In this episode, Mark talks with Brian MacKenzie (@brianmackenzie) and Phil White (@PhilWhiteBooks) about their new book “Unplugged: Evolve from technology to upgrade your fitness, performance & consciousness.” Brian is an athletic and conditioning expert, and a NYT Bestselling author. Phil is an athlete and an Emmy-nominated writer and together with Dr. Andy Galpin, the three have collaborated to write “Unplugged.” The mania for “plugging-in” for fitness is self-defeating. The authors are hoping that we can move beyond the tech back to an understanding of our own bodies. Listen to hear how by minimizing our technical dependence, we will enjoy fitness more.
The Halo neurostimulation system will help you to push boundaries and perform at your maximum capacity. Commander Divine is often testing new products, and Halo is the most recent that he felt
Transcript & Shownotes
Hey, this is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining me today. As you know, I do not take your time lightly, and I try to fill that time up with interesting, educational and inspiring things. And today will be no different. Cause I’ve got some really cool guests. First time I’ve actually had 2 guests on who are calling in from 2 different places. We’ll see how our technology holds up for that.
But before I get going and introduce my guests, just remember that it’s really helpful if you rate the podcast for other people to find it. When you go to rate, just click on the button at the far right, and that’ll just automatically click all 5 stars. You don’t have to think about it. And that’d be good. So, go to iTunes or wherever you actually listen. So the podcast shows up now in iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud. All sorts of places. And so, go rate it. Helps people find it. And then that helps us grow the show.
So, I’ve got my friend Brian MacKenzie on today who… man, this guy loves to push the envelope. He is an expert in human performance and movement. I knew him back in the day when he started “CrossFit Endurance,” and he has just not slowed down since then. he’s a real innovator, and he’s been studying movement and performance since 2000. And when I say he likes to push the envelope, he does it with untraditional training methods like testing altitude. Hypoxia. We had some early discussions about breathing and mechanics. And introduced breathing, which is a big part of my training as well as dealing with cold exposure and heat, etc.
And he’s also quite an athlete himself. (laughing) Regularly just destroying his body probably in these races and then quickly recovering based upon all his research. So he’s run the Western States 100, Angeles Crest 100. He just gets off on stuff like that.
And now Brian is also a New York Times bestseller. His book “Unbreakable Runner” is a must read for anyone who wants to do endurance running. And he’s also authored “Power Speed Endurance.” And most recently, we’re going to focus on this today with a fellow named Phil White, he’s written a book called “Unplugged.”
And so, Brian, welcome.
Brian Mackenzie: Thanks for having me, Mark. Appreciate it buddy.
Mark: Great to chat again.
Now, Phil. Your co-author is on the line, so let me introduce Phil before I forget. Phil is an Emmy nominated writer, co-author with you, Brian of “Unplugged,” and also Andy Galpin is involved in there. Andy’s not on the line, but we’ll toss a nod to Andy.
Also, Phil’s the author of “Gamechanger,” and I was just laughing a little moment ago. This monstrous book just showed up on my doorstep, and I was like, “Where did this come from?”
And I realized I was going to be talking to Phil the next day. it showed up on my doorstep yesterday. It’s this really incredible treatise on the art of sports science. I’m super-stoked to read it.
And then also, coming out with a new book with Brian and mine’s mutual friend Doctor Kelly Starrett, also of the CrossFit mobility world, and that’s called “Flight Plan,” so I’m looking forward to that as well. So, Phil, thank you for joining us today, and I’m super-stoked to talk to both of you guys.
Phil White: Thank you, Mark.
Brian: The pleasure is ours.
Mark: Yeah, well, ditto. and just to kick off thing off, I gave a little bit of background about both of you, but why don’t starting with Brian maybe give us a little about… I call it the “origin story.” Like, who were you? When you grew up, what were your influences and why did you get interested, Brian, in the endurance training world? And kind of what set you on your path today? Without going into all the details of the modern phase, or the most recent phase.
And then we’ll turn to Phil and then do the same things. I’m really curious. And I know our listeners are curious about you guys.
Brian: Yeah, I grew up in… how… where were you stationed, Mark?
Mark: I was at Coronado for 5 years and then Hawaii. and then back to Coronado.
Brian: Okay, so… I grew up… and the reason I say that is just cause you’ll have a basis of understanding if you were near or around in the ’80s Southern California. And I grew up pretty hardcore in the ’80s. When we were really trying to figure out cookie cutter and the whole… what Orange County is today is not what it was then.
That said, I grew up in the punk rock evolution and there were 3 or 4 epicenters at the time. London, England was one. New York was one. LA was one and Orange County was the other. A lot of bands… most of the bands that came out of that era came from Orange County.
And it created quite a scene. So, I grew up in a very punk rock scene. but I also grew up when skateboarding was a crime. And so, when…
Mark: Wait, were you a punk rocker? Or…?
Brian: yes. Very much so. Very much so. but I played sports so this is where it kind of mixes between the 2. I played sports and I went to enough school to make sports… gave me the ability to do sports. but I skateboarded, surfed, hung around punk rockers. I was the first guy in my school to have a tattoo. and this was before anyone… right now, that’s a normal kind of thing, I guess. But back when I did it, there was nobody with a tattoo.
And I’m just the by-product of the timing and of what I looked up to. And skateboarding in San Diego, and orange County and LA… southern California was the epicenter of skateboarding. Tony Hawke is from… The Z-boys are from Venice. |it was a huge thing. This is all… I grew up in that time. And so it had a major influence and impact on me in the manner of why school really never fit the bill.
Mark: (laughing) Except for providing you access to sports…
Brian: Exactly! And so… but the to say that school doesn’t have purpose would be ignorance. School had purpose and it allowed me to get an education. And I got through that education. (laughing) My mom thanks God that I got through that education.
But I played sports. and the only reason I stayed eligible was because I enjoyed it so much. I would say sports saved my life, to a large degree.
Mark: What sports were you interested in back then?
