Updated: Sep 4
October 18, 2022
Two weeks ago, my son, 12, challenged me to try and pass the Navy SEALs physical fitness test.
a 500 yard swim in 12 minutes, 30 seconds [10 minute rest]
a minimum of 50 pushups in two minutes [2 minute rest]
fifty curl-ups or more in two minutes [2 minute rest]
10 pull-ups or more in two minutes [10 minute rest]
running 1.5 miles in 10 minutes, 30 seconds
I'm 50. I thought this could be a worthwhile challenge. When I was a soldier in the 90s, I maxed out the Army's physical fitness test. I was curious to see how this middle aged body would measure up. I came across a number of surprising findings readers might find useful. I wanted to apply, test, and share these evidence-based protocols with you.
In accepting the challenge, I thought I'd inspire my son, but he ended up inspiring me to level up. When I was his age, Jack LaLanne was my hero! Jack LaLanne was called the "Godfather of Fitness." He opened the nation's first fitness gyms in 1936. He designed the first leg machines, cable/pulley machines, and weight selectors. The Jack LaLanne Show was the longest running exercise program on television.
Jack LaLanne was well into his 60s when I learned of his prodigious feats. At 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf. He was handcuffed and shackled while towing a 1,000 lbs (450 kg) boat. To celebrate his 70th birthday, he towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests aboard, for one mile. He continued working out for 2 hours daily well into his 90s. He died at his home at 96; his was a life well lived.
In accepting the challenge, I thought it might be useful to document my learning and keep a running record of my progress. Going public, moreover, would hold me accountable.
I started with baselines. I swam 500 yards freestyle in 13:20. I completed 92 pushups in 2 minutes, rested 2 minutes, completed 76 curl-ups in 2 minutes, rested 2 minutes, then did 15 pull-ups in 2 minutes. I ran 1.5 miles in 13:07. I did the swim, run, and calisthenics on separate days.
Given that I haven't swam nor have I run distances greater than 1 mile in years, my results are OK. I need to improve my aerobic capacity and train at 80%-90% of my VO2 Max.
So, I began with a review of the scientific literature. Performance decrements are inevitable with age. For example, the world record for the marathon was set by Eliud Kipchoge. He ran 26 miles in 2:01:09. He was 37 years old. The record for 50 year olds was set by Nolan Shaheed. He completed the marathon in 4:25.04. It took the world's fastest 50 year old twice as long to cover the same distance.
But mile times are less divergent. Hicham El Guerrouj holds the world record. The 24 year old ran a mile in 3:43.13. Brad Barton, then 53, ran the mile in 4:19.59. Impressive.
I suspect the difference is due to the metabolic demands required for running longer distances. The SEALs fitness test exacts different energy demands on the body, and tests aerobic (swimming and running) as well as anaerobic (calisthenics) capacity.
There are 3 energy systems to train: the Anaerobic Alactic (ATP-CP) Energy System for high intensity exercises of short duration performed in bursts, the Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic) Energy System for medium to high-intensity bursts of activity that last from 10 seconds to approximately 90 seconds, and the Aerobic Energy System for low to medium-intensity activities that last anywhere from two minutes to a few hours.
At the cellular level, the 3 energy systems are powered by mitochondria in the muscles. Muscles use energy. That energy comes from the foods we eat. But before exploring diet, I want to dive deeper into mitochondrial health. Since mitochondria have been recognized as the key cellular organelles involved in energy production during exercise, targeting the organelle with specific protocols designed to boost mitochondrial biogenesis might positively affect exercise performance and recovery.
I was surprised to learn that fasting enhances the activators, regulators, and transcription factors that mediate mitochondrial biogenesis and improve mitochondrial function. I fast for 3 days monthly and fast intermittently about 5 days a week. I eat between 6 and 2. I didn't know that fasting improved athletic performance. It seemed counter-intuitive. So, I decided to train before breakfast, but eat on test days. I also started training during my 3 day fasts.
Cold is another way to boost mitochondrial biogenesis, increasing their number (Chung, 2017; Jornayvaz, 2010). Cold water immersion stimulates the production of PGC-1 alpha in skeletal muscles. PGC-1⍺ is a protein that regulates mitochondrial biogenesis. Increased mitochondrial biogenesis is an adaptation associated with greater aerobic capacity.
I take a 3-5 minute ice bath several times per week before training to improve mitochondrial health, aid muscle recovery, and improve my mood. Cold plunges before exercise may increase testosterone levels as well as luteinizing hormone levels (Katsuno, 1991). One middle aged doctor reported his testosterone levels jumped from 728 ng/mL (which is very good) to 1180 ng/mL, which is almost unheard of in a 52 year old.
Regulating body temperature, interestingly, is a lesser known tool for improving performance. ATP is involved in muscular contraction. But the body can't generate more contractions if body temperature gets too hot. Temperature, moreover, dictates recovery as well as how restorative your sleep is.
Cooling the palms of the hands, the bottoms of the feet, and the face passes heat out of body and allows athletes to cool the body and core quickly because the vasculature in the palms, feet, and face is different than other parts of the body. The palms, feet, and face are glabrous. Arteriovenous anastomoses (AVAs) are short vessels in the glabrous skin of the hands, feet, and face that directly connect small arteries and small veins, bypass capillaries, and quickly shunt blood (Walloe, 2015). AVAs allow more heat to leave and more cool to enter the body more quickly than any other part. So, one way to optimize athletic performance is to expose the hands, feet, or face to cold for 30 seconds to a minute. Professor Craig Heller at Stanford University found that by taking advantage of specialized heat-transfer veins in the palms of hands, researchers could rapidly cool athlete's core temperatures, dramatically improving exercise recovery and performance. Athletic performance was “equal to or substantially better than steroids… and it’s not illegal.”
I hold cold things or run my hands in cold water for about a minute and a half during rest periods to boost performance.
Although I don't eat before training, I do hydrate and consume about half my body weight in fluid ounces throughout the day. Before a workout, I'll drink teas, water with electrolytes, Athletic Greens, and juice red beets. Beet juice contains nitrates which improve cardiovascular function. The increase in nitric oxide also improves lung function and muscle contraction.
Week 2 Training
I begin each day with an hour of meditation and breath work. For this test, I'm doing more breath holds and using a breath trainer. Current evidence indicates that respiratory muscle training may improve athletic performance (Shei, 2018). Respiratory muscle training decreases the rating of perceived breathlessness or rating of perceived exertion (McConnell, 2009; Sheel, 2002), improves respiratory muscle economy (Turner et al., 2012), reduces the work of breathing, and improves respiratory muscle endurance (Sales et al., 2016).
A daily dose of muscle training for the diaphragm and other breathing muscles helps promote heart health and reduces high blood pressure. Doing 30 breaths per day for six weeks lowers systolic blood pressure by about 9 millimeters of mercury. Those reductions are about what could be expected with conventional aerobic exercise such as walking, running or cycling.
Endothelial cells, which line our blood vessels, promote the production of nitric oxide — a key compound that protects the heart. Nitric oxide helps widen our blood vessels, promoting good blood flow, which prevents the buildup of plaque in arteries (interestingly, humming also increases nitric oxide 15 fold). Researchers found that six weeks of inspiratory-muscle strength training increased endothelial function by about 45%. A training regimen consisting of only 30 breaths per day with a breath trainer could be very helpful in endurance exercise events.
Elite cyclists, runners and other endurance athletes also benefit from breath work. Six weeks of inspiratory-muscle strength training increased aerobic exercise tolerance by 12% in middle-aged and older adults.
There are other breathwork protocols found to improve athletic performance. Short breath holds simulate the effects of high-altitude training by inducing both a hypoxic (lack of oxygen) and hypercapnic (high carbon dioxide) response. These two effects lower sensitivity to carbon dioxide, increase endurance, reduce the discomfort and fatigue from lactic acid build-up, increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, improve breathing economy, and improve VO2 max (McKeown, 2015).
Nasal breathing is also important. I breathe through my nose even when I'm training below my aerobic threshold. It's more efficient. Swimming is the only exception.
This week, I'll be easing into aerobic training which consists mostly of bike rides and swims. Each week, I'll increase mileage by 5-10%. Last week, I started with 10 laps (or 500 yards). This week, I'll add a lap. To improve aerobic metabolism, I'm training in zone 2. I'm taking this slow not only to give my body time to adapt to the new stressors and regimen, but to recover from the stressors and regimen.
I haven't started running seriously because I have Achilles tendonitis. Injuries are the surest way to arrest progress. I found an analysis of injuries in long-distance triathletes (Egermann, 2003). The incidences of injuries seem to be related to age, performance level and weekly training hours. Older athletes sustained more fractures. High performance athletes suffered more contusions, abrasions and muscle-tendon-injuries. Athletes with a large number of weekly training hours suffered more muscle-tendon-injuries. The key take aways: do not train too hard, too fast, or for too long. I'm giving myself months to train and pass this.
Athletes in running sports have a high incidence of Achilles tendon overuse injuries. Achilles tendon overuse injuries occur at a higher rate in older athletes than most other typical overuse injuries. However, Achilles tendonitis may not be a tendon problem. It may be mechanical or dynamic: the result of tight muscles and connective tissues, inflammation, or nutritional deficiency.
I will need to correct this before introducing a running regimen. Combing through the literature, ice may be an effective treatment as is pliability and mobility training. More specifically, I'm icing from 1-4 times daily and massaging the tendon with ice. I use a peanut massage roller twice daily. I wear KT bands and compression socks. I'm doing yoga and functional movement exercises for mobility.
My strength training does involve some weights, but, for this event, I'm using mostly gymnastic rings, body weight, and a weighted vest. Rings allow for more joint mobility and flexibility. Conventional exercise machines don't stimulate the deeper muscle fibers that we need to stabilize the body while on rings.
