[Transcript] – Cracking The Code Of Wim Hof Breathing, Writing A Bestseller In 30 Days, Barefoot Ultrarunning & More With Kasper van der Meulen

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/brain-podcasts/mindlift-mental-fitness-for-the-modern-mind/

[00:00] Introduction/Organifi/Four Sigmatic Foods

[04:13] About Kasper van der Meulen

[06:25] How Kasper Wrote a Book in 30 Days

[12:00] Kasper’s Top Nine Tips to Get Things Done Faster

[16:50] Why the Pomodoro Technique Might Not Work for “Deep Work”

[21:50] How to Transform Your Workplace into a Focus Temple

[29:00] Why What you Smell and Taste While Working is Important

[36:49] HumanCharger/Health Gains

[39:18] & [0:44:45] How to Use Video Game Music and Coffee Naps for Productivity

[49:35] How Kasper Wrote MindLift to Support the Natural Focusing Ability

[56:45] How to Combine Cold, Running and Breathwork in One Workout

[1:13:14] End of Podcast

Ben:  Oh, hello.  I feel like I should be speaking like a German or maybe a Dutch person because my interviewee today is indeed Dutch; he’s a crazy Dutch guy.  His name is Kasper Van der Meulen and we talk about the Wim Hof breathing, how he wrote a bestselling book in 3o days; not kidding, barefoot ultra-running and a whole lot more.  He’s a really fascinating guy, actually.

This podcast is brought to you by, speaking of fascinating things, green juice; bet you never thought green juice was fascinating, but this particular green juice has the ayurvedic herb ashwagandha in it which has been shown in studies, actual studies by the fellas in the lab coats, to lower cortisol and to increase muscular strength and to improve mental focus.  And the good folks at Organifi took this ashwagandha and they added a whole bunch of superfoods to it like moringa, spirulina and mint and beets, and everything that you’d normally have to make a giant mess on your kitchen counter chopping to get, and instead in one fell swoop, it’s in one little spoonful of powder; you can dump it to a smoothie.  So check this stuff out.  You can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi.  That’s Organifi with an “I”, and use discount code BEN; that will get you 20% off their best tasting greens superfood blend.  It’s really good for travel too when it’s very tough to hunt down tasty vegetables or ashwagandha.  It’s hard to hunt down for ashwagandha, let’s face it, any time.  So anyways, bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi and use code BEN.

This podcast is also brought to you by another cool superfood little trick, and that is Four Sigmatic mushrooms.  I like their sampler pack; here’s what you get in their sampler pack.  Their mushroom hot cacao mix that’s energizing with cordyceps.  The other one that’s relaxing, their mushroom hot cacao mix with reishi, these things are perfect for the holidays, for curling up around the fire without the guilt that you’ve dumped a bunch of fructose and sugar into your cup, instead you’re just sipping on mushroom hot cacao goodness. They also have mushroom coffee, they have chaga mushroom elixir, great for keeping your immune system sorted during this holiday season, lion’s mane, good for cognition when you’re arguing with your in-laws during this holiday season; you get the idea.  Their sampler pack is pretty cool; great way to get started, it’s got 8 mushroom drink packets in it and you can grab it at foursigmatic.com/sampler, that’s F-O-U-R-Sigmatic.com/sampler.  Alright, let’s go talk to Kasper.

In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:

“People who have brains that don’t read or focus inherently very well especially on books, they opt out whenever there’s a line breaker or page break because they feel like they never going to be able to finish it.  So there’s never a block that’s more than 250 words long.” “The breathing was the most powerful thing for me as I was doing this ultras because I was not in the best shape when I started running and I cannot act my learning curve or the curve of becoming a runner in that sense, towards doing ultra-endurance.”

Ben:  Hey folks, my guest on today’s podcast describes himself as a lifestyle adventurer; he’s also an author.  He used to be overweight, he used to be burned out, he used to be pretty unhappy and now claims to have super human focus, fitness, and personal freedom.  I’ve met him, actually at the time of this recording, will be meeting him in Finland where were both speaking together at the Biohacker’s Summit there.  And he’s actually pretty interesting; his name is Kasper Van der Meulen.  He’s put himself to ton of self-experiments and challenges; he’s run ultra-marathons in his bare feet.  He’s tested every diet on the face of the planet, explored a lot of kind of esoteric practices in an attempt to demystify and methodize principles for cognitive performance and biohacking; very, very interesting approach.

He wrote this book called “MindLift” that I have heard and that I've read recently.  It’s an Amazon bestseller and as a test of whether or not all of these things he does to make his brain work faster, and all these things he does to improve focus, he actually wrote this book in 30 days.  And again it’s an Amazon bestseller that he wrote in 30 days.  He’s also the head teacher at the Wim Hof Academy, which is pretty interesting.  He runs retreats in extreme nature and he trains a bunch of professional athletes so, very, very interesting dude.  And today, I want to delve into some of the things that are in this book.  I also want to learn more about what my guest today does with Wim Hof.  So, Kasper welcome to the show, man.

Kasper:  Thank you.  Thanks for the awesome introduction.

Ben:  Yeah, no problem.  So dude, I mean this book is small, like a 7-page e-book.  Did you really write it in 30 days? And by the way, for those of you listening, the book is called “MindLift – Mental Fitness for the Modern Mind”.  That’s a direct translation from Dutch, I assume.  You’re Dutch, right?

Kasper:  Yeah, absolutely.  The book is called “MindLift” in Dutch too because we’re a very much Americanized country.

Ben:  Okay.  So 30 days, is that true? Coz I write books, dude, how’d you bang this thing out in 30 days?

Kasper:  Well, it was interesting because one of the things I wanted to do is really, like you said, I wanted to test whether I could actually do the things I was going to write about coz I was writing about productivity and I work as a science teacher in a school at the time.  I actually had a job as I was writing a book in those 30 days; only 3 days a week but still, I had the job.  And I started noticing if I tweak things a little bit and if I approach brains differently, so other people’s brains but also my own brain, I could get a lot more cognitive performance out of those brains including my own and especially in a world where distraction is the main ailment that people have nowadays.

It was important for me to really see if what I did in science class with those kids could also work on me because one of the biggest limiting beliefs that I had.  And all the things you mentioned just now to me weren’t really performance aspects, they were more a way to really challenge the beliefs that I had about myself and seeing which ones really fit and were they still true.  And two of the biggest limiting beliefs I had about myself was, well one of them was I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t focus; I was that kid in the back of the class that couldn’t sit still, couldn’t concentrate.  And a lot of people listening out there can relate.

Ben:  No, nobody else has that problem.

Kasper:  Exactly.  So wherever I come to speak [0:07:53] ______ is like “ah yeah, that’s totally me” and there's so many of them, which is interesting; how the school system seems to be failing such a large group of people.  But anyway, that’s what I believed and then also, I would never read books, and let alone even think of writing a book.

Ben:  Really?

Kasper:  I always thought I was the least literary person on the planet.

Ben:  See, that’s a foreign thought to me coz I have just loved books since I was freaking five.  My kids are like me; we’ve all got huge stacks of books next to our bedside.  All we do is read.  Like, a new movie will come out and my kids will want to stay home and read or have me read to them; I’m the same way.  People are like “watch a documentary” and I say “where’s the book the documentary is based on?” and I go read that instead.  So what you’re describing is a foreign concept but I know a lot of listeners probably think that they suck at reading or hate to read, so please continue.

