Can Endurance Exercise Make You Age Faster? Learn The Truth In This Tale Of Two Triathletes…

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Anti-Aging, Articles

Welcome to the next chapter in Part 1 of Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance Health & Life…

If you missed any previous chapters, then have no worries, because I've got  links to all previous chapters at the bottom of this post.

In today's chapter, I pose this question: can endurance exercise actually make you age faster?

And what can you expect when you're 40, 50 or 60+ years old after a lifetime of cycling, marathoning or triathlon?

The truth is in the following tale of two triathletes – in which you learn how even in the same sport, two very different styles of training, eating and living can result in a shocking contrast in the later years of life…

…be sure to leave your personal thoughts, comments, feedback, proposed edits and other constructive criticism below this article…


A Tale Of Two Triathletes

Meet Chad.

Chad has been a triathlete for 22 years.

At the age of 58, he has amassed 12 Ironman triathlons, and also done handfuls of Sprint, Olympic and Half-Ironman triathlons.

Like many of his triathlete peers, Chad is type A, successful, and has lived a fast-paced life as an employee, manager, and now CFO of a Fortune 500 company. He travels at least one weekend every month, and endurance exercise is the one thing that seems to keep him sane and focused during his stressful days sitting at work – plus he absolutely loves the endorphin high derived from his exercising and racing. Chad is married and is also a father of three boys.

Chad's routine has been the same every since he started doing Ironman. He swims Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with a master's swim group for 60 minutes, and when he's getting closer to his big races, sometimes throws in an extra pool or open water swim on the weekends, in which he swims at a steady, aerobic pace for an hour or so.

He rides his bike twice a week for 60-90 minutes, sometimes on the trainer and sometimes outside – usually mixing things up with some tempo or interval training, and occasionally a spin class. Most weekends, he goes out solo or joins a handful of friends for a 3-4 hour aerobic ride, which sometimes goes as long as 5-6 hours when an Ironman is approaching. Often, these long runs are followed up with a short to mid-distance run of 20-60 minutes. Squeezing in these long rides gets a bit boring in the winter, since Chad is usually just sitting on his indoor trainer and watching movie after movie as he spins away.

Chad has never really enjoyed running that much, but considers it a necessary evil for getting him through triathlons, and he typically heads out on 45-60 minute morning or lunchtime runs 3-4 days per week. Most of the time, these runs are done at a steady pace, without much interval or speedwork, which just seems annoying to Chad to try and fit in. Beginning several months out from an Ironman, Chad also does long weekend “death-marches”, typically slow runs of 2-3 hours in duration that tend to leave him exhausted and drained, but mentally confident about being able to handle the Ironman marathon.

Chad hits the gym for cross training occasionally, but without much structure. Sometimes he does a Pilates or yoga class, sometimes he does some kind of core workout, sometimes he gets on some weight machines or uses dumbbells for just enough sets and reps to make his muscles really burn, and occasionally he'll even throw in extra endurance work with an elliptical trainer or rowing machine.

Chad's diet is pretty consistent. Most weekday mornings he has a multivitamin, a couple cups of coffee, a bowl of cereal or a few pieces of whole grain toast with peanut butter, and for his morning workouts, some kind of sports drink mix. For lunch, he typically has a sandwich or yogurt at work, often with an energy bar or protein bar thrown in, and another cup of coffee, or a diet soda. He usually has a piece of fruit or some trail mix in the afternoon, and dinner is fish, chicken or steak with some kind of pasta or rice, often with beer or a glass of wine. After dinner, especially on weekends, Chad's appetite often spirals out of control and he'll eat ice cream, some mini-candy bars or chocolate, lots of nuts, or another energy bar or two. On the weekends, he throws in extra recovery shakes, smoothies, energy bars or gels and salt pills to fuel his additional training – trying to use the same kind of fuel and calorie intake as he uses during races.

For over two decades, this has been Chad's life.

Eat, swim, bike, run.

Rinse, wash, repeat.


Now, at 58 years old, Chad certainly feels as through the training has taken a toll on his body.

His joints ache on many mornings, and especially at night after long training weekends – but it's usually nothing that an advil or ibuprofen doesn't seem to fix. Nonetheless, just about every month Chad gets frustrated dealing with one injury or another – sometimes pain on the outside of his knee that threatens to lock up his knees if he pushes too hard, sometimes plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, or some other kind of foot or ankle issue, and sometimes nagging pain on the front of his shoulder. Most issues clear up if he just modifies his training or skips a swim, bike or run here and there, but he does get sharp pain on the outside of his hip almost every time he runs now, and this makes him a little bit nervous about whether he might need some kind of joint replacement surgery soon. It even aches sometimes when he's sleeping.

And that's another thing: sleeping.

It's more difficult now.

With his fast-paced life, Chad has always slept no more than about about 6-7 hours a night, and sometimes less than that when he's in the throes of Ironman training – but now it seems to take longer and longer to fall asleep, he often wakes up during the night, and just feels tired and sluggish during the day, which often makes it hard to be productive at work, or makes him easily annoyed and grumpy around his family.

It's also been awhile since Chad has had good sex. Most of the time, this doesn't matter, because it's been a long time since he's had much drive anyway – and it's always seemed to be a sore topic between him and his wife. Even when he does have sex, he has an increasingly difficult time maintaining or keeping an erection, and often wonders if maybe has low testosterone or some kind of hormone issue. However, his doctor just does a standard annual physical and usually doesn't test for that kind of stuff, so Chad doesn't know for sure, and he's usually too tired by the end of the day to care much about sex anyway.

Finally, there are the stomach issues. It seems that more and more these days, Chad has to pop an antacid medication with dinner to shut down the inevitable heartburn and acid reflux, especially at  the end of a big training day that includes lots of fueling. And even though he's always had gas and bloating issues (sometimes to the extent that it really hampers his long runs and has constantly haunted him during half-Ironman and Ironman races), it seems to have gotten worse, now with occasional bouts of constipation or diarrhea. It just seems like something is not quite right with his gut.


