Brian Mackenzie is a human performance and movement specialist. He has studied performance and movement for more than a decade along with altitude, hypoxia, breathing mechanics, heat, and cold exposure.
He co-authored the book “Power Speed Endurance”, and NYTimes Best Seller UnBreakable Runner. He founded and created Power Speed Endurance (PSE), which specializes in movement & skill development with an emphasis on running, cycling, and swimming mechanics. MacKenzie’s program has taught over 50 seminars per year (on avg since 2007) worldwide.
Mackenzie and his programs have been featured in Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Health, Competitor Magazine, Runners World, Triathlete Magazine, Men’s Journal, ESPN Rise, The Economist, Tim Ferriss’ New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Body, Men’s Running UK, LA Sport & Fitness, Muscle & Performance Magazine, and Rivera Magazine.
Brian has worked with professional athletes with the likes of Laird Hamilton, Jamie Mitchell (10X Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Champion and big wave surfer), Mark Healy, Kai “Borg” Garcia, CrossFit Games athletes including Rich Froning Jr (4X CrossFit Games Champion), and Annie Thorisdottir, and Olympic Gold Medalists such as Erin Cafaro (2X Olympic Gold Medalist in Rowing – W8+, Wife) and Taylor Ritzel (2012 Olympic Gold Medalist –W8+).
He has worked with several other professional and elite level athletes in sports spanning from Triathlon, Running, MMA, Swimming, Cycling, Rowing, Surfing, Base Jumping, to US Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, and many other Military and Specialty units.
In this episode, some things we talk about:
- Science and physiology behind breathing, hyperventilation, breath-holding, and cold exposure
- How using two practices can help you push the intensity much higher in your workouts
- Tricking yourself into thinking you’re dying — and why it’s vital to train this state
- (2:45) – Learning, enlightenment, and formal education
- (7:45) – Taking an artistic approach to learning
- (17:00) – Wim Hof method, breath-holding — tricking yourself into thinking you’re dying
- (25:20) – Linking breathing to performance and recoverability from a physiological standpoint, controlling your immune response
- (28:20) – Being able to push your intensity much higher in workouts. “We could work somebody up who’s never done any breathing practices to get ready to do a 1RM and have them do a breathing cycle and I could almost put an 80% chance on them PR’ing.”
- (32:00) – What are we measuring with breath-holding? Case study w/ Kelly Starrett, Missing out on free aerobic capacity
- (35:45) – Measuring your stress levels w/ breathing — performance or daily life stressors
- (37:54) – Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) levels for recoverability
- (40:31) – Lion and the antelope “The cold has a fascinating impact on downregulation and mood and recoverability.”
- (46:30) – Progressions and practical ways to apply cold into your life without submerging yourself in ice
- (48:40) – Origins of Unscared — Dinner with Kelly Starrett and Dave Castro
- (54:45) – One year to live
- (58:45) – Learning from comedians
- (1:07:20) – The greatest teaching and learning method — what you should walk away with from this episode
It’s Brian Mackenzie and you’re listening to the airborne mind show.
Misbah Haque 00:32
Hey guys, Misbah Haque here. Thank you so much for joining me today. This week we get to chat with Brian Mackenzie from unscared Inc. He is a human performance and movement specialist for those of you who don’t know, he has studied performance movement, altitude hypoxia, breathing mechanics, heat and cold exposure for more than a decade long. He has co-authored the book power speed endurance and New York Times bestseller unbreakable runner, and he’s worked with several professional athletes like Rich Froning, Annie Thorisdottir, LAIRD HAMILTON, Mark Healy and Olympic gold medalists like Aaron Cafaro and Taylor Ritzville. Some of the things that we’re going to chat about in this episode are the science and physiology behind breathing, hyperventilation, breath-holding and cold exposure, and how using some of these practices can help you push the intensity much higher in your workouts. And we’re also going to chat about tricking yourself into thinking you’re dying, and why it’s vital to train in this state.
This was a phenomenal conversation, I think this is even one of those that you’re gonna want to listen to two or three times. So I encourage you to sit back and enjoy Brian’s experiences and his stories. Because we don’t only talk about the science and physiology aspect of things, we get to talk about our learning, education, and things of that nature. So I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it. Before we get started. If you love the show, if you love what we’ve been doing and putting out, head over to the airbornemind.com, and grab your movement Audit Checklist. This is something I put together, which is designed to help you in five steps or five questions, help you reflect, and figure out what am I not getting enough of in my training? How is it holding me back? Maybe it’s performance-wise, maybe it’s aches and pains? And if I had an extra 15 minutes or so, where would I spend that precious time.
I’ve also pulled the assessments that Zack Greenwald, Dr. Shawn, Jeremy, Travis Mash, and so forth have given us on the show. So you can objectively figure out where the weaknesses are and where you can put in the work. I think it is a very useful resource for any athlete. So once again, head over to airbornemind.com grab your free movement Audit Checklist, and I guarantee you’ll walk away with something useful. And with that being said, please enjoy the show.
Brian, thanks for joining me, man.
Misbah, Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.
Misbah Haque 02:51
So for those who are listening who may not know about you, tell us a little bit about your background and kind of how you roll.
Where to start, a rebellious kid grew up in the 80s in Orange County, California, which was one of three kinds of epicenters in the United States of where punk rock took off. I grew up in a very, very punk and metal-oriented world in a place called Tustin, California. And I was a very, it’s a very, it’s a small place. It’s like 70,000 people, but we had a ton of skateboarding and a ton of BMX. And the reason I say that and I’ve said it before in other interviews and things is because it was a very, very important part of my upbringing and I think I was not misguided. But I think I fit right in line with a lot of people who’ve questioned authority. It’s like, to a large degree from the spiritual sense. And my outlet just became punk rock and metal and, and skateboarding. And when I grew up, skateboarding was a crime. That was when the Skateboarding is not a crime stickers started. And the BMX thing was a bad thing. Surfing was a bad thing. It just meant you were going to do drugs, and although there were drugs around, that wasn’t why we were doing it.