Post workout, I'm drinking tea with creatine monohydrate. Daily dosages of creatine supplementation (i.e. 3-5 g/day) are effective for increasing intramuscular creatine stores, muscle accretion and muscle performance/recovery. I also drink carrot juice with turmeric root and pepper to aid in recovery as well as herbal ginger/turmeric tea with l-leucine. Leucine is an essential amino acid for protein synthesis. Leucine can be used to generate ATP and regulate several cellular processes such as protein synthesis, tissue regeneration, and metabolism (Donato, 2015). It is extremely bitter and smells like dead mouse. I've added Tongkat Ali extract which is known to increase testosterone levels (Tambi, et al, 2014). The resultant elixir is very bitter and unpalatable. I'm leveling up not just my exercise regimen, but my nutrition. It's a small price to pay for improved performance.
I started supplementing with 200 mg of Coenzyme Q-10 after reading a study which found that CoQ10 improved muscle performance as measured by time to anaerobic threshold (Deichmann, 2012). CoQ10 may also reduce muscle toxicity.
This morning, I cycled to the gym, swam 11 laps and did the calisthenic portion of the test to time: 75 push-ups in 2 minutes, 52 push-ups in 2 minutes, and12 pull-ups. While my results appear to have dropped, I was fasting. I exercise in the morning and usually before breakfast. During this fasting period, the body is removing toxins, generating energy and resisting fatigue and stress. Under eating increases protein efficiency. The body becomes more efficient at recycling proteins and uses them more efficiently when consumed. Fasting also improves insulin sensitivity.
I did the calisthenics after a swim and after sitting for several minutes in both a sauna and steam room with cold showers in between sets. Exercising after heat can be much more challenging as body temperature regulates exercise performance. Exposure to heat and cold accelerates recovery and challenges the vascular system. Going from heat to cold to heat to cold requires the body to adapt as vessels dilate and constrict, dilate and constrict. I cycled home, took a cold bath, then enjoyed a bowl of oatmeal with berries, bananas, and walnuts.
Jack LaLanne stressed the importance of nutrition.
Dying is easy. Living is a pain in the butt. It's like an athletic event. You've got to train for it. You've got to eat right. You've got to exercise. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom.
My diet is vegetarian, nutrient dense and anti-inflammatory. I eat low-glycemic, high-quality fat foods. I snack on fruits, nuts, and raw vegetables. I'm avoiding processed foods and sugars and am limiting bread, grains, and other carbohydrates. My diet is becoming more spartan and as dialed in as my exercise regimen.
I also eat fermented foods, consuming lots of fluids and natural juices that include vegetables, fruits and adaptogens like ashwaghanda, mucuna pruriens, gingko, and ginger. I'm also consuming good fats like avocado and nuts. My protein comes mostly from eggs, nuts, beans, tofu, and protein rich foods like okra, edamame, mushrooms, asparagus, kale.
I wrapped my ankles with ice packs, then took a nap.
My nephew is a soldier in the Air Force. He's training for the Special Warfare Operator Fitness Test and sent me the details today.
A 3 mile march with a 60 pound ruck in 49 minutes or less [30 minute rest]
76 inch minimum standing long jump [5 minute recovery time]
Pro Agility Drill in 5.5 seconds [5 minute recovery time]
Minimum 270 pound trap bar deadlift 3 rep max [5 minute recovery time]
A minimum of 10 pull ups [5 minute recovery time]
A 100 yard farmer's carry with two 53 pound kettlebells in each hand in under 29 seconds [5 minute recovery time]
2x300 shuttle run sprints in 80.5 or less [5 minute recovery time]
A 1500m combat swim in under 42.5 minutes or a 1.5 mile run in under 12:17
This test seems more comprehensive and demanding on the body. As previously mentioned, the body has 3 energy systems. I suspect I'll be training all 3:
1. The Anaerobic Alactic (ATP-CP) Energy System uses the body's creatine phosphate stores for high intensity exercises of short duration performed in bursts, like the long jump or deadlift.
2. The Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic) Energy System provides energy for medium to high-intensity bursts of activity that last from 10 seconds to approximately 90 seconds. The sit-ups, pull ups, sprints, and pushups probably pull from this system. The main differences between systems 1 and 2 is that the ATP-CP system will only produce energy for 10 seconds, whereas fast glycolysis can work at capacity for much longer. But waste products such as lactate begin accumulating in the blood and in muscle cell compromising performance. The burning sensation in the muscles, shortness of breath, and fatigue are all symptoms of lactate build up. To produce less and less acid over time, we want to train below our aerobic threshold. The “Talk Test” is a simple way to identify lactate threshold. Lactate threshold is the workload at which an athlete can no longer comfortably talk. When an athlete can no longer comfortably talk, they're in Zone 3 cardio. Zone 4 and 5 are when an athlete is training at 80-100% of their maximum heart rate. Zone 4 is race pace. Zone 5 is close to redline.
3. The Aerobic Energy System provides energy for low to medium-intensity activities that last anywhere from two minutes to a few hours. To pass the Navy SEALs p.t. test, a recruit must complete it in 53 minutes from start to finish (including rest periods) or 160 minutes to complete the A.F. Special Force's test. This takes aerobic capacity. Unlike the other two systems, the aerobic system requires oxygen and takes longer to overload and fatigue the system. Training this system enhances the body’s ability to utilize oxygen, and allows an athlete to prolong the ability to sustain higher intensities before tiring. Training at 60-70% of one's max heart rate, or zone 2, a few times per week is the best strategy for improving performance by pushing the body to edge of acidosis.
My results suggest that I've optimized energy systems 1 & 2 (the Anaerobic Alactic (ATP-CP) Energy System & the Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic) Energy System). I need to improve the Aerobic Energy System. Yet, it is also clear that endurance is not the obstacle. I can run or swim long-distances without stopping. The problem is speed. Over 400m, I'm slow. I have the build of a 400m runner, which is what I ran in high school. I need to level up and train at my VO2 max.
VO2 max is the maximum volume (V) of oxygen (O2) the body can process. A VO2 max score is a little like horsepower in a car—it’s a measure of the capacity your body (engine) has to use oxygen when exercising. If you have a high VO2 max, you have a big engine. VO2 max measures three components:
Lung capacity and heart volume: The more oxygen your lungs can intake and the more oxygenated blood your heart can pump, the higher your VO2 score.
Capillary delivery: The more oxygenated blood your circulatory system can transport to your muscles, the higher your VO2 score.
Muscle efficiency: The more your muscles can extract and use oxygen from your blood, the higher your VO2 score.
VO2 max serves as a baseline measurement of overall fitness. My VO2 max (45) puts me in the 90th percentile for men in my age group, but in the 30-40th percentile for men 20-29. And these physical fitness tests are designed for young bucks, not middle aged dads like me. I would have to train at the 95th percentile to compete with young bloods in the 50th percentile. Let's make it happen!
Week 3 Training
I ordered and read Run Fast by running guru Hal Higdon. A friend and marathoner recommended the book to me. I began implementing Higdon's training protocol for beginners.
0.25 mile run
Rest or run/walk
0.25 mile run
1.5 mile run
25 min walk
0.5 mile run
Rest or run/walk
0.5 mile run
1.75 mile run
30 min walk
0.75 mile run
Rest or run/walk
0.75 mile run
2 mile run
35 min walk
1 mile run
Rest or run/walk
1 mile run
2.25 mile run
40 min walk
1.25 mile run
Rest or run/walk
1.25 mile run
2.5 mile run
45 min walk
1.5 mile run
Rest or run/walk
1.5 mile run
2.75 mile run
50 min walk
1.75 mile run
Rest or run/walk
1.75 mile run
3 mile run
55 min walk
2 mile run
Rest or run/walk
2 mile run
3 mile run
60 min walk
I thought to start at week 3 or 4 as I am in relatively good condition, but then thought it wiser to curb my enthusiasm. To prevent injury I will start slow.
Diet matters. Training matters. Mindset matters. I know I will fail and fail and fail until I reach the goal. I keep failing forward, so am not disappointed if my results fall short. A pea-sized structure in the brain called the habenula inhibits dopamine activity. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which affects learning, attention, and motivation- among other functions. Too little of it, we lose interest, attention wanders, motivation wanes. The habenula is an anti-reward system; it plays an important role in aversive experiences and in making decisions so as to avoid future disappointment. This may explain why so many people quit when the going gets tough. Their illusions were never indexed to reality, so when setbacks come, they do not have sufficient motivation to push through. To avoid more disappointment, they quit.
If, on the other hand, I frame failure as an attempt, if I temper my enthusiasm and celebrate small victories, I keep my reward system engaged. I set myself up for small wins. For example, to run 1.5 miles in under 10.5, I calculated that I would have to run a 1/4 mile in 26.25 seconds and a lap in one minute, 45 seconds. I can do that. So when I'm speed training, I run a lap at race speed, walk a lap, run another lap at race speed, walk, and continue like this for a mile of more.
A different neural process unfolds. When we celebrate small wins, neurons activate in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA), a place in the midbrain that secretes dopamine. Dopamine is the signal that creates that rush of joy or bliss, and it travels from the VTA to the nucleus accumbens and spreads from there to other structures throughout the brain. The increased dopamine levels deliver a sense of pleasure, improve attention and interest. We’re then motivated to repeat our behavior to reach that pleasure again.
Training the mind, therefore, is more important than training the body. Whether the body is flabby or in fighting trim, it is the mind that commands the muscles to grow, that motors the limbs, that pushes the body forward, or that quits. Understanding (experientially) how the reward system works is imperative. When we push the mind past its perceived limits, the body will get stronger. But the neural architecture must be robust and dopamine scheduling optimized.