But Chad still has a nice body.

Aside from his dry, wrinkled skin (despite slathering on lots of sunscreen every time he goes out for a long ride or run) Chad is pretty proud of the way he looks. He's fit. He's trim. He has a low body fat percentage. Most guys his age are fat and dumpy and sit on the couch a lot, but Chad actually feels like he looks pretty damn good. Sometimes he wishes he could do more with his body, like try playing basketball, or tennis, or golf, or skiing – but life gets way to busy, especially when he's trying to squeeze in Ironman training. Besides – by the time he finishes work, swimming, cycling and running, he is too fatigued, too worn out, too sleepy and doesn't have the time for extracurricular stuff like that.

Also, with so much on the line training for and racing Ironman, why even risk getting hurt with extra sports? This has been a concern for a long time for Chad, who often feels a little bit fragile, like if he steps the wrong way or starts into other sports that make him move too quickly he'll easily strain or sprain something – and it's just not worth missing his triathlon training with a sprained ankle or shoulder from group sports.

Chad sometimes resents that he never really got into any other hobbies, like extra sports, or cooking, or playing a musical instrument, or reading more books, but at the same time, he also takes pride in the triathlon medals, plaques and finisher photos that line the wall of his office. The other guys don't have those kind of bragging rights.

And speaking of resentment, Chad also gets a gnawing feeling sometimes that maybe he never spent enough time with his kids, who he doesn't seem to really have a close relationship with. While juggling the long hours of swimming, cycling and running while also creating a successful career, Chad spent much of his childrens' formative years either working or training, and wonders if he missed too much of their childhood. But relationships have never been Chad's specialty anyway – he has very few close friends, and not a lot of time for social events, parties, or reunions. Most of his socializing is done in between swim sets in the pool or on a bike saddle.

But despite his training buddies, Chad still sometimes feels lonely.

And despite his success, he still sometimes feels unfulfilled.


It will be a couple more years before Chad suffers his first “heart flutter” while out on a bike ride.

And it will be another year after that before Chad is forced to stop running because of the gnawing pain in his hip that explodes in full-blown arthritis.

For several months, Chad will try to bike, swim, aqua-jog, elliptical and lift weights through the pain, before he gets extremely frustrated and begins to develop depression, insomnia, a “skinny-fat” look and chronic fatigue that makes it hard to even get out of bed in the morning anymore.

Chad never got around to doing it, but if he would have gotten advanced blood and saliva testing, and a gut panel, he would have discovered:

-hampered fat metabolism and a pre-diabetic condition from excessive sugar, starch, carbohydrate and high-glycemic index carbohydrate intake…

-chronically elevated cortisol hormone levels, systemic inflammation and blood vessel and nerve damage from oxidative stress and free radical production…

-skin, joint and connective tissue breakdown from hormone depletion and high levels of inflammatory  markers like HS-CRP, fibrinogen and interleukins…

-rock-bottom vitamin D, depleted omega-3 anti-inflammatory fatty acids and plummeting testosterone levels from a low-fat diet combined with energy depletion from overexercise…

-a leaky intestinal wall, fungus overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract and severe neurotransmitter and sleep imbalances related to a broken gut…

-depletion of elements crucial to the heart's electrical activity, such magnesium and trace minerals, combined with excessive levels of oxidized cholesterol and plaque formation…

For a long time, Chad stayed fit on the outside, but broken on the inside, and it eventually caught up with him. Within just a few years, Chad will barely be able to do any of the exercise that he relied on for so long to keep him sane and keep him lean. Even simple movements will hurt.
And Chad will quit enjoying life.


Kirsten is also a triathlete.

Like Chad, she's been a big fan of triathlon for as long as she can remember, and every year she does a handful of shorter races, and usually an Ironman too – completing her 14th Ironman this year at the age of 53.

Kirsten owns her own small business, a graphic design firm, and each week she juggles dozens of projects and hundreds of e-mails while managing her team of independent contractors and employees. She's been married for 30 years and she and her husband raised twin girls and one boy, who have all moved on to college.

Perhaps it is from her college days as a rower, but Kirsten's always been a fan of interval training. Her Ironman training routine consists of short dips into intense heart rate zones, followed by long periods of rest, recovery, and light physical activity at her standing desk, in her garden, walking the dog, or even commuting on her bike to the grocery store and library. She's a firm believer that her ancestors didn't ramp up their heart rates significantly for several stressful hours each day “running from a lion” and neither should she. Kirsten instead tries to mirror a hunter-gatherer approach to training – living at a very low level of exertion and light physical activity, relying primarily upon stored fats as a fuel, and then injecting occasional brief spurts of intense activity or heavy lifting.

For swimming, Kirsten has always found the Master's swim classes to be long and exhausting. She instead makes it a point to get into the water at least couple times a week for a quick “tune-up” bout of 20-30 minutes year-round, and in her final couple months leading into Ironman, she exposes her body a a few “big” swim workouts, such as a 30 one hundred meter efforts at race pace. But these kind of monster swim sessions are few and far between, and she focuses instead on simply maintaining swim efficiency, economy, and “feel for the water”. She also juggles her frequent swims by always combining her swim workouts with something else she may be doing at the gym, such as a strength training session or quick treadmill jaunt.

Kirsten gets most of her biking done when she's commuting around town, and for her once-per-week structured bike workouts, usually bikes indoors. She finds that cycling can involve dressing, prepping tires, getting gloves or toe warmers, filling water bottles, meeting with a group and other activities that suck up 15-20 minutes of her time before she's even on the road training. And once she's finally out there, traffic lights and stop signs significantly detract from the time efficiency of her workouts. So to maximize her cycling bang for the buck, she does hard intense 60-90 minute interval workouts during her triathlon race season, and does just two or three long outdoor days in the last 8 weeks leading up to her Ironman. In the winter, when most of her triathlon friends are spending long Saturday mornings indoors on a bike trainer, she instead simply heads outdoors to ski, snowshoe or just traipse around in the fresh air.

