So I could take a lot more credit than I deserve but I really didn’t engineer much of the path to fitness & improved health.
Wanted to Climb
So this whole journey (one I’ve taken before several times) really started when I started rock climbing at Penny Royal Adventures (my client where I’m onsite). I really started enjoying the climbing and incrementally bumped up the volume & difficulty.
The problem arose because my muscles and tendons weren’t fit to do the climbing I wanted to. Particularly, a problem started with my right knee.
With the old man activity that I had been doing over the previous year or two, the main thing my leg muscles and knee tendons were prepped for was going up & down stairs. With rock climbing, as the difficulty increases, one of the things you need to do is take bigger steps. Really try to get your foot up high and then load it from an incredibly flexed position and stand into it. Basically kind of like a pistol squat or such. Will lacking the strength in the more flexed range in my muscles & tendons, everything rebelled & pretty much seized up.
I had a bunch of trigger points/muscle spasms that didn’t want to release.
I tried a bunch of stuff…gave Bikram yoga another extended try…but nothing worked.
Then I decided to give the @kneesovertoesguy programming I’d seen online a shot.
Knees Over Toes Guy
The basic principle that I learned from him is that many of our common physical issues (of course there are many exceptions) have come from not moving our joints and muscles through their full range of. motion.
My right knee is something that I’ve struggled with for the last 20+ years. Had it scoped to do some meniscus clean up. And then did a bunch of rehab after that.
I hit one point in that rehab where I think I was jumping higher than I had ever done in my life. Was bombing balls. The big difference is that in my rehab, the therapy included massive grinding on the knots in my quad just above my knee. They went away for a while and my leg function was better than ever.
Of course, the rehab (& accompanying massage) ended and the knee never felt that good again.
I also struggled with knots (which I now view as spasms) in my upper quad, lower, mid and upper back throughout the years.
Saw many a chiropractor, spent many an hour doing self massage with foam rollers, lacrosse balls and all manner of related equipment. Some relief here & there but never a final fix.
Enter Knees Over Toes Guy
I can’t remember where I first saw Ben. I think it was on fitness Instagram but then I know I did see his site had a clip of him on Rogan. Watched that & looked that up. This was way before he was on Rogan. Rogan was just mentioning the MonkeyFeet that he’d seen from Ben and how he was really enjoying them in his training.
Well, I continued to devour everything about KOT on IG and YouTube and eventually signed up for the program in August of 2021 I think. I’ve been on it ever since.
As I mentioned, in doing the program, the commonality was that we shouldn’t avoid moving our injured parts. We just needed to do it in a way that was regressed enough to avoid pain and strive for full range of motion.
I started on the most basic program, Zero, SUPER regressed with my knee and stayed that way for quite a while.
While doing this, I had a lower back flare up (common) which affected my training. My ATG trainer suggested I get a back extension bench and work on regressed back extensions.
This proved to be the cure to my decade long episodes with lower back spasms (my lower back going out).
I’d been very inactive over the past couple decades. Couple this with long days sitting behind a computer screen in non-optimal positions.
So basically again, just move the problem joint through a full range of motion as regressed as needed to get movement and strength into the muscles supporting it. Wow!
I mean I’d heard that Supermans helped the lower back but just isometric strengthening hadn’t prevented the spasms from recurring.
Extending the Principle
And then I started to cascade this to the rest of my training.
I also had upper back issues (trap/neck spasms) from time to time. Another of the Zero program moves was ring rows. Doing these regularly extending my head as far back at the bottom of the rep through full range keeps my neck & traps spasm free & healthy.
I also had some forearm overuse issues with climbing. Started doing as full range triceps extensions in different positions, forearm flexions/supination with a sledgehammer & that made those go away.
Whatever the ache/pain or issue, make sure the muscle around the joint was moving through a full range as easily as needed.
ATG still makes up the large part of my strength & mobility training.
And of course, as you start working out, your body craves healthier food. I had no intention to change my diet when I first started ATG.
But I just went back to something that had worked in the past, basically dirty keto plus vegetables. Didn’t get too crazy. Still kept on the cheese, cream in my coffee, etc.
And ended up losing 30 points and being the fittest I’ve been in many decades.
Peter Attia MD
All during this, I also got redirected toward Peter Attia.
