here.

And, here we are – 10 years into “J and G’s fitness experiment.” It is with our sincerest hearts and our deepest gratitude that we offer thanks to each of you, our fellow travelers. To our friends and family, the friends that became family, and all those who lent support from the pink dawn of our earliest days – cheers! Without you, we would still be a sputtering idea, a seed lying dormant, a ship with no sails. To this day 10 Experience is just an idea #10exlife. You animate that idea. You give it life and legs. You are its breath. You are its pulse. And you alone permit us to continue into the great unknown brimming with hopeful hearts.

 

I haven’t always been, but I’m a sucker for curious books and interesting thoughts. And I’m especially romantic for language that can sketch an idea into a neat picture. If a decade of our gym’s history were a book, that book would be filled with uncountable lessons. But, how would it read and what’s the premise? That line of thought – considering the gym as a book – swept me up and plopped me down, once more at the keyboard in an attempt to capture my thoughts like lightening in a bottle.

Here’s where I landed: my sense is that a proper gym is somewhat equivalent to the live version of a self-help book. A proper gym offers lessons of all brand in real time and in real terms. If we really pay attention, the gym teaches us principles of the scientific process, psychology in part and parcel, how to invest (in anything), and more than a little about morality. Lessons by the metaphorical handful. Each of these ‘rules’ might fill entire chapters or whole books. Billy Shakespeare once wrote that brevity is the soul of wit. So with what wit I might muster and little more adieu, here’s my best stab at paring down the most potent lessons from spending the past decade in the fitness trenches.

1. Make a single decision that makes a thousand others.

I’ll say it firmly. Decide to make your health a priority! It’s a simple 7-word declaration. That decision, once made, ‘pre-makes’ the thousand other daily decisions on your plate (entendre intended). What do I eat, should I join a gym, can I skip on sleep? Optimize. Streamline. Determine what is essential. Discover the meaning behind less but better. Invest your time, your energy, and your efforts working towards that end – health! It won’t be long before you notice the might of compounding interest.

2. Whatever you do, don’t pity the fool (hint: you are the fool).

Mr. T had it all wrong. The liar is a tyrant, because he cannot stand being a fool. Don’t be a tyrant. Freedom to be foolish IS one of the keys to success in the gym or elsewhere. In some form, exercise makes everyone feel foolish – weak, sluggish, and under prepared. All learning always involves certain indignities. But, that’s the rub! That’s humility – I am not yet what I could be but watch what I’ll become.

3. Understand what your ego IS (and can devolve into).

Pride blooms from our ego’s seed. It propels us towards virtuous ends today (back squat PRs and accomplishments galore). And tomorrow, it plays vice – striking us like a serpent when we least expect it (arrogance and hubris are it’s poison often leading to injury and failure). The sooner we acknowledge both sides of our ego’s coin, the sooner we might learn to better weld its spending power. Internalize this acronym, E.G.O. = embedded growth obligation. And take notice the next time your ego’s obligations serve you well…or run afoul.

4. Listen to fitness’ endless lessons on morality.

I don’t say this lightly. Each day exercisers are afforded an opportunity to meditate on subtle applications of the golden rule. Treat yourself like someone you’re responsible for helping. The pursuit of health/fitness isn’t a singular game. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum as a solitary lift, workout, or diet. It’s a set of behaviors that extend over the course of your life. We must all participate – winning some…losing some – so that we’re permitted to continue playing throughout the next 1000 games.

5. Examine your reasons for exercising.

In my best Socratic voice, I ask, “Why do you exercise?” Is it to qualify for the Boston Marathon? To compete on the Olympic Weightlifting stage? To pitch on opening night in the MLB? If no was the answer, perhaps it’s time to refine your attachment to specialized and often damaging training protocols. I repeat – why do you exercise? Particularly, what about exercise is fulfilling? Examine those thoughts and endeavor to train in ways that compliment that end. Then, embrace your inner Vulcan spirit – live long and prosper!

6. Defend moderation!

With my dying breath, I’ll cry, ‘moderation forever!’ Truly the habit of eating small, frequent meals is likely our culture’s way of ‘self-medicating’ to compensate for a broken metabolism. Instead, set your sights on nutritional moderation…metabolic flexibility. A metabolically flexible person possesses the ability to use both fat and carbs as sources of energy based on availability and need. They fast and they feast, and they live as vibrant models of nutritional efficiency.

7. Remember: it’s not your fault.

During your next diet foray, you’d do well to acknowledge the beautifully tragic design of human nature. You are literally hard-wired to eat professionally. We all crave tasty foods, we all gobble up that food, and, almost instantly, we all seek out the next interesting treat. That behavior is literally coded into our operating program. It’s in our software. What do we do? We recognize the fault. Then, become intentional about ‘rebooting’ the system. Eat proteins, veggies and fruits, herbs and spices, and some fat at every meal. Also, speaking of morality, you can’t ‘cheat’ on food or a diet – you simply eat food. Good or bad, learn to recognize the impact of your dietary decisions.

8. Conspire to greater things.

Find fellow conspirators. Then, together build a bright, shining lighthouse for others wandering through the darkness. Successful people find value in unexpected places. The best people in the world know this. Every great community is built around a secret that’s hidden from view. If these years have taught me anything, it’s that a group of gym-goers can be a conspiracy to change the world. Share your secret and the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.

9. Embrace the creative and constructive value of struggle.

Where is what you most want likely to be found? Where you are least likely to look. In the bottom of the well, deep within a cave…on the other side of that horrible sounding workout or undertaking an impossibly tough diet. I believe that we’re all better when employing practices of the ancient Stoics. Stuck in a rut? Find yourself wandering about aimlessly? Seek hardship. Take an extended fast. Be cold. Walk instead of drive. Deprive yourself of a daily luxury and notice the beautiful contrast of life. With a little luck, you’ll be surprised by your ability to turn suffering into achievement.

