Lifestyle change. Capital letters. I am tired of constantly struggling with food choices, and wading through the slew of false information out there as to what is best for you, good for you, fat free etc. I can say that in many regards I am as confused as my stomach feels after a normal meal.
In other aspects of my life and training, things are definitely improving. I am hitting some of my own personal training goals, bringing in more and more kettlebell practitioners, and keeping a pretty good balance between work and down time. I stopped drinking alcohol 2 months ago, and I can say that I feel differently because of it. But I really wish that I could get more of a peace of mind from what I eat.
Now I want my regular food intake to support me in a cogent way, hence I have been edging slowly over the last few months towards the Paleo lifestyle.
Don’t know what it is? Have a look in my links bar and take your pick 🙂
Lets just say I am sticking my toes into the water right now and seeing how I feel, reading up differing approaches to emulating a paleo lifestyle in the modern world, and then brainstorming on how I can support that lifestyle change here in urban jungle Tokyo.
To others who might be considering a similar move in the near future, here is a great piece by the recently retired blogger Methuselah of Pay Now, Live Later who pretty much nails many peoples pet fears and misunderstandings about changing what they eat to a Paleo system and how to get there gradually.
Its going to means saying goodbye to grains and sugars for a start. But if it means I am going to look and feel healthier, so be it.
Gotta get back to study.
Having had a few months off, albeit unwillingly, I am back on track with my fitness regimen, but I also realize that more than anything, its about balancing the different parts of my lifestyle to support each other, which is easier said than done as many of you know.
Realizing too that all these personal fitness goals revolve symbiotically with a 9-5 work lifestyle, which is the financial fuel which fires the sustaining my own fitness goals. You have to pay the bills too…
Diet and rest are key components here- letting the body rebuild itself in peace after a good workout, and not getting in the way of my own development. Also, maintaining good flexibility with the higher workloads is important lest I step towards bad form, leading myself to injury.
Making sure that my daily lifestyle also doesnt get in the way of letting me achieve my goals is an important one- getting to sleep at a regular time, eating enough and with the right frequency, seriously paying attention to stress and the effect that it has on my daily life, and doing all the things that I need to take care of me; exercise, time with my partner, walking the dog, meditation etc
I am excited, and daunted by the prospect of what the next few months can provide if I maintain both my focus and my health. The key for me in all this is in training hard and fast (sensibly), with plenty of rest and good nutrition in between. More so, the ability to really listen to what my body is telling me from day to day and catch any early warning signs that I might be doing too much, or the times when I can push it a little harder.
Recovery is critical- the ability of the body to recharge after a burst of energy, how long that takes, how many days I can sustain that type of activity before I need a rest, all these things again, in balance with each other. Supplements definitely help in a big way.
I am lucky to be able to have an expert like Steve Cotter to talk to, who is willing to give me the time to talk about my own goals and help me develop a solid regimen. When you see the workload that man puts out each week, its easy to get inspired!
All in all, make sure you set some targets for yourself over the coming cool months,no matter how little or large they may be, and prepare your life accordingly to facilitate your success. The rest is up to you!
We all need personal goals. Without them, it makes our day to day activities seem without reason or purpose.
For me at the moment, still coming back into serious training after four months off earlier this year, it boils down to one word- rebuild.
The thing about kettlebells is just that- its not just about kettlebells. The more I learn how to be a good proponent of the sport, the more I learn about taking care of the whole. Its about a much more holistic approach to taking care of my body and making sure that it can perform at optimum levels. Let me explain.
Building a stronger body is not going to help me if my postural alignment is all out of whack.
Just training with the bells doesn’t ensure that my body is ready to work. At 45, I need to consider my posture, warm-up, precise performance of technique, breathing, ramping my workload over time, and building my body back up for GS style Long Cycle kb work. That some muscles are at present weak in relation to others, and I am actually looking for all round performance, so that means creating balance.
If it seems like a challenge, it is.
And it doesnt end there. I need the right kinds of food in my body, to be sure that I am getting all the nutrients I need and in appropriate levels. That I am getting enough sleep. That I get a rest day in there when I need it. That variety lays a part of what I do as well.
Challenge? Its an exciting time.
Well, nothing they said was really that surprising, considering the profusion of overweight people in our societies around the world today.
Even in Japan, where the myth that somehow the Japanese diet helped keep people slim is starting to show signs of cracking as the Japanese start to fill out like many of their western trade partners.
