Why did I attend the Bulletproof Biohacking Conference?
Have you heard the story of how I started yoga? (If you haven’t yet, click here to read it. It’s pretty entertaining.) It was a complete accident. The reason why I continued doing yoga, however, was my desire to address the aspects of my fitness my traditional strength training program neglected. The weaknesses I displayed in my first yoga class made it clear to me that I needed to do more in order to be better. In short, yoga makes me far stronger because it makes me more flexible, more mobile, gives me more core strength, more body control, better balance, and greater endurance.
However, physical fitness is just one part of your overall fitness. That’s why I’m also an avid learner when it comes sleep, mental health and performance, and diet. For this reason, I am always looking for the best health conferences to attend, ones that match my goals, my values, and hire the best speakers. That’s why I attended the Bulletproof Biohacking Conference this year, making the decision and booking my flight less than 3 weeks before the conference started on Friday, September 23.
Below, I’m going to list the 9 most valuable pieces of fitness & health-related “hacks” I learned from the conference. (There were also many tips on relationships, self-development, etc, but I’ll save that info for the Off the Mat section.)
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Getting outside – sunlight, fresh air, and skin contact with the earth. These simple activities have huge positive effects on our health, ranging from testosterone production to regulated sleep. We were biologically wired to exist outside, yet according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors. Yikes. You don’t have to live in the mountains, but try to get outside for an hour per day. (Fortunately with technology what it is today, there are tools and “biohacks” available to help replicate the effects of being outside, or to help you get the benefits of being outside in less time. More info in future blogs.)
- Sleep quality – If you’ve read my blogs before, you know that I talk about the importance of sleep fairly often. Sleep is when your body recovers from the workouts you put it through, when you can recharge your brain, process everything you’ve learned from the day, and wake up with the energy, vitality, and the mental clarity to get through the day at the highest level of performance. It turns out that sleep is way more important than you think. Whenever you sacrifice your sleep to get something done, you are effectively shortening the years of your life. You are creating a cycle of stress that leads to adrenal fatigue, depression, and maybe even a full on mental breakdown. Getting better sleep is literally the BEST thing you can do your health, both physically and mentally, and if you are sacrificing your sleep for anything (relationships, work, fitness) it will eventually come back to you.
- Active Recovery – up until this weekend, I thought that rest and inactivity were what you needed to recover from injury. It turns out that this is not true. In fact, what your body really needs in order to heal is MOVEMENT. Movement pumps blood into the area of your body that needs healing. The blood brings healing nutrients to and removes waste from the damaged tissue areas. On the last day of the conference, I met with Gary Reinl, author of “Iced: The Illusionary Treatment Option” and trainer to professional athletes. He explained all of this to information on proper recovery to me face-to-face, completely wowing me in the process, and turning much of what I thought was fact upon its head. Gary works with over 80 professional sports teams, and the athletes he works with that have surgeries recover weeks or months ahead of time using this proven process of active recovery. That’s all I’ll say for now, but I’ll be talking more about this in future blog posts – make sure to subscribe to learn more!
Training minimally for maximum results – the old model of exercise is push, push, and push some more. The theory is your body will eventually adapt to all of the punishment that you are putting it through. The reality is that your body is the best gauge you have for measuring your fitness, and listening to it will do you far better than simply pushing through everything. The truth is that your body takes time to recover. Putting your body through high levels of stress everyday prevents your body from getting the time it needs to recover and get stronger. Certainly, you’re developing grit, but you’re digging yourself an early grave. Mark Sisson, the founder of The Primal Blueprint and his personal blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, gave a fantastic speech on training less and getting more of it, or as he put it, the minimum effective dose. (Shout out to Tim Ferriss as well.) In other words, training less in order to get stronger; working out in a way that prompts your body to develop strength in targeted areas, rather than completely exhausting your body everyday and not giving your body a chance to adapt.
Breathing – Nobody at this conference was a yoga instructor, but almost everyone who spoke discussed the relationship of breathing and performance. Want to sleep better? Focus on deep breathing to relax your body. What should all of us be doing at the beginning of the day? Taking a few minutes to focus on breathing. What’s the best way to relax and destress? Meditation and breathing. What’s a good indicator of effective posture? Ability to breathe properly. You get the point – breathing is extremely important. Taking a few minutes per day to focus on it, either on its own or in sync with yoga movements, will help every aspect of your life.
The spine-first model – Kelly Starrett, today’s modern mobility guru, creator of Mobility WOD, and famed DPT, continually emphasized a “spine- first” model. This means that when considering any type of movement, sitting, or resting position, we have to consider the spine. You’ll notice that most of the Man Flow Yoga workouts follow this model – we start with the spine, and work our way through the rest of the body. Next time you’re following along, notice the emphasis on spine, and understand that it’s not just me saying it – the best of the best are, as well!
Morning movement – Yoga came up again here as recommended morning movement. It’s important to work into your full range of motion and maintain mobility, and morning is the best time to do it – before you go to work, sit down, and ruin your posture. This not only helps to prevent injury from mobility deficiencies, but helps to wake up your body, your mind, and to start your day off right. (Want to see my morning stretch routine? Click here.)
Evening bodywork – Self-myofasical release is a term you’re definitely familiar with if you’ve done Man Flow Yoga workouts, especially if you’ve done any mobility-focused workout from Man Flow Yoga Workout Library or The Mobility Project. Self-myofasical release uses mobility tools to address trigger points and release muscles knots. Doing some self-myofasical release in the evening not only helps to relieve muscle tension, it also helps you go to sleep. It causes your muscles to release, which releases tension, activates your parasympathetic nervous system (the one that helps to sleep and digest food), and helps you enter deep sleep more quickly. Use a mobility tool like the KnotOut or a lacrosse ball and target the tightest, angriest muscles you can find. All it takes is a few minutes before you go to bed. Check out The Mobility Project or the mobility-focused workouts within the Man Flow Yoga Workout Library (must be a member of the Man Flow Yoga Members’ Area to view) to learn more about these. (Don’t have a KnotOut yet? Click here to learn more about the KnotOut, my absolute FAVORITE mobility tool. You can get 25% savings off your total order using the code “ManFlowYoga” on the last page of the checkout process.)
Minimizing stress levels – Our biology is not equipped to handle constant stress, yet for many of us, that is the reality. We wake up, check our phones (inducing stress), go to work in high-stress environments (more stress), and then we come home and worry about bills, compare ourselves to other people on social media, and go to bed with even more stress than we started with, already worried about the next day (stress, stress, and more stress). Sound familiar? Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many practices you can utilize to practice stress-relief, chiefly among them being
- a gratitude practice
- turning off screens 4 hours before bed (or at least wearing THESE glasses if you are going to be looking at screens – I’ve been using them on an almost daily basis since November 2015)
- finishing your work a few hours before bed
About the author, Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.
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