Kasper:  I’m always like, “Is there an audio version? Please let there be an audio version.”  And I got pretty good at reading, so one of the things I started doing, for example, was learning speed reading and I noticed that I could read at 600 or 700 words a minute after a few days of training which was really interesting.  And I didn’t really enjoy that much, but anyway, that used to be me until I got into the mode of personal development that I have been in for a few years, since the last time I was kind of depressed and burned out.  That’s when I found books and I was like, “how did I miss all of this? This is amazing.”  But I still had that limiting belief, so I was like, “you know what? Let’s see what is really possible.”  And also, it was kind of like a weird period of my life where I started to build this speaking business next to my teaching job and I was always trying to be the inspirational teacher telling these kids “you can do anything in the world, and everything is possible, and go up there and do something awesome.”  And then there's one kid, basically said to me, “yeah, well you're the guy telling us that but dude, you're a teacher.” (laughs) And I was like, “Oh man, that’s stung.”  But he was kind of right; I was like, “I should step my game up and do something cool and really see what’s possible if I challenge these beliefs.”

So, I was like, I can’t focus, I’m not a good reader ,so let’s write a book about focus and I’ll write it in 30 days.  I’ve had my bouts with burn out and depression like I said so, I’m no stranger to stress and finding all these studies about stress and watching all these pep talks, and uncovering some really interesting things in the way stress works.  So I was like, “if I want to write about this stuff, I need to find a way to increase the stress that I’m giving myself.  I have to really see if those things work.”  So it was a big experiment and one of the things that helped me was accountability which I created by basically designing the front and back cover of the book, writing the back blurb, having it test printed completely empty; and then when it landed on my doorstep…

Ben:  I think that’s a good idea.

Kasper:  I think it’s like an Arnold Schwarzenegger quote where he says, he has the movie poster design and print first and he hangs it in his house and whenever he goes, he’s like, what am I doing?  He just goes, that’s what I’m doing.

Ben:  Yeah, I do that when I write articles; I’ll write the beginning and the end, and then “what do you think, leave your comments” even before I’ve actually written the article.  But, of course this’ll come back to bite you too.  And they’ve done research on this, right?  If you say you're going to do a triathlon and then you post that to Facebook like, “I’m training for a triathlon; swimming, and biking, running”; sometimes it can give you a mental impression or the same mental effect as though you’d already done the race.  So, I’ve seen some evidence that they could come back to bite you, but nonetheless, I kinda like that approach of having some built-in accountability by having created parts of what you want to create before you’ve really done the meat of the work because what I find is, if you have a cover, like you did, or in an article, you have the beginning and the end, filling in the in between spaces is actually easier.

Now, I realize a lot of those of you listening in, you may not actually be interested in writing however, Kasper, on page 126 of this book, you get in to nine tips that I think are fabulous that I would love for you to share with people in terms of some of the things that you specifically utilized to get a book done faster, that I think people could utilize to get just about anything done either faster or more efficiently.  Can you go into those nine tips and just kind of rapid fire, fill me in on what each one is.

Kasper:  Yeah, absolutely.  Well actually it’s interesting; I just want to come back to one thing you said because that is one thing I write in the book about habit change is to keep it a secret mission, to not tell anybody beforehand because if everybody cheers you on then you basically get that internal high from people cheering you on.

Ben:  Yes, that’s what I was referring to.

Kasper:  Yeah.  You don’t want to do it, so that’s very interesting.  So I did that with all my lifestyle changes like losing weight, quitting smoking, all of that I did it completely secret and then I make sure that people would notice.  And they would ask me carefully like, “did you lose some weight?” and I was like, “yes, finally. I’ve lost 80 lbs.” and talk about it, stuff like that.  That’s definitely… for the book that I did differently because as soon as the book fell on my doorstep, the test print, I was like, “I wanna do something with this.”  And then I made a little video saying like, “I’m going to write this book in 30 days and you can already order it.”  So I made this pre-order online and at the time of writing, about 250 people ordered it already and they are very excited about following me as I write the book because they we’re especially interested in how I was going to do it.  So that’s why I put those nine tips into the book to teach people about productivity in a way that might different.

I’ve noticed a lot of people who have work in time management; there are people are inherently good at managing time.  People who are authors, they are inherently people who love books and I come from the other end of the spectrum; I was a teacher.  I was very highly celebrated teacher in my school, to be honest, but I never wanted to be a teacher.  I inherently hated teachers.  So I think the perspective coming just from another side might be refreshing to people, that’s why I put that in.

One of the most important things that people could take away from this, and I think all of those tips really revolve around that, is the idea of working like an athlete.  It’s to take the athlete’s mindset with you to the work that you're going to do.  And what I mean by that is, as you know, as any athlete knows, or even anybody who has heard about fitness in the first place, right? They know that, let’s say you want to become strong or you want to be able to run far and somebody would say to you, “you know what, I want to be a big body builder.  I want to have big muscles.  I’m going to the gym.  I’m going to take the dumbbell and then I’m gonna life it until I’m [censored] huge, right? For an undetermined amount of time, just go there and lift it.”  And everybody would understand it’s totally ridiculous, right? Somebody would say, “Hey, I want to become a marathon runner, I’m just going to get out my door and I’m going to run until I’m a marathoner”, everybody would be like, “that’s ridiculous; it doesn’t work that way.”  But we still do that with our cognitive performance and are learning, basically; and our work and productivity and deadlines and stuff like that.

And we say things to kids like, “you know what? Go to your room and stare at your book until you're smart; work until you get it; take the deadline and crush it, and keep going and keep banging your head against the wall until you finish it”, and that might not be the most helpful way because focus is a function of the mind in the same way that strengthen is the function of a muscle.  So working like an athlete means that, first of all, you determine when’s the best time of day to do the work or even the best day.  A lot of people they kind of slug along for eight hours in the office while they can only really focus the three hours before they have lunch and then after lunch, their focus completely falls away.  So one of the things I tell people is find your golden hours; find the moments when you can really focus and really do your important work and also optimize that.  So that’s all my writing, all my creative work; I do everything in the morning when I’m still fasted, when I’m still only on coffee, before I have my meal, things like that.

Ben:  I’m the same way, Kasper, but I want to point out one important thing.  Sometimes I find that when people work in intervals, they work on different task like, “I’m going to do this for 15 minutes. Take a break and to this for 45 minutes.  Take a break.”  I found that for people who are consumers, who are reading, checking things on Facebook, replying to e-mails, etc. and considering that to be their “work”, that works pretty well.  But, for what I would call deep work, there's a great book about this as well by Cal Fussman called “Deep Work”.  For deep work or to be what folks are calling these days more or like a maker; if you're working like an athlete, you're working in intervals, it’s also important that if you really want to get deep work done, you might work in like, on an any given day, let’s say six 45-minute on 5-minute off intervals but each of those 45-minute intervals would be spent on the actual project and lunch would be spent catching up e-mails.  Do you agree with that or are you saying just split things up throughout the day?

Kasper:  No, 100% no.  I don’t use the intervals on different tasks so if I go, for example I write an article, I still stick to the Pomodoro technique of 20 minutes.  But then I do, for example, 4 blocks of 20 minutes on the same task and the way you step away after those 20 minutes is really important because most people, they work, basically sedentary, right? One of the reasons that I set the timer, I stay in deep work and I basically stay in deep focus, but if I’m working seated, during that little break, I stand up and I walk around.