Hmm…food for thought?
All puns aside, have a read and a good think about your own diet, and what you can do to make it a bit healthier…
Well, they have finally proven that it is true. Drinking water before a meal significantly helps you not gain extra inches in the waist line.
Its such a simple solution, and one that you should try out for yourself.
Our modern day lifestyles aren’t really conducive to getting our recommended daily intake. Add that on top of our already sluggish metabolisms and dysfunctional digestive systems…and you get the picture.
Why not give this a shot yourself?
Kb friends and all,
Especially in this hottest July on record, whatever sport you are doing- keep yourself well watered and away from any form of dehydration. Not only is it dangerous to be functioning at high performance levels without sufficient water, its just downright silly to do. So don’t!
Here in Tokyo, the sweat is pouring off after just a few minutes of regular exercise. If you feel yourself getting a bit feint during your regular workout, perhaps tone things down a notch if necessary, or take more breaks and keep on the water a little at a time. Make sure you prep yourself well before the workout as well- plenty of fluids, dont overeat, and give your body the chance to perform under these at times extreme conditions.
Whatever you are doing, whether its going out for an all day hike, a shop fest or tennis with friends, get enough water!
Most of all- have fun, but be safe and smart.
Mike Mahler is one of the top level figures in the international kettlebell and fitness community today, and a man whose name and reputation loom larger than life. Known and admired for his straight talking, no-nonsense approach to personal development and physical fitness, he is one of those modern day personalities that lead by embodying the essence and veracity of their own teachings. I recently had the chance to ask Mike a few in-depth questions about his own path as a sportsman, the development of his business Aggressive Strength , his ongoing research and study into the field of hormone optimization, and the trials and tribulations of his own personal journey. Here is a rare insight into a remarkable man.
GKJ- Hi Mike, thanks for taking some time out for us at Gaijin Kettlebell Japan. As you probably know, although kettlebells are still very much an unknown quantity here in Japan and still in the early days, you are quite well known. Your name, your books and dvd’s pop up on Amazon.jp and the Japanese internet regularly. How is your own kettlebell practice progressing? What other forms of exercise do you use to supplement your personal physical development?
Thanks for doing the interview. My kettlebell training business has come a long way. I went through Pavel Tsatsouline’s RKC course in early 2002 and started my kettlebell training business full time in May of 2002. My very first workshop in Northern Virginia had eight people. Now there are probably hundreds of people doing kettlebell workshops all over the US and all over the world. There are several certification options now and more kettlebell information than ever before.
The first few years of my business were very difficult. Very few people even owned kettlebells and it was not something that people were either familiar with or cared about. I kept pushing hard and in 2005 my business hit a critical mass and my income tripled. Workshops started filling up fast all over the country and my DVD’s started to sell really well. I pushed hard for the next few years doing tons of workshops and producing several Kettlebell DVD’s.
Regarding my own training, from 2001 to 2006 kettebell training was my primary source of working out. I used other tools as a supplement such as clubbells, resistance bands, body weight drills, but kettlebells were the primary focus. In 2006 my wife and I moved to Las Vegas. Going from an apartment to a big house allowed me to set up a nice home gym and add some variety to my workouts. Now I use kettlebells in addition to thick barbell training, trapbar for deadlifts, I have a pull-up station for pull-ups, chin-ups, and hanging leg raises. I also cycle in clubbells, power rings, resistance bands, sledgehammer training, and battling rope work. Finally, I like to do some 2-3 mile walks a few times a week with a 106lb weight vest. My goals are more strength, power, and conditioning these days and I like to have a fair amount of variety to keep things enjoyable.
GKJ- Your work now with Aggressive Strength expands to cover a wide range of topics and disciplines. What is it you look for in a topic of study to expand your base of knowledge?
I look at real strength as much more than how much weight you can lift or how fast you can run. Being in great physical shape is no doubt important and a critical component of being strong and fit. However, I like to encourage people to take what they learn from training and carry it over to other aspects of life. Be a better person. Be more assertive and pursue the life you want, rather than settling and just coasting through life. Being strong in the gym but weak everywhere else is not real strength.
I like studying things that improve the quality of one’s life. This is what led me to the field of hormone optimization as you are only as healthy as your hormones. If you do not optimize all the major hormones: insulin, growth hormone, DHEA, Testosterone, DHT, androstendione, progesterone, estrogen, thyroid hormones, glycogen etc you can forget about being your best and enjoying life fully.