10. Carry the fire.

During any fitness pursuit, you’re sure to meet trial and tribulation. Temptation awaits at every turn. So too awaits an opportunity to play your particular part as hero or villain. To be sure, sometimes you will take the easy road. Sometimes you will be the bad guy. During those times, you’d do well to remember that it’s (your behavior) not permanent, nor is it definitive. It’s a simple action. Nothing more. You must endure a little burning if you are to give a worthy light. Then, find it much easier to resume living harmoniously, working on something greater. To choose good for goodness sake. Not just to live, but to live for something.

It’s my understanding that philosophers try to see the part in light of the whole. I’m no philosopher. But I’m quick to recognize the value in seeing this moment reflected in the light of the past decade. Boy, what a ride. Like a great book, you’ve taught us so much…and yet, there’s much more to learn. With each reread of our history, we might master ourselves at the margins. We observe flaws in judgement and notice faulty decision-making patterns. We treat ourselves respectfully. We gradually improve – slowly, inching our way to becoming less wrong. Ironic, isn’t it? That very process cuts right to the bone of self-improvement. Learning a touch more about our many different selves. I may be off here, but in its purest form, a genuine practice of self-improvement and personal growth has exceedingly little to do with superficial vanity. Jacques Maritain once wrote that a person achieves self-mastery for the purpose of self-giving. I tend to agree…and I used to bristle at the idea of self-help books.

An old tongue likes to wag.

G-

 

PS:

11. Wear a helmet.

This was the eleventh rule and, while it was a finalist, it didn’t quite make the cut. I’ve not formally written since October’s crash. Without the helmet, there’s a good chance I’d not be here attempting to sketch my own ideas into neat, little pictures. More importantly, without support from you, there’s a zero percent chance my wandering words would land on interested eyes, ears, and minds. That fact is not lost with me. You humor this bumbling, bike-wrecking fool. Thanks for that too! I’m learning to love my life’s version of fate – amor fati. But I need no lesson in loving each of you.

CrossFit at a Crossroads

Eric Roza, new CEO and owner of CrossFit Inc.

 

If you’re familiar with the original ideas behind CrossFit (the idea that we as a business fell in love with), you know about hard work, community, self-improvement, acceptance and all things the like. Charging towards health and wellness via voluntary hardship and sweat equity is the surface level idea. Look one layer deeper and you find themes involving the warm embrace of others, acceptance for who you are, and working collectively at improvement.

Since Greg Glassman’s disgusting misuse of a major platform hit the headlines, themes of community have seemingly been lost by the very man that for so long sat atop the brand. It is painful to observe that the man we once viewed as a revolutionary in the fitness industry has a heart so misaligned from that of the 10ex community. We never considered that the mind of our then hero, now antagonist, might be morally bankrupt. It is a tough pill to swallow.

Fortunately, the monstrous actions of one individual cannot bring the wholistic good of functional fitness to a halt. After a flood of emotion, a great deal of time spent hashing-out corrective action, and a commitment to a true change of course, CrossFit and its affiliates (us) have started rebuilding. Watching developments from afar, we are pleased to see CrossFit’s decision to remove the cancer that is Glassman. We’re also cautiously optimistic with the introduction of new owner and CEO, Eric Rosa. Rosa made his direction clear in his initial statement – “Racism and sexism are abhorrent and will not be tolerated in CrossFit. We open our arms to everyone, and I will be working hard to rebuild bridges with those whose trust we have lost.” As a 10 year CrossFit veteran, Rosa understands how to own and operate affiliates and knows the power that the CrossFit community has in Colorado, the United States, and worldwide.

10 Experience was born from an idea that encompasses a life lived to the fullest…mentally, physically and emotionally. A #10exlife is one grounded in fitness, but rooted much deeper. The 10 Experience is one designed to inspire those within our community to truly live, with or without the CrossFit name. A CrossFit affiliation is not permanent and we are in no position to guarantee that 10 Experience will wear the ‘CrossFit’ badge for life. What we will guarantee is our continual commitment to inspire through fitness. Our foundation rests firmly upon love and acceptance.

2020’s been a bumpy road for us all. Emotionally-charged decisions are tough. May our 10ex actions speak much louder than one “Glass man’s” words and may all of our members understand just how valuable you are. Very.

Thanks for holding the line and continuing to trust us with your fitness through the thick and the thin.

 

-10ex

April ‘s Outlook

Hope Floats and a 10ex Rolodex

What do you get when you combine a roller coaster, a cliffhanger drama, and murder mystery? You get the month of March 2020. And you can begin to encapsulate the last few weeks for planet earth. The emotional spectrum ran full-bore through all of us with a pulse. The times are strange. It’s a frightening time.
To be fair, our first reactions were centered directly on self. How can we maintain economic health throughout these dark days? How much will this affect our business’ future? If this lasts for months, can we even bank on a future? These challenges to our business are more than we’ve ever seen. With candidness, I dare say we’ve all experienced similar and numerous angst-filled, fearful moments.
Luckily, after a bit of silence, some time spent in reflection, and plenty of plain ol’ walking, we began to hear the song of our nature’s better angels. While we’re still wandering through the unknown, that terra incognita, we aren’t alone out here. In fact, ‘alone’ is the last word we ought use to describe this situation. We, all of you reading this, are in this together and together, we’ll  find our way through. It’s in the spirit of community and togetherness that we write.

With excitement, we present our idea to develop and maintain a 10ex Rolodex.


