June 20, 2015
Podcast from: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/06/natural-born-heroes/
[01:15] Christopher McDougall
[04:05] How Chris Got Started With What He Does Now
[07:27] Where Chris Usually Does His Writing
[08:48] Chris' Family
[09:53] Chris' Workout Routine
[15:48] The Importance Of Crete
[17:47] The Concept of Natural Movement
[25:08] Parkour and The Cretans
[28:51] Wing Chun
[34:00] Using Your Fascia In Wing Chun
[43:01] Chris' Parkour Lessons
[47:54] The Cretan Diet
[58:37] Becoming A Cretan Super Athlete
[1:02:19] End of Podcast
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast:
“Right now let's talk about who's the greatest athlete in America. Is it LeBron James, Manny Pacquiao? Who is it? If anyone of these one dudes dropped behind enemy lines at World War II and tell them, ‘Hey, go live off the land, invade 100,000 pissed off German soldiers, and meanwhile try to blow up some tanks.” “There's almost no human out who is in any ring with almost any other animal where I would like the human to win. We're just not naturally good fighters. We're good runners, fleeers, avoiders, and climbers.” “You actually dissect a human leg, there is more elastic recoil in our legs than are in a kangaroo's leg.” “Phil Maffetone perfected that adaptation and he could write the instructions out on an index card. That's all you need to know, he can write out in about [0:00:45] ______ .”
Ben: Hey, it's Ben Greenfield. And a couple weeks ago, I mentioned on the podcast that I was reading a book called “Natural Born Heroes: How A Daring Band Of Misfits Mastered The Lost Secrets Of Strength And Endurance”. Well, I've finished this book, and I'll tell you right now that I consider it to be one of the best books that I've read in 2015. So first of all, read the book. But second, I actually have author Christopher McDougall on the call today, and he's the guy who you might recognize as the same author who wrote “Born to Run”. And in this new book, “Natural Born Heroes”, Chris actually travels to the Mediterranean where he discovers these secrets of ancient Greek heroes that are alive and well in the mountains on the island of Crete. And in the story, he goes into this really amazing true tale of this band of resistance fighters in World War II who plotted this daring abduction of a German general from the heart of the Nazi occupation.
But even more interesting to me, beyond the historical warfare anecdotes, are all of the tools that these Cretan runners used, that these British special forces used, these skills like natural movement, and their own fascia, and endurance principles, and nutrition principles that really are not only inspiring, but actually very, very useful. If you, yourself are an athlete, or you want to enhance your movement, your coordination, your ability to kind of climb, and swim, and skip, and throw, and jump your way to your own heroic feats, this book is just jam-packed with information. Now Chris covered wars in Rwanda and Angola before he wrote “Born to Run”, He created the Outside Magazine web series “Art of The Hero”, of course he just finished writing this book “Natural Born Heroes”, so the guy is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to just getting the most out of the human body and the adventures that we can go on with the human body. So Chris, thanks for coming on, man.
Chris: Oh, Ben, I'm really glad to be here.
Ben: So I'm curious, a guy like you who freakin' goes and runs with a Tarahumara Indian tribe, who goes to the island of Crete, and your stories of climbing through these razor sharp mountains in Crete are amazing as well as all the things you had to do leading up to that point in preparation, but I'm curious how you got into all this. Were you just like a kid who always loved to write? Was this like an accidental foray into journalism? How did you get started with what you do now?
Chris: Writing's been my job for a good long time since, man, I'm trying to think of my first job. Probably was with like a Free City Weekly in Philadelphia back in 1980's or 90's. And then I got a really good job with the Associated Press, I was a foreign correspondent for the AP covering politics, and sports, and the rest in Europe before being stationed overseas in Angola and Rwanda covering civil wars there. So yeah, my writing resume has been pretty much all bootstraps starting with the simplest and easiest jobs to get and then working my way up through the more difficult assignments.
Ben: So do you just kind of like sit back and wait for people to call you, and then go and immerse yourself in these adventures that inspire you to write these kind of books? Or are you going out and seeking this kind of stuff on your own after you find something that strikes your fancy?