GKJ- Recently, you released some very interesting work on hormone optimization for health and well being. What brought this about? As an athlete and trainer that is getting older, does this type of issue become more and more important to you? In a nutshell, what advice do you give people who approach you with these kinds of questions? How much of this is really a “science” ?
Often we study things that are self serving and then we realize that other people can benefit from the information. This is why it is important to share our stories in life as many can benefit from our personal journeys.
This is the case with my devotion to learning about hormone optimization. I went through some stressful periods during the first few years of my training business. In addition to financial stress, I was dealing with personal stress on many levels, which eventually resulted in a severe case of pneumonia. I almost died from this and by the time I had medical treatment they had to pull 40 liters of fluid out of my lungs. I realized full well where an overload of stress will take you.
Stress literally kills and ironically many people are addicted to stress. Stress causes the hormone cortisol to rise and an increase in cortisol activates the fight-flight mechanism which makes us very alert. Many people are actually addicted to this state and that is why they crave stress. Stress makes them feel important and alive. Some level of stress is no doubt important as we do not grow and feel enthusiastic when everything is easy. However, too much stress kills healthy hormone production and places you in an accelerated aging state. If your cortisol goes up and stays up for too long you will eventually crash hard.
When I was going through high stress I was literally in an andropause state. This is what many men experience when they are in their 50s. However, I was only 29 at the time. My sex drive was non-existent, my sleep was off, my workout recovery was declining, and my overall zeal for life was low. I was getting depressed often even though I was doing the line of work that I always wanted to do.
I just did not want to live life this way and started studying endocrinology. The more I studied the more I realized the strong connection between optimal hormone levels and overall well being. When your hormones are healthy, you are healthy. When your hormones are optimal you have a feeling of being able to take charge of the world. Your sex drive is high, your mood is great, your strength is solid, and you sleep well every night. This is where I am now and have been for several years. My hormones levels are great and I feel strong, energetic, and excited about life.
When people come to me asking me advice on optimizing hormones, I tell them that they need to get detailed blood work to see where they are at. If someone does not have blood work then I am not willing to offer any advice. It is like someone saying they want to add 50lbs to their bench press when they have never bench pressed before. How I am supposed to help them if I do not know where they are?
Regardless, some basic information that helps with hormone optimization is:
- You must get 8 hours of deep sleep every night. Deep sleep meaning no tossing and turning and sleep where you dream vividly. Without adequate sleep you will not produce growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, and all of the other important hormones. Sleep lowers cortisol and increases Melatonin. It is the ultimate anti-aging practice.
- Eat organic at least 90% of the time. 100% is even better. If you eat meat or any animal products (dairy-eggs) you must eat 100% organic. Meat, dairy, and eggs that are not 100% organic are loaded with hormone disrupting chemicals. They are loaded with chemical estrogens with disastrous effects. Look at the way animals are treated on factory farms and do not have the illusion that consuming factory farmed meat is even remotely healthy. Even if you could care less about the animal’s welfare at least show some respect for your own body and health and feed it only the best. Develop a relationship with a local farmer and get all of your meat, eggs, and dairy there. This is much cheaper than getting organic meat and dairy at the supermarket. However, it is worth paying the extra money for your health. What you spend now will save you money later on expensive medical bills. I tell people that if they are not willing to invest in high quality food then I am not willing to help them with hormone optimization as clearly they do not care. Don’t expect me to think about how to help them all day when they are not even willing to do the basics to help themselves.
- Have a balance of protein, fat, carbs at every meal. Barry Sear’s The Zone (30% fat, 30% protein, 40% carbs) is a good place to start. This keeps Insulin stable and a good amount of healthy fat is required for adequate hormone production.
- Do high intensity training 3x per week such as sprinting, sledgehammer striking, circuit training. This kind of training ramps up growth hormone and helps keep body fat low. When you are fat you have more estrogen receptors which lowers testosterone.
- Don’t drink beer. Beer is loaded with hops which is highly estrogenic. At least look for old Scottish Ale which is made with “gruit” instead of hops.
- Work on stress management. Meditation, chi-kung, tai-chi, yoga are all great ways to handle stress.