Brian: I mean, I played everything. I swam since I was 4. To a competitive level. I was put in swimming lessons at 4, but I took to the water and it was easy. And they started having me swim laps and they had me join a small kids team. And I remember swimming in my first meet, and swimming the IM, which everybody had to do. And I swam it backwards, and I got out of the pool halfway through and I was just like, “I’m over this.” but then I came back and it all happened again.
I swam, I played water polo, I played soccer. I played baseball for about 2 or 3 years before I got bored with it. And that’s kind of the story of how I operate. Things that go slow. things that don’t, like, have a lot of movement to it, a lot of explosion to them are just not tailored for my kind of being. So I…
Mark: so classical music was out and punk rock…
Brian: At the time, yeah. And then the irony is that I got introduced to classical music when I decided to straighten up my act and go back to school. and started getting involved in things by a mentor friend of mine. And he forced me to go into… to go see classical music and to partake in these things, and to learn what the Arts were.
And that was, I think, probably one of the biggest shifts in my life. And me understanding where punk rock came from, and where rock came from. And where jazz and all of these things originally came from. And how the evolution of those things came. And that is no different from the evolution of what I’ve really been able to see with the work I do. And where I look at the roots of things and how the operate and how they function. And there’s not 1 genre… there are many genres of music. And there are many ways to train.
And that was essentially why I got into endurance sports. Cause I was never really an endurance athlete. I was a short-course sprinter. I enjoyed going fast. I skateboarded. Obviously, those aren’t very endurance related efforts.
But I was so humbled at my first triathlon that a buddy convinced me to do. Where I literally was… came out of the swim within the top 10 and I barely trained for it. Then I got on the bike and I had lost maybe 50 places. And then I went out on the run, and I was passed by several overweight people who encouraged me to keep going.
Mark: (laughing) Nice.
Brian: And so, it was a deeply humiliating experience for me at the time. But it was humiliating enough for me to say, “I want more. I want to understand this.”
And that was a sprint triathlon. And so, within the first…I think within 2 or 3 years, I’d got to doing an Ironman. and was fairly successful with it. and that transpired into what inevitably became what CrossFit Endurance was. And me understanding it. All the while, getting an education about exercise science and being mentored by specific people and meeting people like Kelly Starrett, who become your closest friend…
Mark: At what point, Brian, did it start to look like a career for you? This training…?
Brian: when I didn’t want to quit. (laughing) I first started… I actually although I was in school I decided at the time… 24-hour fitness was becoming the very hot ticket. And it was a way for somebody to go make a lot of money. As a trainer.
And so, I went in through their program even though I was in school and I got certified through their program which was… I think it was like a maybe a 1 or 2-week process. And then you went out on the floor and you started selling training. And it was just so gross to me to be selling training versus just training. And so, I left.
And I thought I was going to quit, and then I got an opportunity that nobody was at. it was a spinning gym. And 3/4s of the day, it was not being used. And so I was able to go and pay rent to train clients there, and for the first few months I only trained 1 client for the first 3 months of my actual career. And so I was making, like, $400 a month. And that inevitably turned into another opportunity, where somebody saw me working there and training this gal, to getting me into another space. And a place where there were a lot of trainers. And they gave me clients. and before I knew it, I didn’t have time. And I was making more money than I’d ever made. And it just continued to grow and I was training trainers within the first couple years of me at this place. Because I was just doing more innovative things.
Like I was the first guy in my area to have kettle bells. I was that guy back then. I was just always, “Oh, what’s the newest thing? Or what’s this other thing?” or, “What’s that? What’s this guy doing?”
Mark: How early did you get into CrossFit?
Brian: Searching the internet… it was the kettle bell thing. And it could have been a number of things. One was a mentor of mine telling me that CrossFit was not the way. And that immediately… it was like, “Umm, don’t tell me no.”
Another is my dad competed at power-lifting for some time. he wasn’t a big, big power-lifter. He enjoyed power-lifting. And so, I had a garage gym from about 17 until I left home at probably about 22 or 23, really. And so I was around power-lifting. And I was around stuff like that. And so, I had access and I saw people and there weren’t a lot of people doing CrossFit that were power-lifting at the time.
It just introduced me to more underground areas that nobody was really in, and this inevitably landed on a CrossFit workout that popped up in like, 2000… I think late 2005. and I was like, “That’s kind of crazy. running a quarter mile and then doing 50 pushups. and then running a quarter mile and doing whatever…” Just it was a mechon and it was kind of crazy the way it was designed. And so, I did it. and it just destroyed me. And I was like, “This is it.”
Mark: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.
Brian: that whole thing. and I went through that and at the time I was already restructuring how we were training endurance athletes and even my own endurance. So, we were kind of looking at strength training as a part of endurance training. Of which nobody was doing at the time.
And I don’t mean doing stability ball work. I mean, putting a barbell on your back. The strength training you and I know. And it was having a profound impact. And then when I was introduced to CrossFit, I was like, ‘Oh, this could sew up some holes.” And so, we started playing with that and figuring out how that worked out.
And it inevitably worked out really well. And we helped a lot of people change the way they were doing things and gave them kind of a life back. For some it didn’t work, some people didn’t like it and other people really enjoyed it. That was kind of the lift-off period for me.
Mark: Yeah, for sure.
Yeah, that’s basically when I met you is when you were just getting up and running with CrossFit Endurance I think. I met you at the CrossFit Games like the first year they had it up in LA maybe. or maybe it was before that, I can’t remember…
But anyways, so whatever… I want to move on to Phil and hear Phil’s story… but whatever happened with CrossFit Endurance? Did Glassman kind of pull those kind of broad domain things back into CrossFit?
Brian: No. Not with me. Greg and I actually have a really good relationship. We always have. I’ve never had… even when there was an issue with inside the confines of CrossFit. Like, I had an issue of what was going on, and decisions that were being made. Greg and I always figured it out. and he saw what I was doing, and he was like, “This is where I’d prefer to be. but this isn’t what I did. And just run with it. This is your thing.”
he was very gracious with that. when the corporate takeover came and everything went the way it did… I get it.
but it was… we were evolving. Everything I’m doing is evolved. I’m heavily involved with breathwork at this point. And so that was evolving and CrossFit was wondering if I was going to bring that in. And I was like, “yeah, I just don’t think that that’s something… And I’ve got this other project I’m doing too.”