Why?
No matter what Dunkin Donuts says, America runs on small business. Whether you’re a small business owner or employed by a small business, the strain of COVID-19 lies unusually heavy upon your house. The 10ex Rolodex is a way for less-strained community members to offer their support directly to local businesses, restaurants, affected professionals and more. Afterwords, the 10ex Rolodex remains a way to ‘filter’ through all the unnecessary noise. Need to hire a trustworthy ______? Check the 10ex Rolodex. Looking for a medical professional, car insurance, banker, a mortgage, some HVAC repair, handyman, lawn service, etc? Check the ‘dex. We often speak about leverage when needing strength to move heavy loads or lifting weight. Is there a better way to leverage the strength of our own 10ex community? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Who?
Small business owners. Doctors. Restauranteurs. Professionals. Journeymen. Craftsmen. Anyone providing a useful service to others.
When?
ASAP. Ideally this is crowd-sourced (like wikipedia). It will grow and evolve and hopefully be quite useful. Send email to info@10exlife.com. Write a quick sentence or two. Give us your name and explain what it is that you do, you offer, how you can provide support to the community.
What’s the gym’s plan for April?
Almost 10 years ago, we opened our doors with the mission to help others. To move our world one degree to the better…to improve the lives of others through the medium of fitness. ‘Inspiration through fitness.’ – reads our tagline. For us, it’s never been about maximizing profits or making a bunch of money. We believe that to be clear. And while the next few weeks will certainly put us under a strain like never before, we will endure the trial. Over-prepare and under-react, remember?
We will take care of our coaches. We will pay salaries first and bills second. We will continue to serve you, the invaluable members of our gym, in every way we can. Each of you are an important part of our life and we hope your membership, the gym and the community within it remain a shiny, bright spot in yours.
Next week on April 1st, memberships renew. Now, with any luck, the governor’s mandated gym closure ends for good on 4/6. But, in the case that it doesn’t, our plans to provide you with the best 10 Experience possible changes not. Nonetheless, we hope you’re satisfied with your investment in us. However, in the case that the coronavirus craze has any of you in a financial pinch or a position in which you don’t feel comfortable making your usual payment, we will take care of things until you’re on your feet again. We simply ask that you let us know within the next couple of days.
None of us can be certain that things will change for the better soon. But, it is Spring! The weather signals a change. It signals hope. We too are confident, hopeful and moving forward with the same budding spirit. Let us not give up on each other. Let us not give up on our fitness. Instead, together, let’s step boldly towards the future. Like C. Caine wrote, sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted. 
G and J and Steve and Taryn

Donuts + Decision Fatigue: A Secret Success Formula

 

SCENE: A local artisan donut shop buzzing with happy patrons. Sweet and savory smells fill the air accompanied by the grate of freshly roasted coffee beans. It’s a place engineered specifically for the sensations. It’s a foodie’s dream.

Enter: HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE, DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE

DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: (speaking to newest patrons) Hi! Welcome to our donut shop, home of the city and the state’s most award-winning donut creations. How can I serve you?

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: (with stars in their eyes) I think we need a minute to decide. My, what an impressive selection you have. What’s YOUR favorite donut here?

DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: (grinning) Probably the peach fritter or our salted caramel and whiskey – we’re actually sold out of it. But, the blueberry cream is delicious. So is our pumpkin spice cake…the tiramisu…the Boston Maple bar…toasted coconut…PB&J…(he prattles on)

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: Ahhhhhh…so many delicious-sounding choices. I guess I’ll have the peach fritter, says one…and I’ll have the cream cheese and apple pie, the other adds.

DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: Excellent choices. What else? You can buy half a dozen for the price of 3 donuts today.

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: (internally debating about the remaining capacity of their stomachs…having just eaten burgers, fries and more) Errr…well, we were only planning for a single donut each.

DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: Are you certain? Our donuts are just as tasty tomorrow morning…especially after a long day of travel.

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: (rationalizing) Well, we’re already having a donut. What’s the harm in enjoying a few more? And, since you offered….and the deal sounds so great. We’re in!

‘Guilty Remnants’

 

If you believed this story to be hypothetical to help me better illustrate my point, you’d be wrong. While it might not fit the classic “Decision Fatigue” model outlined by Roy Baumeister, it does well at highlighting a more subtle lesson we aimed to bake into the 10ex Back-to-School Challenge cake. Did you notice?

Classically defined decision fatigue occurs when we lose ability to decipher between what is important and what’s not. In other words, the more decisions we force ourselves to make, the more the quality of those decisions deteriorate. And, more fatigue leads to even more irrational trade-offs when making decisions. Car dealerships offer the most obvious place to witness decision fatigue. After the push and pull, after all the negotiation of sales price, and finally after the decision to purchase is made, what happens? Buyers are asked to make handfuls of other ‘bolt-on’ purchase decisions. This warranty, that coverage, this service, that product…how much quicker (less carefully) do buyers rationalize a glut of hundred-dollar decisions after deciding to spending thousands? I dare say, it’s often. The cumulative spend after agreeing upon final vehicle price is often much more than the consumer realizes. But, they rationalize it all away after a ‘win’ at the bargaining table.

Anyway, some of you likely considered the general nature of our 10ex Back-to-School Challenge to be simple – maybe even elementary. No performance metrics? No body measurements? No counting calories or macros? Why nothing complex? Simple. Because we like to see you succeed. And in our view, the success formula looks something like this:

good + good = EXCELLENT

The rules of the game were easy (we’re playing a game, right?). Be sure to train every day – without the added pressure to ‘perform.’ When you eat, eat from a broad list of approved foods. The challenge aimed to leverage success precisely in your favor. By making one very important decision, you made hundreds of other future decisions. Sneaky, eh? The single, important decision was simply to participate. All remaining challenge-based decisions were made for you…and guess what that did? It absolved everyone from the inevitable pits of decision fatigue. The “WHICH SINGLE DONUT DO I EAT?” question never occurred to you (hopefully). Nor did the “Should I exercise today?” doubt.

good exercise habits + good eating habits = EXCELLENT results

The body rewards execution, not ideas. And, while being a fan of ideas, adding complexity (confusion) for its own sake, only shines light on the fool. It cheapens the nature of what works. We believe proper diet and exercise not only yield better health, but often times frees up bandwidth to make us smarter, psychologically braver, more creative, more energetic and much more influential. That’s the kernel of what we’re truly after here. Simplicity is a worthy long-term pursuit that leads to sustainable health…wealth…and relationships. We hope that making the single decision to join us makes a thousand other decisions substantially easier.