Just like Chad, Kirsten has never really enjoyed long runs, as they felt unnatural and always seemed to take a very long time to recover from. But unlike Chad, she gave up long ago on “forcing” the long, weekly death-march run, or the hour long lunch-time slogs. Instead, two times a week, she simply hops on the treadmill or heads out to the hill behind her house for brief, intense 20-30 minute bursts of interval training. During race season, Kirsten works up to 90 minutes of run intervals at her Ironman intensity, and only does just one long 18-20 mile run about a month before her big race. Even with this minimal amount of running, she still feels as though running beats her up more than anything else, so she tries to run only on soft surfaces like trails and treadmills, and also implements weekly post-run recovery techniques like foam rolling, ice baths, compression gear and other little tricks to help her bounce back as quickly as possible. And she never forces herself through a run session if she's sore or her legs are heavy. Instead, Kirsten listens to her body and if anything doesn't feel right, she just does an easy swim, a little bit of yoga, or some light walking.

Finally, at least a couple times a week, Kirsten works all her muscle groups with dynamic strength training sessions, in which she simply follows one rule:  lift heavy stuff. She finds that avoiding light weights and machines, and instead challenging her body with barbells, dumbbells or even kettlebells not only helps her maintain lean muscle and a nice body shape, but also helps her avoid nagging shoulder, knee and hip pain, feel more powerful when she's riding a bike or running, and get a big thumbs up from her physician every time she's gone in for a preventive bone density scan. This type of weight bearing activity also helps to increase her natural growth hormone production and insulin sensitivity, keeping her body lean and metabolically efficient. Every Sunday, Kirsten takes a yoga class, which helps her maintain good mobility and low levels of stress, and then she incorporates movements from that class in a short daily morning routine into which she incorporates meditation, deep breathing techniques and stress control.


So even though Kirsten has spent many years in endurance sports, she doesn't devote her entire life to swimming, cycling and running – and actually only does structured triathlon training about 8-10 hours each week. Unlike many of her training friends, she's always simply focused on being on her feet and engaging in light levels of physical activity throughout the day, and not trying to “train away stress” after long, sedentary 8 hour days of sitting in an office chair.

Similar to her approach to physical activity, Kirsten has always made every attempt to eat as naturally as possible. She has a small garden in her backyard where she and her husband spend time during the spring and summer planting and growing nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits like kale, spinach, raspberries and watermelon, and detoxifying herbs like parsley and cilantro. She buys most of her foods from local farms and farmer's market, and even during her workouts, she has always tried to avoid processed fuels in favor of simply eating real food. To fuel her light levels of fat-burning physical activity during the day, Kirsten eats hormone-supporting, fatty-acid rich foods like eggs, fish, olives and avocados, and tends to stay far away from sugar and carbohydrates unless she's right in the middle of a workouts. Even then she tries to keep things as natural as possible by eating dried fruits, sweet potatoes, yams, white rice and natural sources of carbohydrates as an alternative to sports drinks and gels.

Once a year, Kirsten also tests her body for levels of crucial elements like magnesium, anti-oxidants, Vitamin D, and hormones, and rather than using large levels of cheap multivitamins or trendy supplements, she simply takes a few supplements that target specific nutrients that she is deficient in or tends to deplete more quickly due to her unnaturally high levels of physical activity. While she'll be the first to admit that Ironman training does require some extra help with this kind of nutrition supplementation, she's still very careful about what she puts into her body, and relies on real, recognizable food for the majority of her nutrients.

Compared to most of her endurance athlete friends, Kirsten is toned and curvaceous with glowing skin and a fantastic complexion. Because she's always controlled her sugar and carbohydrate intake, Kirsten's skin and hair hasn't been affected by the breakdown of sugars, called glycation, that damages the collagen which keeps connective tissue smooth and firm. Controlling her level of stress from excessive exercise has also helped keep her inflammation low, reducing spikes in cortisol and inflammatory damage that can also accelerate the aging process. It has probably also helped that Kirsten has always been careful about using harsh chemicals on her body or to clean her home, relying instead on natural beauty products and essential oils. And Kirsten's healthy habit of functional strength training a couple times a week while avoiding too much “chronic cardio” has helped her to maintain lean muscle mass, avoid a “skinny-fat” look as she ages, and support supple skin and natural curves.

Kirsten's sex life and drive is also good.  Because she's always been careful to limit her exposure to excessive estrogens from the environment, diet and stress, she never really experienced unpleasant hot flashes, sexual disinterest, or discomfort. Her focus on healthy fats and adequate protein, combined with avoidance of hormone depleting activities like a sugary diet or excessive training, have kept her from needing hormone replacement therapy like many of her friends.

Kirsten has happily led an active social life, as she's well aware that connections and relationships are the a leading anti-aging tactic among every population on the face of the planet. So even though most of her triathlon training sessions are alone, focused and intense, she's always had the time left over to simply hang out with her friends, her children and her husband – and she has no regrets about neglecting important relationships or fun social opportunities. She's still been able to devote time volunteering for local charities, practicing piano to keep her mind young, and witness the birth of her first grandchild.


In just a few years, at the ripe age of 57, Kirsten will qualify for Ironman Hawaii for the third time, and head to the big island of Kona to race in the Ironman World Championships. That same year, she's able to put in 3 solid months of Saturday morning driving for her local Meals on Wheels delivery service,  teach her two grandchildren how to play the piano, and even win an award as a local leading businesswoman.