And they’re like, “Well, you need to probably make a choice here on what you want to do.”
And that provided the opportunity that I felt was coming anyway. And so, we just separated ways. and we did it in a very, very positive manner. which is the way I wanted to do it.
mark: Right. Nice.
All right, Phil, how about you? What’s your origin story? Where are you from and what were the influences? And how did you end up being a writer.
Phil: Sure. well, I should probably start off with the old Doctor Evil quote from the group therapy in Austin Powers. “The details of my life, Mark, are quite inconsequential.” but that aside, joking aside… Brian’s rolling his eyes at me right now. don’t deny it B.
So, yeah, I grew up in southwest England. In a small town. Probably 2 hours by train southwest of London. And so this is a hard cider country… well there is no other kind of cider in England. It’s called apple juice if it isn’t hard cider. And Cheddar, the place that gave cheddar cheese its name is probably 15, 20 miles from where I grew up. And so yeah that’s the kind of area it is. We’re only about 45 minutes drive north of the south coast of England. So, you can get to the beach pretty easily.
And so, yeah, very rural. lot of farming. |Like I said, lot of cheese, lot of cider. And so, for some mad reason, I decided I wanted to play college basketball at a certain point. And so, I was playing for a national league team–which sounds a lot more fancy than it is–in the city of Bristol. And managed to get a few… I was with a recruitment agency called “college prospects of America,” and managed to get a few offers. And one of them was to a small school… an IA school in a suburb of Kansas City.
And at that point if you could kick a ball from here to the wall, you were also offered a soccer scholarship. And so, the soccer team at the time was, like, me and a bunch of Jamaican sprinters. And so I played for reasons best known to the basketball coach… played basketball there and also soccer. and met my good lady wife. Got married at the end of my sophomore year, which seems a very Midwest thing to do, doesn’t it?
And yeah, and then really I was an English major and was getting into magazine journalism and I’d actually written a couple of books fairly close to when I came out of college. So, they’re really microcosm history books. So not to plug them at all, but one is called “Our Supreme Task,” and it tells the story of how Winston Churchill ended up in this tiny little Missouri town in 1946. And this is where he gave his “Iron Curtain” speech, which he said was the most important speech of his career. And he gave a few.
So really, I just tried to tell the story not just from his perspective, but also the college president in that little town that invited on how on earth he was able to pull that off. And then that led to Harry Truman was actually involved in that. And Truman was there for that speech.
And so, I started wondering how on earth Truman managed to survive a double split in his party in the 1948 election campaign, and also this Republican dream ticket that was so strong that a lot of the pollsters actually stopped polling in mid-September, if you can believe that, and just said, “It’s over. He has no chance.”
And so that book about the whistle stop tour–not very imaginatively titled “Whistle Stop.” so that was really what convinced me that I could do book-level projects. And then there was this kind of jeweled track where… obviously I was a 2-sport college athlete and I kind of got into stand-up paddling–at least the landlocked version, on lakes and this kind of thing–pretty early. And so, Joe Carberi and Dave Shivley. Some of those guys. The old veterans from “Surfer” magazine and “Canoe and Kayak” founded “SUP the mag.” Which is kind of the stand-up paddle-boarding equivalent to those other publications. And I started doing the health and fitness beat for them. And around the same time, I jacked up my back deadlifting and… Kelly’s seen me deadlift, so he knows why… And so, I was just really looking online for different ways… non-pharmaceutical ways to fix my back. And came across Kelly. And so, I pitched my editor, “I’ve found this guy who’s doing this thing called ‘mobility.’ Has a mobility and movement system. Could we maybe do his top 5 tips to sort out your shoulders, you know? To prevent paddling injuries or fix those.”
So they, “Yeah, we could do that.” I don’t think my editor had any idea what I was talking about and probably still doesn’t. But we interviewed Kelly. He was very gracious with his time. And he ended up doing a video for us and we did a couple more pieces. Then he started to kick around the idea with TJ Murphy, who obviously is partner with Brian on his previous books as well. The idea of doing “Ready to Run.”
And so we started talking about, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could do a Ready to Run style book for surfers and paddlers.” so really just… if you’re going to be doing these sports how should your body be able to move? And if it can’t, or you’re broken, how might you be able to start fixing that? And so we did that one. And then “Flight Plan” which you mentioned earlier.
And end up kind of flipping the order of those, so, as I said, hopefully “Flight Plan” will be out this year and then hopefully next summer “Water Man 2.0,” which is this mobility and movement book for surfers and paddlers.
So, in the course of this, Kelly is the ultimate connector as you know. And is very generous in introducing people and sending text messages out of the blue.
And so, I really just got introduced to Brian through that, and we started kicking around the idea of what would a book project together look like? And really settled on this area of fitness technology. And at the time he was doing quite a lot of work with Dr. Andy Galpin at Cal State Fullerton. And so, we thought, “Well wouldn’t it be great to have Brian the practitioner and Andy the scientist” and really see if we can find a common ground in between the two, for how to better use fitness technology. And do it more intentionally. And as the name would suggest of “Unplugged,” to sometimes when you need to disconnect from your tech, and really reconnect to your instincts. To other people in authentic community. and to your environment.
Mark: Right. Awesome.
What’s “Flight Plan” going to be about? The one you’re doing with Kelly?
Mark: Oh, it’s about travel. Oh, that makes sense.
Phil: Yeah, and so really just strategies for surviving… or not just surviving, but thriving… during air travel. Partly, obviously, the jet-lag element. but then this very toxic environment of the aircraft and the airplane. You’re dealing with junk light. You’re dealing with a seat that leads to–as Kelly says–an orthopedic perfect storm. And so we got some good folks together. Brian being one, on the breathing side. And then Jocko Willink, Matt Hasselbeck, all manner of people to share their experiences and their tips in different ways and really came up with this 12-step protocol of which the first is admitting you have a problem.
And, joking aside, really just this pretty simple protocol of how to fly better and do so in a way that you’re able to perform. You’re able to recover. And it doesn’t just trash you.
