This week on Barbell Shrugged we chat with Ben Greenfield, former tennis player, water polo athlete, and bodybuilder turned biohacking ironman, endurance coach, author, blogger, and podcaster.
That’s quite the resume, right?
Ben’s got plenty of interesting things to say, which is no surprise given his experience and wide-ranging creative pursuits. He can certainly talk training and human performance with the very best, but it was his perspective on general health that grabbed my attention initially.
Ben is the author of the excellent book Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life, which is amusing, because as he will tell you devoting huge chunks of time to sitting in front of a keyboard and writing extensively about health is one of the absolute unhealthiest things you can do. Extended promotional book tours and frequent promotional travel are certainly no better.
That’s bad, but did you know that intense exercise can be worse in many ways? As Ben will tell you, competitive athlete’s and WOD junkies don’t typically worry about metabolic dysfunction or obesity risk, but they are often chronically inflamed, their hormonal levels are usually disturbed, and their markers of immune system strength and circulatory function are typically far more out of whack than those of the “out-of-shape” general population.
This is not meant to discourage anyone. It’s just a warning. If you’re willing to do the work that it takes to be an amazing athlete, then do it! There’s no question that it’s worth it. Just take the lesson from an awesome coach who’s seen it all. More is not better.
If you want to both perform better and enjoy a high quality of life and health, then be willing to go above and beyond. Get your data. Monitor all key biomarkers very closely so that you can keep that high performance, meat powered hot-rod of yours tuned-up and running on all cylinders. Get as much information as you can, find your problems early, then act long-before your body begins to show those inevitable signs of wear and tear.
As cool as performance might be we don’t want to sacrifice out health and well being for it. We don’t want the wear and tear. But luckily there are some pretty quick and easy fixes, starting with making your living conditions as natural as possible.
Work and writing are great, but you really should be standing as often as possible. Move more. Stop what you’re doing for just a few minutes and go find something heavy to lift. Even a quick break for a few fast repetitions can work wonders.
When it’s time to train, train very hard, but do not beat yourself up with exercise. Go for the minimum effective dose that’s required for you to make progress. Afterward, get the rest and recovery you require, and for crissakes, eat plenty of real, nutrient dense food.
If you’re into supplements, Ben’s list is a pretty damn good one. For those pushing the endurance limits, d-ribose can be great for supporting ATP production. An essential amino acids supplement, MCT and caffeine right from a proper cup of coffee also go a long way towards supporting optimal performance.
If you’re feeling sore and knotted up after you put the barbell down, then invest in some soft-tissue massage, or at the very least, make time to roll around on a foam roller hard a few times per week. Your beat-up and agitated muscle fascia and on edge nervous system will reward you generously with improved function and recovery. You might also consider monitoring your Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which as we learned withJoel Jamison on episode 120 of the podcast, is a tremendous way to keep tabs on your accumulating stress levels and choose the optimal time to train.
Yeah, training can be tough. But we can still push the limits and live awesome, pain free, healthy lives. It just takes some additional work, that’s all. A bit thanks to Ben for sharing his perspective.
For more great information from Ben Greenfield, make sure you check out his website atBenGreenfieldFitness.com. You can also find more great content and training tips on his YouTube channel, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.
P.S. Don’t forget that the absolute best way to avoid screwing up in the gym is to get informed. That’s right, check out this week’s episode of TechniqueWOD, and let Doug hand over all of his best nuggets and pearls on the topic of the high and low bar back squat.