So in my office, I have all these excuses to move; I have a pull up bar to hang from, I have the juggling balls and everything, but my mind stays with the same task just in a different mode.  So switching and not switching tasks and not like getting 20 minutes of Facebook, 20 minutes of e-mails, 20 minutes of writing.  I think that would actually just strain your brain depending on what you do.  If you’re not doing deep work, you're basically doing urgent but unimportant work like, about 90% of the e-mails I have to answer or Facebook notifications from my business page and stuff like that.  They require me to do them but they don’t require all my attention.  I do those after lunch when my focus is not optimal and then I switch around between tasks so, 20 minutes of Facebook, 20 minutes of e-mail.  But if I want to do deep work, I do still stick to intervals but my mind stays on track on the deep work, but I just use the timers, the intervals to switch around between, for example, my position.  So I start seated at my desk.  The timer goes, I walk around, I pace around my room in circles and just have my mind wander.  And then the next interval starts and I go sit on the floor or go sit on my treadmill desk and I do 20 minutes there.  Timer goes; and also, I keep myself in that flow.

Ben:  You don’t actually sit at your treadmill desk; I would imagine you walk on it. (laughs)

Kasper:  Sorry, I was going to say bicycle desk.

Ben:  Oh, really, you have a bicycle desk.

Kasper:  Yeah.  I’m Dutch; everything is bicycles here.  No, I don’t have a treadmill.

Ben:  Just out of curiosity, kind of an aside but what kind of bicycle desk do you have? Is it home-made or is there a company that makes good bicycle desks?

Kasper:  No man.  I got a 30-year-old bicycle from a second-hand shop and I just basically bolted the little desk on there.  And it’s all wiggly and unstable which I really like because that keeps me focused and has me balancing while I’m working, actually.

Ben:  Wow! Wiggly and unstable bike; that sounds like a safe way to work.

Kasper: (laughs) Yeah.  Well, it’s pretty safe but it’s especially teasing my brain the whole time; just enough to not distract me.

Ben:  Okay, so when I interrupted you, you said that you take those breaks to just kind of do nothing in between which I’ve actually heard is really great for creativity too.  If you’re going to take a Pomodoro break from deep work, don’t use that break to send e-mails; use that break to sit in silence or to stare at the trees or do a few stretches or pace up and down the stairs or duck out of the office and walk up the stairs to the rest room, that type of thing.  Just to make sure we don’t get lost in the weeds here, of the nine tips, you said the first tip is to train like an athlete.  Is that correct?

Kasper:  No, it’s my favorite one.  The first one is to find your golden hours; figure out what times work best for you.

Ben:  Okay, so find your golden hours and the time that works best for you would be tip number 1.

Kasper:  Yeah, and then work like an athlete.  I don’t probably know them in order. (laughs)  I don’t have the book here to make sure I check myself correctly but I have…

Ben:  Well, I do have the book.  So I can…

Kasper:  Ah good, please correct me.

Ben:  Maybe I can ask you a few questions as we go about the ones that really stood out for me.  We covered one which is kind of like to do one thing at a time.  And you even said that you had a study from the Institute of Psychiatry that shows that constantly checking your e-mail in between other tasks lowers your IQ by about 10 points which is more than staying up all night or smoking weed.  It is kind of interesting, like checking e-mails in between tasks is something that, not that I’m guilty of that, but to think of a lot people do that; heavy multitasking.

Kasper:  (laughs) Somebody does it, yeah.

Ben:  Yeah, and then you talk about finding your golden hours that you're going to be productive versus when you're going to be creative, as well as describing rituals.  Little rituals, little routines that get you into a groove.  Now, one of the next things that you talk about, I guess this would be tip number 4, would be the transform your work place into what you call a focus temple.  Can you go into some practical ways that you transform a workplace into a focus temple?

Kasper:  Yeah, so for me the most important thing is, a lot of people think it’s about no distractions.  So you should have an empty room with a desk; that wouldn’t work for me.  There are people who would thrive on that but that’s not me because one of the things I very quickly realize is that its yin and yang.  You can’t focus without distractions, so that’s what the breaks are for.  So I plan my distractions and I know if I’m going to be distracted, I want to be distracted by something that actually gets my brain back into groove.  So my workspace has four or five different options to work with my laptop so, I can stand, I can sit in my chair, I can sit on my wiggly bike, I can sit on the floor, and I have one of those balls that you can sit on that moves around.

Lately, I’ve been sitting mostly on the floor.  So there's a few different options to work.  If you have that focus temple it means everything is there to support your focus.  So if you feel your attention is drifting and you can’t really keep focusing anymore, you can’t keep your work going then it’s easy to kind of go, “oh well, it’s probably not for me, I should leave” but then I just switch to another position, so that’s something.  Then I have a lot of excuses for me to move more.  I love when you were doing an interview with… [0:23:26] ______, actually, from the Biohacker Summit that you were on a treadmill as you were doing the interview.  And then I was like, “I’m going to have fun talking to this guy because I’m like that; I got to move around” so I have stuff laying around to keep my fingers moving because your motor cortex activates your neocortex which means that moving brain activates the thinking brain.

So I have some balls laying around to juggle with, to play with, I have things to fidget with so I do have distractions but the important thing here, for the focus temple, and they call it a temple because it’s a holy rule that if you do get distracted, if you do take a break that is not helpful to that space, you leave the room.  So for example, I don’t do Facebook messages, I don’t do e-mails, I don’t do negative, non-helpful distractions in that room.  I leave the room because as soon as I walk in, I want my brain to kick in to the gear.

Ben:  Ah, coz you associate through them, yeah.  I’m the same way; I use the kitchen table upstairs and I realize if you working in an office you may have to be creative with this.  Kitchen table upstairs is for like e-mails, Facebooking, social media.  My office is where I podcast.  It’s where I write and it’s where I have very important meetings where I might be walking on my treadmill.  And so when I walk into my office my brain is programmed to know that I’m freakin’ taking a deep dive into whatever it is that I’m doing and it’s not meaningless or busy work.

Kasper:  And in addition to that…

Ben:  If I could expound on what you said about moving constantly, yeah, I do the walking treadmill like right now while were talking, what I’m doing is I’m leaning up against a Mogo upright stool which is like a pelvic bone-shaped stool that I can lean against; that’s the position I’m in right now but I’m standing on what’s called a Topo mat which is a mat that has a variety of different curves and textures on it that I can stretch my calves and my legs out on while were talking.  And then finally, what I’m doing right now and I’ll do this typically once per day for a podcast is I have golf ball underneath my left foot and I’m rolling that golf ball and sometimes I use some of these  little foot roller or massage devices but a golf ball is what’s handy today.  I’m rolling the golf ball on my left foot and then my right foot while I’m talking to you.

So that’s just an example of little things that allow me to focus while admittedly making my body better.  I’ve talked before on other shows about kind of, like you, I’ve got pull up bar on my office and a kettlebell, and I got the seated pelvic-shaped stool which is like a saddle.  I got different foam roller devices.  So yeah, I agree, turning your workplace to a temple doesn’t mean it’s just one single desk that you sit at but instead it’s kind of a workplace that allows you to stay focused, to stay moving and that you associate with again, not to throw this term around too much but, deep work.

Kasper:  Yeah, and well there's also a deeper thing there going on, on a philosophical level which means that you walk in and you look at your environment and then you ask yourself: “what is this environment like and why is it like that? Why are the things that are there, why are they there? Why do I decide if I have to do work I use to down?”  And if you walk into an office space, you look at what an office space looks like, and there's a lot of companies now that ask me to come in and remodel things and help people find their focus and completely innovate the way they work; and I always ask them why is this set up this way?  And then they say “well, this is how offices work” and I say “why” and they can’t give me a good answer.  And the answer always comes down on much deeper level as to productivity being more important than individual life quality.