Mark: You know, I wanna jump into this… the book that you guys have written and start talking about that, but Brian you mentioned music, and classical music and training were 2 influences. And it occurred to me that there’s a lot of similarity, you know. In the way how people approach the 2. In that they really… with music people focus on the sound and the melody and the actual noise. but they don’t really focus on the silence. And the space between the notes.
And the same thing with training. You know, people focus on the movement, and they focus on the kettlebell swing, and the WOD. But the don’t focus on the space between the movements and the space before and after very well. And it’s interesting because that’s been a lot of my work as well as your, actually. is to really bring a large focus to the space between movements with your breath and then mindfulness. And then as well as before and after with preparation and recovery.
So, it’s kind of a cool thing…
Brian: Well, Mr. Divine, depth you do not lack, so that is exactly…
Mark: (laughing) That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me.
Brian: May it continue my friend. I thoroughly agree that if we’re continuing to look at the same things over and over and expecting a different result, then we are as insane as they say we are sometimes. And… oh yeah… And I’m as insane as anybody and I just catch the behavior and I look at it and what is it doing?
But, you know, with music even I think I heard. It was in a song by a band by the name of “Stick Figure.” and it’s like, they have a song called “The Weight of Sound.” And somebody asked me what kind of music… like, what does music do for me? Cause it influences things. And I’m like, “Dude, I look at music as I want to know what color and taste it is. And what is that weight that it’s doing? And what is the silence between things and what’s that pause? And what’s that… everything about it. And I was largely devoid of that until I decided to look into things like classical and expand where I go. And so it’s like, “What’s your favorite genre?” And it’s like phew… what’s my favorite band or favorite group or favorite composer in each genre. Because that’s pretty big.
Mark: Who gets it right? Yeah exactly.
yeah, I’m the same way. I don’t play favorites. I like quality, you know?
So, speaking of quality, you know, one of the things that I’ve been kind of like dancing around with these days is this whole “hacking” community. I even invested in Neuro-hacker Collective because I love their nootropic “Qualia” so much. And I’m friends with Dave Asprey from Bulletproof… but I’m also, you know, very wary of the notion that the “hack” is the same as the work, and it’s not. The hack and the tool is just a tool. It’s just a… it’s an augment. It’s something that’s hopefully going to make things easier, or accelerate your training or your growth. But it doesn’t substitute for work, or for rest for that matter. Or non-work. Effort and surrender.
But people mistake the hack for the work, don’t they? It seems like.
Brian: yes. I think, by and large, that’s what we see. And why we see the technology or even things like fitness trackers–and Phil can hammer on this as well. they by and large do not work. Every study, every bit of research that’s being done on these things is showing that they didn’t do anything yet. You have celebrity after celebrity touting them and talking about them because they’re being paid oodles of money and they’re using them. But they’re already active people, right?
And so, is it really changing these things? or is it, like, “What’s going on with my iPhone?’ Like am I on that thing all day long? And how is it helping me? And what am I doing as a result of it.
And the paradox about it all though, is that technology’s going to continue to evolve. And it’s going to accelerate. And it’s accelerating at a rate that we can’t keep up with. We cannot evolve with.
but my strong feeling–and Phil may or… will probably agree with this, is that if you cannot connect yourself back to what we’re naturally capable of doing. And how nature has provided. Then you’re not learning anything. And you’re not doing what you were actually hard-wired to do.
And it’s as simple as when I went… I’m about to go on another shark dive down at Guadalupe with Great Whites. And yeah, it’s going to be awesome. And I just found out that I actually got the pass…
the cool thing is I just got a pass to get out of the cage if I want to. Now I don’t know that that’s going to happen, but I have gone shark diving before. And I’ve been in the water with 30 or 40 sharks. And it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch this. And, you know, here’s an animal that could shred you to nothing and eat you quite fast. And especially in groups of 30 or 40. And, you know, they didn’t. And they didn’t because you behave in a specific manner, and you’re respectful, and you do things…
And I actually just did a post about this on Instagram. And I told the story, but it’s like… we’re actually hard-wired in that exact same way.
That’s interesting. Let’s pause there. So, to my knowledge, no Navy SEAL has ever been attacked by a shark. And as far as I can… using my deep, analytical skills I can tell that the reason for that must be that we energetically don’t fear them. And so we’re not drawing attention to ourselves. They’re not picking up whatever signals that they normally pick up. And predators go for the weak regardless of whether they’re strong like a shark. And so Navy SEALs doing their thing, they don’t look like mealtime for the shark.
What do you think about that?
Brian: Correct. Well, I’ll tell you what… so, part of that story is 2 of my buddies that were with me. They’ll remain nameless, but you know one of them. They started freaking out a little bit. And so what happened is we didn’t know they were freaking out. By looking at them. But the sharks did.
And the sharks’ movement behavior changed. It got erratic. It got erratic very quickly. And our guide, got everybody’s face out of the water and said, “Whoever… we need to calm down or we’re getting out of the water right now.” And my 2 buddies… the 2 buddies just basically went, “Hey, we’re kind of freaking out right now.”
Mark: (laughing) Do some box breathing, quick.
Brian: (laughing) “Sorry, that’s us.” And he’s like, “Look, we need to get out of the water, or you need to calm down. If you calm down, they calm down.” And they both calmed down and the sharks’ behavior–the erratic behavior–changed instantly.
And I was… that moment right there changed everything for me, in that we are so devoid of that stuff. We’re just so lost on all this stuff and it’s like… most people are like, “I wouldn’t even get in the water with that. I wouldn’t even do that because of my…”
And I’m like, “Why wouldn’t you want to experience that? To understand it?”
So that you just understand that that thing on your phone that’s telling you when you’re supposed to go train. Or when you’re not supposed to go train. Or your heart-rate monitor? Your heart-rate variability score? Like, you’re hard-wired to understand that. You don’t need that thing. But most people do in order to get back to understanding the connection to the feeling to what’s going on.
Mark: Yeah, everyone’s become so disassociated or disconnected from their body, that the technology can be useful to bring awareness back to things that they should be aware.