- Take magnesium lotion twice per day. Magnesium is a critical mineral for optimal hormone production. The lotion is a more efficient delivery system than tablets or powder. Rub on 2 teaspoons twice per day. Works very well to increase DHEA. The brand I use is Dr Shealy’s Magnesium lotion: http://www.springvalleyherbs.com/catalog/item/2872
Also make sure to take 30mg of Zinc Citrate daily. Zinc is critical for testosterone production and also helps block the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
Beyond the above, I only work with my online clients for personalized hormone optimization advice. I have spend too many years and dollars studying this field and I am not willing to offer more free advice. People can also learn more from the Collision Course DVD set which contains a hormone lecture and comes with a hormone optimization e-book.
GKJ. You have an upcoming book: Live life aggressively: what self-help gurus don’t want you to know. What is the book about?
It is basically a protest to all of the self help books out there now. It is a more brutal and in your face approach to how to take charge of your life. I am tired of moronic advice such as attitude is everything and fake it until you make it. I am tired of the focus on positive thinking and sayings such as everything happens for a reason. Thus, I am basically putting down some very straight forward information on what you must do to take charge of your life and be successful and why the advice that many self-help gurus espouse is flawed and ineffective. People are loving the information that I put out in my online magazine and the book will be in the same vain.
GKJ- One great thing about you Mike is that you do a lot of collaborative seminars and projects with other sports and training personalities, sharing your own knowledge and making the joint project stronger because of it. Do you see value in collaborative projects such as these?
Collaborating with the right people is powerful. It gives people much broader and more comprehensive information. In 2008 I decided to stop doing kettlebell beginner workshops to focus on other interests and put on more progressive and innovative workshops. For example, last year I put on a big 2-day workshop called “Collision course” which covered battling ropes, strongman training, body weight training, and kettlebell training. This year I am putting on a course called “Kettlebell Training In the Age Of Quarrell.” It will be a three day course that covers all of the many ways to use kettlebells effectively. The course has an incredible line-up: Steve Cotter, Ken Blackburn, Jason Dolby, Andrew Durniat, and myself. It is going to be a three day course that breaks through all of the confusion on how to use kettlebells effectively for a variety of goals. It is going to be an incredible course.
GKJ. Well Mike, this has been a rare glimpse inside for many of us, and you have certainly given us plenty to think about. What is the future for you? Where do you see yourself in ten years? What would you like to have achieved?
Thanks and I do not look at life that way. There is no point planning on where I will be in ten years now as that is too far out. Instead I trust my abilities and work ethic and do not worry about where I will be. I know what I am capable of and what sacrifices I am prepared to make to keep growing as a human being. Focus on the moment and apply myself now and the future will take care of itself. Achievements, while important, are also illusory. Achieving goals is often anti-climatic as put people put off living now for some hopefully future happiness. Work hard and achieve goals but learn to enjoy the process where ever possible. Be serious about your goals but do not take yourself too seriously. As the Hindu Text The Bhagavad Gita states you have a right to your actions but not the results of your actions. Make your actions count.
With regards to this year I will have my book completed and I am looking forward to having a great course with the all star Age of Quarrell line up which will in turn be filmed for another information packed DVD set.
Thanks Mark for taking the time to do the interview.
All of us today, living what we call the modern lifestyle, struggle with daily food choices and long-term nutrition. Everywhere we turn, we are constantly being told what is good for us, what we need, and yet a quick assessment of the health and longevity of the society we live in will tell us quite frankly that, as a whole, we are making many of the wrong choices.
Obesity is on the rise globally, most frighteningly amongst our children, and as our society ages many adults will be struck with increasing mobility issues, digestive system breakdowns and rapidly failing health. Much of the blame lies in the food we eat every day.
So, what are the right choices? How do we navigate through our weekly food choices and come out long term winners for both ourselves and our families? How can we support our active lifestyles with a balanced and healthy food intake?
One shining light with cogent answers to these problems is Mark Sisson, whose long term practical studies have educated millions and new book, The Primal Blueprint ,was released this year. He is one of the world’s leading proponents of an alternative, realistic and achievable lifestyle that has taken the fitness world by storm. Coming from a background as a top level athlete and having served for 15 years as the anti-doping and drug-testing chairman of the International Triathlon Union, Mark embodies everything he knows and believes within his own pragmatic lifestyle.
I spoke with Mark regarding his work and how he incorporates what he teachers within his own lifestyle. Here is a brief look at an extremely intriguing man and dynamic personality.