We did it because people were telling us not to do it. And it was fun. So that kind of transpired into me. That was how I kind of learned and so I was not a big advocate of school and the traditional learning sense. It fits kind of in line with today. I just put something out on our educational system and how we’re basically 21st in the world. And so we’re dogs. It With and this is talking about the richest kids going to the most private, like wealth funded schools that like and they’re there they’re crap like they don’t even understand like legitimate thinking or comprehension to like how to do things in the real world and it’s all about money power and fame and no wonder why we are where we’re at, it’s interesting to me because that was how I kind of grew up was being anti-authority anti-establishment anti-school but it inevitably ended up transforming into being kind of this thing of like, there’s got to be other ways for learning and largely that has become where I finally got my shit together I think at about 24 years old. And for some that seem really young, for others that’s old, it doesn’t matter. It was just the time for me. I was an athlete my entire life as well, not only with skateboarding, surfing, and all of this stuff.
I spent a considerable amount of time in the water, I was a swimmer for 20 years. I was fairly competitive, I was pretty decent. I played water polo, soccer, baseball, all this stuff. And that was probably what saved my life going through my later years in high school and till I was 24. Because it provided something that was like, Hey, I can’t be all messed up and partying while I’m doing this. And, it wasn’t necessarily a competitive thing. It was a fun thing that I was having. But I was a pretty competitive person. And that plays a role later in my life. But um, the competitive aspect, but I more or less, finally hooked on to, like exercise science and kinesiology and stuff in school. Oddly enough. I like to say I was on the nine-year plan in college, and I was not going to a university, I was at your community college. And we just so happened to have a fairly decent community College with a hell of a program for exercise science that kind of pushed you to go to one of the local universities, Cal State Fullerton, where one of my great friends is a professor. He’s got his Ph.D., Dr. Andy Galpin. That was kind of like, on my radar maps like it.
That’s what I’m gonna go do, I’m gonna take this route. I am three-quarters of the way through the program. I was just like half the stuff I’m learning right now, so behind what everybody is doing in this industry, I just don’t understand why I need to go and learn this way. And so I started working through with me mentors and people who were big in the industry, or big names, or people who are changing the way we are thinking and, and it was that that was what intrigued me. And so I took more of an artistic approach to what it was I was doing. Now, I don’t necessarily believe that, well, I definitely don’t believe that is the only way to do it. I think there are plenty of intelligent people who do well academically, that really need to go through that route, and find their space and what they’re doing hence Ph.D. piled high and deeper. And, it’s a very niche thing. And it is an intense thing.
And I understand it to a large degree. And I have quite a few friends there that took that route. And I’m, I’m grateful they have, but for me, it was more of a, I need to find where my medium is and how I express myself. And that was what I found when I really grabbed on to understanding I think human performance to some degree on not necessarily, hey, how do we get faster, stronger, better, even though that became a large part of what I was doing, but it was how do I do this for the rest of my life and enjoy it now that we live in this world confined in a room and a house and this in a metropolis and a concrete jungle, and none of this stuff has any bearing for the natural world really, because it’s manmade.
So therefore we want to create a world that is very, very, that doesn’t require a whole lot of work, that we’ve got the technology and things doing everything for us to the degree that we’re no longer functioning and our DNA is adapting to this and I’m of the sound mind that not everything needs to adapt in a doesn’t need to necessarily adapt in that manner. I think nature provides a blanket and nature will always win and if you want to call that God and you want to say Jesus and you want to say Buddha and all that, like we can fit in a line, if we all can agree on the fucking concept of, I really think that nature will habit weigh in the end, regardless of global warming, regardless of all of it, I believe we’ve messed up this planet but I’m also of the sound mind that nature old habits way again, and will be kicked off like a bad case of fleas like George Carlin kinda put out years ago.
Misbah Haque 10:17
An angle to take on that I’m curious on because Dr. Andy Galpin, he’s doing some amazing work where he, I think he just, he launched a site recently where he’s, putting out a lot of resources for anybody who wants to learn more about, I think, just anatomy and physiology and, and all that kind of stuff. And then when we kind of look around, let’s just say this podcast, you’re dropping tons of knowledge that are accumulated over 10 20 30 years of experience, and people can kind of tap into that for free. So I’m curious on a macro level, what how do you feel that this is going to play out in maybe a decade, two decades, when you can kind of have access to this type of information experiences with the touch of a button, and instead, and that’s a route, instead of having to go through that four-year process of in a classroom or whatever it might be?
That is loaded, but I have a pretty good stronghold on, I think of, of all that, and there have been a number of great teachers who have lasted 1000s of years and hundreds of years, or even that we say we’re way ahead of their time, you take you like a Bruce Lee or J Krishnamurti, a Gandhi, or, the concept of the Buddha or Jesus or whatever, which are all great, they’re all valid, they’re all valid things. And I think, I’m recently so I’m obviously very into the breathing space, and meditative and kind of the ice and heat at this point. And the reason I tapped into, the breathing section was because if there was finally, something out there, that intrigued me enough, that got my attention, versus the hippie-dippie yoga world of which I actually was, I went fairly hard with yoga for probably two or three years where I was four or five days a week and an Ashtanga practice and getting an understanding of all this stuff, and it still didn’t do it for me, and wanting to understand the breathing and all of that stuff. You’ve got all of these practices that Kundalini, Stanga you there’s, there’s just several mediums that they use, and there’s nothing wrong with any of them.