And I love that example of the heart-rate monitor for heart-rate variability. cause there’s no question that that’s useless for me. Like I wouldn’t even… it’d be silly for me to put one on, because I’m always paying attention to my breathing and my heart-rate and using that to maintain some physiological balance, especially when I start to feel a little bit out of balance. But that’s because I’ve been training for that and I’ve been aware of it for a long time as an endurance athlete just like you.
So, I think technology, like you said, can kind of show you the way. It’s like a trail-marker, right?
Brian: Yes sir. And that’s the way it’s designed to be used. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s being sold. So, what you’re getting is the same type of marketing. The same type of thinking. The same type of business mentality you have with things like big soda. Alcohol. Tobacco. There’s this marketing of things that it’s going to solve those issues versus, “Hey, there’s another way to do this.”
And I just think that we could be better at the way that we’re delivering these things.
Mark: Right. By the way, before we leave the shark story, you know? What we tell our SEALFIT students before we jump in the ocean and go on long swims. I said, “You know, the best way, guys, to survive a shark attack because you’re not trained like a Navy SEAL. ‘Oh my God! I need to know this!’ I say “well when the shark comes near you, pull out your knife, stab your buddy and swim like Hell.”
(laughing) And they just stare at me, like you gotta be…
Brian: I have–you know what’s funny? Is I have a guy… I have a buddy of mine who I’ve known for like, 15 years who I used to train. And he and his buddies signed up for Kokoro. And he like hit me up about it, and I’m like, “Buddy, I don’t know that you understand what it is that you just got involved in.”
And this guy does not like suffering at all.
Mark: Oh no. Uh-oh.
Brian: And I’m just like, “`Start doing some cold training. Start understanding breathing. And start getting prepared for understanding yourself on a very deep level my friend.”
Mark: Mm-hmm. that’s awesome. And that’s absolutely right. Kokoro really is a journey of self-discovery. It really has nothing to do with the physical training.
so, what’s the current research… You mentioned research is showing that the tech–and let’s also describe tech categories. I know you’ve got… there’s a lot of different tech that’s being used. I’ve got the Halo. And I actually have seen some results with it, and so we’re letting them be a sponsor for a while. I like the Halo.
The electrical stim. That’s a tech. But like the wearable devices such as the things you wear on your wrist and even though I have one of those Garmin Phoenix watches. I just don’t use any of the fitness tools, because I find them kind of useless like we talked about.
But what are the categories of the tech and kind of what’s the research say about them. For either of you guys.
Brian: Phil, wanna rock this one?
Phil: Sure, yeah. So, I mean, one of the big things that we really focused on in the book–and it’s not to pick on those guys–but is wearables. And one of our big influences in writing this was Adam Alter’s book, “Irresistible,” which is excellent. And he really gets into from a design standpoint. Brian just alluded to this a moment ago when he was talking about Big Soda and fast food marketing and this kind of thing. And how they create addiction.
Well, if you think that the tech companies are not trying to create some level of dependence or addiction, you’re probably mistaken on that. And so, this is a very intentional design thing both from a hardware and software standpoint. And now we didn’t just want to copy and paste what Adam talks about in “Irresistible,” but that is definitely one of the factors. You’re not just having wearables, but this horrible side-term of “hearables.” So you’re starting to see these sunglasses now with earbuds on them. And it’s using certain things from the sunglasses where it’s connected to your head, essentially, to… Whether it’s skin temperature or whatever it might be–to gauge certain measurements about what’s going on in your physiology. And then to provide training advice on the spot. And so they do have some… “What is your goal?” And companion software and companion apps and this kind of thing where they try to individualize a little bit based on what you want your outcome to be.
But then also, it’s literally telling you when to speed up and when to slow down in the moment…
Mark: Hmm. That sounds very distracting, by the way.
Phil: Yeah, exactly. And that’s one of our points in the book is if you’re going to be mapping your run, that’s great. but just look at it afterwards so that you can actually be fully present. As if we need one area of our lives where contactable… that we’re enabling an intrusion to get in our headspace and distract us and pull us out of the moment.
And so… yeah, really. They’re looking at not just these visual elements anymore, but also the other senses. And so, as I said, hearing. The sense of comprehending sound is one. and then you also get the little “ding” if you reach a certain milestone and so it’s really an assault on all our senses.
One factor isn’t everything
And so, one of the things that Andy brought to the table and really helped me with, and helped Brian with in our thought process was saying that, you know, we take 1 or 2 markers in the body and we try to make that everything.
Even though on the surface–at a cognitive level–we may know that the body is not just one system, but a system of systems and that there are hundreds or possibly thousands of markers within each system. And then those are tied into hundreds or thousands within another system.
And so in trying to take one marker, say heart-rate–at the basic level–and make that everything. Or heart-rate variability. And try to make that everything about recovery. Is a dangerous game. And it’s really… it’s reductionist in one sense, but then spinning out the other way, it’s trying to take something that cannot be reduced and make it the be all and end all.
Mark: Extrapolative. We’ll just coin that right there. That’s wild. Okay.
So, what are some of the devices, though, again? So let me… cause I’m not a device guy. I know about some of the wrist-worn stuff. So we’ve got the heart-rate. We’ve got the wrist stuff. Which is going to measure your heart-rate…
Brian: Calorie counters. You’ve got your step counters.
Mark: Okay. So like when someone wears a… what’s the device that counts…? Everyone’s doing the 10,000-step challenge…
Brian: I think that’s like a Fitbit. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Phil: And that new one, Mark. I saw the other day–not to pick on one company–but claims that it has an on-board blood oxygen sensor. Which I can maybe antagonize Brian with that, and let him run with that from there. But it’s starting to say that it’s going to use this… The marketing piece I saw was saying that it could help you identify sleep apnea. and I’m not sure what it’s going to tell you if you’re training, but Brian, you’d be better able to speak to that measurement there.
Brian: Yeah, well, I mean, this kind of moves more into the work of like what you’ve done over the years, Mark, as well. Even with breath-work and how we want to stabilize blood oxygen levels in a positive place. And it’s not necessarily oxygen is why we breathe, but it becomes CO2 is the culprit in why we breath.