I tried some of the Air Forces Special Forces elements this week.
A 3 mile march with a 40 pound ruck in 45:31 min [Failed. Minimum is 60lbs in under 49 minutes]
88 inch minimum standing long jump [Passed]
265 pound trap bar deadlift 3 rep max [Failed. Minimum is 270lbs]
17 pull ups [Passed]
A 100 yard farmer's carry with two 53 pound kettlebells in each hand in 27 seconds [Passed]
2X300 shuttle run sprints in 68 seconds [Passed]
Pro-agility drill in 5.4 seconds [Passed]
I took a trip to Marathon Sports in Plymouth this week to experiment with footwear. I stood on a 3D scanner which took measurements of the length, width, inset, and girth of my feet, as well as pressure measurements: distribution, total area, etc.
I was fitted with a pair of running shoes that felt like they were custom made just for me.
I've been training for three weeks and am seeing results. These protocols work! I'm grateful to all of the scientists, researchers, physical therapists, coaches, doctors, and athletes who've schooled me.
Today, I swam 500 yards in 11:30, passing the swim portion of the Navy SEALs test. It's important to note that I work 3 jobs and am a father to 3 young children. Being a father is no excuse for not being fit. The inspiration for this challenge came from my son. Every boy needs a man to look up to, and I wanted to set the example for my son.
Week 4 Training
October 31-November 6
I integrate exercise into each day. I've been cycling to work- a 3 mile round-trip. I also walk to work with my weighted vest when I can.
I tried some of the Air Forces Special Forces elements this week with my sons.
90 inch long jump [passed]
Pro-agility drills in 5.18 seconds [passed]
2X300 shuttle run sprints in 62.38 seconds [passed]
A 100 yard farmer's carry with two 30 pound dumbbells in each hand in under 21.76 seconds [failed, minimum is 50 pounds in each hand]
1.5 mile run in under 12:32 [failed. Minimum is 12:17]
Week 5 Training
November 7-November 15
290 lbs deadlift [passed]
100 push-ups [passed]
68 curl-ups [passed]
14 pull-ups [passed]
A recent research study with over 85,000 participants found that exercising in the morning was associated with the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke (Albalak, et al., 2022). The results of another recent study suggest that late-morning exercise increased the expression of genes involved in the breakdown of adipose tissue, thermogenesis (heat production) and mitochondria in the adipose tissue, indicating a higher metabolic rate. In other words, exercising early boosts metabolism and fat burning. These studies provide more evidence to motivate me to continue training early.
Week 6 Training
November 16-November 23
I ran two 5K races this week, one with my daughter (8) and the other with my son (12) who started me on this wonderful adventure! Optimal health compliments fatherhood.
Week 7 Training
November 24-December 1
I ordered Inside Tracker's Ultimate Plan which tests up to 43 blood biomarkers—including glucose, cholesterol, cortisol, and hemoglobin. I had my blood drawn and was eager to see my results.
95% of my biomarkers were within optimal range. Results tagged with a yellow dot indicate that those markers, while within a healthy range, could be improved. My HDL levels were below optimum. High-density lipo-proteins (HDL), called good cholesterol, help protects against damage to the cardiovascular system by removing excess LDL ( "bad cholesterol") from the bloodstream.
My sugar levels (glucose & HbA1c), by contrast, were normal, but not optimal. I started a no-sugar challenge this week and will continue until February (when I take a follow-up test). My sugar will come from fruits and vegetables. I also started taking spirulina, a blue-green algae, which reduces the rise in blood sugar following a meal (called postprandial glucose). Spirulina has also been shown to be effective at lowering high levels of fasting glucose. I'm consuming probiotic foods for breakfast (miso and unsweetened Greek yogurt). Fasting glucose levels improve after regular consumption of probiotic foods. I bought an ALA supplement (alpha lipoic acid). ALA can lower blood sugar levels by reducing excess fat in muscle cells.
ALA also acts as an antioxidant to reduce free radicals. Free radicals, if left unchecked, can cause oxidative stress, which contributes to body-wide inflammation. Inflammation is the body's response to a problem. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) is an inflammation biomarker. ALA can decrease CRP by about 38%.
My hsCRP levels can be improved. I'll switch from coffee to green and black tea. Black tea is prepared from the leaves of Camellia sinensis. Compared to green tea, black tea has been oxidized for a longer time resulting in darker color and stronger flavor. Black tea contains the polyphenols catechin, theaflavin and flavonoid which help prevent oxidative damage and can improve hsCRP levels in a month or two according to the research.
The two biomarkers outside of optimal range were Transferrin Saturation (TS) and serum iron. High TS levels indicate that my iron levels are too high. Because I am vegetarian, I supplement. High dosage dietary iron supplements combined with high intake of foods fortified with iron may be causing these elevated levels. Serum iron was the second biomarker outside of optimal range. My ferritin and hemoglobin levels, however, were optimized. Optimized ferritin and hemoglobin levels indicate that I am consuming enough iron to meet the body's needs. So I can titrate down and decrease my dosages.
The data is granular and gives me the feedback I need to make minor adjustments to improve my performance. My Vitamin B12 levels, for example, are slightly elevated most likely due to supplementation. Vegetarians tend to have low B12 levels, so I take a B-complex, a multivitamin, and a B12 supplement. Bloodwork suggests it's overkill. My creatine kinase levels are also slightly elevated which may indicate over-training. Elevated levels of creatine kinase are present when muscle cells rupture during intense exercise. The more creatine kinase in the bloodstream, the more muscle damage there is. When creatine kinase is above optimal, an athlete increases his risk of inflammation, muscle damage, cramping, fatigue, delayed recovery and injury. This is why rest and recovery are so important. Nutrition also plays a key role. Protein is essential for muscle repair. CoQ10 supplementation has also been shown to decrease high creatine kinase.
InsideTracker is expensive, but excellent health is priceless. I made all of the changes I described in the chapters above after receiving the results. No doctor has ever provided me such timely and personalized information after a physical. The money spent is well worth it.
Week 8 Training
December 2-December 9
a 500 yard swim in 12 minutes, 30 seconds [passed]
a minimum of 50 pushups in two minutes [passed]
fifty curl-ups or more in two minutes [passed]
10 pull-ups or more in two minutes [passed]
running 1.5 miles in 10 minutes, 30 seconds [failed]
76 inch minimum standing long jump [passed]
pro Agility Drill in 5.5 seconds [passed]
minimum 270 pound trap bar deadlift 3 rep max [passed]
a 100 yard farmer's carry with two 53 pound kettlebells in each hand in under 29 seconds [passed]
2x300 shuttle run sprints in 80.5 or less [passed]
a 1500m combat swim in under 42.5 minutes [have not attempted yet]
1.5 mile run in under 12:17 [failed]
Once I pass all elements, I will try to complete them within the time allotted. Today, I came across the Army Ranger's physical test. To prequalify, a soldier must complete:
Two mile run in 14:30 or less
Six-mile ruck march with a 35-pound rucksack and weapon in less than one hour, 30 minutes
To graduate, a candidate needs to complete a 15-meter swim in full uniform, a five-mile run in under 40 minutes, and a 12-mile march with a 35-pound ruck in 3 hours or less. I might try this and add elements from other military units around the world: 20-35 dips and a 25 meter underwater swim (Polish Jednostka Wojskowa Formoza), a 7 meter rope climb (Commando Marines), 48-80 air squats and 19-41 split squat jumps (Austrian Jagdkommando), 30-50 rep bench press with 110 pounds (German Kampfschwimmers), benchpress body weight + 25 pounds at least once and a hack squat with 100 pounds over body weight, dead hang pull-ups with 25 lbs (Miami SWAT team). Note: they all have similar run, swim, pull-up, push-up, and sit-up elements and times. I included those elements that were not tested by other branches.
I turned 51 today! To celebrate my birthday, I bought myself a smart watch to better track my running progress. My run times suck. I need all the insights I can get. I ran a mile to the gym and attacked some of the above elements:
40 dips [passed]
59 air squats in 2 minutes [passed]
33 split squat jumps [passed]
40 rep bench press with 115 pounds [passed]
Benchpress body weight + 25 pounds [passed]
Hack squat body weight + 100 pounds [passed]
6 dead hang pull-ups with 25 pound weight [passed]
90 pushups [passed]
70 sit ups [passed]
1500m swim in under 46.5 minutes [failed. Minimum is 42.5]
3 mile ruck with 60lbs in 47:15 [passed]
The soreness in my Achilles tendon is mostly gone. But I will continue icing and massaging not just the ankles, but all the joints. Now, I can adapt my training to improve my running speed. This also means training at or near my body’s VO2 max level of intensity. Improving VO2 max will improve my race times. Today's run:
3 minutes at VO2 max pace
2 minutes of walking
Repeat 4 times
Equipment matters. I completed the 1500m swim in under 42.5 minutes (the minimum passing score for the Air Force Special Ops pt test). My time was 36:09 on an empty stomach. I failed the trial the first time. I used a lap timer and smart watch on my second attempt to keep pace. The first time I attempted the swim, most of my attention was focused on remembering the lap I was on and maintaining the count. On my second attempt, I used the timer and could focus instead on form and pacing.
I celebrate the win! Another small victory. A dopamine reward. No prediction errors. My strategy was to train bottom up, from the organelle (mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency; optimizing the 3 energy systems) to the organs (pulmonary capacity, improved VO2 max, improved cardiovascular endurance) to the organism itself (attention to form, stride, speed, strength). High mitochondrial content correlates to high VO2 Max which correlates to high performance.
Billions of metabolic reactions unfold every second within each cell. We are made up of 30 trillion cells. That's 100 billion trillion metabolic reactions occurring every second. The sum aggregate of these processes influence how we act and think and feel and perform. We can improve our metabolic health by dialing in diet, exercise, and sleep, and dialing down chronic stress. The science is sound, and my performance is just another data point.