This is the way of thinking, kind of the ancient way of thinking, where workers have to work and their life quality is not as important as the productivity which is kinda ridiculous because obviously, burning people up and destroying them is not good for productivity in a long term.  So it’s a matter of consciousness, of looking at your surroundings, basically anything that you have present in your life and going “why is there? Is it helpful? Where does this come from and how can I optimize it?”

Ben:  Yeah, I love it, and aromas are important, too.  My entire office always smells like 1 of 3 aromas.  While were talking, I have rosemary essential oil diffusing, which is especially good for memory or for, let’s say if I am in my office and I’m studying something or I’m writing fiction.  I can diffuse another uplifting scent in my 3 hour rosemary, peppermint and cinnamon.  But let’s say I decide peppermint is what I got to diffuse in my office while I’m writing fiction.  What happens is every time I smell peppermint, every time I walk in the office and I smell that, it reinforces that scent to be associated with productivity with the writing of fiction.  And so you can even go as far as to associate certain aromas with certain activities but it’s fascinating with how far you could go with transforming your workplace into a temple.  And for people listening I’m gonna keep notes for all this stuff, just so you guys know, it’s at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mindlift; that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/mindlift.  Sorry Kasper, I feel like I keep interrupting you but go ahead.

Kasper:  I just know that when you say something and get way excited then I say something and you get way excited, it’s good.  We could talk for hours but…  And also, that’s a good thing because were throwing out all these tiny little tips that are easy to forget, because one of the ways I discovered this was when I was a kid and I basically, hadn’t gone school for a few years and I just spent a few years, it was kind of like a darker period in my life where I was just out in the street getting high and not being up to no good.  After a while, I found my love for science and I wanted to go back to school and I started having panic attacks.  But that just the first chapter in the book where I explained how I got through it and everything.

Anyway, related to this specific thing was I went back to school and I was finally over the first panic attack so I’ve been going to school and I walk in to school because I have to do exams.  And I hadn’t been there for a while and there was this very specific smell hanging in the school and “boom”, my physiology just flipped; I had a full-blown panic attack like, adrenaline, everything.  Just that smell coming in to my brain unlocked the information that it had stored about the bad place that had been for me.  So then my mother, who is a total genius, I had been, when I was studying for the exams, preparing to go back to school and she asked me what do you want to eat? She was like, “you should have some nice food like anything you want as long as you're going back to school; you’re fine.”  And I got these Italian rolls of bread and they had this very specific combination of herbs in them which is in the bread and I ate that while I was studying and then I came home.  I was in total panic and I was like, I can’t go to school; even the smell of school completely throws me off.  And I’d been having fun learning at home because I like to learn.

So then she got me this same bread to take to school and I just basically had that in a bag under my nose every time I wanted to come up.  I kinda found that little trick in dire circumstance and then I also learned is that taste is a very powerful one.  I worked with kids with anxiety around tests; I had them chew a specific gum.  Chewing gum is a good way to activate a whole bunch of muscles and send blood flow to your head, but then also choosing a specific taste that you only chew while studying and also you only have that while you're doing the test, and that translates obviously, to putting your brain in to gear for work mode or whatever kind of thing.  It’s all in association.

Ben:  Yeah, that’s funny, I actually use this brand of gum called Simply Simply Gum and it’s one of the most natural preservative or artificial flavoring-free gums that are out there.  I saw it off Amazon.  It comes in a 6 pack with flavors like fennel, and maple, and coffee, and so I can literally have specific gums that I choose for specific occasions.  I haven’t even talked about this much before in a podcast, but yeah, in my office I have the peppermint box and upstairs for chewing in between meals I have the fennel box and so, tastes and using gums specifically for taste is also a cool little tactic.

Now, you talk about do one thing at a time and find your golden hours and work only then.  Use rituals to get in to the zone that’s number three.  Transform your workplace into a focus temple, take a break and also, number six do mental interval training which you talked about.  Now the next one that you mentioned, number seven out of nine is to go on an information diet, which I’m quite interested on what you mean by that because I’m a voracious consumer of information.  I use a program called Feedly, F-E-E-D-L-Y, on my computer and on my phone to subscribe to about 50 different blogs and so every morning I’ve got all these different blog feeds coming my way.  And so going in the information diet admittedly makes me a little nervous.  What do you mean by that?

Kasper:  Well I didn’t say information fasting. (laughs)  That’s what people think about when I say diet because people associate diet with less, but I mean with more curated.  So you basically go in the same way you go into your physical environment or the same way I went to my mental and physical environment in my own body and mind and went “why is this here, what is it doing there? What are the beliefs that I have? What are the thoughts that I have? How did they get there and are they helping me?” That’s the process I started with; I started in my mind because I had the panic attack and I started looking at my body and I went “hold on, how fit am I? What are my injuries, what feels good and what doesn’t? Why is it there?  Where did it come from?  What can I do with it?”  And then I did that with my direct surroundings and then I realize your information diet, the information you take in through books, is just as important… might be the most important.  Actually, the most important might be your social environment.

Ben:  So basically, you are kind of like, cleaning up the amount of information that’s coming at you.  Obviously, some of the things you talk about in the book like, disabling push notifications and unsubscribing from junk e-mail is important but I’m curious if you have this same habit as: when I walk into a hotel room, and I think I pick this tip up from Dave Asprey, the bulletproof guy or the bulletproof exec, he puts away all the magazines and the breakfast menu and the reminder to hang the towels, anything that would involve little reading of things that really are an information distraction.  And I’ll do that in hotel rooms, on the airplane, I will take the magazine and all the little things one could read in that little folder in front of you on the airplane.  And what I do is just put that stuff under the seat so, I’m not tempted by or distracted from the other work I’m supposed to be doing on the plane.  Even here in my office right now, the only thing that I have to look at aside from your book and a little Asian poster on my wall that is the Japanese kanji symbol that means family is a safe harbor which just reminds me of the most important thing in life.  Aside from that, there's nothing to distract me from the office.  I don’t have posters, even with inspirational quotes or anything like that.  There's just nothing except you right now, Kasper.

Kasper:  Yeah, well, same here but here’s the thing; it’s about junk information.  It’s not even about necessarily the distraction.  So you take away those little folders but then it’s not necessarily because when I’m on a plane, actually, all my plane rides I’m turning them into very long and fasted, silent meditations and nose breathing practice that’s even if I fly all over the world…

Ben:  During the whole flight?

Kasper:  Twelve hour flight.  The only thing I have is an audiobook.

Ben:  You don’t write it all on planes or nothing like that?

Kasper:  I have to be honest it depends.  I’ve been kind of become a nerd of hacking the jetlag and because when I fly, I also have to perform. I don’t have holidays to just come to speak where they teach workshops, so I want to be on my best and actually I’ve noticed that if I have to be on a plane for 12 hours I could definitely work but then I notice it’s not good for my shoulder or whatever, and then I go “you know what? I always feel like I don’t have enough time to do very dedicated long seated meditation practice”, for example silent meditation, because I’m always moving around and everything and I just go “you know what? Let’s just be quiet, close my eyes and focus on what can we learn about nose breathing in these next 10 hours.”

Ben:   I’m definitely not wired that way.  When I’m on a plane I take advantage of having no distractions and I freakin’, I either work like an animal or else I sleep on the plane.  Those are my 2 modes.

Kasper:  Well, I do that on shorter flights.  If I have a shorter flight, I definitely do that, but if I do that on a long flight, I kind of tend to burn out my brain and then I notice that I can’t really be calm or relaxed afterwards.