 

G- aka a wannabe Donut Boy in TN

 

References:

McKeown, G. (2014). Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less. New York, NY: Crown Business.
Adams, S. (2013). How to fail at almost everything and still win big. New York, NY: Penguin Group

The Immortal Jellyfish and You: A Blueprint to Live Long and Prosper

Behold: Immortality (kinda)

In the past, we’ve discussed the difference between fitness as sport and fitness as a life-long pursuit – these are starkly different end games. If you find yourself in the ‘fitness as sport’ camp, these following opinions of mine (and others) are of lesser concern. However, should you find yourself in the ‘live long and prosper’ camp, I believe the subject quite relevant and worth the noodle. Want to live forever? Continue reading.

Imagine, if you will, the ability to respond to a life-threatening injury, illness or stress by reverting to an earlier stage of your life. With little effort, you could snap yourself back to a more youthful you predating the condition and essentially start again, but with deeper knowledge. You could live forever. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? It’s not! Through a rare, natural process called, transdifferation, this process actually happens. However, I’m sad to report that unless you share genes with the immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dorhni), the shadow of mortality still follows you (and me) everywhere. 

Now, while we may not be born with such transdifferation traits, we are armed with a slightly-different-but-somewhat-as-nifty process called autophagy. Rather than transforming the injured and stressed parts of our body into more youthful versions (like the immortal jellyfish), we’re instead able to live longer and increase prosperity with the aid of a process called autophagy (pronounced: aw-TAH-fuh-jee). In Greek, autophagy literally translates to ’self-eating.’ Lucky for us, the process is a bit more refined than the translation. In layman terms, autophagy is our body’s way of cleaning out the fridge. It rids us of damaged, injured, or otherwise useless cells and promotes the generation of healthy, replacement ones. In other words, it contributes not just to a longer life, but an increased health span too (health span is the portion of life that’s worth living).  

Mark knows about sleep, coffee, red wine….and lots of other ways to live long and prosper.

Want to stave off senescence? How do you live a life that enhances and optimizes longevity? Want to bio-hack your way to autophagy all-stardom? There are a number of basic lifestyle habits that appear to encourage the utilization of autophagy. We’ve learned these strategies by studying the Blue Zones. The term Blue Zones, coined by researcher Dan Buettner, are known as areas of the world where people live both the longest and healthiest lives. The good news: if you’ve followed some of our suggestions along the way, you’re well ahead of the curve. I’ve done my best to synthesize them into basic DO versus DON’T practices below:

ON RECOVERY

  • DON’T:
    • Be beholden to your stress 
    • Smoke (obviously)
  • DO:
    • Prioritize practices to minimize stress
      • SLEEP! 7-9 hours seems to be the sweet spot for most of us.
      • Implement mindful breathing practice through meditation, the Wim Hoff technique, box breathing or other similar approaches.
      • Pay attention to the quality of air you breath. It’s true, we spend less time outside inhaling the ‘good stuff’ than did our ancestors. However, essential oil diffusers and HEPA air filters can bridge that widening gap.

ON NUTRITION

  • DON’T:
    • Eat processed, packaged foods
      • Generally, these foods are pro-inflammatory and encourage glucose instability (blood sugar problems). And that’s bad news if we aren’t aiming at chronic disease and illness. 
  • DO:
    • Restrict calories and periodically fast
    • Eat to develop metabolic flexibility
    • Eat seasonally. Eat resistant starches. Eat whole, unprocessed food. Eat wild plants and animals.
      • These dietary practices are not only anti-inflammatory and promote glucose stability, they introduce us to another evolutionary beneficial process called xenohormesis. Xenohormesis explains how certain molecules such as plant polyphenols, which indicate stress in the plants, can have a longevity-conferring effect in consumers of plants (i.e. mammals). This is the idea of antifragility in real time. 
        • Need more simple terms?
          • Drink red wine and black coffee…and eat wild plants like dandelion, various herbs, some mushrooms, and countless of other species.

ON MOVEMENT

  • DON’T:
    • Exercise to complete exhaustion too frequently
  • DO:
    • Enjoy your athletic endeavors. Exercise shouldn’t always feel like a chore.
    • Develop strength
    • Incorporate low-level activity throughout the day

ON SOCIAL CONNECTION

  • DON’T:
    • Go at it alone. Do you know the worst brand of punishment for imprisoned felons? Solitary confinement. There’s a reason behind that. 
  • DO:
    • Prioritize your social connections. Belonging to, and being active in, a community is very important
      • Eat together. Celebrate together. 
    • Remain reproductively useful…
      • In 2 words: have sex!

ON LIFE’S PURPOSE

  • DON’T:
    • Subscribe to a world view of hopelessness – don’t be a nihilist. 
  • DO:
    • Commit to a lifelong pursuit of becoming more spiritually disciplined. There are a number of routes leading to the promised land on morality’s map, but the general ‘way’ is typically found in forms of religion and spiritual practices. 
      • The common threads that appear throughout all the spiritual disciplines are:
        • Study and self-examination
        • Silence and solitude
        • Simplicity and gratitude
        • Service and stewardship
      • Consider writing a one sentence mission that describes the impact you aim to make with your life.
Tennessee isn’t too far from the longitudinal mark of other Blue Zones.

Now, this simple idea of mine is already a bit long in the tooth. And clearly, each bulleted point deserves its own blog post (some have them already), but in brevity’s name, I opted to distill them as best I could. Like me, I believe you all subscribers to the 80/20 principle. Wherein, we might gain 80% of the understanding we seek by applying a mere 20% of the effort. This sort of approach allows us to glean the lion’s share of comprehension – the principles to live long and prosper – without committing to the masterful process of granular research. With that extra time and energy, we’re left to live our richer, more vibrant, and now extended #10exlife. As a bonus, we also afford ourselves a bit of space to work up a mental sweat – whittling away at the idea of our life’s mission. 

Can the immortal jellyfish do that?