And so having an intolerance to something like that develops into an over-breathing rate, or a high respiration rate. Which, in turn, is more or less chronic hyperventilation which can have a long-term effect.
And so, the problem with this is where we start to monitor. You see pulse oximeters and blood oxygen monitors in hospitals a lot. And it’s because they’re trying to monitor… they want to know if somebody’s oxygen levels are depleting. And by and large, 55% blood oxygen level means you’re basically brain-dead. Because your brain’s not getting enough oxygen. And so, looking at these things… unless you’ve got some of the highest level stuff out there. Which is going to cost in excess of thousands of dollars. None of these things are accurate. And I’ve got ones that cost upwards of $300.
And they’re being used in places that are very easy to get to. Meaning your index finger and so with light you can pick up on what’s going on. And they’re doing a lot of things with light, now. But the idea is that they can tell what’s going on and if you’re actually becoming… if you get into sleep apnea, things like that, blood oxygen levels tend to drop. And so, you can have major problems, right?
Well it would be picking up on something like that. But how accurate are these things? And the problem is most of them are highly inaccurate. But we’re touting them as be-all, end-all versus actually understanding what we feel like and how that’s happening. And let’s just use, for instance, breathing is one of these things. Because that was actually one of the things I used with Kelly. I prepared Kelly a couple of years ago for a Molokai to Oahu crossing. So, paddling.
And he got a… one of these companies sent him a heart-rate variability monitor. And one day he told me… he was like, “Hey, dude. Heart-rate variability score is saying I shouldn’t train.” a
And so I gave him a breathing protocol. And I said, “Go try the thing now.” And he came back and he was flipping his lid. And he’s like, “Dude. It says I’m greenlighted. I can train. What just happened?”
And I said, “Well, one we just rewired your nervous system, cause breathing’s a remote control to the brain and the nervous system. So we took you from more of a sympathetic state down to a parasympathetic state.
And the unfortunately, heart-rate variability cannot account for the breathing and the alteration of the nervous system. All it can account for is variability between beats of the heart. And so what we’ve got now is somebody who’s actually calmed down, ready to go, and is ready to go.
Mark: that’s interesting. Can we pause it there? That reminds me of someone sent me… the company sent me something called an Aura. it’s a ring. And so, I was like, “I’m going to try this out.” So, it’s supposed to be tracking my sleep and aaah that didn’t seem real accurate but I was willing to take it at face value.
but then it was tracking my movement. And I was like, “well”… and giving me the most they said the most important data point was my readiness to train. Which is kind of what you’re talking about with Kelly. And I said, I said to the owner of the company a couple weeks after I tried this thing. I said, “Well, you know the problem with this is that when I train, I’m not taking steps. You know what I mean? |I’m doing pullups. I’m doing burpees. I’m doing kettlebell swings. I’m rowing. I’m not taking steps. So, this doesn’t accurately pick up my training intensity and so therefore the calculation when combined with sleep is completely off for my readiness.
And so I said, “this is really only useful then, what you’re saying, is for someone who walks a lot. Or maybe jogs.” And he never responded to me. it was “chirp, chirp, chirp.”
I’m like, ‘Okay.” And I gave the ring to someone else. And I said, “done.’
I’m sure it’s got some value and I don’t mean to ding those guys on this podcast…
Brian: No. And I actually don’t think you are. it’s unfortunate that you build something and you can’t have critical thinking centered around it. And that’s the unfortunate part. And I unfortunately… well fortunately for me, I’ve learned to accept that as part of the process. And so if I get a complaint or I get something from somebody that I may not like at first, it’s an instantaneous, “let me look at this a little deeper.”
So I think you’re spot on. And this is part of the problem is that they think that they’ve got something that’s going to solve people solutions. but the reality is is it’s not. And they really know that. And it’s not the answer. but the big money, unfortunately, falls into the data collection. And that’s what’s the real issue becomes. And so it’s, “well what are you doing with the data? And how are you doing it? Oh, you’re going to sell that for millions?”
It’s like I agreed to that…
Some Technology, but not too much…
Mark: I do think some promising tech is in the realm of neurostim. So that’s where the results with the Halo–they have actually been proven and they’re being used by some sports teams. Where you’re stimulating the movement center of your brain, you’re going to get a neuroplastic spillover effect. so that seems promising.
The other one I’m using right now is called a “Chill pad” or a chilly pad which helps regulate my body temp while I sleep. So literally, those two are the only 2 devices that I’m using right now. other than that–ice bath, breathing techniques, sleep. Walking in nature. Yoga. These things have all… the things that essentially the human body was designed to do for recovery and for preparation for a performance moment. Really the most beneficial ones have nothing to do with tech. As far as I can tell, right now. Now AI, and AR and VR might change that someday…
Brian: Yes. I largely agree and I actually think that things like the Aura and even whatever the WHOOP… I have all of these things. Unfortunately. And I spend the money. I spend it to understand it and to see what I can connect and figure out with it. And then it’s “okay. I got that mapped.”
And you’re kinda… you’re saving money in a large way…
Mark: (laughing) Well, I’m letting you do the work for me. You spend the money
Brian: Maybe, you know, but I’ll tell you what. What’s interesting is a lot of the tech is understanding the breathing in a way that I don’t know if too many people have really investigated. And now that we’re there, it’s “Holy crud.” It’s become this, “Oh, you mean doing just something like Wim Hof isn’t going to solve everybody’s issues? Or doing something like Pranayama isn’t going to solve… or just Box Breathing isn’t going to solve everybody’s issues.” And it’s like, “wow, there’s not one program that fits all.” Kind of like training. And you know it’s…
Mark: It’s very personalized. It’s interesting you said that because I’ve always believed that about training, and I know you have as well. And now I released a program called Kokoro Yoga last year. With a book by that name. That actually TJ did help me with. So we have that in common. He’s a good support guy when it comes to writing books. And I like how he spices up my language a little bit.
Anyways… that’s a sidebar. So the idea around it is that… and first of all I look at yoga just as personal practice for evolution. Right? it has nothing to do with sweating in spandex pants. or group exercise class. Which has been kind of conflated to here in the West.