They’re all great. But it wasn’t sexy enough for somebody like me, who’s kind of trying to understand how this works for a global thing, And although I’m in a niche, network, or community, I guess it wasn’t something that was very relevant to the people that I was working with or around, somebody like a Wim Hof came or came into the, into this world, and, and provided something really impactful really quick. And if you don’t feel something, and if it’s got to take you 20 years, to get to enlightenment, to the ability to do something. I don’t think that something is enlightening. For me, I’m somebody who if it drops into a ramp, or skates down a street and does something radical, and it has an impact, that was amazing. It’s like that’s something that clicks a feeling is believing and the wind is a big proponent of that as well. And so are people like Laird Hamilton’s and Kelly’s star and a lot of the people I’ve been associated with over the years.
But it’s interesting because I’ve taken kind of another route with the breeding stuff and I’m actually gravitating towards what these Buddhist monks are doing with a practice called TUMO. This is kind of where I believe I’m assuming I haven’t talked to him lately, but I’m I probably will have this conversation where he got a lot of them, the concepts of being able to last in the ice or last in the cold because tomorrow is about heating your inner fire. It’s interesting because TUMO is now being taught in the western world by a man from the Eastern world and they were of sound belief because of technology and this is circling back to your question and where I stand The technology, although it’s advancing, they cannot stave it off, we cannot stave it off. And if we do not allow ourselves to understand the technology that’s advancing the entire world, we will be left behind, and we will be left in the dust.
And there’s a monk who has kind of not defected, but he’s left the confines of keeping this in disharmony in India or in places and he’s now traveling and teaching, and he’s giving it to westerners so that they have the practice and understand the practice. Because if you go onto the internet, youtube, you’re not going to find anybody who’s teaching this practice right now. It’s a bunch of people who’ve pieced things together. It’s not very intriguing. And, and so a good friend of mine is literally gone and spent the time he’s in it, he’s done it, and he’s brought it back, and we’ve gone over it and gotten deep into it. And the interesting thing is, although this is something that a lot of these Buddhist monks have thought, it’s gonna take 20 years for you to understand this. That’s not the truth. That’s just me saying, hanging on to some tradition and saying,
We don’t want to give it to you, we want you to come and spend time in this practice and understand it. And the funny thing about it is, what I’ve realized is these monks are literally doing nothing different than what a skateboarding kid was doing. And they’re chasing adrenaline and a serotonin release and a dopamine release within deep meditation, and they can sit there for hours and heat themselves up. And they understand how to get there really quickly. And they don’t have to leave it because they’ve really achieved this enlightenment. And I don’t think anything we do as human beings, regardless of what it is, is any different if we just are willing to look at it. And technology can take us and allow us to get to those levels, if we’re willing to let it but if we’re not willing to let technology and we need technology to tell us when and how this is where technology goes wrong.
Misbah Haque 17:07
So now let’s tap into Wim Hof a little bit because you’re like best buddies with him, LAIRD HAMILTON and all these guys. And for those who aren’t listening, if we’re kind of distilling down his breathing practice or his method, what it is, is you’re taking 30 Quick breaths, where we’re kind of expanding the stomach on the way out, when we’re exhaling, we’re not forcing anything out, we’re just kind of letting it go. And on that 30th breath, you are holding your breath, like once you exhale, you’re holding it with no air in your lungs, and you’re seeing how long you can go there until that gasp reflex happens. And then you take a nice big inhale. And we hold that for about 10 seconds. And that is one single. Did I get that right?
So let’s talk like, Why do you think his method is because I think he took a very awesome approach and angle from like a physiological standpoint with this in a way that resonated with people who aren’t into the the yogi styled breathing or meditation or whatever you want to call it, it resonated with people who looked at it from kind of a science perspective. And we’re like, whoa, this kind of makes a little bit of sense. So if we’re talking from that angle, like why is the Wim Hof screening method different from other ones out there?
Let’s go right back to that feeling of understanding concepts. And take a guy who dealt with something very, very traumatic. And if his story, you understand what I’m talking about. And it’s on the vice documentary, it’s on many books, and a guy who entered into the cold, because he just didn’t know how to deal with a lot of things. And all of a sudden realize that through a change in a breathing pattern, hyperventilating which hyperventilating is only defined is defined very easily as going into a negative co2 environment. So when we create a negative co2 environment, regardless of we’re doing___, or we’re doing___ fire breath or we’re doing___ Wim Hof style it all can transcend into the same place because we’re going into a negative co2 environment so the science on it is pretty simple. And that we’re going to a negative co2 environment what the medical or the controlling world of our health systems wants to say is okay you can do that but you need to be careful because this will happen or that’ll happen and we get into this controlled environment when blew right past that in started to understand that if you got high enough off do too because when you create a negative co2 environment, it provides more opportunity for O2 and the tissue can absorb So we’re going into a vasodilation deal with the breathing method.
So we’re opening up these channels, but for a lot of us, we get cold limbs and things because the body naturally, what happens when we’re doing this is it’ll go to where it’s most important to keep that oxygen saturated blood, the brain, and the organs, right. So a lot of the people that experienced the cold in limbs, we go into a basal constricted environment, right, but the dope that’s entering the system, which you’re talking about norepinephrine, which is also a, it’s not only the North neurotransmitter, but it’s also a hormone, right, and then you’ve got adrenaline, and then you’ve got the dopamine. And all of these things are starting to take place as you get deeper into the breathing. And so as you’re doing the breathing, this is established, these chemicals are entering the system or cannabinoids, and you’re starting to immediately feel this whole thing happening. So the body’s reacting to this sympathetic state. And you don’t have to be reactive to it. So there’s this training that’s starting to occur without your understanding, and yet the neurotransmitter chemical that’s happening is starting to make some connections.
I’m not having to fight-flight or freeze right now, even though I’m in that state. And so I get deeper into that brain, to where I get into that in a million and reptilian state, which Wim talks about. And then I go into a breath-hold on an exhale, which from a more morbid standpoint, is tricking you into dying. So we go into a state of high oxygen and low co2, which tells the body, oh, hey, I don’t need to breathe, because when co2 is high, it’s thinking about working out, why do I breathe more, right. And this is where my work kind of transcends into understanding human performance with this stuff. But you get to this point where you don’t have to breathe. And so we can see incredibly low, two levels in the body, but the organs and I keep pointing to head, but the brain and the heart, and the lungs, and liver and all this stuff, have high co2 levels in them because we’ve saturated those red blood cells with too. So you can hold your breath typically longer than you can on an exhale, but we’re more or less tricking your body into dying.