G-

Resources:

Blue Zone. (2019, March 09). Retrieved April 22, 19, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Zone

Brett, and Kate McKay. “An Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines.” The Art of Manliness, 28 May 2018, www.artofmanliness.com/articles/introduction-spiritual-disciplines/.

Turritopsis dohrnii. (2019, April 14). Retrieved April 22, 19, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turritopsis_dohrnii

The Threads of Ariadne: A Love Letter to End the Outlier Challenge

You made it! Only a few weeks of Winter’s gloom remain and the end of the Outlier Challenge is already upon us. Wasn’t it a quick 6 weeks? With each year’s Challenge, we attempt to deliver a fresh package of full-bodied human (10) experience. Likely, that meant a bit of mental and physical stretching for everyone. Whether it was noodling on the sophistication of Zone portioned meals or staring down an ice-cold shower, we hope you found yourselves properly tested throughout the journey. Moreover, maybe it goaded you into questioning what it really means to be fit and live a vibrant, healthy life. It’s that line of thinking and patchwork idea – what does it mean to live a proper life – that I hope to stitch together here. 

You’ve probably heard one coach or another mention the hero’s journey throughout your time at the gym – probably referencing a workout, a brand of metabolism, Jordan Peterson or maybe even Steve’s favorite – Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was that heroic thread that lead me into a mythological deep-dive as the years transitioned and the Outlier Challenge began. At best, my understanding of myths were shaky. These are the oldest stories we know and I wasn’t sure how to interpret them. Are they fact…fiction…a fiction more true than fact? To find out, I did the most ‘obvious’ thing: signed up to take a Greek and Roman Mythology class and plunged head-long into a Joseph Campbell book

To be clear, I’m not here to harangue you into reading Homer or Ovid, nor to virtue signal from atop an ivory tower. But, I do believe there to be a relevant mythological story worth sharing as we hem-up the end of this year’s Challenge. It’s the story of Ariadne’s precious thread and it’s a love story – kinda. Briefly, the girl (Ariadne) falls in love with the boy (Theseus). This boy is slated to be offered as sacrifice to a monster (Minotaur) living in a maze (the labyrinth). To save the boy she loves, the girl gives the boy a sword to slay the monster and a ball of thread in order to retrace his steps escaping the maze afterwords. Long-story-short: it works and the two sail into the setting mythological sun.

Snoozing on the idea of myth? Have you watched the Netflix hit, Birdbox? Thats Sandra Bullock clinging to a version of Ariadne’s thread trying to escape a mythological monster (something akin to the gorgon; think: Medusa). It’s in almost everything we watch. 

I can hear you already. Galen, how does all this even begin to relate?
 
Hopefully, like Ariadne’s gifts to Theseus, the Outlier Challenge armed you with genuine weapons to face your daily monsters. Swords like:

  • Nutrition – a functional understanding of various feeding/fasting strategies coupled with a quality, quantity, and nuance focus
  • Movement and Mobility – be active everyday and quickly find yourself enjoying the benefits of compounding effort
  • Sleep – maybe we can finally and literally put the “I’ll rest when I’m dead” mantra bed; every hero in every story enjoys a long sleep after their toils

Likewise, when the monsters of our personal fitness are slain, we hoped that the nonfitness related Outlier challenges would provide a guiding thread to find a way through life’s own version of the labyrinth. How does one best live a human life? That’s a riddle with no definitive answer, but we think it’s spun with one thread of quality, loving relationships and one thread of humble, self-discovery. Too often we look for great wealth to save us or a great authority to answer our questions when all we need is a lone piece of string. 

Wherein lies the truth of a myth? That answer is as deep as it is wide. But, I’ve tied myself to the notion that myth teaches what’s far below the surface of literature and art. It attempts to get at the gist of what it means to live a proper human life. Sounds a lot like philosophy, doesn’t it? Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. Perhaps the fabric of timeless philosophy is knitted on the frame of a mythological loom. Who knows. What I am certain is that like Ariadne’s love saved Theseus from the labyrinth, we hope that our admiration of you Outliers at 10Experience helps you to realize the same powerful potential available in your life’s unique maze. A fitness challenge is merely a challenge until it refines how you view yourself and updates the way you choose to live. When you acknowledge your inner hero, you recognize the greatness of your own strength…and leave that selfsame guiding thread for all to follow. In doing that, you not only enrich your own existence, but you nudge the world in a much better direction.

Still carrying fire (plus a ball of thread),

G-

References:

Campbell, J., Moyers, B. D., & Flowers, B. S. (2012). The power of myth. New York: Turtleback Books.

Online Courses From Top Universities. Join for Free. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.coursera.org/learn/mythology/home/welcome

Movement…The answer to Cancer?

Whether you have dealt with this problem from a distance or up close, cancer has come up on your radar at some point in your life. Truth is, technically speaking, you have cancer right now. There are cancerous cells all in our bodies, that are only triggered/turned on when a fragmented version of our DNA is created and then replicated several times throughout the body. When it has been replicated over and over without being discovered, it may be too late for us to intervene. So, what can be done to prevent this from happening or what could someone do as a means of treatment for these diseases? Fortunately, I had the pleasure of listening to a man named, Daryll Edwards at the Ancestral Health Symposium to find out. Daryll is a Movement Coach, a Nutritionist and the creator of the Primal Play Method (a fun, functional fitness program for children and adults alike). I hope to disseminate his thoughts as well as he did at the symposium.

Food vs Cancer
First of all, it is difficult to find out what will activate or helps cancer grow. Most people think that glucose (by-product of carbohydrates) is what all cancers feed on. In reality, cancer feeds on glucose (carbs), lipids (fat), and amino acids (protein). It obviously pays for us to research on particular cancers as much as possible, but don’t mistake this excerpt as a complete erasing of nutrition as a means to promote movement as the only cure. Nutrition is equally as important as exercise in this equation and is an additional proprietor to the prevention or debilitation of most metabolic diseases.

