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,




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.


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.


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).


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.





  • 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,




Galgani, J. E., Moro, C., & Ravussin, E. (2008, November). Retrieved from

House, E. (2016, June 17). The Best Kind of Flexibility: Metabolic Flexibility. Retrieved from

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.

Developing a Seasoned Fitness

This weekend’s weather makes a clear point: the seasons have transitioned. Spring has arrived (at least for now). Gone is the bitter wind, the piles of snow and that gloomy period of dormancy. Nigh are warm and longer days, blue skies and everywhere the sparks of life (growth). Mother Nature’s figured out a great many things, the seasons not least among them. All this philosophical weather-waxing isn’t for naught, I promise.

Recently, I’ve shared a curious number of conversations that appear to point me towards a conclusion that, like Mother Nature’s seasons, crops up almost in-line with the weather. The seasons of training aren’t too dissimilar from those we notice here in temperate Tennessee. Fitness, during the cold months of the CrossFit Open (aka Winter), takes an intentional and dormant-like turn away from vibrancy and growth. Programming (your fitness) recedes into a weekly survival mode, pivoting in the cold and Castro-like wind. Naturally, we hunker down and weather the storm. Lucky for us, our Winter (the CF Open), only lasts a few weeks.

As we recover from the intensity of that season, healing – of sore joints and bruised egos – occurs and soon appear anxious buds of growth. How many of you silently pledged to do that first – muscle-up, handstand push-up, double-under, pull-up, etc? Or made committal alms to your future self for improving subpar skills? Great news. Truly.

It’s here we finally run into the crux of my argument. By my estimation, it’s a simple, but elegant injunction – throughout this Spring of your fitness growth, take a more responsible approach towards your success. To paraphrase Greg Glassman, a true master pledges oneself to learning and and then relearning fundamentals…over and over and over. How can you sharpen your air squat? Where does your movement pattern break down during a Snatch? Why does this happen? Start there and this season’s regrowth is sure to pack the most powerful punch you might imagine. Treat yourself as if it matters because it does.

Like the arborist prunes the buds of his fruiting tree, we too must prune our efforts towards a real and productive direction. If you’re aimed at true growth, take some time to reflect on what’s kept your fitness success at bay. In that way, we might all consider taking a methodical, deliberate and plodding approach to the not-so-complex puzzle of cultivating our best fitness. When we succeed, how much better might the next CF Open (Winter) season feel?

All training is an act of philosophy.


Melissa Lawson – Morristown’s 2018 Outlier Lifestyle Challenge Winner

I like the person I see in the mirror..she’s a lot happier. – ML

Like all Outlier Lifestyle Challenges, the 2018 version presented a dynamic array of tests – nutrition, movement, recovery, community and reflection. Melissa met each challenge with her trademark smile and a steady resolve to grow. This year, we measured success along a spectrum of ‘metrics’ (4 varied markers of fitness, daily/weekly challenges and body composition measurements). In the most balanced fashion, Melissa showed substantial improvements across each.

Here’s what our 10ex Coaches have to say about Melissa…

  • Not once have I seen Melissa enter the halls of the gym with a closed mind. Always smiling, always eager to receive the next cue and continually growing in the ways of a true Outlier. Her journey is inspiring and I am proud to have her In the 10ex family as a torch bearer!
  • From a coaching vantage, Melissa is a reminder of the Outlier ideal. She’s warm. She’s curious.  And her attitude is infallibly positive. She works both hard and intelligently. Truly, she’s uncommon among the uncommon. Plus, she’s a Star Wars fan and we all know what that means – #jedi
  • Melissa is the true definition of what we look for in the Outlier community. She has worked phenomenally hard, lead by example and has really shown what it means to prevail. She is a pleasure to have in class and is a valued asset of our facility.
  • From the time she started, I could tell Melisa was an extremely hard worker. She comes to the gym every chance she gets and puts in work when she is here. She is always on time. She approaches every workout with a positive, “can-do” attitude. She is super respectful of all coaches throughout the entire class. She receives coaching really well and works to be better than the day before. It is an honor to help her through her journey.
  • I haven’t worked with Melissa as much as others have, but I know from our few experiences that she is willing to listen, learn, and works very hard (as evidenced from her results)!

The OLC is aimed specifically at nudging participants into orienting themselves towards their untapped potential, their ‘ideal.’ One of this year’s tasks required participants to put thought to words in long-hand responses to a few writing prompts. Melissa’s words give clearer shape to what it means to invest some time on ourselves.

“You made yourself important…you made yourself better so you have a better you to give the ones you love…You have proven to yourself that you can be as strong on the inside as you want to be on the outside…We have mountains to climb!”

Cheers to you and your journey, Melissa! You’re an inspiration.

-10 Experience