After my swim, I sat in the heat and practiced breathing exercises. Then I sat in the cold to give the vascular system another work out. I returned to the heat and returned to the cold. Again, the objective is to train systems.
While sitting in the heat, I slowed the breath to about 4 per minute. Heart rate was high (132bpm) due to the heat. I practiced breath holds both at the top of the inhalation and at the bottom of the exhalation. Holding at the top made me slightly dizzy if I rotated my neck. This suggests the vestibular system may need a workout.
Within the inner ear are two organs, the utricle and saccule, which help us maintain balance. They use small stones and a viscous fluid to stimulate hair cells to detect motion and orientation. This is the vestibular system. When I throw myself off balance, I force the vestibular system to re-orient. If we are not intentional, we lose our ability to balance as we age. Balance training sends robust information to the brain about the relationship between the visual world and the vestibular system. It also forces the body to correct. These micro-movements strengthen the kinetic chain from the feet, up the legs, to the core muscles, and the rest of the body. The vestibular system is also wired to the limbic system, which is involved in processing emotion. It could trigger the rush you feel when you're on a roller coaster or in a Tesla rocketing from 0-60 in 2.7 seconds. It triggers the nausea and dizziness you may feel after spinning in circles. Interestingly, children love this sort of play: roller coasters, carousels, spinning. The older we get, however, the less we enjoy these kinds of movements.
Any movement that challenges the body by throwing it off balance- like inversion exercises in yoga or the first of the 5 Tibetan rites which involves spinning clock and counter clockwise- trains the vestibular system. It forces it to reorient.
Friday, December 9
I walked 6 miles with a 30 pound vest in under 1:29:30, just under the 1:30:00 Ranger requirement. I was scheduled to present on health and tech at a wellness event. Because I practice what I preach and walk the talk, I speak with authority. Authenticity matters.
That evening, 2 metabolic trackers I ordered were delivered. One is a continuous glucose monitor, the other uses a CO2 sensor and flow meter to determine the CO2 concentration in the breath. This indicates the type of fuel the body is using to produce energy- fats or carbs.
The specialized ice packs I ordered also arrived today. Rest and recovery are critical to performance.
After 2 months of training, here are my results:
I ran 5 miles this morning. I ran the first mile and 1/2 in 11:48 (passing the AF Special Forces qualifying run), but failed to meet the Seals 1.5 mile or the Ranger's 2 mile or 5 mile times. Still, I'm failing forward. My run times are improving.
I completed Hal Higdon's 8 week training program and passed one of the running tests. Now, I progress to the 10K Training Program: more and longer slow runs at Zone 3 and more intense speedwork at Zone 4. With greater intensity and mileage, however, comes greater risk for injury. I proceed with caution.
While it's a popular cliche, age isn't just a number. Order yields to disorder. Life cycles are controlled by genes in each cell. Some supervise cellular maintenance; some replace worn out parts. Some cells are buffeted by random chemical storms and attacked by electrically unbalanced atoms called free radicals (mentioned above). Free radicals disrupt other atoms. Disrupted atoms cannot properly pull on nearby atoms to form intended bonds that build robust cellular architecture. With time, genes get degraded. There are copying errors. At the molecular level, telomeres fray. At the physiological level, muscles slacken and lose mass and strength. At present and at best, we can delay or slow age-related decline.
With age comes experience. I've suffered enough injuries to know to pace myself, listen to my body, and rest. Rest and recovery are as fundamental to excellent conditioning as diet and exercise. And mobility, flexibility, and pliability training are as important as proper form and good running shoes. Many of the movements tested do not involve whole body biomechanics. Most of the lifting or calisthenics are performed along the sagittal plane (that is, up and down). We push up and down, squat up and down, bench press up and down. Our day to day movements, however, are usually functional, multi-jointed, and multi-planar. We move up and down, laterally (side to side), and diagonally. We rotate. Sometimes we're off balance. Our movements are complex. Athletes are prone to injury if an activity is repetitive or calls for movements they aren't conditioned to do. So, a well rounded exercise regimen trains for flexibility, mobility, functionality, strength, balance, and pliability.
Mobility exercises train range of motion around the joints. My favorite mobility exercise is dance.
When we dance, we move along multiple planes of motion- side to side (frontal plane) and up and down (sagittal plane). We twist and rotate, spin and pivot along the transverse plane. Moving along multiple planes of motion is better for the body than moving along a single plane. The functional movements of dance strengthen the body's structural fasciae. Fascia refers to connective tissues. These bands hold the body together, connecting muscle to muscle, bone to bone, and muscle to bone. Fascia is elastic and supple. It helps the body absorb and distribute force. When I dance, I move every body part and every joint along multiple planes of motion with mindfulness.
When we dance, all fascial tissue needs to be elastic, resilient and strong enough to accommodate dynamic, multi-directional movement. Fascia adapts when exposed to movements that cover all planes of motion. Training on machines or free weights doesn’t offer the same stimuli to create adaptations in the fascia.
I've also incorporated injury prevention exercises into my mobility regimen. These are the types of exercises physical therapists often recommend for athletes recovering from injury or for the prevention of injury. With age, muscles shorten. The body compensates by limiting our range of motion. An optimal mobility regimen retrains the nervous system, corrects structural dysfunction, and improves range of motion.
Pliability is quarterback Tom Brady's go to workout. Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and, at 41, the oldest player in the NFL. He credits his longevity to pliability training. Daily pliability work helps to prepare the muscles for the demands of life, enabling them to fully recover so we can keep doing what we love. Pliability speeds muscle repair and recovery. Bands, foam rollers, and deep muscle work are some ways to increase blood flow, improve muscle oxygen saturation, cell permeability, and neural muscular efficiency. My favorite tool is a peanut massage roller given to me as a gift by a former student. The second way to stay pliable is lifestyle: minimize inflammation, eat right, and hydrate. Sleep is also vital. The body and brain recover and develop during deep sleep. The result of pliability is that you recover faster, perform better, avoid rehab, and spend less time on the sidelines.
Stretching increases range of motion and flexibility. It can help improve performance. Stretching decreases stiffness and lowers chance of injury. Stretching can be dynamic or static. Dynamic stretches are usually used as warm ups. For dynamic stretches, I practice QiGong and Tai Chi exercises.
Stretching statically involves stretching a muscle as far as it can go and relaxing into it. I prefer yoga asanas (poses) for static stretches and hold each asana for 30 seconds or more. Yoga, as a discipline, trains body and mind.
When I get to the edge of a stretch and feel I cannot go further, sensory neurons, called intrafusal muscle fibers, send an electrical potential, or signal, from the muscle to the spinal cord. Another signal is sent from the motor neurons within the spinal cord back to the muscles to contract. This safety loop is designed to bring the muscle back into a prescribed range of motion- ensuring I do not overstretch, damage the connective tissue, or overload the muscles. This biological mechanism is protective and helps prevent injury, but also restricts range of motion.
I can redefine and extend those parameters, however, by relaxing into the stretch, breathing calmly into it. If I breathe and relax into the edge, not judging my performance, not comparing myself with others, a population of neurons (von economo neurons) within a brain structure called the insula, integrates information about my somatic (body) experience, evaluates it as "good" or "bad" then routes this information to other parts of the brain. If I lean into an uncomfortable stretch and interpret the discomfort and unpleasantness as "good," I can override the signals that cause the muscle to contract to a degree. The basolateral amygdala appears to be another hub in this pathway and a molecule called neurotensin appears to play a role in gating information as positive or negative. It's the molecular equivalent of a thumbs-up/thumbs down signal (Tye, 2022).
The more I practice, the stronger the signaling and the more robust the neural architecture that drives motivation and endurance. Interoceptive awareness allows me to push myself farther. This also applies to running or weight lifting. When I cross my lactate threshold and feel "the burn" I can lean into it or reframe discomfort as good. As the Marines say: "Pain is weakness leaving the body."
Absent storylines, lactate build-up is just lactate build-up, muscle fatigue is just muscle fatigue. Many athletes are unaware of the restrictions and limits they place upon their performance. When exhaustion comes, so does the mental chatter. Absent mental chatter, the body can go much farther than we may have ever ventured. Interoceptive awareness allows me to lean into discomfort and reinterpret a seemingly unpleasant experience as positive.
Meditation helps athletes gain top-down control over the way the brain processes pain signals and perceptions of effort. By letting go of storylines and relaxing into the experience, we can push ourselves past self-imposed limitations, rewiring our neural circuitry. Note: I'm not referring to real pain that should be addressed and not pushed through. I am referring to perceived effort and levels of fatigue.
Inner chatter is just neuronal activity, with neurons and their dynamic signaling responsible for the transfer and processing of information (Majewska and Sur, 2006). Strenuous exercise is a stressor that induces immune changes. The body releases pro-inflammatory cytokines that aid in repair. Elevated cytokine levels, however, also down-regulate dopamine (Pedersen, 2001). This signaling is associated with an unwillingness to push past lactate buildup for the reward of, say, a six minute mile (Treadwell, 2019). With effort come secretions of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Glial cells measure concentrations of epinephrine and norepinephrine. When concentrations reach a certain threshold, glial cells send inhibitory signals that down-regulate executive control. The metabolic demands of chronic low-grade inflammation + the inhibitory signals coming from glia down-regulate dopamine which impairs motivation. At the experiential level, we feel like quitting.
Add dopamine, however, and a different process unfolds. Dopamine acts as an inhibitor in human microglia (Pike, 2022) and amplifies circuits associated with motivation. Dopamine enables successful cognitive control in prefrontal cortex- the executive seat of the brain. Dopamine receptors in the prefrontal cortex control three key aspects of cognitive control – gating sensory input, maintaining and manipulating working memory, and relaying motor commands (Ott, Neider, 2019).