Chris: Yeah. There's a word for writers who sit back and wait for people to call them. They're called waiters. They're actually, they're the ones bringing you your food in the restaurants. No, man. One thing you learn, even when you're in a staff job is, it's like always be selling, always be pitching. So even when I was working for the AP, I was based in Portugal. That was my main port of call. I was a Portuguese correspondent. But I covered all those former Portuguese colonies in sub-Saharan Africa. So I was constantly pitching ideas to the home office in New York because I didn't want to be sitting in an office in Lisbon. I wanted to be out in the field. So you learn early on, you pitch 10 ideas, two of them might get a nibble, one of them gets a house. And then when I left the AP and began freelance writing for magazines, it was the same thing. You're constantly churning through ideas. So even right now, I mean right now I'm trying to take the summer off, but I've come up with three ideas for another book I'd like to write, and I'm just trying to figure out which one I'm going to go for next.
Ben: So when you're writing a book like this, let's take this most recent one, “Natural Born Heroes”, as an example, you obviously are having to go through a great deal of immersive journalism, and travel to Crete, and we'll get into it in a little bit, but like all the parkour training, and the flight training, and all these other things that you had to do in preparation for the book, are you just kind of self-funding all these projects yourself? Or when you do a book like this, is a publisher just kind of funding the entire project?
Chris: That's lesson number two that you learn as a freelance writer. Number one, always be pitching. Number two, do nothing for free, do nothing for spec. So you make sure everything is paid for in advance. So, yeah. I mean my criterion for taking an assignment is: do I got somebody lined up that actually wants it before I spend two or three months working on it? But again, that's kind of the stuff you learn with a couple of deep bone bruises as a magazine freelancer. If you do any on spec, you're going to get screwed. So yeah, for these books, I get an idea, to tell you truth, the market has its value because if you can't get an editor or a publisher interested, then you're not going to get readers interested. So your first way of stress testing an idea is to find out is anybody willing to invest some money in it?
Ben: Are you one of those guys who just writes anywhere? Or do you have like your own writing chamber set up somewhere in your home, like your own little habit place that you write at? Or are you one of those guys who just writes on airplanes, cars, wherever?
Chris: Yeah, I got places set up, but I don't know if it's attention deficiency or just the kind of natural restlessness of mankind, but I got a really cool look out behind the house that's normally my office, but at this moment I’m going to pick the table in the porch, I'll write on the kitchen table. So yeah, sitting in any one place for more than an hour just feels uncomfortable.
Ben: Yeah. That's interesting. I can hear the birds singing behind you. And my wife and I had this discussion the other day 'cause I do lots of writing, I have specific places in the house where my muse strikes and I can sit and write for what seems like forever, and then other places I just can't, can't write at all. It's funny. Like ironically, the kitchen table is one place where I get a ton of work done.
Chris: You know what I think it is, man? I think you want to be in the heart in the action. When you're actually off by yourself, your head starts a swivel. Like what's going on around me?
Ben: That's exactly what it is. Yeah. And for me, a coffee shop is too much. Like the buzz of a coffee shop is too much. But just like being at the kitchen table and kind of occasionally having the door swing open and someone come in, or one of my kids run by, that's a perfect place for me 'cause I'm mildly distracted. Of course, the only issue there is it's very close to the refrigerator.
Chris: To me, that's an added benefit. I'm actually covering less real estate in order to snack.
Ben: Exactly. So do you have a family at home as well that you have to leave when you go and do these crazy adventures?
Chris: Yeah. Not only do I have a family, but actually they're listening on this conversation as we speak. So if I sound really conservative and cool, it's because I'm trying not to show off in front of my family. Yeah, I get away from two little girls and a buttload of animals. We've got sheep, and goats, and cats, and stuff. So everytime I leave the house, I feel like I'm abandoning lots of hungry mouths.
Ben: Yeah. Are you traveling quite a bit? Like when you write these books, do you disappear for a long period of time and come back home? Or are these like a brief weekend forays?
Chris: It's all ebb and flow. It's a lot of time at home followed by uncomfortably long stretches away. But again, you pay the price for the kind of life you have. The fact that I could be here 24/7 for months at a time, every once in a while you've got to pay the price and be gone for a month.