And so you go into this state where you can inevitably what I’m of the understanding, and so is Wim into the body releasing DMT, if you do this enough because the chemical reaction in the body for DMT is melatonin minus co2 equals DMT. So we can get into these very euphoric deep REM cycle-like states and put ourselves into a very, very deep meditative place. And so that’s where that goes. And as you ramp up, and I don’t know how many times how much time you spent doing this stuff, or rounds, but we’ve done 90-minute sessions, where it’s like, you’re out in, fucking some part of the universe that you don’t know whether you’re there or not, I don’t know. But I will tell you this.
I’ve done therapeutic psychedelics, and I’ve been able to achieve what I’ve done in therapeutic psychedelics, with the breathing alone. You can get to places and peel the onion in ways that you’ve never been to. Right. And ironically, that’s what they’ve done with the LSD with the Holotropic breathing, which is, again, another hyperventilating technique on and when they outlawed LSD, they brought in Holotropic breathing, because they wanted to figure they knew that there was a way to get people to therapy and deal with things that they weren’t really dealing with.
Misbah Haque 23:53
So I’m gonna jump around a little bit. But first, for anybody who’s listening, all this stuff, I’m definitely going to link up some Wim Hof stuff, so you can dive into it. But this is all stuff that he is scientifically kind of proving and is in the works of continuing to kind of gather more and more evidence. And he did something really cool where I think he was injected with toxins. And in a controlled environment or toxin. Pretty much what happened was he claimed that he could breathe and control his immune response with his method. And pretty much when it worked, when he was able to do so they said that he, it’s because he’s the Iceman and he’s able to do all these crazy things. But then he took on a group of people. I don’t know how many people there were, but they were getting ready to climb Mount Everest in shorts. And was that that was that different? Groupers kill Mount Kilimanjaro. Pretty much what he did was he trained these individuals, I think, in what two weeks or so to do the same thing.
They actually gave him I think 10 days and he ended up doing it and four and then maybe brought in the individuals and injected them with the endotoxin, in which all of the individuals thought off the toxin.
Misbah Haque 25:07
Which is insane, first of all, second of all…
But it really isn’t, if you’ve spent enough time with this stuff, and you really get deep enough, because once you understand how the immune system works, you have control over everything, right? Whether you like that or not.
Misbah Haque 25:23
So now let’s link this to performance, right? Because that’s kind of really where you’re coming in, right? We’re linking it to perform like you’re saying that with this type of breathing, we can pretty much get into a state where you would get into that sympathetic response when you’re working out when you’re doing a Metcon. And you’re moving fast, or you’re breathing heavy, you can get in, you can train that seems state without actually having to do that. Is that correct? So tell me a little bit more about the performance side of it, and how this can benefit somebody if they start dialing this in.
From a pH standpoint, meaning alkaline versus acidic. So when we start to work, we become more acidic because co2 levels rise, and we’re not able to get rid of that co2, right? At the rate, we normally can. So alone, just alone, understanding breathing now WIMS. Breathing can help a ton. And it does, and we use it. All breathing methods help performance, apnea, just learning how to hold your breath. A mark, Outside Magazine, did a piece on Mark Healy, who Mark Healy is one of the greatest one of the top watermint in the world. And he’s a friend of mine. And Marx talked about this stuff publicly as well. And it’s like, just doing literally just doing apnea each day, some like five or 10 minutes of apnea training, where it’s like you’re doing a 10, second, inhale, a three-second breath, hold, and a 10. Second, exhale, just do that for literally five or 10 minutes.
And you will drop your heart rate to the floor of how low you can actually get, and you can train your parasympathetic state to be more active. So when we work out, we put ourselves into this sympathetic state, the greatest athletes in the world are parasympathetic, dominant, that’s just how it is. And by that, look at your dogs and cats, they are parasympathetic dominant yet, they don’t need to roll out, they don’t need to do mobility, they don’t need to fucking lift weights, they don’t need to literally do like training programs, they’re still going to run faster than you, they’re still gonna do more than you, they’re still going to be more mobile than you, they’re still going to do all this stuff. And why is this? And it largely has to do with the fact that when they can go out and go really, really hard, and then shut it down immediately, and go to sleep. My dogs are literally my dog right now.
One of them on that couch is out, as we just threw the ball for about 45 minutes, right? And she’s done. She’s done. And the other ones in the other room are asleep too. So I just kind of pay attention to this stuff. Well, I’m just observing. That’s all I am. I’m observant. And then I put myself into the position to try and understand the stuff. I’m not I don’t believe I’m on to anything that hasn’t already been out there, or is already done. But the fact of the matter is, is I learned how to piece together a lot of this stuff to where we understand how to meet in performance. Having conversations with a guy by the name of you. Are you familiar with MMA?
Misbah Haque 28:40
Hickson Gracie is arguably the greatest martial artist of all time, he won 463 fights before he retired. We just had a conversation with him a couple months ago. And he was known for being the breathing guy in jiu-jitsu. Okay, and we literally had a conversation, and he was using hyperventilating stuff, years, 30 years ago. Then learning how to down-regulate himself. So he would literally ramp himself up before he get warmed up, and then ramp all the co2 up and then bring his body down to a level where he’s like when I would go out and fight my heart rate would be at like 60 Wow. And my opponent would be at 110. And I knew just by looking at them, it was already over because I was so relaxed and so calm and I was already in an Ohio to low Sierra lower co2 environment that knew if somebody had me in a hold how what breathing techniques I could use to where I knew I could last longer than they thought I could and it would freak them out.