So the idea is that we’re going to evolve ourselves. and we’re going to use that evolution for performance. As athletes. for survivability as warriors. Or generally speaking, to feel more content and at peace. More connected as human beings.
And everybody’s different. And so, the movement, the breath, the concentration, the visualization and the mindfulness or meditation that we use on any particular day will really depend upon where we are in that day. And where we are in our lives. So, what we use as an 18-year-old is going to be different than a 50-year-old. What we use in the spring is going to be different than in the fall. What we use in the morning is going to be different than the evening. and what we use in preparation for a hundred-mile run is going to be different than what we’d use in preparation for the CrossFit games. And so it’s very personalized. And that’s kind of new to people.
Brian: Yes. I could not agree with that more. yup.
Mark: Interesting. But it takes a little bit of wisdom and training to figure out how to personalize it. And that’s where the rub comes. And that’s why people need coaches.
Brian: Exactly. and that’s what… I think that’s the learning process as well too. I went and spoke a couple hours ago at the Deschutes county mental health place, because they deal a lot with… it’s the mental health place, and they’re dealing with a lot of the poorer places around the area of where we live, which are quite poor. Like, I’ve never really seen poor like this. I mean, people living in the middle of nowhere in trailers that are destroyed and they can’t feed people. And they deal with all this stuff, and we went through a lot of the principles of breath-work. and just based around position, inhale, exhales… what’s doing what? what’s sympathetic? what’s parasympathetic? and how it works and how it doesn’t. And they’re like, you know, “okay, so what do we give people?” and it’s like… This where being an artist and being somebody who wants to learn comes in. and this is where you… even technology to a large degree plays a role. Like, what do you want to understand and then are you willing to share that with people? So that others can understand and make sense of things and we can progress as a species.
and that’s unfortunately the problem I see within the hack world. Is it becomes a “hack” or a way to go around something. And you’re no more equipped with nature and so when a hurricane hits its like, “My God. What do we do?”
And its like, “well, look. We got a city, one of the largest in the world that’s set up in a flood plain. what did we believe was going to happen?” and just because 15, 20, 30 years went by without anything happening.
And it’s terrible. I’m not trying to say what’s going on. But we don’t… indigenous cultures had this stuff mapped out, man. Native American women…
Mark: I know. It’s insane isn’t it? Back to the comment about insanity. we’re deviating away from training, but the point is that training effectively helps you think better. That’s really been kind of what my drum beat over the last few years. if you want to use the training in an integrative manner, so ultimately, you’re thinking better. you’re making better decisions. Because Gosh, it seems like as a… Western society at least. It’s probably global. We’ve really forgotten how to think well. Our thinking is very reactionary. our thinking is very short-term. our thinking is really screwing up the environment and you know… It’s starting to rear its ugly head right now. And we’re seeing that in places like Houston and desertification and mass migration caused by human intervention into the environment. So that’s really short-term and individualistic and disconnected thinking. So, I think humanity needs to start breathing. I don’t care if it’s box breathing or Wim Hof, when you start breathing, you’re affecting your consciousness. and you’re evolving it. Cause you’re opening up areas of your brain. and you’re connecting to your heart. And basically, that’s when you begin the process of integrating into what I call your “whole mind.” And that’s what Kokoro means. Whole Mind.
And you’re able to make decisions that are for the betterment of all humans and not just your pocketbook or winning the game.
Brian: Yeah. As a good friend of mine says–he’s an engineer–and he’s like, “all the good shit is in the rear-view mirror. and all this stuff–yoga, you’re talking about just the way people breath. And they don’t. Indigenous cultures had this mapped out. I’ve read books that go back almost over a hundred years, and they talk about how indigenous cultures didn’t do mouth breathing. (laughing) They just breathed through the nose. And how they were afraid of this stuff…
Mark: They also knew how to run. Because they were running barefoot…
Brian: (laughing) yes. because they had to. Right?
Phil: And I think a lot of it, Mark, is we chase complexity. Like we have this mistaken view that in order to solve something that we’ve let become a complex problem. For example, one of the things that Brian and I are diving into with Rob Wilson is just the effect of always being switched on. And one of those populations is veterans. Former Special Forces who have been medically discharged who are dealing with TBIs and with PTSD as well.
And one gentleman told me the other day that he had over 50 distinct symptoms. And it made him into the kind of father he didn’t want to be. The kind of husband he didn’t want to be. The kind of human he didn’t want to be.
So, in recognizing that he had 2 ways to go and one was a way that was going to destroy himself and destroy his family. Or 2, was to get off these 13, 14 medications which were muting some symptoms while exaggerating others.
And he chose the correct path. and one of the tools in the toolbox… he talked about this concept of avoiding complexity and needing to go back to simplicity. And some of the most elemental things about his existence and just life in general. and as he said, there is nothing more elemental or fundamental, or simple than breath. And yet we take 15, 16, 20,000 breaths a day. Were you aware of even a single one? And if not, what is the effects of that, and so, you know, we… the effects of this Helter-skelter existence… this always on, always contactable fear of missing out. “Buy this fitness tracker, and you’ll never miss another text or email or phone call again.” Well, maybe if you’re out paddling or swimming you might actually want to. or running, you know. Maybe we should be embracing fear of missing out.
But I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of these technological solutions are trying to use complexity to lure us in. and, oh yeah, these algorithms dreamed up by these geniuses in Silicon Valley. and in doing so, we’re making the miners into the major and we’re obsessing over these marginal gains and seeing them as little speed-bumps maybe, in the road. And all the while we’re falling down into these giant sinkholes. whether it’s a lack of breath awareness. You’re eating like crap. You’re not recovering well. You’re not sleeping well. You’re not moving enough.
And so, really, I think what we’re saying is that if technology can be used to connect the dots as Brian said. To cue you in a way that you’re able to return to simplicity and you’re able to start reconnecting to your own instincts in a very simple and elemental way. and then also if you’re able to put yourself in the novel and complex environment. and, you know, Stephen Kotler and what he says in the book that he can drop himself into a pretty good flow state just by taking his dogs for a walk every morning. And you mentioned walking in nature. My level “commute” in quotes is a 30 minute each way to the coffee shop every day. And just the novelty and complexity that presents–even if you’re walking the same path every day–again ties into something very elemental in us. and something very simple that we often lose when we’re wired up to all these different devices and we’re actively seeking out complexity.