On the track, it might look like this:
(sensory input): elevated heart rate, fast breathing, lactate build-up, acidosis, muscle fatigue.
(working memory): "I'm intentionally training at 80%-100% of VO2 Max! I did this last week. Embrace the suck!"
(relaying motor commands): Go legs, go! Give it everything you've got!
It's important to note that these progressions are incremental.
Mindful athletes neutralize negative self-talk. Marathoners and ultra-runners, for example, suppress both the physical and psychological markers of fatigue when running (Jacobson, 2014) and ignore distractions caused by task-irrelevant information in order to optimize running performance (Cona, 2015). Adding meditation to the training regimen can improve performance. Given that stress has been shown to influence executive functions (Henderson, 2012) and that mindfulness training appears to reduce stress (de Vibe, 2017), it is also possible that mindfulness enhances athletes' executive functions and performance via stress reduction. Indeed, meditation practices have been observed to reduce psychological stress responses and improve cognitive functions (Singh, 2012). Sitting still in meditation for extended periods can be boring. Discomfort comes after 45 minutes of sitting. We train equanimity and ignore it.
Research suggests that a grape-sized section of the brain called the insular cortex is especially fine-tuned in top athletes, helping them anticipate upcoming pressures to adapt quickly. The insula “can generate strikingly accurate predictions of how the body will feel in the next moment. That model of the body's future condition instructs other brain areas to initiate actions that are more tailored to coming demands,” Sandra Upson wrote in an article published in Scientific American.
If I am realistic and remind myself that the hurt will come, I can signal switch when that time comes, reframing something seemingly negative into a positive: I'm getting stronger!
With mindfulness training, we learn to be aware of the signals and feedback that some call pain without judgment. Absent the unnecessary mental chatter, pulsing is just pulsing, throbbing is just throbbing, sensations are just sensations.
Here, we are training nocioception and interoception. Nocioception refers to the body's ability to detect pain and mobilize a defense response. It occurs when a nociceptor fiber detects a painful stimulus on the skin or in an internal organ (peripheral nervous system). For example, say you're running hard and the heart feels like it will explode. The detection of that signal is “picked up” by receptors at the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and brainstem and transmitted to various areas of the brain as sensory information. There are 2 main pathways to carry these nociceptive messages to the brain, the spinothalamic and spinoreticular tracts. The spinothalamic tract transmits pain signals that are important to localizing pain, for example, a stitch in your side or a leg cramp.
The second pathway—the spinoreticular tract—is important in the emotional aspects of pain. Interoception is the sense that answers the question: "How do I feel?" How we interpret the event will gate that information one way or another.
Evidence suggests that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is involved in the processing of pain. The ACC acts as a mediator between the "rational" and "emotional" areas of the brain. Studies also provide evidence that the insular cortex receives nociceptive information. The connectivity of the insula to other areas of the brain may play a complex and multifaceted role in the modulation of pain. Connections of the insula with the prefrontal cortex (the cognitive part of the brain), ACC (the mediator), and amygdala (the emotional seat of the brain) can allow painful information to be integrated with information related to working memory, affect, and attention. On the track, the process unfolds something like this: you're running at 80% VO2 Max and lungs feel like they're going to burst, the body sends a signal to the brain localizing the discomfort. Exhaustion is to be expected (working memory reminds you), so you remain nonplussed (affect/attitude), shrug it off, and reorient attention back to the moment. You're there to train hard. You knew it wouldn't be easy when you laced up your shoes that morning. Excitatory neurotransmitters, like dopamine, responsible for providing energy, motivation, and focus work in tandem with inhibitory neurotransmitters which filter out unnecessary signals to minimize the discomfort. The ACC signals the release of endogenous opioids. Maybe you get a runner's high and second wind, but you keep grinding anyway. And the amygdala may trigger an off-switch for pain, the CeAGA neurons (Hua et al., 2022).
Ultra-athlete, former Navy SEAL, and special forces operator David Goggins, 47, has trained his brain to perform seemingly super-human feats. His interviews provide a master-class in mindset and top-down regulation.
I respect David Goggins. He has the mouth of a sailor, but the spirit of a warrior monk. He is a modern-day stoic, an ascetic who pushes his body to its limits to train the mind and spirit. His dedication to self-discovery is uncompromising.
His regimen, by his own admission, is extreme and has led to multiple surgeries, injuries, and medication. But he had the courage to suffer to find his purpose and the wisdom to see suffering as the path to peace. Few understand this.
In 2018, I was at the gym, benching while listening to David Goggins and CT Fletcher. I was pushing myself and testing my limits. Then, I ruptured my pectoralis major tendon. Maybe I should have listened to my inner bitch instead.
I'm a disciple of Jack LaLanne. My goal is fitness and excellent health well into my 90s. Life is the ultimate endurance event. But Goggins remains an inspiration, and the voice of choice to coach me through this challenge...
just not today. Today is a "rest" day. I am as intentional with rest and recovery as I am with training. Pushing the body too hard for too long is a sure path to injury. Better to rest on the sidelines by choice.
My rest day protocol includes breath work, a cold bath, pliability, mobility, balance, and flexibility training. This morning, I did 7 rounds of breath work. The first 2 rounds were with a breath trainer. Respiratory muscle training improves respiratory muscle economy and breathing efficiency, and improves respiratory muscle endurance and perceived exertion. I can build cardiopulmonary capacity on the track, in the pool, or lying still in bed. I did 5 rounds of hyperventilation (2 minute intervals) followed by breath holds from 1:30 to 4:30. During hyperventilation, oxygen saturation reached 100%, by the 4th round, I achieved a hypercapnic state of 37%. Not only am I improving pulmonary capacity, I am increasing my CO2 tolerance and VO2 Max which climbed to 47. Elevated CO2 levels seem to have pushed my body into ketosis- or fat burning. Blood glucose levels dropped from 88mg/dl to 78mg/dl. I'm training metabolic flexibility (burning carbs to fats). Finally, I'm training the mind. Breath holding is a stressor. The body secretes epinephrine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine. But I relax into the discomfort and reset baselines to stress top-down. I improve my stress tolerance. I am also rewiring the brain- pushing past discomfort, yet I remain completely still.
Physical decline and weakness in aging may be due, at least in part, to impairments in brain and nerve function, rather than changes in the muscles themselves (Clark et al. 2019). I hypothesize that functional training that incorporates mobility, flexibility, and pliability in addition to endurance and strength training can delay degeneration at the cellular level. The muscles may be willing, but the neural connections may be weak if not trained several times weekly. We must train the mind to hammer the body into condition whether at 19 or 90.
In a study titled Youthful Brains in Older Adults: Preserved Neuroanatomy in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Contributes to Youthful Memory in Superaging, researchers found that some individuals "age better" than others. Building on prior research showing that cortical thickness in one brain region, the anterior mid cingulate cortex, is preserved in older adults with memory performance abilities equal to or better than those of people 20-30 years younger (i.e., "superagers"), researchers examined the structural integrity of two large-scale intrinsic brain networks in superaging: the default mode network, typically engaged during memory encoding and retrieval tasks, and the salience network, typically engaged during attention, motivation, and executive function tasks. Superagers preserved cortical thickness in critical nodes in these networks. Thickness in the anterior temporal cortex, rostral medial prefrontal cortex, and anterior mid-cingulate cortex, correlated with memory performance, as did the volume of the hippocampus.
Exercise, diet, sleep, and meditation support healthy aging and can wind back our epigenetic clocks (i.e. patterns of DNA methylation levels attributed to aging). The process of gene transcription in which a cell makes an RNA copy of a piece of DNA becomes faster with age, less precise and more error-prone. This copy is important because it carries the genetic information needed to make new proteins in a cell. Proteins determine the health and function of the cells, and cells then structure all organs, neurons, muscles, fascia, skin, bone, etc. The “machine” responsible for making the transcription copy of the gene sequences is called RNA polymerase II (Pol II). The process of transcription gets faster as we age, and this accelerated transcription causes Pol II to make more mistakes, leading to essentially “bad” copies that can lead to numerous diseases (Beyer et al., 2023). Certain processes could help us reverse this decline. Low-calorie diets and inhibiting insulin signaling (i.e., reducing sugar intake)- blocking the signal between insulin and cells - could slow or delay aging. Knowing this, I intend to exploit whatever advantages I can.
The Air Force adopted a more stringent test for airmen (note: the special forces requirements listed above remain the same). My son sent it to me.
"Boy, are you trying to kill me?"
It tests cardiovascular respiratory fitness, upper body and core strength. Unlike the other tests, the standards are broken up by age groups into 5-year bands. Also, airmen can substitute the core testing activities (the 1.5 mile run, push-ups, and sit-ups) with other exercises designed to assess their level of physical fitness. These other test options include a timed 20-meter, high aerobic multi-shuttle run (HAMR), hand release pushups, reverse crunches, and planks. To me, these elements are like Pokemon- Gotta catch 'em all! Here are the top scores by age group:
Forearm plank 2:10 [failed]
2 min cross-leg reverse crunch 50 [passed]
2 min hand-release pushups 46 [passed]
1 min push-ups 80 [passed]
1 min sit-ups 37 [failed]
HAMR 47 [failed]
The test was much more challenging than I had expected, and I like that! I performed all 3 core exercises, both upper body strength exercises and the high aerobic multi-shuttle run (HAMR). Airmen are only required to choose 1 per category. This may explain why I failed to max out the sit-ups. If my aim were to meet the minimum requirements for men my age, however, I would have passed all of the elements, maxing half of them.
I would have also met the minimum requirements for men under 25, except for the sit-ups. However, airmen only choose 1 core/strength exercise. I did all 3. Still, why settle for minimums? The Air Force's motto is "Aim High!"