And he just he there was all these concepts that he was talking about that I was like this is what we’re connecting and maybe not necessarily with the MMA and but with athletes and being able to down-regulate and then up-regulate and bring acidity down quicker and bring we’re maybe we’re working athletes and so we’re at our lactate threshold. And if I actually learned how to better and had more room and was able to access my diaphragm from a positional standpoint, I could actually buffer off that lactate threshold and be in an easier place in mind and not be as acidic. And all this stuff is just where we’re playing and understanding. But I ultimately think that the breathing itself, allows us to understand not only position performance, and it gives us an understanding if I can’t actually access a full breath, I’m probably not in the right position. And my work over the last 15 years has been about movement. And I don’t even really need to talk about it anymore. Because it’s like you’re not even breathing. I already know you don’t own this position. You can’t be in this. It’s until you understand that concept. Like, it’s just, it just changes the game with everything.
Misbah Haque 31:05
So if we’re looking at it from a very, very practical standpoint, and maybe the CrossFit world Olympic weightlifting, you can drive the intensity much, much higher. If you started…
You could go probably, we could work somebody up who’s never done any breathing practices, work them up, get ready to do a one rm and have them do a breathing cycle, and I could almost put at an 80% chance on them (inaudible). It just changes everything. I mean, why is LAIRD HAMILTON so into it? Why is Laird Why is it Laird is doing this stuff before he goes out and rides 60 70 80 100 foot waves and is, why? Why would he even care about that?
Misbah Haque 31:51
My next question is about the so if we’re looking at that Wim Hof Method for a second, when we breathe out on that 30th breath, and we are holding your breath until that gasp reflex happens. What are you because it’s measurable, right? So what exactly is it at that point that you are measuring?
When you exhale?
Misbah Haque 32:15
When you exhale on that 30th breath, and you’re holding no, no air in your lungs, you’re simply just kind of hanging out until that gasp reflex happens. What? What does that signify? Like? What are we measuring at that point?
Your body’s need for oxygen. Your body’s need for oxygen. And the more interesting thing is that for people who cannot hold their breath for very long, it becomes very apparent that stress is very high. Stress Messes With your tissue, your tissue doesn’t is able to absorb oxygen as well when you’re in when you’re a high-stress person. I knew Kelly star would be just fine with me bringing this up with him. But Kelly is like an 800 mile an hour human being. Yeah, and not that I’m not campy and I can be. But when I introduced Kelly to this stuff, Kelly could really only hold his breath for he was holding it under a minute. We were holding our breath for three, four minutes. And I was like this is so trippy. Why can he hold his breath? Is it just as mind or freaking out or it turned out that ice became a very good indicator of this as well as when we got him in the eye and how much stress and how much pain he was in his forearms from being a professional kayaker? Or a guy who was literally world-class at what, kayaking and having grip stuff.
There was just the stress tissue. And so the internal stress of his work life, life, and daily life was very apparent to where he couldn’t hold his breath to where lo and behold hear two or three months later, his breath holds are getting longer and longer and longer and longer. And all of a sudden, he’s decompressing. And he’s able to stay on the ice longer. He’s not in as much pain. And this is I’m using Kelly as an example. But there are probably hundreds of people at this point I’ve worked with and seen where they’re like, how come I can hold my breath outline. It’s like it’s okay. It’s just for your physiology, but if you’re consistent, you’ll change your physiology. And that’s the importance of understanding this stuff. And that’s the importance of understanding breath practice, even if we’re doing an apnea protocol where you can’t, let’s say I’m using a 142 protocol where it’s a one on the inhale four times, the breath-hold, and two times an exhale. So let’s just say I do a 10 second inhale. 42nd breath, hold 22nd exhale.
If you can’t do that, and I can, and you’re comparing yourself to me, you’re not understanding your physiology, you’re just not understanding your body’s not able to handle that amount of co2 right now. And with practice and backing off, and sticking consistent with that, you can actually increase that co2 retention, increase the physiology. So from a general standpoint, if you’re not even doing this as an athlete, you’re missing free. Like aerobic capacity, you’re missing stuff that literally can change all of it.
Misbah Haque 35:36
It’s a low hanging fruit.
So low, you don’t even need to stand up. It’s just like, grab that sucker. You need it.
Misbah Haque 35:46
So that makes it a game-changer, because now you can measure it right. So if like, what I’ve done, I think for the past week is like, I’ve only been doing like about three cycles. But I’ve been taking a screenshot every time that I do it. And so it’s cool to kind of look back and see, I was at like only a minute. And now I’m increasing slowly…And maybe some days where you aren’t, that’s a great indicator of where you might be where your stress levels might be, right?
That is exactly what the indicator is. Now, I am not at a point anymore, where I can’t, where I count my breath holds, I just know based on where that gas reflex comes from, but I don’t always do so when I’ve learned to do wind methods is great. And I think it’s a fundamental thing, people should go through the 10-week course that they have, I honor God and honestly believe that is true to my heart. Because it’s important to lay a foundation of understanding of how this method works. I have learned other techniques to implement with his techniques that inevitably can transcend, do things that are as deep if not deeper, and don’t necessarily need the same breath holds and we’re all short in the breath holds on purpose. And when Wim knows a lot of this does this stuff as well, like, he doesn’t talk about it publicly.
He will make people dance on the ground really easily, just by changing up some of the protocols and stuff. So that said, I learned how to implement specific techniques into his stuff and other stuff, to where it’s you’re able to change and do things on levels that you don’t necessarily just do the breath holds. But to get the oxygen saturation levels is huge. Because if I’ve got an athlete, the wake-up or I got somebody wakes up the neck and let’s not even think about athletes, let’s just take human beings, for instance, you wake up and you’re in a shitty mood, do some breathing. So some heavy breathing or get in a cold and then get out, warm yourself up and then spritz off a little cold because you always want to end a cold, you will change your mood immediately. Immediately.