[Music Plays]

Ben:  Oh, hello there.  I want to interrupt today’s show to tell you about the human charger.  The human charger is this really cool device, it targets the photosensitive proteins on the surface of your brain with this calibrated white light that passes through your ear canals; not through both of them, unless you don’t have a brain, but through at least one of them.  And what that does is it sends your brain a signal that the sun is shining, so you release serotonin and dopamine and noradrenaline.  Even if you live in a gray or black area of the world, even if it’s snowing all day outside like it was here today, you put this thing in your ear and it’s literally like your ear has curled up with the sun.  It’s amazing; it looks like you’re just listening to this little audio player.  This can be used, not for just jetlag, but for mental alertness, for an uplifting mood, for shift workers, you name it; and you get 20% off, you lucky duck.  Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/humancharger and the code you use is BEN20.  That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/humancharger, just like it sounds, and enter code BEN20 to get a 20% discount.

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[Music Plays]

Ben:  Why do you listen to video game music while you work?  That’s number eight that you talk about, video game music.

Kasper:  Alright, what was number 7?  What were we talking about actually? (laughs)

Ben:  The information diet.

Kasper:  Yeah, I was just gonna, yeah, the main tip there is…

Ben:  Come on man, focus.  Quit multitasking.

Kasper:  Yeah, no, I’m just going with the flow; I’m enjoying it.

Ben: (laughs)

Kasper:  I don’t multi, I’m single tasking on the flow.  So the point is that curating; you have 50 blogs you read, I’m still on Facebook a lot but the things I have on Facebook, I have rules.  If I see somebody complain, if I see somebody talk politics, or certain information or people sharing news articles; I don’t want to have any news on my feed and I just weed them out.  It’s very much about being selective and conscious about curating what you do.  And the same thing goes for music.

Music is full of meaning in like normal western pop music is completely packed with meaning and it’s built in the most optimal way to grab your attention in no time.  I used to be a musician and there’s just a science about how to write a good pop song and you can follow the formula and if you look at the formula it’s built to grab your attention.  It has emotion in there, it has different changes, different harmonies built to grab your attention.  So if you listen to music that is meaningful like pop song or love songs while you're working, that just comes in as an extra stream of data which means you're going to be multitasking and the brain is a single task device you can’t multitask.  Video game music, on the other hand, is not built to grab your attention.

So if you look at the reason that music is built to grab your attention is because it’s pop music; it’s on the radio.  If it grabs your attention it means they sell a record, historically; that’s why it’s built that way.  Video game music is the opposite.  So it’s ambient music but it’s also built to support your concentration.  I used to play a ton of video games and I just noticed that music was always set to a scene.  So you have exciting music, you have calming music; the different worlds in the video game have different kinds of music so it’s much easier to find music that fits you.

If you just go on Google or go to YouTube and go type in concentration music, you generally get some binaural beats or you get some drones or you get some singing balls or some chill hop kind of thing.  But it’s more difficult to curate exactly what it is; I have 20 mins, I’m just going to slay these (censored) e-mails.  I got these to-do’s; I can do them fast and I should do them fast, let’s go in to hyper drive and just crush it.  And then, you search in YouTube for epic video game boss music and then you’re gonna get that kind of music that fits that.  It made it easier for me to find music that was supporting in this specific task that I wanted to do by googling video game music, and also that was a familiar field for me.  And I noticed that it just works.

Ben:  Do you ever use any of these forms of music like Brain.fm, for example, which is music set to artificial intelligence to improve focus or creativity, or even like binaural beats or sound frequencies, and what I mean by that is, the use of anything, like there’s a company called Earth Pulse, for example, they make a device that emits a very focused 10 Hz alpha brain wave frequency that you really can’t hear but that you feel or like I mentioned Brain.fm develops not binaural beats but specific tracks that are designed to enhance the production of specific brain waves like alpha or theta for sleep.  Have you ever experimented with any of those?

Kasper:   I have and I have found some of them very helpful, some of them not helpful at all even though the theory behind it looked kind of solid, and then I noticed that what is really the factor that is determining whether it helps me or not, and that was just whether I like it or not.  So I can have the most optimal brain wave crafted thing for my brain and if I just don’t like it, it’s not gonna help.  Actually, I think I cited a study in that specific little piece of the book that shows that music is a mood regulator and the thing that is most important is whether it fits your mood.  And I think people overestimate, and I might be off on this, people might be able to quote heart science on me in it, and I might be wrong which is about anything I’m saying in this whole podcast; that’s always an option.  But in my experience, people overestimate the effectiveness of, for example, a binaural beat on a technical level and they underestimate the power of music as mood regulator and regulating mood as, basically, the fundamental skill for getting your brain into any mode.

If you look at all these things of certain moods, if you have an association with a specific kind of music that gives you flow state, if it’s heavy metal and it gives you that flow state because that’s what you used to ski to while you’re skiing and you always listen to heavy metal and then you take your heavy metal into your work day and it puts you in a flow state, I think that’s going to be more effective.  That association than putting on a bunch of binaural beats that you’re kinda bored by that don’t really do anything for you even though they technically should be more made for flow state.  That’s my experience.

Ben:  Yeah, got it.  Okay, cool.  Tip number nine is the coffee nap and you talk about how you drink a cup of coffee, fall asleep; it takes 20 minutes for the coffee to hit your blood stream and then after you’ve woken up from your power nap, you're ready to rumble because the coffee has just now, hit you.  I personally don’t use the coffee nap technique because, frankly I tend to take a nap that’s closer to like 40-45 minutes because I just get better rest that way, I found.  Is there a specific reason that you choose 20 minutes as your power nap length?

Kasper:  Yes.  So I don’t use the coffee nap that often anymore; the main reason I put it in is because I thought it’s such an awesome biohack.  You’re just gonna figure out how the little receptor works, what it’s shaped like, and then the caffeine kinda like fits in there.  It tells you something about the brain.  I love that because it’s one of the most typical biohacks where you can give somebody like “here’s the system, and here’s how to hack it” so that’s why I love this.  But definitely, there’s an individual difference, but in general the sleep cycle for a human, for an adult human is about 90 minutes.  You have about 20 minutes of shallow sleep, beginning of sleep and then 50 minutes of deep sleep and then 20 minutes of again, shallow sleep coming out of it; and you go through a bunch of cycles like that.  Now, depending on how fast you fall asleep, so let’s say that you do 40-45 minutes, do you fall asleep right away, by the way?

Ben:  Well, for a nap you mean?

Kasper:  Yeah.

Ben:  I didn’t for a little while until I recently began to use a device called the Circadia which is made by the electrostimulation company Fisher Wallace, and because I take a nap after lunch what I’ll do is finish up lunch and put that on my head as I’m getting the dishes done and on my way to my nap.  So if you're in, say an office, you would do this as you’re getting ready to take a nap.  And by the time I’ve settled down from my nap, what this does is it induces a decrease in the cortisol and an increase in serotonin and dopamine.  And I am lights out as soon as my head hits the pillow now for that nap.  My only complaint is I don’t always use it for a long night of sleep because it’s got wires and sometimes you wake up, rolling around in the wires, but ultimately for a nap or for an airplane, I’m lights out right away.  Why do you ask?

Kasper:  Because some people they say, I take an hour nap and I wake up so groggy that I can’t get back to work because their brain is gone in deep sleep.

Ben:  This is true; I’m groggy after my nap.  It takes me like 15-20 minutes to get back into the game.