Movement vs Cancer
Hippocrates (the great Greek Scientist/Philosopher) might have once stated, “Walking is man’s best medicine”. So, how can movement be a tool against metabolic damage and the like? Is it really that simple? The better question is, are you really so far removed from your ancestors that you can’t treat cancers the same way they would? It is true that you are infinitely more advanced from a technological standpoint. However, from a physical standpoint, you and the caveman/cavewoman who possesses your genes are pretty identical. So, with that information, let’s jump into this situation from a fundamental vantage. Cancer reaches much further back in our known timeline than you may think. It predates mammalian life altogether! Furthermore, aging is a huge reason that we develop cancer in the first place. Our ancestors didn’t have to worry about this for the most part.

However, we have a secret weapon. Physical activity! Not the shiny, illustrious secret you expected? Sometimes, simplicity elicits the proper results for our problems without the need to be fancy. When it comes to physical activity, there are a plethora of benefits that come along. Decreased insulin resistance, reduced systemic inflammation, reduced fatigue, increased immune system function, increased mood and focus, as well as elongated telomere lengths and increased DNA repair capabilities.

Are these all of the benefits? Not by a long shot 😉 Physical activity provides us with a super-secret weapon. The name of this weapon is Irisin. Irisin (known as the “Exercise Hormone”) is a hormone that is incredibly effective in keeping us not only alive but thriving. It utilizes white adipose tissue (makes you leaner) as a means of energy while being 22x more capable of destroying cancer cells. No other hormone can do so.

So what do we have to do to activate this super hormone? According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the WHO (World Health Organization) as well as many other leading health authorities, it’s as simple as following this chart.

To take things even further, there are governmental entities who are implementing exercise protocols as a means of cancer treatment. One of them being COSA (Clinical Oncology Society of Australia). What are the results they are reporting? Decreased cancer-related fatigue, decreased psychological stress, improved quality of life across the spectrum of different cancers, decreased risks of adverse side effects, as well as reduced risk of CVD disease.

It’s safe to say that science, nutrition and exercise are all in their infancies. It is also safe to say that we do not have a fool-proof, 100% proven prevention plan for all metabolic diseases. However, we do have a SIMPLE, yet EFFECTIVE, approach to a long and healthy life. So what do we do? Here are the best protocols we’ve found: eat well (natural foods), sleep like logs (7-8 hours), form and keep meaningful relationships, and GET MOVING!

-Steve

Conspiracy in a Cabin

On a rainy weekend in the fall of 2009, a handful of unhappy kids stole away to a cabin to vacate their life. As you’d imagine, they followed standard Sevier County cabin protocols. They ate, drank and made general merriment. But as the day grew dark, so too did the color of their thoughts. They waxed a bit about philosophy, food and fitness, but mostly, it was a discussion peppered with resentment and despair.

They critiqued the world. Why hadn’t it fulfilled the promise of success they had so often heard? They resented their jobs. Weren’t’ they to be places of satisfaction? They resented their coworkers. Don’t they see how valuable we are? They resented the ‘man’ for holding them down. But more than those, they resented themselves for making so many unexamined and irresponsible decisions. Lucky for them, as they gulped down the final dregs of cheap wine, a fateful idea began bubbling it’s way to the surface. That idea turned those two kids’ lives upside down. It turned them into conspirators. And likely, if you’re reading this, it did you too.

Nietzsche said many, many things of remark, but the one most germane to this story reads, “Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, #423nations and ages it is the rule.” (This, ironically, written before he went mad. Let’s all hope we don’t soon suffer the same fate)

As I reflect again on the madness of the previous 8 years, I realized that thinking critically might be the most conspiratory thing of all. By my estimation, successful people (like you), find value in unexpected places; in thinking on the ‘known but not understood’ first principles. So I write today for a twofold reason. The first is to offer thanks for a debt not soon to be repaid – your trust in our fitness and lifestyle design. Happily, we are ever in arrears! Never can we praise you enough for joining this delicious conspiracy of fitness excellence.

The second, curiously enough, to reconsider the idea of a conspiracy. We all think of conspiracies in terms of lunar landings, Kennedy assassinations, and areas named ’51.’ Today, not much unlike that dark, rainy weekend so many years ago, our task is to find sustainable, ethical and real ways to not just make the world different, but better – to go from zero to 10ex ?…to inspire through fitness. Peter Theil, author of Zero to One, said that conspiracy is linked with intentionality, with planning, working towards longer-term goals…in a world where you don’t have conspiracies maybe those things disappear as well. Maybe we need more conspiracy than less. Maybe not.

I’m starting to believe that the best people in the world already know this. Every great community is built around a secret that’s hidden from view. If these years have taught me anything, it’s that a great is a conspiracy to change the world. When we share our secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator. And to that, we again eat, drink and offer a cheerful toast for conspiring to move the world in a better direction. Conspiring to inspire…now, there’s a thought.

Kings to you,

G-

 

References:

Holiday, R. (2018). Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the anatomy of intrigue. NY, NY: Portfolio/Penguin.

Thiel, P. A., & Masters, B. (2015). Zero to one: Notes on startups, or how to build the future. London: Virgin Books.

Case 423: Cholesterol v. The People

Like clockwork, the seasons change, time sneaks by, and despite it seeming like just yesterday since your last, Doc Rx informs you that your annual lipid panel has been ordered. Fear sets in, but you can’t quite decide if the fear is spawning from a razor-sharp needle, soon to pierce your self-proclaimed thick skin, or the results of the dreaded report that will leave you running to Google for translation. Did you listen to Doc and avoid the evil, saturated fats and foods high in cholesterol? Are you on a fast-track to being put on a statin, the most prescribed pharmaceutical drug in the world? Allow me, your non-credentialed, non-board certified, gatherer of relevant research information to attempt the unpacking of what is a very confusing, moderately intimidating, “total cholesterol” story.

Let’s take this down one layer at a time. What in the world is LDL, HDL, and triglycerides anyhow? Glad you asked. The glass half-full side of me opts to lead with the good, proceed into the bad (maybe), and finish with the ugly.