GKJ- Thanks Mark for taking time off your busy schedule to answer a few questions. You have carved yourself a niche as one of the premier writers of the sporting/nutrition world, gaining much respect from all due to your willingness to embody your own teachings and develop your ideas as an ongoing “work in progress”. For many, you are the cutting edge of this kind of research. Do you feel that this is a heavy burden?
Not at all. I am very opinionated in this area and have always felt compelled to call it like I see it. I think I offer a unique perspective carved from a diverse background as a top athlete, coach, researcher, anti-doping administrator, supplement designer, etc. Few people have the background and the platform to be able to put all this information into a “world-view.” My mission with the Primal Blueprint is to show ten million people how they can regain total control of their health. The only way to do this is to provide cutting edge research and making the explanation understandable and entertaining.
GKJ- What is the nutritional state of the world today for your average person or athlete out there eating what is considered a normal diet? What kind of dangers do they face without consideration of how much diet plays a part in their long term health and performance?
Well, as you know, the state of nutrition world-wide is dismal. Many of us are eating too much of the wrong things and paying the price – whether we are an average non-exercising citizen or a top athlete. Many people will be able to “get away” with dietary indiscretions for most of their lives and not be dramatically affected by the small aches and pains that they could avoid by altering their diets. But far more people will likely suffer ill health in some form or another unless they change what they are doing. It might be diabetes or obesity in “normal” people and arthritis or heart problems even in regular exercisers who abuse their bodies with the wrong workouts fueled by the wrong diets. Exercising alone does NOT necessarily confer a long, disease-free life. Diet is crucial. The Primal Blueprint actually started as a diatribe against athletes training too hard and eating too many carbs. It eventually expanded to encompass all people.
GKJ- You yourself have been through an incredible physical journey. As you get older, what is the biggest challenge for you?
Not getting injured. I still like to play. In fact, all my so-called “training” is done so I can play Ultimate (Frisbee), snowboard, surf, golf, etc. Being 56 means that playing hard may sometimes result in an injury that takes weeks to recover from instead of days like when I was young. So I back off a bit when I feel myself getting too caught up. I no longer race my 15-year-old son down the black diamond runs when snowboarding or I back off when I’m racing to catch a Frisbee in a crowd of defenders.
GKJ- This year, you have released a new book, The Primal Blueprint. What kinds of answers can the average reader expect from reading your work?
I think the Primal Blueprint very succinctly explains how humans evolved to be strong, healthy and disease free and how our genes expect us to behave in certain ways that we don’t always honor. No one has yet explained health in exactly this context. Most of the book details the steps we can take to literally “reprogram” our genes to be healthy, lean, fit and disease-free. This reprogramming is possible even if you think you are doomed because your family history is one of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. It is a very empowering program and the results we have seen over the past few years are overwhelmingly positive.
GKJ- One of the things you talk about in your theories is the fact that a person needs to look to natural foods rather than supplementation which is primarily chemical based. How easy is this to do? The main issue for many people is time and cost. What is the answer?
Of course natural foods are best, but there are some shortcuts in supplements as well: things like protein powders that can fill the void when we can’t get to real foods or fish oil capsules to make up for the imbalance in Omega 3s in our diets. But eating Primally (mostly meats, fish, chicken, veggies, fruits nuts and seeds) can be quite inexpensive if you approach it right. When you remove all the processed foods we have come to rely on and focus on natural foods, you find that you naturally eat less (without getting hungry). Many people tell me they have saved money going “full Primal”.
GKJ- What is your advice today for your average person who is wanting to take more control of their life and diet? Where should they start?
Start by cutting out the sugars. No desserts, candies or colas/sodas. Next start cutting grains (pastas, cereals, breads, pastries, etc). That alone will result in huge benefits. It takes a few weeks of discipline to cut these out, but when you do so and realize you can eat all the meat, veggies, fruits, nuts etc whenever you find yourself hungry – and still lose weight – it’s a powerful thing. After about three weeks, you lose the cravings for the carbs and simultaneously your body starts learning to extract most of its energy from your stored fat. At that point you are well on your way. The exact process is detailed in my book The Primal Blueprint (www.primalblueprint.com)
GKJ- Mark, thank you for your time today, and I look forward to reading more about your discoveries. I am off to get the book!
An intriguing man with incredible ideas on how to keep you fit and healthy.