I purchased an infrared sauna and assembled it. I wanted to increase the frequency of sits from once a week (at the gym) to 4-7 times per week. So, I made the investment. Like breath work and cold baths, heat training mimics many of the physiological benefits associated with exercise- increased body temperature and heart rate, sweating, etc. A 2015 study found an association between sauna bathing and reductions in sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. In a 2017 study, researchers found that moderate to high frequency of sauna bathing was associated with lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. While the mechanisms are not completely understood, a type of stress response protein called heat shock protein appears to play a role. Heat shock proteins help other proteins maintain their structure and integrity. Cells degrade as we age. So anything that prevents cellular instability is welcome. When proteins no longer replicate faithfully, they form aggregates which form plaques in the vascular system (e.g. atherosclerosis) or in the brain (e.g. amyloid beta plaques). Elevated levels of heat shock proteins may delay or prevent this unraveling.
Age isn't just a number. At best, we can slow this process, delay the onset of age related decline, and maintain a degree of health, vitality, and vigor well into old age. There is chronological age, and there is biological age. Proper diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can keep the mind in good working order and put networking changes on hold as we age.
One caveat: the regular use of saunas or hot tubs has been linked to temporary reductions in sperm motility and sperm concentrations. I'm 51 and have 3 children. This isn't a concern for me, but may be for younger readers planning to start a family.
I hiked 12 miles in 2:52:00, coming in eight minutes under the 3 hour minimum to pass the Ranger test. But I did it without load. To pass, a soldier must shoulder 30 lbs. The march was a recon mission. I was gathering intelligence. I needed to work out race pace not in the mind, but in the body. With the mind, I can divide 3 hours by 12. That works out to 15 minutes per mile. But the legs and the lungs and the heart need to learn what a 15 minute mile pace feels like. I also needed to work out the gear I might need (e.g. better socks, compression pants, nutrition), and test if I could even hike 12 miles without incident. The last long hike I completed was the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a 750 mile route. But that was 20 years ago.
After the hike, I iced my joints, took a hot bath, then stretched using pliability rollers. I slept well and did not wake up sore. Today, I swam a mile in 37:05. I did 52 sit-ups in 1 minute [above the max for the Air Force's sit-up test for men in my age group- 6 shy of the max for men under 25], and held the plank pose for 3:20 [above the max for the Air Force's plank test for men in my age group- 15 seconds shy of the max for men under 25]. I'm ready to take the Air Force Special Forces test to time, but will attempt it once I've passed all elements for all branches. I haven't passed the runs: 1.5 miles in under 10:30 [Navy SEALs], 1.5 mile run in 9:12 [if I want to max the Air Force's requirement for men under 25], 2 mile run in under 14:30 [Army Rangers], 5 miles in under 40 minutes [Rangers], and the high aerobic multi-shuttle run (HAMR) [80-100 lengths].
Plank pose 3:37 [passed/maxed]
56 sit-ups in 1 minute [passed]. Only 2 away from max for under 25.
275lbs deadlift [passed]
20 meter HAMR: 58 [passed, but failed to max for both my age group & under 25].
Closing in though.
Breakfast: oatmeal in coconut milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper, cloves, cardamom, walnuts, almonds, goji berries, chia seeds, coconut flakes. I also had a hardboiled egg with broccoli sprouts and cottage cheese.
Our gut has its own nervous system, sometimes called the enteric brain. It has over 100 million neurons and 35 neurotransmitters. Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria. They outnumber our own cells 10 to 1. They’re spread across the digestive system. Most live in the intestines and colon, commonly called the gut. This community of gut bacteria is called the microbiome. The gut microbiome not only regulates digestion, vitamin supplementation and metabolism, but affects brain function, neural development, immune function, pain perception, and mental health. It also plays a key role in the stress response.
The foods we eat affect the milieu of our gut flora. This microbiome plays a vital role in both our physical and mental well-being. 95% of the information received in the gut goes to the brain; it’s not the other way around. What we eat, in other words, affects our concentration, energy levels, and moods for better or for worse.
Recent research suggests that the microbiome’s influence extends far beyond the boundaries of the gut. A healthy gut microbiome drives the motivation to exercise, promoting better health. The motivation to work out is triggered by neurochemical changes in the brain... and that is influenced by what happens in the gut. Microbiome-dependent endocannabinoid metabolites in the gut stimulate TRPV1-expressing sensory neurons which elevate dopamine levels in the ventral striatum during exercise (Thaiss & Betley et al., 2022).
In plain-speak, pay attention to the fuel you're putting in your body. It affects performance and motivation.
December 25-January 1
I completed the 12 mile ruck with 35lbs in 2:56:27 and 58 sit-ups in 1 minute. I maxed the 20-meter HAMR run for men of my age group. Results to date:
January 2-January 9
I added the Sally Up push-up challenge to my regimen and passed.
I also ran the 100 yard sprint in 11.48, passing one of the last elements I hadn't yet attempted. I'm fast up to 400 meters (for an old guy). After running more than 400 meters I tank. I'm running a 7:47 minute mile- down from 8-9 minutes. It's an improvement, but it's far short of the 7 or 6 minute miles I would need to run to complete phase 1 of training. I purchased a heart monitor as I must train closer to my VO2 Max. Hoping the data can take some of the guesswork out. The recommendation from all running coaches is the same- increase your base mileage and increase speed work gradually. To avoid injury progress slowly.
I need to add patience to the mental game as frustration with my running performance arises. Egoic attachment to strength and vigor and the fear of loss is here. Building an identity on accomplishment is like building a house on shifting sand. It is not stable and will someday collapse.
Meditation practice helps to keep the mind equanimous. I summon to mind the five remembrances:
I am of the nature to grow old; I cannot escape old age.
I am of the nature to suffer ill health; there is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change; there is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
The preacher stated it this way: "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 1:2) All is impermanent (including beauty, youth, strength, health, stamina and life itself)
...but still I grind!
I added trail running and mace training to my regimen. Trail running aids in injury prevention. Softer surfaces decrease the impact on the joints, and the variable terrain works a much larger group of stabilizer muscles. Running too hard and too often on pavement increases the risk of repetitive use injuries.
The mace, or gada is a weighted globe welded onto a long lever. It was used by warriors in ancient India. I use a 10 pound demolition hammer with a 36 inch lever. Mace training builds shoulder resistance, strengthening the stabilizer muscles that surround the shoulder joint. The mace improves grip strength. After 40, muscles begin losing mass. A strong grip is an indicator of longevity. In a 2015 study, researchers collected 142,000 grip strength measurements in 17 countries to test ongoing disease and discovered significant results. For each 11-pound decrease in grip strength, there was a 16 percent higher risk of death from any cause.
Mace training is multi-planar. In a mace workout, I move along the frontal, sagittal, and transverse planes. Emphasis is on the transverse plane as we rotate and decelerate the speed of rotation. These movements recruit and strengthen the core muscles. Mace training also strengthens the wrists and forearms (which are often neglected in training). The result? Improvements in strength and stability, lowering the risk of injury.
On the nutrition front, researchers found that female and male participants who ate 57g of almonds daily for one month had more of the beneficial fat 12,13-dihydroxy-9Z-octadecenoic acid (12,13-DiHOME) in their blood immediately after a session of intense exercise than controls. This molecule has a beneficial effect on metabolic health and energy regulation. Participants also reported feeling less fatigue and tension, better leg-back strength, and decreased muscle damage after exercise than control volunteers (Nieman, et al., 2022).
January 10-January 16
I completed level 8.6 which corresponds to a 1.5 run in 11:52. That's a sub 8 minute mile. Sucks, but I'm slowly and steadily improving my run times. My maximum heart rate was 184bpm- which is that of a 35 year old. Now that I have the right tools and data, I can train harder and smarter. Twice weekly, I aim to train at 80-90% of my max heart rate (Zone 4) which is 147-165 beats per minute. Shuttle runs, intervals, strides, sprints, hills, and fartlek are some training methods for improving speedwork.
After the run, I swam 500 yards in 11:32, rested for 10 minutes as per regulations, completed 110 pushups in 2 minutes, rested 2, completed 65 situps in 2, rested 2, then completed 16 pull ups in 2. I would need to run 1.5 miles in under 10:30 to pass the Navy Seals p.t. test- which corresponds to level 9.11. Patience, o my Soul!
The same intentionality I apply to my workouts transfers to other domains of life. Setting SMARTER goals can inspire us to move in the direction of our intentions. SMARTER is an acronym for specific (S), measurable (M), attainable (A), realistic (R), time-bound (T), exciting, ethical or engaging (E), and recorded (R). This physical challenge serves as an example. My goal is not "to get fit" or "start working out." This is not specific. A 500 yard swim in under 12:30, 50 pushups or more in 2 minutes, or a 12mile ruck with a 30 pound pack in under 3 hours are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound, engaging and recordable.
The SMARTER template can be applied to any goal. The arousal network is recruited when the goals I set are lofty. I am not inspired to pursue easily obtainable goals that do not involve some degree of discomfort, failure, anxiety, or frustration. I make no demands on the brain's neural circuitry when I reach for low hanging fruit. That said, the steps toward the achievement of a lofty goal should be realistic. A goal to run a 6 minute mile might start with a 20 minute walk for someone just starting out. Progression is step-wise.
I meditate 1-2 hours daily and sit with specific intentions- to train concentration, to cultivate compassion, to observe, to practice non-reactivity, To decouple thoughts from awareness, etc. To improve cognition, I read over 209 books last year, 213 the year before that, and 190 the year prior to that. I speak 5 languages at varying levels of fluency, and practice with my language partners weekly. I'm a multi-instrumentalist, an artist, an IT guy, a handyman, a good cook, an investor, a devoted father. My work is meaningful and aligns with my purpose. Each of these attainments began as a SMARTER goal. Some are easier to define than others- learning to code a platformer game in Python is specific, being a good dad is not. Spending 1 hour per week every Tuesday from 5 to 6 training in tae kwon do with my children is specific, being the best version of myself is not.