The good: HDL. That aforementioned Google search plug boils down a quick-and-clean definition looking something like this: “NOUN biochemistry1. high-density lipoprotein”. So it appears that HDL is simply a dense lipoprotein. Great, now what? A deeper dig explains that HDL is uniquely created and secreted by the liver and intestine. (1) Its main role, the role defining it as “good”, is the transport or “clean-up” task that involves transporting excess cholesterol from bodily tissues to the liver. The cholesterol synthesized in these tissues is fast-tracked to the liver for disposal. Want an efficient clean-up crew? Ensure that your HDL level is nice and high, and by high, I mean >60 mg/dl.

The bad (maybe): LDL. Back to Google we go for a terrifying search result: BAD. For most, this is where the reading stops. Let’s dig a bit deeper. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also a transporter of cholesterol by trade, is commonly associated with plaque found in arteries. How is this little guy so much worse than its denser brother? It’s all in the fluff. But, is it safe to say that the simple presence of LDL in the blood is purely responsible for jamming the arterial roadways with plaque? While studies show that an elevated LDL reading does correlate to an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack (2), the devil may be in the details. Understanding that there are people experiencing heart attacks, despite having low LDL levels, challenges the status quo that states: Low LDL=good. Inversely, how do we explain the fact that all people wielding high LDL levels aren’t dropping like flies? Allow us to try and agree on a few things, while leaving the waters a bit hazy. There is no excuse for discrediting the vast research that shows the negative connection between elevated LDL levels and heart attacks. However, the study of endocrinology – more specifically the role of LDL in the body – is a very detailed, quite complex network of rabbit holes that has yet to be perfectly pieced together. Don’t believe me? Click Hereto learn about LDL oxidation and let this content toss another wrench into your understanding.

The ugly: Triglycerides. Simply stated, triglycerides are the thousand-foot view showing how much fat is present in the blood stream. More specifically, they are the end product or final breakdown of fats (lipids) from the simple carbohydrate rich or deliciously fatty meal that you just ate. They can also be found floating the main stream during a fasting window as the body breaks down stored fat to use for energy. If you eat more than your body needs at the time of consumption or are temporarily under-fed, triglycerides will be found en route to their storage site for later use. They may also be heading out for work with available energy in hand. You may be asking, “These don’t sound so bad, what’s the big deal?” I see where you’re coming from. Let’s approach it with this: like most things in life, more doesn’t mean better. Studies and observations now show that consistently elevated triglyceride levels may be associated with a few things:

1) An increased risk in developing heart disease or experiencing a heart attack (3)

2) A greater chance of fouling normal processes, resulting in conditions like obesity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, etc.

With these themes in mind, maintaining triglyceride levels <150 mg/dl is our best option to avoid any or all bumps on our road of good health. Now that we have a base understanding established, lets square a few things up, dig one shovel full deeper, and bring this chat full circle.

We want HDL levels high. And I mean, excitement level after ‘PRing’ your favorite lift high. How do you do that? Well, the good news is that by simply reading this and being a 10 Experience member, you are on the right track. Eat good food; realfood. Perform some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, 3+ days a week, and maintain a healthy weight or strive to reach one.

Check.

We want LDL managed. Your head may still be wading through the above LDL fog. Here is how to attack it in layman terms: cut out trans-fats. I understand that giving up that beautifully constructed, processed, snack cake is a monumental task, but it is a must (a quick dig into what a trans-fat actually is will likely leave you running anyhow). Replace the franken-oils (trans-fats) with foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Eat wild caught fish, healthy nuts, grass-fed meats (believe it or not) and, for ease sake, take a quality fish oil supplement.

Check.

We want triglycerides low. Easy stuff. Follow the guidelines listed above, kick the booze, and avoid a diet high in refined carbohydrates like sugary sodas, breads, Oreos, and pasta (sorry Olive Garden, I still love you).

Check.

And here we are, the final 9 pull-ups of Fran. I hope that this was equal parts beneficial and enjoyable. I sure have had fun writing it. If you take anything away from the quite wordy content above, please allow it to be these few themes:

1) “Total cholesterol” is confusing, dig deeper

2) Your health, well-being, physical and physiological longevity, happiness, and success is in your hands, not the pharmaceutical company’s.

Being curiously curious shows that you are on the right track. Just by dedicating yourself to furthered self-education shows your worth and by understanding the importance of investment through the avenue of fitness/nutrition proves your #Outlier status. Perhaps, if we continue to move a lot, eat more to fuel and less to please, and strive to be more human, when Doc brings in the results from that ole’ lipid panel and asks how in the world you have improved your numbers without statins, you can simply give an innocent smirk and tell him that you have chosen to live a #10exlife.

Cheers,

-Taryn

 

References:

  • Botham KM MP. Lipid Transport & Storage. Murray RK BD, Botham KM, Kennelly PJ, Rodwell VW, Weil PA, ed. Harper’s Illustrated Biochemistry. 28th ed. New York McGraw-Hill: 2009
  • Austin MA, Breslow JL, Hennekens CH, Buring JE, Willett WC, Krauss RM. Low-Density Lipoprotein Subclass Patterns and Risk of Myocardial Infarction. 1988;260(13):1917–1921. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410130125037
  • Stampfer MJ, Krauss RM, Ma J, et al. A Prospective Study of Triglyceride Level, Low-Density Lipoprotein Particle Diameter, and Risk of Myocardial Infarction. 1996;276(11):882–888. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540110036029

In Defense of Moderation: The Story of Metabolic Flexibilty

“The hero is a pattern of action, designed to make sense of the unknown; they emerge wherever human beings are successful.”
J. Peterson (Maps of Meaning)

Let me frame what I’m about to say with this: on the surface, I’m not suggesting anything that most of you might not already suspect. More often than not, we ‘understand’ considerably more than we actually ‘know.’ But, rare are the times that we know ‘why’ we do what we do. Taking that idea and filtering it through a nutritional lens, we’re told a story (about how to eat, in this case), which we don’t fully understand and then act in accordance to it’s misinterpreted principles. So, I’m here to simply ask for your thoughtful consideration.