Misbah Haque 37:53
Now before we tap into the cold, because I do want to touch on that. You posted something the other day about epoch, right? Exercise, oxygen consumption, because you touch on that a little bit. I’m assuming his has to do a lot with recovery.
Take something where you’ve got a high epoch level and just test it and don’t do any breathing. And just if you have the means of testing this, and the following week, do the same workout. And although you may have a physiological change, implement some breathing techniques, something like a Wim Hof for three or four rounds, and see what happens to that recoverability I, what we’re seeing in the ability to take people from post-workout now, we don’t necessarily always implement the thing immediately after a workout. But it’s done probably 45 minutes or so because we want to let that post-stress of that workout have its physiological effect, right, right. Then we move into some of the breathing stuff to get these co2 levels down, change them out, change the pH of the system, and allow that body to come back normal as soon as possible.
The dog is a perfect example. She Huffs and puffs until she falls asleep. And then she’s asleep. And she’s gonna wake up and she’s gonna be raring to go again. And I’m just paying attention. I’m just observing what is going on around me. Being able to extrapolate that then I’m testing it on me. And I’ve got about 30 people, I tossed the shit out to write. And it’s when people start coming back with the same reactions and what we’re seeing, we’re on to something again and here we go. And it’s just fun because I think being observant of things versus trying to know things or being the expert and things. It’s just such a better place to be.
Misbah Haque 39:54
It’s kind of like when you think about creating something. There’s like this pressure there. Right. But as soon as you say, Yeah, instead of creating, all I’m going to do is kind of assemble and connect whatever I’ve learned. And in that process, I’m sure you’ll put your own spin on it kind of like what you were talking about with the Wim Hof Method. And before it’s easy. You pay your dues to where you’ve kind of learned from and it’s you’re not reinventing the wheel. You’re simply being observant. And in that process, something new emerges and evolves. Let’s talk about the cold. So you’ve been. Walk me through that as somebody who because this is another part of Wim Hof Method, but also really immersed in this for a while. So give us a little background.
I got into the cold before I got into Wim stuff, but it happened pretty close to each other. Laird really kind of forced the cold on me to some degree, I don’t want to say force. But he really pushed me to understand that as he is he’s been into it for years, he’s been doing the contrast work. And I was not prepared for beanie ice. And I never really did ice baths. In fact, I became anti-ice because of injuries and stuff and what we understood about that, which I still believe in, but what I think people should be doing is getting cold and understanding their body has a way of thermal regulating that cold that we’ve lost. And Wim has brought that up, Laird’s brought that up. Many people have brought that up. Many indigenous cultures that sit above like the 33rd parallel have been, like, continually shown, from a health side, how much better off they are. And we’re finding out that the cold had in part to do with that. Like, we don’t see a lot of the Alzheimer’s and brain damage that we see in these cultures like Icelandic cultures, or the Finnish and or the Nordic or regions that we see elsewhere in the world. And a lot of it has to do with the cold.
And that said, the cold. Our body’s first reaction to the cold is to get the fuck out of here like holy shit. Like, oh, this is terrible. And that is a fact that is true. And it does not ever change that it’s going to get cold. But if the best story I ever heard was this, it was a psychologist who was given a lecture on something completely different. But he is alive when a lion hunts an antelope, so physiologically there is no difference between the animals. So when that lions on it, and he’s going after, or a cheetah, and an antelope or gazelle. That physiologically, there’s zero difference, we have no idea both heart rates are pegged there in a sympathetic state, there’s all this shit going on. They’re both going off, right? Lion wants to be there, the antelope does not. That is the difference, right. And when you start to understand that you’re in a sympathetic state, but you want to be there, that can change everything. And it allows you to not have to be as reactive.
Oddly enough, most spiritual practices talk about this, from just a psychological level, like being active is literally your body’s way of revolting against what’s going on internally, and you’re not dealing with the issues inside. And so literally, when we have reactive individuals, we know that they’re in the sympathetic state, not knowing how to cope with what’s really going on inside. And there’s no difference from a performance standpoint. And when we put people on the ice, we know exactly what’s going to happen. Even if we have this chat with them by their reaction. When we see somebody gets on the ice and has no reaction, we know they’re going to do just fine. And that the pain that’s going off in that person is no different than the pain that’s happening with the person who’s like getting out of here. I gotta get out of here.
There’s no difference. It’s just, I just find being here in this state. And then all of a sudden within 90 seconds, Everything’s just fine. You’re done in about three minutes. I think there’s a progression to it and getting an understanding of the cold and I think Wim does a great job of it. I’m probably going to put some stuff out here pretty soon on progressing athletes and using cold with a practice with practice within the performance. Not only Breathing and heat, we’ve done within the X PT stuff, but more geared more towards the performance side of everything. But it has a fascinating impact on downregulation mood, and recoverability. You mean, you want your nervous system back on par, getting the cold for three minutes, and come out and you will see an entirely different human being. It’s just, it has such a profound fact.
And like cold hands and feet, we’re up in, we’ve been up in Central Oregon, which is not a cold place, fall, winter, are not a warm place at all. It’s very cool. It was 3000 feet, it’s gonna be snow-covered here very shortly, it’s 30 degrees in the morning. So I’m from Southern California, but I’m not dealing with the cold. I mean, I’m really in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt right now inside a house that only is heated to 65 because I don’t feel there’s any need to bring it any higher than 65. With that said, it’s like I was just outside with my dogs and shorts and no shirt, it was 40 degrees out. I’m okay with that. Because my body knows how to deal with that. Now, there was a time not too long ago, I could not handle any of that. And my body’s natural reaction is to shiver, and it’s like, oh my god, I gotta get warm, I gotta get warm. So it’s entirely up to you and what you want to understand and your own physiology. And I really think this is all just about understanding ourselves, and what we want to understand.