To motivate myself, especially when I am not feeling particularly motivated, I imagine who I will become if I do not take an action or stop an unwanted habit. It is not hard for me to imagine myself as a diabetic as my father was destroyed by the disease. Diabetes is merciless and pecks away at its victims. I don't want to prick my fingers every morning to test my glucose levels. I don't want to take insulin. I don't want to drive to a dialysis clinic and sit in a chair for 3 hours. I don't want my toes, feet, or legs amputated. I don't want to lose my sight or hearing or balance. I don't want EMT technicians coming to my home late at night to give me injections or to take me to the hospital. I don't want my loved ones worrying about me. I don't want to be paralyzed. I don't want to be on medication. I don't want to be confined to a wheelchair. I don't want my children taking care of me. This was the life my father chose by refusing to exercise and eat well. I don't want to live like that.
January 17-January 24
I went for my annual physical. My glucose and Hb1Ac levels dropped to optimal levels. Good. My HDL cholesterol levels were still low (53 mg/dL), but I did see improvement from 50 mg/dL in November. My iron levels dropped from 257 ug/dL to 170. Good. But my iron saturation levels are still high. Not good. My creatinine levels were also high. Creatinine is a waste product that comes from the normal wear and tear on muscles of the body. ALT levels also rose. Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) is an enzyme found primarily in the liver. ALT's primary function is to convert stored glucose into energy. Muscle cell damage can cause elevated levels of ALT in the blood. Optimized levels of ALT indicate balance between exercise and recovery. These biomarkers may suggest I am training too hard. Not good. But it could also simply be that I trained too hard the day before the test. It is advisable not to exercise 2 days prior to taking a blood test for this reason. They may be physiologically and statistically irrelevant.
I fasted for 3 days. I did light mobility, pliability and yoga exercises. I also did breathwork, heat/cold exposure, a light mace workout, a 3 mile ruck with 25lbs + an arm workout on day 3 of my 3 day fast. I was in ketosis for all 3 days. With training, my body has become metabolically flexible and efficient. It is like a hybrid car that can readily switch from burning glucose to using ketones for fuel.
January 25-Feb 1
I began increasing my mileage from 3 to 5 miles in violation of the10% rule. The pain in my achilles returned. Not smart. So, I revisited the protocols that helped initially, and did more research. I will test the fixes explained in the video below to find out whether they work for me.
I will continue training aerobically at 80-90% of VO2 Max. I mounted my bicycle to a trainer stand, and I can also still swim.
I may have a small bicep tear. So, I am prioritizing recovery this week; I rest as hard as I train. Not only is my sleep optimal (following the sleep protocols I mentioned in a previous post), I also reset midday. Below is a screenshot of my brainwaves during a 40 minute rest period I took just before updating this.
I train my mind as intentionally as I train the body. The meditation practice captured in the screenshot above was relaxation-focused. The alpha and beta frequencies are most pronounced. Alpha is associated with calm and focused attention. Experientially, I was releasing muscular tension. At the molecular level, thoughts trigger action potentials in motor neurons which trigger depolarisation and calcium ion release. The myosin heads form a cross-bridge with the actin filaments within the muscles. The myosin heads move the actin filaments the way an oar propels a row boat. Actin filaments are anchored to Z lines. The dragging of actin pulls the Z lines closer together, shortening the sarcomere (the muscle fibers) and causing contraction.
As I keep relaxing the body, I imagine a more subtle body that slows these signals and neural patterns. I imagine relaxing at that level. The body gives me constant feedback. I know whether the firing rate has increased or decreased by observing. Am I relaxed fully and completely? With practice, I get better at this and can fall into a relaxed state deeper and faster. Once the body is fully relaxed, the mind relaxes naturally. At 2:18, delta and theta waves rise. These are the slowest brain waves frequencies. This is a snapshot of the mind in a deep state of rest.
Feb 2-Feb 9
I'm setting the example for my children to follow. My daughter completed level 6.4 of the Air Force's HAMR run, surpassing the minimum passing score for men under 25. She's 9.
Feb 10-Feb 17
I dialed down training last week. I limited training to indoor cycling, swimming, stretching, and dance. This week, I added a light trail run, boxing, taekwondo, and parallettes. I built two bars out of pvc elbows, joints, and pipes. Some of the best equipment I own is the simplest- parallettes, rings, a mace, bands, a foam roller, a kettlebell.
The tendonitis is mostly gone. Rest, changing footwear and taping helped. Again, looking to my elders for guidance, I found the most useful tip from an older athlete who experimented over the years to find a solution that also worked for me:
Now I'm nursing what feels like a bicep tear. I also added a new injury after trying tucked planches and handstand pushups on the parallettes. I'm progressing too fast. New training regimens challenge the body in different ways. I don't know what caused the bicep tear. Introducing the mace and going from 10 to 20 lbs without giving the body time to adapt may have contributed to the injury. Work on the parallettes challenged muscles I don't use in most routines. I'm sore around the clavicle. I'm certain the intensity and extreme calisthenic routine was the cause. The sternocleidomastoid muscle, located at the front of the neck, attaches to the clavicle. The trapezius, deltoid, and subclavius muscles also attach to the clavicle. Most guys work on traps and delts at the gym (these are show muscles), but rarely will you hear someone say: "Today, I'm working on my sternocleidomastoid and subclavius."
I started keeping a log of injuries. Many athletes log their progress. I want to learn from my regressions as well. Some of my injuries are acute- e.g. the soreness in a muscle around the knee after dancing. I recovered in 24-48 hours. Some are more persistent, like the tendonitis. What you measure, you can manage. Don't know why I didn't think to start this sooner.
I trust my body will adapt. Physical therapists call this supercompensation. I'm not sure what the ideal timescale needs to be. The body will tell me. Heather Milton, a board certified clinical exercise exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center affirms that an athlete who follows an evidence based, strategically designed fitness program can expect to regain fitness in 16 weeks. An evidence based, strategically designed fitness program factors in age, weight, diet, sleep, hydration, injury, previous fitness level, to list a few of the most obvious variables an athlete must attend to.
February 18-February 25
The timing of my monthly 3 day fast comes at an opportune time. I need to slow down and give the body time to recover. The body will adapt to the demands imposed upon it. Physiologists call this super-compensation.
There are 4 levels to training.
Level 1: Progressive or acute overload challenges the body to adapt. When I'm training hard, I may feel some soreness and mild fatigue after a workout, but the body recovers within a day or two. Again, I train hard, but rest and give the body time to recover.
Level 2: After a few weeks of hard training, it gets easier. I increase the intensity, weight, volume, or distance by 10%. What physiologists call functional over-reaching can enhance performance. Functional overreaching is defined as a short-term decrement in performance as a result of increased training stress. It is a usual part of the training process of elite athletes. Full recovery occurs within a few days (Meeusen et al., 2006).
Level 3: Non-functional overreaching is also transient, but it may take several days or a few weeks for the athlete to return to baselines. Non-functional overreaching is often considered a normal outcome for elite athletes (Halson & Jeukendrup, 2004).
Level 4: Overtraining represents a persistent performance decrement which takes several weeks or months to recover from. Overtraining may seriously harm an athlete’s health (Halson & Jeukendrup, 2004; Meeusen et al., 2006). There are no diagnostic tools or subjective markers I know of to help me discern acute functional from non-functional overreaching and overtraining. I've been nursing 2 injuries for about a month. I'm guessing I'm at Level 3. I violated the 10% rule. :(
Resting heart rate (RHR) is a good measure of recovery. My RHR is 53 bpm. Last night I was within range. Heart rate variability is another marker physiologists use to track recovery. Mine was optimal and above average. These markers suggest I'm recovered. I'm not overtrained, but neither am I fully recovered. The injuries persist, but are mild. I put compression tape around both the ankle with tendonitis and the torn bicep, icing them throughout the day. I also wore compression pants and socks. I went for what I assumed would be a gentle walk through the woods. 2 miles in, I felt discomfort in the Achilles again. I limped 2 miles back. :'(
I'm on day 3 of my fast, but the body is still burning carbs. RHR and HRV were optimal. I felt good. I did 4 minute breath holds and spent 4 minutes in an ice bath. Then I swam a mile in 38:04. After my swim, I measured my CO2 levels. I was finally in ketosis. This is where I want to be metabolically for awhile.
I learned a new recovery protocol from Dr. Andy Galpin, PhD, professor of kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton. We put our bodies under stress during workouts. To kickstart recovery, we want to dial the sympathetic nervous system down after exercise. Under stress, both the sympathetic and inflammatory responses are activated. After exercise, we can immediately dial down these responses with down-regulation breathing. There are many variations:
1. box-breathing (Sama Vritti Pranayam): inhale for x seconds, hold for x seconds, exhale for x seconds, hold for x seconds. X will vary from person to person and at different stages of the practice. We might start with x at 3 seconds and, as the heart slows and the body finds its cadence, we can increase those times to 4, 6, or 10.
2. 1:2 ratio breathing. Double the length of the exhalation. If I'm breathing in for 2 seconds, I breathe out for 4. If I'm breathing in for 5, I breathe out for 10, etc.
3. There is a yogic pranayama technique called bahya which slows the heart rate down and balances the nervous system.
Interestingly, he mentioned a study that found that the faster an athlete could return to baseline heart rate, the more effective their recovery and the greater the improvements in their performance.
