Training for longevity. Part 2.
A few more thoughts and ideas on the long arc of health and fitness.
I’ve been writing for the bulk of my adulthood, at points writing to as many as 50,000+ people on a daily basis.
So I was more than a little bit surprised at the response to an article I wrote 2 weeks ago titled Training for Longevity.
If you haven’t read it yet, start there.
I’ve never received more messages and emails from an article, outside of The Guy at the Bar, which I wrote 9 years ago.
For the sake of brevity, there were plenty of things that I left out of part 1 that I’ll share here in this follow up.
You can consider everything below as icing on the cake, not the cake itself. These are the things that I’ve picked up over the years, but are all anchored on the foundation of part 1.
Training in a fasted state.
The vast majority of my workouts are in a fasted state, meaning I haven’t eaten since the night before. My morning rows are always fasted, and my lunchtime strength workouts are fasted 90%+ of the time.
“But your workout performance will suffer!” -the internet, probably
You’re right. There’s a noticeable strength difference in my fasted and fed workouts. I’ve never measured it, but if I had to guess there’s probably a 5-10% difference in total output, meaning if I can do 5 reps at 200 pounds in a fasted state I’d likely be able to do 5 reps at ~210 pounds in a fed state.
But if you’ll recall where we started part 1 of these posts, clarity over your goal is step 1, and for me that means I’m training for longevity. I’m not trying to get bigger, hit new PRs, or lose weight as fast as possible. I’m training to be as fit as possible for as long as possible.
Studies have pointed to a number of benefits in fasted training including:
Increased fat utilization (put another way: when there isn’t readily available glucose in your body from food, your body will utilize it’s own body fat for fuel)
Growth hormone increases, which has numerous downstream benefits
Anabolic signaling (as long as you eat protein + carbs fairly soon after your workout)
But for every benefit you’ll find in the scientific literature for fasted training, you’ll find evidence that points to the opposite. And that’s okay. My goal isn’t to be “right” in the technical sense. My goal is to do what works for me. And the reasons I love fasted training aren’t because of the data but because:
I feel good. I feel light. I feel lean.
I can tell that the food I put into my body is immediately put to use for recovery.
My metabolism is through the roof.
And as a worthwhile side note, having food in your body isn’t the only way to maximize workout performance. Many people overtrain (remember part 1?), which will negatively impact your future performance more than food will in my experience.
This is just classic training advice because it works. If you’re not familiar with the term superset, it simply means you’re alternating between two movements until you’ve completed all of your sets for both.
When I workout I’m typically only in the gym for 45 minutes or less, including warmup. But I can pack all the work I need to in that time by continually working instead of resting.
Supersets, especially if you’re strength training, should be opposing muscle groups - pushing and pulling if you will. You can move from one movement to the next without rest because you’re utilizing different muscle groups. A few examples of common supersets that I do are:
Bench press + rows
Squats + GHD extensions
Deadlifts + lunges
Shoulder press + pull-ups
There is no need to be at the gym for hours on end, unless you’re training for something specific that requires that. Efficiency is your friend.
Ready for the all-time greatest list of supplements ever?
Yes, that is the end of my list. Creatine is the most studied supplement of all-time, and it’s one of the few things that I recommend pretty much anyone take. You’ll get energy benefits, recovery benefits, and strength benefits to name a few.
The first time I took creatine was day 1 of two-a-day practices for high school football. I vomited all of it up immediately after practice at the water fountain. Good times. Thankfully that didn’t stop me from taking it.
I am not the person to be recommending supplements to people, because I have very little experience or knowledge about them. I’m sure there are some gems out there, but there’s also a lot of noise and nonsense. And for me, I prefer to just cut through the noise and take what works, based on decades of evidence.
Another worthwhile side note - if you’re going to take creatine, just take creatine monohydrate. There are a lot of supplements that have creatine in them, but they’re mixed with a bunch of garbage that you don’t need.
These next 2 might induce some eye rolls, because they’ve been so en vogue the past few years, littering your social feeds if they’re anything like mine. But the hipster in me likes to think I’ve been doing them since before they were cool.
Breathwork is my life raft in many ways. While there are numerous physical benefits to breathwork, the reason it’s been a staple in my daily methodology are the mental benefits. Our breath is the outward signal of our internal dialogue. When you’re breathing rapidly or shallowly or deeply or slowly, these are signals about what’s going on inside.
Breathwork, more than anything, centers me. It makes the breath the focal point, much like certain meditations and yoga do, and gives me the tools needed to control my physiology at its root.
I’ve done all sorts of breathwork, but my go-to is the Wim Hof Method. I do it first thing when I wake up and right before bed. Even in the most turbulent of times, it grounds me mentally which makes the rest of life more tolerable.
If you didn’t roll your eyes at breathwork, you probably will at this one - cold exposure.
“If I see another f-ing cold plunge in my feed…” -you, maybe
But cold is not a fad my friend. It’s here to stay. And it’s here to stay because the benefits are immediate and profound. Cold exposure is like a workout for your internal systems. I’m not qualified to be espousing the science, but if you want to go down a healthy rabbit hole, cold exposure is a good one to go down.
Here are the reasons I love it:
I am noticeably leaner when I do cold exposure consistently. If you sit in a cold plunge or cold shower for a few minutes, and then naturally let your body warm up after (meaning no artificial warming up with a hot shower or lots of clothing), the mechanism that’s warming you up is also burning body fat.
If you sit through a few minutes of cold, everything else in life is easier.
It feels amazing when you’re done and you’ll start to crave it. It’s tough to replicate the energy and clarity that come from the cold.
Your immune system will love you. And your cardiovascular system. And your recovery. And your mood.
Cold is as good for the soul as it is for the physical body, and I love it for both of those reasons. I have a cold plunge at home, but when I get out of the routine of cleaning and maintaining it, I default to cold showers. I do it for 3 minutes at the end of a hot shower, typically right before bed. And the upside of it being winter here in the northern hemisphere is that the shower can get a lot colder than it does in the summer.
I’ve always said I’ll never write a book on health and fitness because it’d be 10 pages long. Part 1 and part 2 of Training for Longevity is the equivalent of that nonexistent book, as I’ve officially reached the end of my thoughts and ideas on health and fitness.
These ideas work for me. And they might work for you. But at the end of the day you have to do what you can consistently do for the long haul. There is no other formula. And as a fitting end to this 2-part series, I’ll just reiterate something from the beginning of part 1:
Real change, the kind that transforms the rest of your life, comes from doing the same boring shit over and over, without the need for gratification from quick results.
✌️ and ❤️,
Certified High Performance Coach™
👉 Forward Coaching