Misbah Haque 46:33
So if we make this a practical perspective on this, not everybody has to submerge themselves in ice right away, we’re talking about the concept of cold like a cold shower, right? A cold shower might do or if you live like that, I mean, it’s not terribly cold here. But like you were saying, if you have it if it’s cold outside, simply stepping outside in the cold and, and breathing and kind of being there for three minutes has a similar effect. Is that right? How would you recommend somebody start in terms of progression, if we’re talking like cold showers for example?
I’ll start with 30 seconds in the cold shower in a minute, and a warm shower, and do that three or four times, it’s very simple, okay? Like, or if you can’t handle that, bring down the time and get your make sure you’re using heat to warm yourself up. This is why I’m a big, big fan of using heat with cold. And the extremes of those situations, meaning I like to use saunas that are very, very hot, and I’ve used them for years, I was probably in the vicinity of 12 years at this point, in under with human performance. So the heat, I think, plays a very integral role as well. And the heat provides just as many, fun little physiological adaptations that the cold can.
Misbah Haque 48:03
So a great way to implement a little bit of breathing, a great way to implement a little bit of cold. And that’s a great starting point for somebody who might not be doing any of this right now.
Start… I mean, look, if you’re somebody who’s got cold hands, stick your hands in, like, a couple of bowls that are nice, right? And then as soon as that gets really uncomfortable, take them out, and put them in warm water. And then do practice for a couple weeks of doing that two or three times you will see a radical change.
Misbah Haque 48:39
So now tell me a little bit about what you are scared of. Where did the name start with that?
Kelly started with it in a dinner that we were at where a guy by the name of Dave Castro was I was the new endurance guy with CrossFit. And I was teaching it was right when I first started teaching the CrossFit stuff. And I was actually teaching them at level ones. Dave was making a comment about endurance athletes. And then he said, Endurance athletes are great, but I just can’t stand those guys that wear arm warmers They just, they’re just they just look gay, are the facts and I’m and Kelly just kind of perked up and I was like this is gonna be interesting. And, and Kelly goes in and is just as terrible as that comment was, Kelly just goes well, Dave, I have a gym that’s outside in San Francisco. And in the mornings, it’s really cold. And I’m out there coaching, but by afternoon it starts to warm up. He goes and I wear arm warmers because it’s easy to pull them off. He goes but I’m not gay. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to get a pair of Pink arm warmers Right the word unscared.
Because I’m unscared of you, Dave Castro. Wow. It was just hysterical. Everybody was laughing at the dinner, including Dave. It’s just funny, and we just kind of kept running Kelly and I kept running with the word. And the word just identified fear. Like fears present, every human being, there’s no human being can’t exist without fear. And it’s the recognition of what fear is, and how it’s having, how it’s shaping itself. Within you, and it’s understanding that or having that relationship with fear, and then moving forward anyway. Whether that’s going out and doing something you don’t want to do, or having a conversation with somebody you don’t want to do or doing a workout you don’t want to do or whatever.
It’s very simple and very easy to grab onto that and just be, I’m gonna get it. And so anyway, I ended up naming my corporation after that, so the corporation that I function under unscared, Inc which I founded probably, I don’t know, reopened that. She, I think 2008 or something. 2009. But that and it just transcended and I ended up tattooing it on my fingers. And it’s just it’s kind of we’ve done shirts and hats and things and people just kind of grab on to it. And they’re like that word. It’s just, it’s just a small thing we don’t do a lot with but we still recognize it.
Misbah Haque 51:37
Now under an unscarred, what are some things you’re excited about that you’re working on right now.
Power speed endurance, which was the, our transition from CrossFit Endurance over back over to our own brand, which was the name of my first book, where there’s a lot of stuff we’re doing, where we’ve got now a subscription site, and that subscription site is starting to morph. And it’s a minor fee for this thing, that we’re really going to be able to do some things that are really cool. From a, from a progressional standpoint, it’s net, we’ve never people never really done before we’re getting very close to that. And that, that excites me, because it’s no more like we don’t have to put content out, like meaning like, Hey, I gotta show you how to run anymore. I think I’ve done a lot of that I’ve done enough of that to where it’s like, here’s the programming, here’s what you’re going to do. And here’s what it’s gonna look like.
And it’s gonna involve cadence, and you’re gonna need to hold a specific cadence for a certain amount of time. And if you can’t, then we need to bump you down. And we need to show you exactly how to progress and it gives people a reality check of where they should be. And maybe you probably shouldn’t be going out and running a marathon if you can, if you can’t hold the 93 or 92 cadences. Because what’s happening is you’re just breaking yourself down and not able to handle skill-wise what needs to happen. And this is why we see elite-level runners. And I’m not, it’s not that we’re necessarily trying to make elite-level runners per se, but we’re making people skilled enough to where they can do this for a lifetime. And that concept is why runners are and I’m just using runners’ examples. We could use cyclists, we could use swimmers, we could use rowers starting we don’t see marathon runners start at like 1600 meters and below.
And they get really good at that stuff. And then they run cross country, they run five K’s and then they get really good and world-class at that level, and then they move to 10k. So that same transition, the best cyclists in the world, inevitably end up coming from BMX and velodrome and, and credits and short course stuff because these guys are developing that really, really fast levels and speed is a skill. And so that being a large component of what we do, it’s really getting people to identify and change in using that stuff. And I think the ability to take what we’ve been talking about prior to this is where the breathing the heat and the ice and the recoverability factors and things like Mark pro companies that I worked with, were even in training masks to get people who really aren’t breathing correctly understanding that from a motor control standpoint, and actually recoverability standpoint, those are big things that we plan on implementing and having a part of this machine.
Misbah Haque 54:40
That’s amazing. If everything you accomplished was gone, and you had one year to live, and you want it to get back to where you are now, what would you do? What are the one or two things that you would really tighten up your focus on?