While I have been practicing breathwork for years to improve recovery for the reasons listed earlier, I never thought to practice post-workout. But it makes sense. So, within about 30 minutes, I was able to bring my heart rate down from 150 to 80. And before bed, I lowered my heart rate from 90 to 68.
The dynamometer and hand grip set I ordered arrived today. A dynamometer is a tool that’s used to measure isometric grip strength. Grip strength is a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure. It's also used to measure recovery, general fitness and, more specifically, handgrip strength which is a function of the strength of the forearms. My results were 103lbs/46.72 kg of force in my dominant right hand; 90.4lbs/41kg in my left. These results are average. But I think they can be improved. I performed 2 sets of 10 using the gripper rated at 100lbs. This was the lightest. They go up to 350lbs. My forearms are not developed. But I felt most of the pain in my bicep disappear after just 2 sets. Relief. What I assumed was a bicep tear may be a structural imbalance. Often, we suffer injuries because the muscles are not balanced. My biceps and triceps are strong, but my wrists and forearms are weak. I only started training these muscles after getting the mace. The stronger muscles may have overcompensated for the weaker ones. Just a conjecture. All I know is the arm feels much better.
February 26-March 5
The 12th century Indian poet Basava wrote:
My legs are pillars;
The body a shrine;
The head a cupola of gold.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes: "Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you and ye are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). He warns: "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."Many defile their temple with alcohol, drugs, toxins, junk foods, stressful living. Many are destroyed thereby.
I swam a mile and a half. Then brought my heart rate down from 192 to 92 with breathwork. Today, is another day of celebration. I dance and bench press; I perform sets of pushups on rings and on parallettes. Each rep is a "Thank you!" to my Creator. "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well!" Psalm 139:14
The discomfort in both my Achilles tendon and forearm have diminished, but I am not fully recovered. I'm adding more mobility exercises to my toolkit and following Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist and author of The Supple Leopard, a comprehensive training guide. Patience, O my Soul!
March 6-March 13
I started the day as per usual- breathwork, meditation and an ice bath. With attention to diet, intermittent fasting and breathwork, I've learned how to switch my metabolism to fat-burn mode. I take a CO2 measurement every morning. Results have been fairly consistent. With an intermittent fasting schedule of 16/8 (fasting 16; eating for 8), on average, I was burning both fats and carbs. After breathwork, however, CO2 concentrations were higher. The scale tips and my metabolism starts burning more fat. I accelerate this process by working out on an empty stomach. I swam 500 yards in 11:06. I sat in the steam room and stretched, took a cold shower, regulating my breath on my drive home from the pool.
In his excellent and informative TEDx talk, Ruben Meerman explores the question: "When someone loses fat, where does the fat go?" Turns out fat is burned and exhausted breath by breath, a few carbon molecules at a time. With breathwork, I increase my CO2 levels, expelling more carbon atoms, burning more fat- once my blood glucose stores have been depleted.
I wrapped my ankle and forearm, then jogged to another gym for a light arm workout- concentrating mostly on my forearms. Grip strength: 48.2kg (right); 46.5 (left). On my jog home, I focused on stride and foot placement. I'm 20 weeks in, but feels like I'm back to day 1, week 1. While a part of me is discouraged, another part is indifferent. The Observer welcomes each guest- Frustration & Persistence, Doubt & Grit, Insecurity & Confidence, Restlessness & Calm, Disturbance & Equanimity. In The Guest House, the 13th century Sufi poet Rumi wrote:
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I've trained the mind to hold opposites simultaneously- like training push and pull muscles (or agonists and antagonists). I've broken down mindsets to Mind Sets. For every round of discouragement, I'll perform a round of encouragement. I acknowledge the performance decrement, but know I've gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom in 5 months. By knowledge, I mean protocols like cold baths before exercise to promote mitochondrial biogenesis or to increase testosterone concentrations. I'm passing this knowledge along to much younger men and to the children who've joined my Fight Club.
From home with 1 minute rest intervals:
Static apnea (1minimum breath hold); My score: 1:55
Plank pose (Air Force minimum= :35; max for <24 year olds=3:35); My score: 3:35
Air squats (48 min); My score: 61 in 2 min
Push ups (Air Force minimum= 12 in 1 min; max for <24 year olds=67): My score: 88
Hand release push ups (A.F. minimum for 50 year olds=11 in 2 min; max for <24 year olds=40); My score: 41
Reverse crunch (A.F. minimum=9; max for <24 year olds=49); My score: 51
Dips (minimum= 30); My score: 60
Pull ups (minimum=10); My score: 20
Pull ups with 25lbs (minimum=1); My score: 7
Deadlift (minimum 270); My score: 278
Jogged to gym. Completed the following exercises with 1 minute rest intervals:
Curl ups (SEAL minimum=50); My score: 62
Hack squat (SWAT minimum= 1 @ body weight + 100); My score: 5
Split jump squats (minimum 19); My score: 62
Bench press (1 @ body weight + 25lbs); My score: 5
Added calve raises, abduction and adduction leg presses, and a mobility dance to celebrate this precious gift of life!
March 14-March 21
I swam 2 miles in an hour and 17 minutes. After stretching in the steam room, I completed 22 pull-ups. I resumed running, but am back to level 1 of the HAMR shuttle run, and my mile time plummeted to 9:30. Yet, still I grind. This time, I'll follow the 10% rule.
I will take a rest from journaling until I recover fully.
I came across Bryan Johnson's anti-aging blueprint. His protocols and results are far more in-depth than mine. The 45 year olds results:
Slowed pace of aging by equivalent 31 years
Accumulating aging damage slower than 88% of 18 year olds
Body inflammation is 85% below the average 18 year old (hsCRP 0.15)
V02 max: 58.7 mL/(kg·min), top 1.5% of 18 year olds
Total Bone Mineral Density top .2% of 30 year olds
Perfect liver fat (1.36%, top 10%.), iron & stiffness (MRI)
Top 1% sleep performance & recovery (whoop)
Possibly increased thymocyte volume to 7 yrs younger, pending further testing
Ideal whole body muscle & fat (MRI)
50+ optimal clinical outcome biomarkers
100+ markers < chronological age
Perfect liver markers: ALT+AST+GGT = 49
Leg press single rep max: 800 lbs. Top 1-2% of 18 yr olds.
Bench press single rep max: 240 lbs. Top 10% of 18 yr olds.
12 year age reversal in 500 day average HRV
Reduced Alpha Klotho biological age by 21 yrs in 5 months, from 42 to 21.
31 year age reversal in grey hair age (80% reduction in grey hair)
Identified and corrected (w/o surgery) ticking time bomb: bilateral internal jugular vein (IJV) stenosis
Brain white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) reduced by 50% (MRI)
30+ organ ages quantified
Free testosterone index (FTI) biological age reduced 20 years
Improved homocysteine (hcy) by 49% (5.9 umol/L).
On Memorial Day, many athletes pay tribute to members of the armed forced by taking part in the Murph Challenge. The Murph Challenge is a test of physical and mental endurance that honors the sacrifice and service of fallen Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy. The workout consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another one-mile run, all done while wearing a weighted vest. I failed on my first attempt. A week later I tried again without the vest and added elements. Here are my results:
1 mile run 10 minutes
300 air squats
400 calf raises
1 mile run in 10 minutes
If my latest results are the best this old body can do, I am content.
And still I grind.
August 28-September 3
Got the week off. Decided to challenge myself and planned to cycle from Montreal, Quebec to New Bedford, MA. Work hard; play hard. I rented a car and dropped it off at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. On Monday, I cycled 74 miles from the airport to a hostel in Stanbridge, Quebec. Tuesday, I rode 56 miles to Morristown, Vermont. I got a flat just a block away from Chuck's Bike shop. I bought inner tubes and tires and fixed it. Friends from Wolcott picked me up at the shop and I spent the next day and a half catching up. On Thursday, I cycled 63 miles to Gorham Heights to spend time with friends in Jackson, New Hampshire. My friend dropped me off at the Mountain Division Trail in Fryeburg on Friday and I logged 54 miles to Portland, Maine. From the hostel in Portland, I cycled 70 miles to North Hampton. The cheapest 2 star motel was over $300, so I camped out and slept under a tree.
The son who started me on this journey sent me a text and photo of a drink he ordered: "it has like every vitamin u need." He's been cycling to the YMCA everyday and working out for an hour or two. We hold each other accountable.
Sunday, I cycled 20 miles to the train station in Newburyport, Massachusetts, took the train to North Station in Boston, cycled about a mile to South Station and boarded a train to Middleborough/Lakeville. I cycled another 19 miles home. In total, I cycled 356 miles over 6 days. I converted my bicycle to an e-bicycle. The pedal assist took some strain off the knees when hammering up the steep hills. I slept optimally every night (even under a tree) and used breath work to slow down my heart rate and improve my heart rate variability (a biomarker for recovery). I maintained many protocols: supplementation, cold showers, stretching, meditation, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and practicing yoga nidra to reset mid-day .
I stayed hydrated and ate as well as I could- which was difficult to do once I crossed the border back into the United States. The convenience stores and gas stations I happened upon on many a lonely, rural road were stocked with garbage. Often, the healthiest options were nuts and water; my body craved nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory foods- not the ultra-processed, sugary stuff with the long shelf-life and ingredients I couldn't pronounce. This was disturbing. Generally, Americans are unfit. Only 12% of Americans are metabolically flexible, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. We aren't combat ready. As a people, we are being fattened for slaughter.
When WWII broke out, half of the first two million men called up by the Selective Service were found unfit for duty, and 90% of these rejections were due to deficiencies in health and fitness. In the 1940's, foods were much more nutrient dense, organic and locally grown. People were far less sedentary. If a draft were instituted today, millions of eligible men would be unfit for service, and the military would be hard pressed to bring them up to speed.
September 4, Labor Day