His practice deals with nutritional interventions, exercise physiology, sleep physiology, emotional and mental health, and pharmacology to increase lifespan (delay the onset of chronic disease), while simultaneously improving healthspan (quality of life).
I’d known about him for a several years. Saw him on a Rogan clip again & thought he seemed interesting & very smart. Followed his stuff peripherally over the years but never really dug in.
When COVID came on, I was definitely more on the side of the science avoidant side.
I know Attia is a bit of a Rogan type bro (the one thing that disappoints me) but I felt like he honours the science enough that I should listen to a point of view that might be different than the one I held. So I searched out the Rogan Attia COVID podcast & listened to that. Wasn’t something I subscribed to. I actively went searching for it on Spotify.
Once I hit that, Spotify suggested a couple of Attia’s own podcasts. I listened to them and identified with his principles immediately.
And then just jumped in full bore.
Joined as a subscriber and then went about consuming all of his podcasts. I’m about 80% through at this point.
I’ve gotten a ton from him.
- I love the concept of the centenarian olympics.
- Basically what activities do you want to be able to do in your marginal (final) decade. And then with the concepts of inevitable decline over the years, program your training to be able to hit the needed levels now.
- I believe exercise is our most potent intervention. And I believe that his break up of functional areas makes great sense:
- stability (the foundation) – I count a lot of my ATG work towards this though Peter goes much farther & more nuanced (taking a lot of principles from Dynamic neuromuscular stabilization (DNS) of which we don’t even have a practitioner in Tasmania)
- strength – required with strength and muscle mass highly correlating to reduced mortality and the inevitable loss of muscle over the years
- aerobic / zone 2 training – increasing mitochondrial function and improving metabolic health
- anaerobic / zone 5 training – with a high VO2 max being our most highly correlated metric with longevity
- I finally started prioritising sleep after my extended family had been exhorting me to for decades.
- I agree with his beliefs around nutrition, basically that it all hangs on energy balance and that caloric restriction (some form) is needed in my case.
- I believe he has it spot on with the different types of restriction:
- Caloric restriction – controlling how much you eat
- Dietary restriction – controlling what you eat (this is my preferred lever where I eliminate most sugar & carbs and it prevents me from having to track calories or eat within a small window)
- Time restriction – controlling when you eat
- I’ve taken more on around emotional health than I expected as I’m not really a therapy guy. I’m not specifically meditating or doing any therapy but I’m more conscious about this area than I used to be and acknowledge that I need to do more work here.
- And on pharmacology, I haven’t really done anything here as I still need to get much of the testing (blood testing, DEXA, etc.) that he recommends done.
- And I’ve also taken on some of the other tangential beliefs that that he has covered in his podcast and really connected to some of his guests.
- I really prioritise protein to try to build & maintain muscle mass (and have gotten my family to do the same).
- I’m was a fan of minimal/barefoot shoes from many years before but was happy to see him echo this stance (though he isn’t as hard core on this as he used to be).
- I’ve adopted many of his hydration recommendations, including shipping LMNT from the US. I find that adding electrolytes to my magnesium supplementation & staying hydrated is a key move in preventing the back spasms that I used to get.
- I’ve adopted his recommendations on bone health and try to incorporate things like heavy farmer walks, etc. and such into my training.
- I’m also a fan of rucking (since 2015 thx to Chuck Reynolds) but was happy to see him apply so much priority to this.
- His recommendation of Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman has been massive in shifting my priorities and everyday activities. Huge, huge fan of this book to help the prioritisation of what’s most important and the exclusion of what’s not.
- I also really enjoyed From Strength to Strength by Arthur Brooks as well. On the shifting priorities & roles as we age.
- Iñigo San-Millán, Ph.D. – HUGE fan of Dr. Iñigo and his work on Zone 2 training.
- Andy Galpin, Ph.D. – HUGE fan of Dr. Galpin and his work on exercise & training.
- Matthew Walker, Ph.D. – HUGE fan of Matt Walker & all his work on sleep.
- Layne Norton, Ph.D. – big fan of Layne & his keeping it real with regard to diet/nutrition/training & his walking the talk (having won natural powerlifting & bodybuilding competitions)
- Michael Easter, MA – big fan of Michael Easter & his work on rucking & discomfort.