She continues to pay attention to her body and her health, and goes above and beyond her simple yearly physical to ensure that her preventive practice of eating healthy, engaging in a broad range of physical activity, detoxing her diet and house, and living an active, stress-free life is continuing to pay off. And rather than her tests revealing low bone density, depleted hormones, gut issues, or impending arthritis, she continues to have healthy lab numbers – above and beyond even the healthiest of her peers.

Kirsten has a tough time imaging life without triathlon, and feels as though swimming, cycling, running and racing are a part of her life, and one of the ways that she defines herself. She'll even be the first to admit that she is probably addicted to the endorphins and the positive feeling she gets from exercising. But even though she loves endurance sports with a passion, Kirsten has never let herself get stuck in a training rut, or let her exercise and focus on fitness become so time-consuming or selfish that it detracts from her health, her hobbies, her career, her family and her friends.

Life is good.



As you can see, despite participating in the identical sport, Chad and Kirsten had two very different approaches to training, eating and living that resulted in a shocking contrast in their later years of life.

Chad beat up his body with excessive training in the “grey zone” – long tempo sessions consisting primarily of junk miles – while also implementing a standard endurance athlete diet, de-prioritizing sleep, recovery and relaxation, and ignoring holistic health concepts such as hormone balance and gut integrity. While there certainly is a correct way to train 20-30 hours per week (which you'll learn about in this book), Chad took the all-too-common approach  of digging himself deeper and deeper into an overtraining hole from which he never was able to climb out.

In contrast, Kirsten went beyond training, implemented many of the concepts you'll find within this book, and found the optimal balance between her endurance, her health and her life. She tested and listened to her body, and engaged in smart exercise, nutrition and healthy living strategies that primed her body to maximally absorb every last drop of her training. And while this book will show how she certainly could have also found success by implementing a vegetarian or vegan diet or training longer hours in a smart way, her omnivorous eating combined with high intensity interval training and an ancestral approach to healthy living allowed Kirsten to find lasting success in both performance life.

So now it's your turn.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about this tale of two triathletes, or how endurance exercise can make you age faster? Did I leave out crucial information you would have liked to see added, or was anything I talked about confusing or hard to understand?

Leave your valuable thoughts below!


Links To Previous Chapters of “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life”

Part 1 – Introduction

-Part 1 – Preface: Are Endurance Sports Unhealthy?

-Part 1 – Chapter 1: How I Went From Overtraining And Eating Bags Of 39 Cent Hamburgers To Detoxing My Body And Doing Sub-10 Hour Ironman Triathlons With Less Than 10 Hours Of Training Per Week.


Ask Ben a Podcast Question

58 thoughts on “Can Endurance Exercise Make You Age Faster? Learn The Truth In This Tale Of Two Triathletes…

  1. TJ says:

    Why do all of the people who suggest grammar corrections use bad grammar???

  2. Stef Cornelissen says:

    Hi Ben – as a chapter this seems to focus on “what is right” (as opposed to “wrong”). However both persons have a clear different purpose with their approach to life an training. With regards to training I would pose that question “why do you -want to – train?” perhaps pointing to some questionair that will help people to clarify what they want. It might sound strange but some people would actually want to be alfa bragging male prototypes :-) although it could come at a price.

  3. Rebecca says:

    well the “enjoyment factor” is key here. Chad isn’t enjoying it at all – it’s a bloody slog out 20-30 hours a week and completely over-training. The girl is having awesome fun and loves it, as well as listens to her body – recovering sensibly after every workout from week to week and isn’t over obsessive (like so many are!!) – it’s easy to see which one will live longer with happy years ahead (diet apart)..

  4. Mj says:

    I was disappointed, as I was looking for actual research on how triathlon impacts aging. Guess this was the wrong article for me!

  5. jbland019 says:

    What would Kirsten's daily macro-nutrient ratio look like on a typical day and higher intensity day?
    I currently roughly follow the perfect health diet but wonder which particular macro-nutrient would be most beneficial to raise if looking to gain muscle mass without affecting fat burning potential or blood glucose levels to much.

    1. The rest of goes into that further ;) but check this out for a little help…

  6. neopito says:

    You cannot do endurance exercise most of your life. Somewhere you'll be physically spent.

  7. clairoberts says:

    Endurance exercises have always shown a positive signs especially among people who have continued to undertake them for the whole of their lives. Similarly people have been able to reduce and avoid anti aging signs with Kristen has really shown to the world that a well disciplined life is going to benefit one throughout life. Although its not really possible for everyone to follow in Kristen's footsteps but i can bet its worth a try.

  8. John says:

    I run as many miles per week as I can possibly fit into my schedule (usually 75-85), try to lift heavy things every so often when I am not in a hill training phase of my running schedule, consume a very healthy diet, supplement with key nutrients, and use recovery options such as the rumble roller and ice cold showers. I keep improving every year and my health seems to be improving no matter how many aerobic long runs and 2 X a day runs I put in. If a runner is consistently using good form and not overstretching the effort it is not likely to harm health at all. For the competitive runner miles still make champions, not cross-fit, cross training, or any other non-specific activity. I played college baseball and was never a very good runner in my entire life. Over 5 years I have gone from 3:45 in the marathon to 2:40 and 1:45 to 1:16 in the half marathon using a Lydiard/Maffetone style approach and it is working just fine for me at the age of 36. I love your show and the information you put out, but for the highly competitive runner looking to knock out consistent PRs, some of this information is definitely not the best approach. I think it suits primarily triathletes and the general fitness population, and I can understand why it would make sense in that regard.

  9. Andree says:

    Thank you for addressing this. It's been an observation of mine for quite some time. It's nice to have some validity to this.

  10. Jim L says:


    I found this a bit flat. I find that either a generic description, ie. “approach 1” & “approach 2” or real life examples more appealing than a fictitious athlete approach. The former would necessitate a more direct (ie. shorter) description. The later would simply be more interesting.

    Jim L.