Kasper:  And those 15-2o minutes… The thing is when your brain goes to sleep, the first 20 minutes, it can get out of sleep easily but once it is in the deep part of sleep cycle it’s going to have to finish that cycle.  So if you wake up 15 minutes before the end of the deep sleep cycle, you’re going to need those 15 minutes to wake back up.  This is why I time my nap to 20 minutes because I know, you know it’s different sometimes it’s 30 and for some people it might be 35 but I know for me it’s 20 minutes and I lay in an acupressure mat to do my nap.

I’m working on a little article called the ultimate napping protocol and the acupressure mat is definitely part of it.  And I set my timer and I know after those 20 minutes I’m not going to be in deep sleep so, I can wake up and get straight back into work and I feel very, very energized especially the caffeine kicks and also, 20 minutes is just enough for the coffee to pass through your digestive system.  This is another thing of association; if you drink your coffee, you feel energized right away, that’s just your brain, that’s just placebo because the caffeine is not being used yet.  It takes 15-20 minutes for it to be digested.  That’s just the associations; that’s how powerful that is.

Ben:  Depending on your route of administration, you could always do your coffee enema before you take a nap and there are other ways to distribute coffee throughout the body.

Kasper:  I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to get into a nap after your coffee enema. (laughs)

Ben:  You’d be surprised; you just clench and fall asleep.

Kasper:  Ah. (laughs)

Ben:  (laughs) I jest.  Don’t try that at home folks unless, you have a very good soaking pads they put underneath the mattress for children who wet the bed at night, you're gonna need 3 of those and a good washing machine.

So you talk about of course video game music and coffee naps are tips number eight and nine that you give.  And then, another few things that really leapt out at me, when I was reading your book.  One thing is that you wrote the book in such a way that the book itself caused you to focus and early on in the book you talk about some of the things you used to do.  For example, on every page there are maximum of just 500-600 words and each paragraph is supposed to be no longer than 300 words.  What are some other things that you did specifically in terms of the way you laid out the book to ensure people to get the most out of it?

Kasper:  Yeah, so there is no block that is larger than 250 words.  One of the things that people who don’t like to read books, people who don’t focus optimally really have a hard time with is when they open a book and there's just letters from top to bottom on the first page then letters top to bottom on the next page.  They flip it and again there's letters from top to bottom and there's line breaks and page breaks that if you’re not a good reader, the brain goes “oh man, I don’t even know how long”.  So that’s one of the things working like an athlete is that you know when you’re gonna quit.

So if I tell you let’s go for a run and I don’t tell you how far, you're not going to go to a full sprint because you might have to do a marathon.  People who have brains that don’t read or focus inherently very well, especially on books, they opt out whenever there’s a line break or page break because they feel like they never going to be able to finish it.  There's never a block that’s more than 250 words long and there's maximum of two of those blocks on a page, which means that if you start on a page, you can finish the page and get the idea, you get the information.

Ben:  I didn’t even realize that since I started reading the book but there really is not any line break or word breaks that carry over into the next page.  So you consume the content you started with by the end of the page that you started on which is really interesting.  I haven’t read a lot of books that have that approach.

Kasper:  Yeah, absolutely.  And even in the Dutch version I wrote it in the end version of the make-up and it works a bit better there because then we have to change it to the international printing or whatever, but that’s generally what I did.  All the pages are filled out.  So I have been willing to take out content to fit to that regimen to help people finish it.  And actually one of the coolest compliments I can get is from people who don’t like reading, coz I love reading, as soon as I found I was like “man, why didn’t I do this my whole life?”

Now, I get these e-mails from people that read my book and they go, this is the first book I’ve read cover to cover.  I found my love for reading, stuff like that.  Then I go, yes it was worth it because it was also on a hunch, so that’s the thing.  And I learned that in an education I started timing my classes and I told these kids, listen I’m going to talk for 10 minutes at this speed, at this volume; please set your brain to 10 minutes.  If there's at any point you think your focus needs to tap out just let me know and we’ll switch and we’ll make sure you get there and I showed them the timer.  I started adding that to test format too, started kind of like hacking the tests, in a way where they would know exactly how much time they could use for this and that and help them with time, so that’s what is in the book.  That’s the thing about the page breaks and the line breaks, and the book tells you how many words there are gonna be in chapter and how long that takes at an average.

Ben:  Estimated reading time based on average of 250-300 words per minute, so each page will approximately take you 2 minutes to read if you read it the rate of the average person, which is cool to know; how long it’s going to take you through a specific chapter.  It’s a very, very interesting way to write a book.  You’ve gotten way more in this book than we even delved into.

You have at the end 50 different tips divided into 7 categories and each of those tips is designed specifically to enhance your productivity like, for example, you’ve got everything from your fitness tips include things like walk like an animal and work standing up.  Some of these things are pretty intuitive but then you’ve got others that are interesting like, sit quietly in the woods or master your breath or cool your face like, a whole bunch of interesting tips.  But what I wanted to ask you because you do talk about things like breath and things about cold, as you get into all these different tips at the back of the book for different techniques for fitness, for physiology, for, what you call, rewilding your life for tension management.  You obviously do this whole Wim Hof thing because you're a… are you a lead instructor for Wim Hof?

Kasper:  I think the official title is the teacher’s teacher.  It used to be called head instructor.  The thing is they don’t want, and I agree, we don’t want a system where there's different levels and there's a hierarchy.  So I’m not the top instructor, the number 1.  Basically, I’m the one who, together with Wim Hof teaches the other instructors.  Every instructor you can find on the world that teaches this stuff has been trained by me.  Mostly together with Wim Hof and I work with him and his family to develop the instructive program together.  It all started with me making a bunch of lectures that explained the science behind the method in a way that people like to hear it.  That’s my specialty, science teaching and I used to teach science to kids, to non-motivated kids and I made it fun for them.  And one of the first things I started doing when I quit my science teaching job was teaching this biohacking stuff and the Wim Hof method.

Ben:  Is that the method that you used to train to do ultra-endurance running while barefoot?

Kasper:  That was definitely a massive, massive performance booster.  So the fact that I learned about breathing; the first marathon I ran was in bare feet, it was on the beach because I thought that would be a good idea, turned out to be not the best choice because basically, sandpaper.  Well it’s sand; not the best thing.  The biggest problem on the beach is that because there’s a slant, your one foot is always higher than the other so, your pelvis gets completely messed up.  Anyway, the breathing was the most powerful thing for me as I was doing these ultras because I was not in the best shape when I started running and I kind of hacked my learning curve of becoming a runner in that sense, towards doing ultra-endurance especially by breathing and by using the cold so that was a big game changer.

Ben:  Okay, so I wanna know about the practical because you hear people talk about breathing, and I was doing the cold, but what would a typical training session look like for you?  Is it that you’re stopping during the run and doing some kind of special breath work? Are you jumping in a cold bath before and after the run? How would one combine cold breath work and running barefoot for a typical workout?

Kasper:  Well, first of all, if you run barefoot in cold environment, which is dangerous and you can damage yourself but if you do it gradually and correctly, your feet will become so powerful; it’s insane.  The problem with feet is that there's, if people who transitioned to barefoot running then notice that there's so many different tendons and pieces of fascia and so many different little bones, it’s pretty sensitive.  And things like tendons and fascia, they don’t really have their own circulation apart from, the circulations towards muscles so it’s very easy to get injured.  And training with the cold, in a cold environment or dunking your feet into an ice-cold bath for 10 seconds and taking it out and letting it adjust is sauna training for your feet which means the circulation in your feet improves.  Your ability to deal with pain and to understand what the pain means improves so that keeps you away from injury just by improving circulation.  That’s the thing.