I I don’t think I would be concerned with having some sort of success you don’t, I haven’t really, there’s been a lot of times throughout my career where it’s like, I felt like I needed to be in a certain place or doing more to get more success. But yet I was redefining success. When I was thinking in that term where Fortune, fame, and power, start to fall into the equation when we start to get successful for some reason. And it’s like, that thought, loses sight of what everything is about. And I think if I lost everything, I would continue to do what it was I was doing, anyway. I just being observant, and that’s what’s driving me to be fascinated with the things that I’m fascinated with.
And no goal of mine, because the fact is, is my partner that my wife, she could live in a tent in the backyard, if we needed to, and, and or on a piece of land or in a motorhome or where, and there’s a reason why I married somebody like that, and why that’s my partner is because it’s very simple. We can be that way. So I think success is defined by, for me, in getting back to where I want to be, where I like, I can be there at any given point, no matter what, as long as I’m not losing sight of what, who I really am and focused on me.
Misbah Haque 56:45
Sure. Now, if we’re going back to that learning concept, what are your favorite methods for learning at this point, like what are the things that you do to continually learn?
I’m reading, I’m watching, I like to see, and I’m very interested in great documentary work. Most of any, any of the TV stuff I do is pretty bait. It’s very largely based all except recently, I’ve decided to watch Westworld, which is a sci-fi based, which I haven’t always been into sci-fi or thriller, or I’m definitely not into horror, I have enough stress in my life to where I’m good. Not that I can’t watch horror movies, because I have in the past, but I think that people who don’t understand stress enough stuff like that, where I get motivation out of comedic work hard to do traditional art like, when I say traditional, painting, sculpting, building things like that I get very motivated out of people’s mediums and they use and the fact is, I think I’m an artist, just degree and, and, and I believe I’m in a creative space. This is what is important to me. And people like Kelly Starr are creative, and they are an art, he is an artist. And we don’t have enough people out there thinking of their profession as an art form. And that’s part of the problem. And I think that’s the motivating thing is, is I like to really focus myself and attention around people who’ve made an art out of what it is they’re doing
Misbah Haque 58:46
I really think that comedians, stand-up comedians, whatever you want to call them, are super undervalued in terms of, how much people can learn them.
Look, I’m of sound mind that they’re the most intelligent people on the planet.
Misbah Haque 59:06
I think I agree with you.
And the reason being is that they truly understand what the world is about and how fucked up it is. And they’re able to make humor about it. But those of them that can’t make humor a part of their daily life is largely depressed. And they end up killing themselves or they end up doing very damaging things to themselves because they just can’t handle all that shit that they actually understand. And I think they largely take a Joe Rogan for example, like how profound is his thinking because he wants to learn and understand things and see it and there are many people out there like Bill Burr or Louie CK or whoever and there are plenty of females out there as well. They’re doing this and you’ve got these people who literally are making It’s fun to do stuff. And I’ve made an art format for understanding life.
Misbah Haque 1:00:05
And it’s just crazy. Even when you dig into, like their process what do I mean? What we see as so effortless standing up there for six minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes hour, telling jokes, where you have to produce a laugh a couple of times a minute, whatever it might be. There’s hours and hours worth of work that goes into that and years and years of failure and patience. And it’s just amazing to watch. That type of passion and art come out of that?
I got a good friend who just retired in the last couple of years, Kenny Kane, who runs CrossFit LA, and he is just a phenomenal coach, motivator, all of that. And his end up routine was insanity and how like what he did and he was like an athlete. He was like doing burpees and jumping around. Just making people laugh and this and that was just insanity. And he was just finally like, I just can’t travel around and do this anymore. I’ve got to focus on the coaching. And he’s taken that into what he’s doing within this, this human performance world, and getting people motivated in the LA area to change their lives and do stuff. And it’s been really impactful. And it’s cool to watch.
Misbah Haque 1:01:23
It’s amazing. If we took all of your stories from your entire life, at least the ones that you can talk about, we’re swimming in a giant pool, what is one story that gave you a holy shit moment? Most of them. Let’s take the one that maybe sums up all of them.
They all involve change. They all involve dying. They all involve being able to look at somebody who I don’t like and becoming who it is, I think I want to be who I think I am deep down. And whether that was at 23 and decided to stop drinking. Because it was destroying my life. Having an identity crisis about having to identify as somebody who’s a recovering alcoholic, to where I’m like, I don’t need that identity. Like I’m Brian, like, or why do I even need to say I’m Brian, why can’t I just be a human being doing an ultramarathon, to running 100 miles, to doing it under different conditions. And I had ever known to stepping into the breathing space and meeting people like Wim Hof, or LAIRD HAMILTON or Kelly Starr add, or Nicholas Romanov are they’re all so profound, that it’s like, I think that the tip my wife, like the person who I’m with it literally she knows who I am.
And she won’t let me be anybody. But that, and that is a profound experience every day because there are just things I’m not going to get away with. And it’s like there’s that reminder that needs to continue to work at this. And that’s an amazing place to be. And I can’t, they’re just all so profound, that I think it’s like the most important thing is just to be the person you think you are, but never stop pursuing a better version of that. And I think the most important thing, of all of it, and I’ve said it probably 10 times, is be observant of yourself, watch your behavior, it dictates who you are. Watch your movement, it dictates who you are. It just what we do. And everything has had an impact on my life and that I’ve done and I don’t regret any of it. And some of it’s been pretty shitty, but it’s had a profound impact on who I am today at 42 years old. I just don’t, I don’t care to change that I carry to pursue that and continue to pursue that.
Misbah Haque 1:04:33
Do you feel like there’s something that you don’t get asked enough about something you wish people would ask you more?
I think I finally have evolved into the person that I am wanting to be really that I’m able to communicate now, in a way that I wasn’t able to, which meant I was only gonna be interviewed, or I was only going to have conversations with people who only with what I was communicating versus now what I’m communicating is so much deeper. I think I’ve gotten to a point where that’s really deepening that process. And so, what do you think about this? And that, it’s like, you’re asking me what I think about life and what I think about all this stuff. And this is the really deep, impactful stuff.