  11. Gary says:

    Another good chapter. I like the comparisons, they are an effective way of showing opposing methods of training. I am following Tri Dominator in preparation for IM Whislter. I am recovering well from one session to the next, something I t thought would not happen given the intensity of the workouts. My appetite is good and I am sleeping well. I feel stronger now than I did with the long slow type workouts that I did for my last Ironman. Your information always is backed by science and is very credible. You are doing a great job of educating people in ways to achieve peak fitness with a balanced lifestyle.

  12. Terri says:

    Thanks Ben. I find your podcast & website very informative. You're always so nice. I'm enjoying you posting your chapters as you write them.

  13. David Waller says:

    haha ironically my comment above is riddled with spelling mistakes; entirely intentional of course…ahem.. :)

  14. David Waller says:

    Ben, I like this chapter! Couple of edits (I did skim the comments but sorry of these have been pointed out already)…

    “Often, these long runs are followed up with a short to mid-distance run of 20-60 minutes.” – bit of a muddle of the words run and ride in this bit about the cycling?

    “Kirsten has happily led an active social life, as she’s well aware that connections and relationships are the a leading anti-aging tactic among every population on the face of the planet.” – extra ‘a’ before leading anit-aging?

    Minor comments that would have been picked up further down the line anyway I’m sure! Love the content and the lesson you are trying to teach with these two scenarios.

  15. Glenn Wiedenhoeft says:

    Hi Ben,
    Regarding Chad's GI issues – I am surprised Chad continued to pursue racing (12 IMs and many others) with chronic GI problems! How discouraging! Could it be that gluten (in)tolerance changed in recent years, but he was ok when he got started in triathlon?
    Grammar: i cringe every time i hear "That is based off of …" in your podcasts or writings. It should (usually) be, "That is based on…" But, i assure you, i keep listening! In a web-search of "'based on' vs 'based off of' ", i found this argument among many discussions:
    You might say:
    This movie was based on a true story.
    This movie was based upon a true story.
    This movie was based off of a true story.
    All would have the same meaning, although the third has an amateurish ring to it.

    1. Glenn…thanks for the grammar tip…I'll work on that! In meantime, many, many athletes accept chronic GI issues as "normal" from higher than normal food intake, and yes, gastric damage can elevate and accelerate after years of training and GI irritation.

  16. Andy Eastman says:

    Hey Ben,

    Do any of your podcasts touch on specific training plans of the train smarter not longer method?

    I’m a competitive cyclist and would be curious about your thoughts behind the pros and cons of putting down lots of base miles and increasing saddle time as one upgrades through the UCI category ranks and in turn, competes in longer, more intense races.



    1. Yessir. Check out and for example. Also check this out:…

      Regarding your other question, I'll be getting to that in future chapters…

  17. Rick Wimer says:

    Ben, fantastic content. I am the "Chad" in this article. Before I met you, I only
    thougth long, slow endurance workouts with high hours every week, high carbs, miminal strength training ( and lots of caffeine) was the way of life for me to achieve any goals I might have. I truly hope your message gets out to endurance world.

  18. Katrina Popham says:

    Here's the rest…In the paragraph about Kirsten's biking, take the "since" out of the 2nd sentence, and the "a" out of the "…60-90 min interval…" sentence.
    The paragraph about her diet should have an s after farmers market(s).
    Finally, in the "ripe age of 57" paragraph, take out the "become" in the last sentence.
    I learn so much from these chapters, I can't wait for the next arrival!

    1. Dang Katrina. Awesome edits! I thought you were a doc, not an English professor. ;)

  19. Katrina Popham says:

    Hi Ben, another great chapter! Thought the content was excellent, therefore could only find editing comments to make…1st full paragraph: technically there should be a comma between "successful" and "and". The second to last sentence of that paragraph should read either "…endorphin high derived from…" or "endorphin high that he derives from"
    Chad's "sex" paragraph has an extra word in the 2nd sentence "he its". The last sentence should start with "Anyway" rather than "Anyways" and it should be "anyway" after drive too. This "anyway" thing happens again in the paragraph about "And speaking of resentment…"
    The last paragraph in the Chad portion there is a tense shift in the first sentence…it should read"…it eventually caught up with him".
    My stupid computer tells me this post is too long…will finish in the next post…

  20. Ben this is a great chapter. I am looking at similar training concepts like Crossfitendurance and What Mark Sisson describes in his book Primal Blueprint. What I would like to see a more clarity on is the slow easy work are we talking walks and hikes or something more intense? Another concern I have as an Ultrarunner is the length of intensity excersises is 30 min to short or are 5 x 2KM intervals too much. I am looking forward to the next installment as what you explain is the lifestyle I would love to attain.

    1. I'll be going over all this stuff in the next chapter, Johann…

      1. Awesome lok forward to it and the book.

  21. Mark says:

    Hi Ben,
    I was out doing a bike ride today (Tri-ripped Spin High to be exact) and my brain was mulling over the article some more and brought some things to my attention while I was cooling down. I know that you indicate that Chad and Kristen are veteran triathletes, but what about folks who are just starting out? Will there be anything in the book for them?
    I know that when I started on my journey to fitness almost 20 years ago that if I had done interval training I probably would have injured myself. In fact, I know lots of people who do just that when they decide to do a triathlon, a running race, or just get fit, they go out and kill themselves (often with the aid of a personal trainer) and get so sore that they give up or get injured and can't go on.
    When I started back exercising I started by walking to work. After a few months of that I threw in weights and short bouts on the treadmill and stair machine. Then after several years of that I started running. I took it slow at first and built my way up and I'm glad I did. I felt I had to build the foundation before I could add the fast stuff.
    So that might be a caveat that you would want to add somewhere in the beginning of the book or have a chapter that discusses starting out. And please, ask folks in their 40's and 50's to think twice about doing a ironman or a half-ironman as their first triathlon. I don't know how many folks I've talked to that have tried to do that and ended up injured.
    Mark, aka larchitect

    1. Mark, this book will be enormously helpful for beginner triathletes who won't have to make the same mistakes as people who have done things the wrong way!