Ben:  It’s a part of the Wim Hof training, isn’t it? You do cold plunges, just your foot, into a bucket of ice

Kasper:  Yeah, that’s one of the things we used a lot.  And also with the feet, with the hands and we use that also to reprogram the neurological pathways where people deal with pain; it’s very, very easy practice.  People think they need to get an entire ice bath with cubes and everything, but if you just train your hands and your feet, that’s powerful.  For an athletic standpoint, let’s say you want to do a max performance, run or crossfit workout, whatever it is you want to do, one of the limiting factors for performance is body temperature because if you think, imagine being in a sauna on the hottest day of the year, you know, you feel that your body does not want to give off any extra energy.  It wants to do nothing.

Ben:  I’m sure, yeah.  I remember the weekend afternoon hot runs getting ready for Ironman Hawaii.  That was like the worst run of the week.

Kasper:  Absolutely, your organs are getting fried and your body doesn’t want that so it’ll stop you.  If you can cool your body right before you're going to performance, you're giving yourself a head start because the body is like “oh yeah, please let’s move because we want to get this heat up.” So right before a marathon I would definitely do an ice bath or any kind of cold that I could get like, I ran an ultra in Switzerland.  The Eyegear ultra-marathon 51k and it was cold streams everywhere; it was perfect.  Whenever my feet hurt or when I was completely ready to quit, I would just run until I found one of those ice-cold streams and I kind of dunk my feet in there or just my face or completely go in there.  You cool your body temperature and also you modulate your circulation and that’s very helpful.

Training with the cold in general helps you deal with pain, so it improves your circulation overall, but it also helps you deal with pain especially as soon as you hit the cold you kind of tease out that little voice in your head that wants to tell you that things are dangerous, scary and you should stop and you can’t go on anymore and that’s the mental training that the cold has given me.  The hardest part of the marathoner or a long runner, you’re going to have your lift.  I just noticed that that voice come up and I’m conscious of it.  I can listen to it and I can let it go.  And I learned that in an ice bath and keeping in mind that my life was controlled by that voice, because I used to be addicted and I had an anxiety disorder and all of that.  So that little voice saying “take the easy way” was in charge of my life for a large part.  And training with the ice and especially in combination with running, coz running has also practiced have given with that place has been very profound.

So in terms of ice, those are definitely ways to train.  After a workout or performance thing you can use the ice but there's a bit more knobs and leverage to it.  You could do some harm with it if you don’t modulate it correctly so I work with a lot of athletes on how, for their specific program, to use the cold to modulate recovery after a set.

Ben:  Yeah. Well you could also shut down your hormetic response just like taking high dose antioxidants after a hard workout.  And by the way, you can also cool during the workout; I did a story for Lava Magazine a couple years ago where I raced the Half Ironman World Championships in Las Vegas and it was like 105 degrees.  And I actually did the run just to see what would happen physiologically wearing one of these lightweight cooling vests, a hat made by Zoot that was infused with xylitol to cool the head during running, arm cooling sleeves made by same company that also cooled the arms while running and then finally, very similar to the Stanford cooling glove that they did this experiments with, if you guys don’t know about this, just Google…

Actually, I’ll put a link to the article on the show notes, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/mindlift and I’ll link to the Stanford cooling glove experiment.  But what they also have is a cooling glove that you can wear that keeps the hand cold as blood circulates through the hand and goes back to the rest of the body, it keeps the hand cold.  And so I used all these techniques during the run; I stayed quite cool at the same time I had a lot to manage.  I was a holding thing and I have the vest on but at the same time the heat was not an issue when I did that. You can even do this during exercise.

Kasper:  Oh yeah, absolutely.  I remember Scott Jurek spoke “Eat & Run” where he talks about doing the bath water ultra-marathon and then basically he carried around with him a casket full of ice that he goes to every 2 hours and just goes from extreme hyper to hypothermia in minutes.  That apparently helped him a lot.

Ben:  Right.  Yeah, interesting.

Kasper:  So that’s the thing.  And it’s funny that his interview follows my kind of career because I started out with all this cognitive performance and learning enhancement and focus up because I work as a teacher and that was my mind frame and now I work mostly on extreme performance, on hacking the nervous system, breathwork and I work with athletes so it’s kind of like, shifted.  And that’s also how the conversation shifted which is cool.  So I started experimenting with breathing the first thing so that the traditional Wim Hof breathing which people should definitely check out, it’s a very profound technique.  It’s a great way to get your body into gear.  You’re basically, shifting between…

Ben:  I’ve been interviewed Wim a few times by the way, so you don’t have to go over the whole Wim Hof work thing because we have literally have hours of interviews on it.

Kasper:  Ah, that’s great.

Ben:  What I’m asking is though, how did you use that while you were training barefoot for ultra-endurance? Is this before the workout? During it? After it?

Kasper:  Yeah, so the classic Wim Hof breathing I would do that before and that was very helpful.  What’s very important to understand is for ultra-endurance, what you need to teach your body to do is to basically be in parasympathetic state while you're being active, which means that your nervous system is in the state of rest even though you are running up mountain or you know biking or swimming.  So you need to build a balance between the different functions of the nervous system where you can keep your heart rate low but you’re still moving, and as you know in ultra-endurance, if you can’t eat, you can’t finish.  And actually I read this quote and it says, “Ultra-endurance is an eating competition with some running in between.”  I don’t know where I read it but it’s probably from “Born to Run.”

So I did my first marathon on bare feet, by the way, fasted, which took that thing out of the equation.  So if you can keep your heart rate down, keep your nervous system calm, you're gonna be able to last longer and you do that by breathing slowly.  So, learning how to nose breathe while running breathing in slowly as possible, focusing on the exhale because that’s where you, that actually stimulates the vagus nerve and get you in calmer mode.  The slower you breathe the lower your heart rate and the less energy you will use up and the more efficient you will become.  So that’s one thing that I use during the marathon.

Now in training, I would even combine that and I still do the breath holds.  This is something to be careful with because you can get really dizzy with it so please be careful with this though.  For example, doing a training run and I would do hill repeats and I would go running up a hill with my lungs full and holding my breath.  Then at the top of the hill I would do, for example, I would stand still, do 5 slow breaths and then breathe out and hold; one exhale rotation and run down the hill.  That was the little protocol that I used or even running slowly, breathing as slowly as possible, suddenly holding my nose, holding my breath and doing a sprint and then recovering my breath as fast as possible.

So restricting breath creates efficiency, basically, which is what you want if you're doing endurance; that was very, very helpful.  Also, holding your breath creates a silence which allows me to scan my body, to see what I needed and another thing that’s important especially in barefoot running is to really be mindful of your form, to really be able to scan your body while you're running and go “hold on, I’m putting my toes slightly to the left and that’s creating a blister or putting my Achilles tendon in a certain position which is not helpful.”  So I would actually use breath holds as a moment of silence where I didn’t have to focus on any of my breath to scan my body and then to adjust my lungs; so that’s the thing.

Ben:  Yeah; that’s interesting.  I love these forms of breathwork.  I will go on a walk, for example, and every time I pass a telephone pole, hold my breath for as long as possible and then the entire rest of the walk is simply comprised of box breathing.  Four count in, four count hold, four count out, four count hold, only through the nose and the other twist that I’ve thrown to that workout is that you do the nasal breathing during the entire walk.  Four in, four hold, four out, four hold, but as you are approaching say a telephone pole and you know you're 30 seconds away from reaching that telephone pole, you go in to Wim Hof style breathing, like short, rapid [quick breathing sounds] and then when you arrive to the telephone pole, take one deep breath in, exhale everything and then drop and do push ups.  And then you get back up and keep walking going straight back into that nasal breathing.