Ben: Got it. And you obviously have a bent towards writing about action, about fitness, about running. Is your sport of choice endurance? Or are you like a CrossFitter, are you now just purely parkour based on this most recent book, or what's your workout routine look like?
Chris: That's a funny thing 'cause I didn't even notice this trend until my agents, my literary agent a few years ago, he was looking through a bunch of magazine stories I've done over the years, and for all kinds of different places, for like Philadelphia Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Runner's World, a total grab bag different media outlets. And he said, “You know, there's a theme running through all your stories. It's always about endurance. It's always about someone trying to tough something out.” And I haven't even noticed that trend. But once he said it, it really crystallized my thinking. And that actually led to “Born to Run”. That was kind of the catalyst. I thought, “Yeah. Let's try and find a really extreme case of endurance and follow it back to its first principles.”
Ben: Yeah. And so at that point, were you doing a lot of your own marathoning, running, cycling, that type of thing?
Chris: Yeah. Here's the fun thing about though was at that time, I was on the injured reserved list. The difficulty was I was trying to do that stuff and kept getting injured. And that really became the launching point for “Born to Run”, because I wanted to run, I've been a rower in college, and then get out college and you basically just start to wander around trying to find something to keep you slightly less fat. So I went through I think the same evolution everybody else does. You start to run, then you get hurt, so you go to the gym, and the gym sucks, and you ride a bike, the bike's boring, and you're just trying to find that home. And that's what really sort of led me to the Copper Canyon that I wanted to run, but I'm 6'4″, 220 pounds at the time, and I kept getting injured. And the doctor said, “Well, of course you're injured, dude. You're the size of a fridge. Guys your size shouldn't be running.” And I wanted to figure out why is it that some people can run super long distances and never get hurt, and the rest of us are constantly on the DL. So that was it. And since then, really, I don't think I sort of have a sport of choice. I'm hopefully, maybe migrating back to our sort of hunter gatherer ancestors and I'm just doing a ton of stuff all the time, I'm just on the move. Climbing trees, climbing ropes, cutting wood, going for runs, riding a bike, whatever strikes my interest.
Ben: Nice. Have you built up like a little obstacle course there at your house? Is it like a farm that you live on now?
Chris: Yeah. I'm not sure what you call it. It's little chunk of land out here in Lancaster County. It's surrounded by farms. So it's sort of a natural, sort of nature-made obstacle course. I think the one thing I did was build fences, put up some gates, and put up a 30-foot climbing rope. But what's really cool is, and this is where parkour has been really invaluable, because once you start to see the world through the eyes of a parkour dude, you suddenly see the obstacles that are already there. So you don't maybe even create them. So if you've got to shed, well that shed's got a roof. And if you've got a fence, well that fence has a gate that you can vault over. And almost anywhere on a run, I can find obstacles in every direction.
Ben: Yeah. I've spent a lot of time with a guy who calls himself The Fitness Explorer, his name is Darrell Edwards and he runs these parkour-like clinics over in London. And I spent almost six hours at one of his clinics in a park in London literally just exploring the park and it was more sore the next day than I've ever been after an Ironman or a marathon. And yeah, it's amazing. Like ever since that course, when I'm taking a walk through an urban area or a stroll through my own little plot of forest here in Spokane, everything becomes some kind of an obstacle, some kind of a place where you can throw in a fitness move, or a twist, or a turn, or a jump. So it's a lot of fun.
Chris: You know what? I forgot you were in Spokane. One of the best events I’ve ever had and one of the most surprisingly fervent running communities I've ever come across is in Spokane.
Ben: Who is that?
Chris: I was out there for the literary festival and… what's the name of that running, it's some kind of beer running through.
Ben: Okay. Yeah.
Chris: You know what I'm talking about?
Ben: The Get Lit Literature Festival. And the running group is, they meet up at this little bar called The Elks I believe is that one. Yeah, they're like a… what do you call it? A hash run, I think?
Chris: It wasn't the Hash House Harriers. It was another group, and again, I should've boned. I shouldn't…
Ben: I know what you're talking about though. They run, and they come back, and they drink beer at The Elk public house.