Throughout the last month or so – through giving lecture, hearing lecture, and general reading – I began to develop the faintest idea of a new story (new to me, at least). It’s here that I’ll present it – hopefully coherently. Let’s begin:

The Story We’re All Told: Think in Temperance

Aimed at longevity and health? Well then, moderation is the law of the land. Move more, eat less calories, but feed very frequently…and all variety of food is acceptable in moderation. Even preferred. Nutritionally, nothing carries too much weight. And, because every flavor of food is fair game, we need only employ master-level self-control while eating whatever we’d like and merely log extra miles on the treadmill. Easy enough.

The Reality We All Occupy: Think Again

We’re genetically programmed – wired to eat – in a completely inverted fashion. In truth, evolution trained us to move less, eat more and perpetually seek novel, or extremely tasty, food (we’ve previously written and lectured on this idea). The stark truth is that for the first time in modern history, death and disease from overconsumption out number death and disease from starvation. The moderation schtick has clearly failed the Western world and this bill of nutritional goods we’ve been sold is rotten. Fast, we need rigid and formal nutritional guidelines. Nutritionally, everything matters more than we thought!

We need a hero (a believable…a useful framework for eating). But from where and by whom? Do the principles of Paleo orchestrate a return to vibrancy? Do we distill the devil in the details of macro counting? Can the king of Keto lead us back from the void? Will fasting expedite our return to the promised land? We’re all after a new ‘truth’ and eager to wield it’s metabolic might. But, what is the truth?

It’s here that we finally approach the crux of that emergent story of mine. The one that I thought was original – my new story – but as it turns out, isn’t. I’m not the first to conjure this idea – far from it. There’s nothing new under the sun, they say.

Here’s the rub: I believe we properly prescribed the idea of ‘moderation’, but propose that we simply miffed the application. Now, what I’ve come to call ‘nutritional moderation’, has previously been coined by those much smarter than me as, ‘metabolic flexibility.’ Metabolic flexibility, outside of sounding entirely more scientific than moderation, is ‘the capacity for an organism to adapt fuel oxidation to fuel availability.’ In layman terms, it’s the ability to use both fat (ketones) and carbs (glucose) as sources of energy based on availability and need. A metabolically flexible individual empowers themselves with the ability to transition between fats and carbs. They, their mitochondria, unconsciously vacillate between utilizing ketone (fat) sources while not exercising and then back to glucose (carbs) for more energy efficiency during exercise. It’s a brand of efficiency that gives any system a run for it’s money. Essentially, metabolic flexibility occurs at the energy-producing, cellular level. Think of a hybrid vehicle that seamlessly transitions between battery and petroleum reserves. It’s the same idea. The ancient genius behind our energy-using design is no different.

Under normal circumstances, the mitochondria, and by extension our metabolism, should be very flexible in shifting between fat and carbohydrate as a fuel. Unfortunately, that story we’re told and proceed to follow, creates damage. We generally live in an overfed state (feeding frequently on suboptimal sources of carbs and fat). That state retards our ability to use multiple sources of food as fuel (fat and carbs). And so the line from the story we’re told neatly connects to the ‘sicker than ever’ reality we occupy. What’s more, imagine if ancient man were forced to eat every three hours and account for each calorie consumed. Would he have turned nose to a cache of fruit while in a state of ketosis? Absolutely not, he wouldn’t have survived. And none of us would have the capacity to read or write, much less, consider these ideas. This might seem harsh, but ‘the popularity of small, frequent meals is likely our culture’s way of self-medicating’ to compensate for our broken metabolism (malfunctioning mitochondria).

*The other obvious analog for fitness – actual flexibility (mobility). If we become stiff and unable to move properly, we increase the likelihood of injury and wearing out our joints. Maintaining our hips, knees, and shoulders and ensuring proper spinal alignment is important for the same reason that keeping our mitochondria mobile is important.

The New Story of Moderation: A Different Model of Temperance

With deeper consideration, we might better come to both ‘understand’ and ‘know’ what drives our eating habits. Then determine ‘why’ we should apply certain lessons from the new, more fully-developed nutritional story. So what IS true? The old story of moderation certainly has proven to be a false truth. That’s clear. And, it’s irresponsible to argue against the value of paleo principles, counting macros, intermittently fasting and states of ketosis. In the new story of moderation, they all have their utility. The new hero knows this.

Shakespeare was famed for saying, “All the worlds’s a stage…and one man in his time plays many parts.” I dare say, the hero of our new story of moderation strategically employs and plays each of those nutritional parts…in periods of calculated moderation. That hero understands that like exercise, nutrition might also follow a seasonal model. This hero (you) learns to responsibly weld each of those nutritional strategies as their tale continues to unfold. Like the flexible and mighty mitochondria, nutritional heroes understand the framework of therapeutic nutrition: quality foods paired with a precise understanding of what food actually is – delicious energy. Then, they sometimes eat lots of carbs and they sometimes eats lots of fat, but rarely ever together. And, when faced with choosing between nutritional evils, they’re wise to consider a fast. Heroes of this brand fend off sickness and disease, malfunction and metabolic malice on all fronts. By not tilting at quixotic windmills, these heroes instead shine like lighthouses, as beacons of hope to those that behold them.

Mighty may your mitochondria be,

G-

 

References:

Galgani, J. E., Moro, C., & Ravussin, E. (2008, November). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2584808/

House, E. (2016, June 17). The Best Kind of Flexibility: Metabolic Flexibility. Retrieved from https://www.onnit.com/academy/the-best-kind-of-flexibility-metabolic-flexibility/

Peterson, J. B. (1999). Maps of meaning: The architecture of belief. London: Routledge.

Wolf, R. (2017). Wired to eat: Turn off cravings, rewire your appetite for weight loss, and determine the foods that work for you. New York: Harmony Books.