  22. cogrick2 says:

    Nice work. I noticed "and each week juggles she" instead of "and each week she juggles"

    1. Thanks for the catch!

  23. Melinda says:

    Ben I enjoy reading your material and learn something every time! You are a wealth of knowledge and a breath of fresh air. I am a paleo- vegetarian (I eat fish/eggs) , triathlete dermatologist and am fascinated with the aspects of glycation/ advanced glycation end products and their effects on aging and skin diseases. It's hard for me to practice medicine and talk to my patients about anti-aging without mentioning the deleterious effects of sugar. Most of them just look at me like I'm crazy and ask for more Botox. If you can suggest some reference about glycation I'd appreciate it as I do quite a bit of lecturing and would love to enlighten my colleagues on this subject. So…. I work and run my own practice, have two young kids, do all my own paleo cooking, workout 10-12+ hrs per week, and my last name is GREENFIELD!!!! Do you think we are related??? My family comes from Savannah GA. I swear you must be my "brotha-from-anotha-mutha"!!! Keep up the good work!

    1. We could be related! You should do a test and we could compare family trees. Anyways, your best source on AGE's would be Dr. Jaime Uribarri…google his stuff…

  24. Arthur Maurice says:

    Someone may have already mentioned this but in case they have not, in the sentence that reads "She has a small garden in her backyard where her and her husband…" you should change the first "her" to "she". There is at least one other place in the article where I believe you need to make a similar change.

    1. got it, thanks Arthur!

  25. Heidi says:

    Great chapter. It sucks the reader in and makes you want to know more about these two triathletes. Unfortunately i can relate to the more is better syndrome when it come to exercise. Your book is already convincing me that its wrong. I just hope I haven't screwed myself up too much already!
    One question that stands out for me is, what does Kirsten eat during her races and long workouts? You mention that she does not eat the typical gels and sports drinks but that she has rice, sweet potatoes and so forth. You state that she tries to stay away from processed carbs. Maybe you will have more on this later in your book.

    Someone else already mentioned this, but thought I would tell you I noticed it as well. You begin a lot of your sentences with and. It would sound better if you could change it up. Hope this helps!

    1. First of all, have you seen this endurance "real food" book, Heidi?

      Next, long workouts are few and far between for someone like Kirsten, but she uses many of the type of recipes you'll find in that book, along with about half as many carbohydrates as a normal person when racing because she uses higher molecular weight starch fuels like UCAN Superstarch.

      1. Heidi says:

        Ben, I appreciate that you took the time to read my reply and then give me advice! I was not aware of this book and I will definitely check it out. I have done Triathlon for 3 years and this will be my first long one- a half ironman. I haven't had to think about nutrition during my racing before so this book comes at the perfect time. I don't think I could do Guu for the whole race yuck!! Anything thanks again for the help, that's why I keep listening to your podcasts- you have great tips!!

  26. joe says:

    This sis helping me confirm what I’m thinking about my training. At 49 I have learned that I need more recovery than others. I’m physically fit but I find that less is better. I knocked an hour off my time with less training hours and more recovery. I’m still trying to fine tune with eating and I’ll be looking at one of the links you gave us on fueling during training. Keep it coming, great analysis.

  27. Thanks for that grammatical tip, Deb. I actually like edits like that and encourage folks to let me know!

  28. Deb says:

    I think the key idea is BALANCE- all parts of life are interconnected-work, relationships, training, diet- none of these things can be isolated apart from the others. Each can produce stress of one kind or another… ( Healthy diet can help reduce oxidative stress, wrong diet can increase it)Might even be good stress ( for example, a new baby) but still stress. We only have so much ability to handle the stress before it raises cortisol levels, or produces adrenal fatigue or other physical ailments or injuries…so it makes sense to be aware of how these various parts of our life are going at any gîven time, and adjust other stressors accordingly. Kirsten had the right idea in this regard- if she was feeling over tired, she took it easy- she balanced the stress. Chad on the other hand, tended to just push through, no matter what. If we know there’s a big project going on at work, that will require extra hours or long days, then we canbalance out that stress by not planning a heavy training week and focusing on whole food, healthy eating…

    By the way, the teacher in me cant help but make one grammar correction.. In a couple of places ( second paragraph of Kirsten's story) the sentence reads : " her and her husband" . Correct grammar would be "she and her husband". I'm certain you will have an editor before it all goes to print- but… Just sayin'……. :-)

  29. Peter_v_S says:

    Kirsten seems to be on the right track for a host of reasons.

    As for her relying more on fats for energy, and not glucose, here’s a short interview that apparently supports her choice, while putting it in the context of life extension.

    Michael Ristow wrote an important paper in 2009: Ristow M, et al., “Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans”. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 May 26; 106(21):8665-70. His paper was the 5th most popular out of the 100,000 scientific papers written on aging in 2009, not that he was racing intentionally.

    He’s been the Chair of Human Nutrition at the University of Jena, Germany since 2005. His lab works on mitochondria-derived signaling molecules, including reactive oxygen species, in disease prevention and extension of lifespan. Here’s what he said in his interview:

    Aging: Could you give us a history of the paper?

    MR: My lab is predominantly interested in interventions that are capable of extending lifespan. We study this mainly in C.elegans. Exercise, however, cannot be studied in C.elegans. Previously we had shown that glucose restriction can extend lifespan (PubMed ID 17908557, subsequently confirmed in PubMed IDs 19883616 and 19675139) by increasing mitochondrial metabolism, as previously shown for yeast. For glucose restriction we for the first time could show that this also increases ROS formation, and that antioxidants that interfere with ROS formation also prevent the extension of lifespan. This means that an increase in ROS is ‘required’ for the extension of lifespan by glucose restriction, a mechanism that was named mitohormesis. Therefore, the obvious thing to analyze was whether physical exercise exerts lifespan-extending (or at least health-promoting) effects by increasing ROS formation. To study this, we closely collaborated with the clinical study centre at the University of Leipzig, Germany, with Matthias Blüher, and in the end observed the role of ROS in exercise that got eventually published.