Mark: Right. No, I agree with that 100%. And one of the themes that I’ve been playing with and my friend captain Bob Schoultz is the one who coined it, but it’s this idea of finding simplicity on the other side of complexity. cause we’re not going to get rid of complexity. but focusing it and trying to chase every shiny little toy and every shiny idea that comes along is a recipe for disaster. And so, to boil it down… it’s like, I’m sure Brian and I could… If I said, ‘Brian, in 20 words describe the theory of training.” It would be spot on. And Glassman did that and a hundred words, you know? Where he covered training and nutrition. But the reality is constant variance, functional movement, high intensity. Was a brilliant formula for training. Not all types of training, but for certainly metabolic conditioning.
And eat nuts and berries, eat close to the earth, eat whole foods, eat less than you’re told. Intermittently fast. And eat more fat than they tell you to eat. That’s probably like. that’s my prescription for eating well, you know what I mean?
So, simplicity on the other side of complexity is to not get stuck into the drama and into the marketing hype. and just listening to your body, and listening to the sages, like Brian.
Brian: Brian and Mark.
Mark: (laughing) Thank you. I wasn’t going to…
Brian: You be as humble as you want, but I’m going to bring it back to you. (laughing)
Mark: (laughing) All right, guys. We’ve been going for an hour. I appreciate your time. I do want to ask you, Phil. What was the biggest thing you learned in writing “Game Changer.” Cause we do a lot of team development at SEALFIT and I’m just curious. What was the biggest insight that you got out of writing that with Dr. Connelly?
Phil: So now you’re asking me to condense a 193,000 words into 12?
Mark:(laughing) I’m asking you to find simplicity on the other side of the complexity.
Phil: I think really… so here’s what it is. In working with Special Operators both in the UK and the US. he’s a good trusty Irishman is My co-author, Dr. Fergus Connelly. and in working with sports teams in almost every major field and sport in the world. both in the UK and Australia and the US, Fergus really… he came up with a couple of different models. And the most impactful to me was what we were initially calling the TTPP model, or the four co-active model. And his point here is that we… the more elite you get in team preparation–whether that’s in the military or in team sports–the more we focus on the physical. it’s physical, physical, physical. we need to get bigger. we need to get stronger. We need to get faster. We need to improve our endurance.
And one of his central tenets is that in… whatever game day means for you, in addition to expressing physical qualities you are simultaneously expressing those that are psychological. Those that are technical. And those that are tactical. And all of those are being expressed–if you’re doing it correctly. to drive the team towards the commander’s intent. And everything else is meant to be subservient.
And really, he started to look at some examples say in American Football. Wrong kind of football for me. Wrong shaped ball, etc. soccer. whatever you want to call it.
And he looked at somebody like Peyton Manning and… or even Tom Brady that obviously, famously the last draft pick. And what he found that longevity… your physical qualities may get you into the game at the highest level, but if you are to have longevity, you’ve got to have something else in the tank. You’ve got to have these technical… you’ve got to stay in the game long enough to develop technical and tactical awareness and the psychological fortitude to perform at the highest level over and over again.
And really, we were initially going to call the book “Game Day” because his approach in saying we need to evaluate teams and players through each of these 4 lenses using Game Day and then working backwards from there to identify limiting factors in each of those 4 areas. And strengths. and finding a way to minimize the negative impact of those limiting factors while developing the strengths. And then creating teaching and learning experiences where athletes have to problem solve. or tactical athletes have to problem-solve.
You want to get them to a certain outcome, but all you do is design the drills. And let them go from there. And in doing so you’re trying to develop not only the physical but also the psychological, the technical and the tactical elements that are needed to win the day. for whatever game day means for you.
Mark: That’s cool. that was more than 12 words by the way.
Phil: Oh, I know. You know I go long. if you can write 193,000 word book, you know I’m going to go long, Mark.
Mark: But that reminds me, as you were talking I was mapping it to our integral 4 quadrant model, and I’m like, “Yeah.” The teams must develop and be aware of the “I” sphere–which is psycho-emotional, individual player and then the “we’ sphere, which is where the morphogenic field, which is aligned around vision and intent. what you called “commander’s intent.” Which comes from the military.
And that “it” sphere is that objective tech and individual body aspects, and then the “its” plural is the inter-objective, systemic tactical and systemic aspect. And they don’t co-arise simultaneously. And as a coach or a trainer, you’ve got to pay attention to all 4 of those. It sounds to me like that’s another way of explaining what you just said. And I did it in fewer than 175 words.
Phil: It was very impressive. and I think Fergus would do a much better job of explaining it than I would. I’m just the scribe, right, Brian? just the written words guy.
mark: That’s awesome. Well done. I can’t wait to read “Game Changer.” I can’t wait to read “Unplugged.” And so, I’m going to have to go out and get me a copy.
And that would be really cool, so there you go. And where can folks learn more about Brian, what you’re up to. Besides the book.
And then powerspeedendurance.com is our website. So, everything we do including the seminars stuff like that on the breath-work and all that, all exists within Power Speed Endurance.
Mark: Yeah. got it.
And how about you Phil?
Phil: Yeah, just social as well which is ironic isn’t it? Writing a book called “Unplugged” and then saying, “Yeah. Pull up your device again.” But pretty much everything /philwhitebooks. And then philwhitebooks.com.
Mark: Okay. awesome. thanks so much for your time. Brian, look me up when you come down here. Love to get together and chat.
Brian: Yeah, absolutely.
Mark: And I’ll do the same if I make it up that way. Same thing, Phil.
All right everyone. Go check out “Unplugged” and also “Game Changer.” I think they’re both going to be game changers. and check out Brian and Phil online. If you want support with your writing, check out Phil. if you want support for your training for Speed and endurance and power, check out Brian. These guys are awesome.
And until next time, stay focused, breath develop that Unbeatable Mind. And then go out and do something good with it.