I took a couple of friends on a walk like that and we walked for an hour like that.  We got back, these guys were red faced; they were exhausted.  Now mind you, all were we’re doing was breathing and walking and they said that their diaphragms hurt because they were using all these new inspiratory and expiratory muscles that they’d never tapped into before.  So yeah, breathwork is powerful.

Kasper:  And it’s overlooked.  This is the thing in athletics; I’m a mediocre athlete.  I did some feats of endurance which were, considering the timeframe where I came from, were impressive in a sense, relatively.  I’m mid-packer; I’m not a very high-level athlete but I work with pro athletes all the time and because I had to hack my way to do athletics again because my body was kind of broken and I was out of shape and all of that.  I just had to use these methods that were overlooked by most athletes and one of them was breathing.  So now I work with Olympians with very high performance from all kinds of different areas and they go “how did we miss this, this is so profound” because in one little session, you can get people’s performance into a higher level at an insane rate.

Like you said box breathing; I like to do box breathing and then increase the intervals.  So for example, 30 seconds in, 30 seconds hold, so you have basically, one inhale and one exhale over the spread of 2 minutes which is obviously something you work up to.  Start with the 4 minutes and stuff like that.

I recently opened a gym in my hometown called MLAB; stands for move, lift, act, breathe, where we focus on my mind set training but we also have these specific breathing protocols that came out of all my experimentation that don’t really fit any method I know of right now, or at least we tinker with it with our athletes.  And one of the things that you can do, which is a very important thing for me after workout, is to modulate your nervous system back into resting mode especially crossfit athletes or fighters, people who do high intensity interval training, they come out of a workout and then at night they go to bed and then they can’t sleep because their heart rate is still up, their nervous system is still in fight mode and that messes with their recovery and with their performance.  So, we do the evening workouts, we close them off with the breathing protocol.  We do breathing in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds.  We do that four times then you can do the breathing for 4 seconds but breathe out for 8 seconds.  Basically, double the actual.

Ben:  Reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system.  It’s super interesting and we could keep going.  What’s the URL for that gym, by the way, that you just mentioned?

Kasper:  It’s MLAB.life

Ben:  “N” like Nancy?

Kasper:  No, like move.  Move Lift Act Breathe, that’s what it stands for.

Ben:  MLAB.life, of course.  Here we go.

Kasper:  We will get into this stuff because I’ll be doing a workshop at the secret off site VIP event of the biohacking summit.

Ben:  That will likely have happen by the time this podcast gets released, but if not and you happen to hear this and have a chance to get over to that Finland biohacking summit in time, go.  And if you listen to this podcast any point in the future go to my website at bengreenfieldfitness.com and search for Biohackers Summit Finland, because it is a must add to your bucket list.

Kasper is teaching there, I’m teaching there, we have an off site where we camp out in the wilderness in the middle of Finland and do plant foraging.  It’s amazing, and I’ll put a link to everything that Kasper and I talked about by the way over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mindlift. I know we jumped around quite a bit because there are so many things to talk about, but grab his book “MindLift”, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes, as well at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mindlift and then if there were topics that we didn’t delve into deeply enough for you or you have follow up questions or comments; Kasper, you cool with folks leaving those in the show notes and we can kinda tag team replying?

Kasper:  Absolutely.  I love doing a podcast; the one downside is that it’s a one-way traffic and the thing I love most after a podcast is people getting in touch with me or having a space to discuss, right?  Just to see, for anybody who is listening out there that stood out to you that might have helped you or you think that inspired you, feel free to get in touch on your website, in the comments, I’ll show up and I’ll be around because I love the interaction; that’s where I learn the most.  The audience is the most important source of inspiration for me.

Ben:  Awesome.  Alright folks, well I’ll put the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mindlift and you can interact over there just like it sounds, “MindLift”.  And Kasper, my Dutch friend, my hyper productive Dutch friend, thank you for coming on the show today and sharing all the stuff with us.

Kasper:  Oh man, it was a big pleasure.

Ben:  Alright folks, well until next time I’m Ben Greenfield along with Kasper van der Meulen signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.  Have a healthy and amazing week.



Kasper van der Meulen is an author and lifestyle adventurer. He went from being overweight, burnt out and unhappy, to developing what he calls “superhuman focus, fitness and personal freedom”. The guy is actually pretty dang interesting…

…for example, he put himself through numerous experiments and challenges, optimized his lifestyle, conquered the cold, ran ultramarathons on his bare feet, tested countless diets, read a ton of scientific literature and explored as many esoteric practices he could find. With over ten thousand hours of experience in teaching science, self-mastery and innovation, he decided to demystify and methodize these principles in a fun and bite-sized manner.

As a final test of his focus, he wrote his new book within 30 days, so that he would have to practice everything he preaches. Surprisingly, the book “MindLift – Mental Fitness for the Modern Mind” became an Amazon bestseller. Kasper now travels the world on a mission to teach others to be the healthiest, happiest and strongest version of themselves through transformative experiences and down-to-earth scientific understanding. He is the head-teacher of the Wim Hof Academy, he runs experiential retreats in extreme nature and he trains elite performers and professional athletes. All while keeping a playful and creative approach to self-optimization.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-How Kasper wrote an entire book in just 30 days…[6:25]


-Kasper's top nine tips to get things done faster…[12:00]


-Why the Pomodoro technique may not work for you to get “deep work” done…[16:50]


-How to transform your workplace into a focus temple…[21:50]


-Why what you smell and what you taste while working is so important…[29:00]


-How to use “video game music” and “coffee naps” to become a productivity machine…[39:18 & 44:45]


-How, by using tactics such as 300-word paragraphs and elimination of line breaks that carry into the next page, Kasper wrote Mindlift in a way to support your natural ability to focus…[49:35]


-How you can combine cold, running and breathwork in one single workout…[56:45]

-A hack for the nervous system to modulate between sympathetic and parasympathetic states…[59:30]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-MindLift – Mental Fitness for the Modern Mind

Mogo Upright Stool

Topo mat

Foot roller massage device

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Simply Gum

Feedly for reading blogs


The Earthpulse device for alpha brain frequencies

The FisherWallace Circadia

My most recent interview with Wim Hof

The Stanford cooling glove experiment


Show Sponsors: 

-Organifi – Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Organifi and use discount code REDBEN for 20% off your Red Juice order, or discount code BEN for 20% anything else!

-Four Sigmatic – Go to FourSigmatic.com/Greenfield and use code BENGREENFIELD for 15% off.

-Human Charger – Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/humancharger and use the code BEN20 for 20% off.

-HealthGains – Text the word “GAIN” to 313131 to receive a $250 voucher toward your HealthGAINS treatment.


Ask Ben a Podcast Question

2 thoughts on “[Transcript] – Cracking The Code Of Wim Hof Breathing, Writing A Bestseller In 30 Days, Barefoot Ultrarunning & More With Kasper van der Meulen

  1. rafs says:

    Hey Ben this walk with your frineds, you did Wim Hof breathing until a pole or for 30 breaths( nasal in , mouth out) like Wim hof method ?

    1. Four count in, four count hold, four count out, four count hold, only through the nose and the other twist that I’ve thrown to that workout is that you do the nasal breathing during the entire walk. Four in, four hold, four out, four hold, but as you are approaching say a telephone pole and you know you’re 30 seconds away from reaching that telephone pole, you go in to Wim Hof style breathing, like short, rapid [quick breathing sounds] and then when you arrive to the telephone pole, take one deep breath in, exhale everything and then drop and do push ups. And then you get back up and keep walking going straight back into that nasal breathing.

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