    Aging: What are major discoveries in the field since your publication?

    MR: From my perspective, anti-aging research momentarily is in wider parts dealing with response to stressors, and a process named adaptive response or, in an applied setting, preconditioning. In regards to ROS as potential stressor that ultimately promotes stress resistance and lastly longevity significant evidence as emerged. In the exercise field this has been further promoted by John Holloszy, Malcom Jackson and José Vina, besides others.

    Aging: Could you give us a brief perspective on your future work?

    MR: We are interested in (i) the putative role of ROS signaling, also in genetically modified long-lived organisms, and (ii) the identification of compounds and micronutrients that mimic the state of exercise and/or calorie restriction despite a sedentary and calorically unrestricted lifestyle.

    If the “an increase in ROS is ‘required’ for the extension of lifespan by glucose restriction, a mechanism that was named mitohormesis,” might this imply that endurance athletes concerned about life extension should think about the balance they strike between fats and carbohydrates as their primary energy sources? Might Kirsten have already anticipated his results?

    For more about “hormesis,” or the idea that exposure to a low dose of something that is damaging at a higher dose induces an positive adaptation, see Mark Mattson, et. al., Hormesis: A Revolution in Biology, Toxicology & Medicine. Mattson is a productive scientist working in the labs of the National Institute of Aging. In “Exercise-Induced Hormesis,” they draw four conclusions. First, the heart and lungs tolerate higher exercise intensities than other organ systems. Second, the female reproductive system has a hormetic relationship with calories but not exercise. Third, the musculoskeletal system best shows the adverse effects of severe exhaustive exercise. Fourth, exercise effects on the digestive system are presently unknown.

    While Kirsten seems to be doing a lot of the right stuff, if she hasn’t already, she might want to adapt her diet after reading Helen Vlassara, et. al., “Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jun;110(6):911-16. Selecting the wrong foods, and cooking the right foods, can cause surprisingly high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). dAGEs contribute to increased oxidant stress and inflammation and are strongly linked to increased diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

    In addition to consciously managing the dAGE in her diet, Kirsten might make sure that she’s keeping her omega-6 to omega-3 ratio low, which can become a concern especially if she shifts towards a vegan diet.

    There’re questions about dietary and supplemental protein, and medications, that I’m wondering about. Should one limit one’s overall protein intake, e.g., does too much protein throw off one’s IGF balance? Should one manage one’s intake of the various amino acids, e.g., methionine restriction is linked to extended life? Should one take supplements, e.g., beta-alanine may increase carnosine levels in muscle tissue? What about medications that reduce activity of the mTOR system, e.g., rapamycin; or medications that dampen glucose metabolism, e.g., metformin?

    By the way, I’m not an endurance athlete; I’m just learning to cope with “exercise-induced pulmonary arterial hypertension.” I take a nitrate pill before exercising to boost NO signalling, and I take an angiotension II pill to reduce my diastolic hypertension. I’m rapidly phasing my diet towards vegan, I’m rowing a dozen hours a month (~150km) to get into shape, now that I can breathe well; but if the truth of my shape is to be known, with my 2k row at 9 minutes, I rank around the 25% mark for my age cohort. My goal is to use diet and exercise to improve my CV system to the point that I can get off my medications.


    1. Peter, I am in complete agreement about the importance of glucose restriction from a hormesis and anti-aging standpoint. Of course, I do not argue that endurance athletes do not need glucose – just much less than most actually consume…and a really good point you make that tends to fly under the radar is the fact that glucose fluctuations can downregulate nitric oxide production…which has serious cardiovascular and performance implications!

  30. Dave says:

    First let me say that I enjoy reading your articles and occasionally share the information with others who attend fitness classes that I lead which are "Spinning" and "Xtreme Pilates Fusion". Endurance training is kind of like cash value life insurance in that it is the basis of a fitness program however one should use moderation. Chad is having a common problem of overdoing and forcing himself to perform the work. For my work I try to use about 20% indurance and 80% various kinds of intervals (calling a longish climb an interval if followed by a brief recovery and another climb. Kirsten has a better approach in that she is enjoying what she does, seems to follow a regimen of exercise that does not over emphasize endurance and a nutritional regimen that is somewhat lower in carbohydrate consumption. Last my personal love is "Xtreme Pilates Fusion" for a combination core and weight workout that covers all the muscle groups with heavy emphasis on core movements.
    Keep the great articles coming.

    1. Meghan says:

      Hey Ben,
      I really like this comparison… however… if you are reading it and you are a “CHAD” give us some hope that you did not just ruin your entire life and can change things around… and how long it takes….

      1. You'll just have to keep reading, because all that comes in Part 3. ;)

  31. Jeffrey says:


    You always have science to back up a lot of your claims. I find that testing

    on yourself is a good way to see what works. I followed the high fat low carb book for triathletes for a while almost 6 months. I started to note some fatigue and soreness in the joints and just feeling like shit. I switched to a plant based diet following Rich Rolls outline. I lost more fat, the soreness went away and I have more energy. Why? I’m eating more whole grains and processed food intake is rare. I take in good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avacodo, chia, seeds and nuts and a plant based protien. I dont worry about carbs or protein. I just eat. I take in a good source of B12 and a blue green algea source. I feel great and workouts are better. But it seems everyone is pushing with this high fat diet. I think people need to pay attention to the big things and everything will end up o.k. My diet has evolved over the last year. I workout more with less intensity and at 7% bodyfat how are carbs going to make me fat or anyone who spends the time to actually only put wholecfoods in the diet.

    1. This is all good and I am glad you are include healthy fats and DHA with a vegan diet Jeffrey. Make sure you properly soak, sprout and ferment those whole grains and keep an eye on your thyroid antibodies to make sure you don't have an autoimmune issues with grain intake…

      1. Tyler says:

        I have seen vegetarians struggle with trying to get enough Vit B12 and essential fatty acids; it is certainly more challenging than if you eat meat. I agree the high fat diet is challenging; for me it seemed to slow down my bowels; maybe a little too tough on my liver/gall bladder at first. Whenever eating high fat meals I do take extra Choline as a supplement which helps a lot. I have recently started adding in more carbs in the form of yucca root, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and caulflower which I thinks helps me when exercising; still probably keeping my total carbs per day to under 100 grams. Whole grains today are all genetically modified; even 100 years ago when they were not; it was still very hard for humans to digest a lot of them; thus most people did not eat masses of grains. The soaking, I believe, helps us be able to digest these grains easier; so I think that is a good option. Fermented foods are much easier to digest; there are just not many of them around to eat; you really need to search for them.

  32. Tyler says:

    I think endurance activity can cause health to deteriorate over time, the overwhelming stress to the heart and adrenal glands is hard to overlook. The issue here is are most endurance athletes able to rest, recover and repair sufficiently for the stress they are putting on their body; I would guess that most do not. Unfortunately the body is very good at compensating; you can be beating up your heart, adrenal glands and other glands that affect hormone production and not really realize; it is kind of a silent killer if you will. Years of endurance athletics can break down the body, maybe the athlete lacks energy, can’t sleep well, has decreased drive, and a whole host of other symptoms. I am all for exercise and I believe it is an important part of daily life; however, I believe their is a disconnect between recovery/repair and performance. Look at some of the ultramarathoners; there body, joints, gait looks that they have been beaten down for years; I think they are incredible athletes, don’t get me wrong but the damage they are doing to their body may not be fixable after 20 years. That is it for now, I could add more.

  33. Mark says:

    First a few editorial notes:
    And rather than her tests revealing low bone density, depleted hormones, gut issues, or impending arthritis, she continues to be above and beyond even the healthiest of her peers. – This sentence doesn't read well to me. I think that "Instead of her tests revealing…" might read better. (I noticed that you used 'And" to begin several sentences and that's OK if done occasionally, but perhaps you should change most of them to something else.
    (Am I reading something into this or is Kristen an older Ben?)
    The sentence "As you can, despite participating in the identical sport, Chad and Kirsten had two very different approaches to training, eating and living that resulted in a shocking contrast in their later years of life." is missing a word at the beginning. I think it should read "As you can see…"
    It seems like I saw another one on the first read, but I couldn't find it the second time through.
    I don't see anything that you left out, but how do you know what you don't know?
    I'm glad that you put in there that Kristen did do a long swim, run, and bike or two while leading up to an Ironman. I have always wondered how to do an Ironman on a HIIT training regimen without getting in some long work. I'm currently using your tri-ripped training plan to train for a half-ironman so even though my brain is telling me I need to do more miles, I'm sticking to the plan. Time will tell. (I've done 4 ironman distance races and many more half-iron distances with longer training plans. Maybe having that base will help a lot.)
    Thanks Ben.

    1. Awesome feedback Mark. Thanks for your thorough analysis, and I'll address some of these issues ASAP! In meantime, YES, I definitely endorse at least a few swims, bikes and runs that are longer in the build-up, and you'll find that in and also other programs I've written. I don't completely eliminate that stuff but it's few and far between.

  34. Ginger says:

    Thank you so much for your advice. I am a 60 year old former triathlete who has gotten 30 pounds over weight over the years . I am trying to get back in shape and I so need to remember the moderation you preach. I think it needs to be long and hard and I am discouraged from the workouts. I am now working with a trainer twice a week for 30 min sessions of high intensity functional fitness. I spin for 60 min twice a week. And I hike for 3 hours on Sunday. This is a good reasoned approach for me right now . I am really interested in the nutrition aspect too. Thanks for helping me out.

    1. The hiking is interesting. I am actually a fan of a good alpine hike, and I think the body's inflammatory response to something like that pales in comparison to 2 hours of pounding the pavement or sitting on an indoor trainer surrounded by EMF…

  35. Rick says:

    While your points are well made we, as a population, are still learning a lot about health and longevity. 10 years ago there were few who thought our diets were devoid of all the nutrients we need for optimal health. What we have learned about vitamin D, Mg++, Omega 3's & K2 in the last 10 years tells us that there is likely still a lot to learn. Genetics is NOT the least of these but 1 of which we have little control — at least for now.

  36. Andrew Ferguson says:

    Ben, Always enjoy your posts! Could Kirsten be hanging out with Sami I? ;).

    It seems like we all agree that running and in particular long runs are the absolute hardest on the body. With that said I discovered Chi Running last year and it has made a phenomenal difference for me. Wondering if you have ever covered Chi or Pose Running styles in your podcasts or elsewhere?

    1. Yes, Andrew, I definitely have.

      I would check out:…

      and also:…

      I do 99% of my running in minimalist footwear, focusing on Chi methods, on soft surfaces or treadmill only.

    2. Andrew Ferguson says:

      Ben, Thanks for your response! I recently purchased a pair of vivo barefoot shoes that I am wearing as everyday shoes. Prior to getting this pair I was starting to experience some discomfort around the ball of the foot area on the left side. Probably due in part to a lot of xc skate skiing in a carbon fiber very rigidly soled boot. This area has been feeling a lot better as when I walk my foot seems to be able to really articulate through it's range of motion. With my experience I starting asking myself if the reason our feet get weak is due to a lack of articulation because of the rigidness of the normal shoe platform that we place our feet into most of the time? Would love to hear your opinion.

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