Chris: That was it. So I was out there for the Get Lit Festival, and the plan was… 'cause it was a joint affair between… and what's the big race you guys have in…
Chris: Exactly. So it was a joint affair between the Bloomsday Race and the Get Lit Festival, the plan was to do a final run and do a book, but what I didn't realize there was a par three, which was then go out and drink your faces off. So I had a blast. And to see that many runners packed into a bar was just a trip.
Ben: Yeah. It's a big running community. I have yet, even having lived here nearly a decade, I have yet to run Bloomsday. The very first year that I lived up here, my rock band played it at about mile five of Bloomsday, and it was just wall to wall people nearly walking because there were so many folks. It never made me want to run Bloomsday. It just seemed like a giant traffic jam. But I'm sure towards the front, if you fast enough to run up with the Kenyans, you can probably have a good time.
Chris: I think events like that, you got to look at them as a celebration, as a party, not even a run, just a nice, happy shuffle.
Ben: Yeah. Exactly. So this book, I definitely don't want to have you on the podcast to try and retell the entire story of the book, 'cause frankly the book is an amazing tale, and I think everyone should go out and just listen to it on Audible, or put it on the Kindle, or grab it, it's available pretty much anywhere. But in terms of the island of Crete and why that was such an important place for this book to take place, without giving away the whole story, can you explain why that was such an important component of World War II?
Chris: When I did “Born to Run”, the central question was why is it that the tarahumara can run 200 miles, and he's like 80, and I can't. So what do these guys know that I don't know? And while I was researching Born to Run, I was just chucking the net as wide as I could. Any kind of reference to archival running knowledge, I wanted to know what it was. So one of these I came across were these references to a guy called “The Cretan Runner”. And I assumed this was some kind of Greek marathoner. But then when I started to look into it, what I discovered is: no, he was actually a different kind of runner. He was a foot messenger during World War II, running messages back and forth through the mountains to different resistance groups. So I was kind of intrigued, but it didn't really fit the framework of Born to Run. So I just back burnered it, put it aside. Then after I finished Born to Run, I thought, “You know what? It's kind of intriguing.” I didn't really know anything about these foot messengers. So I went back into that research, and what I found, really blew my mind. Because right now there's talk about who's the greatest athlete in America. Is it LeBron James, Manny Pacquiao? Who is it? And I thought, “Take any one of these dudes, drop 'em behind enemy lines at World War II and tell them, ‘Hey, go live off the land, invade 100,000 pissed off German soldiers. And meanwhile, try and blow up some tanks. See how long anyone of these guys survives. And then start thinking who the world's greatest athlete is. And that's essentially what was going on during World War II. They were taking civilians and telling them, “Man, go out there and go fight the Germans.” And to survive that way for four years, that to me was a real physiological mystery. And that became the basis of this next book.
Ben: So one of the things that you get into in the book is this concept of natural movement. For you, was that something new? Had you been exposed to things like parkour or Erwan Le Corre, or any of these folks that were out just basically exercising with nature? Or was that something that was a novel concept to you that you discovered while writing the book?
Chris: I think one of the beneficial aspects of the books I've been able to do is that I came into them as a pretty serious skeptic. So when I was working on “Born to Run”, I was in no way convinced of the whole barefoot running theory. The only barefoot runner I knew when I was researching “Born to Run” was Barefoot Ted. And that was like the last guy I was going to listen to. So I think it really helped the book that I wasn't completely sold on the principles that I was exploring at the time. So when I portrayed them, basically my hands are in the air saying, “Look. Here's the evidence. Make your own choice.” It was only subsequently that I really came around and became a hardy convert. And it was similar with “Natural Born Heroes”. So my question was: how is it that these guys are running through the mountains for months at a time living off of weeds? And physically, how are they sustaining a kind of caloric intensity. And to me the only answer was natural movement. But I really didn't know much about natural movement. And so that's how I basically became exposed to parkour. Because parkour is based on not muscular strength, but free elastic recoil strength. Now Erwan Le Corre is a different story. I actually met him because of Barefoot Ted. I was at Barefoot Ted's house in Burbank when I was researching “Born to Run”. And that same day, he got an e-mail from Erwan, 'cause Erwan was interested in Barefoot Ted's running research. So Ted said to me, “Hey. Let's do it, man. This kind of French guy out of Brazil. You should get in touch with him.” And I did. And that's how I ended up down in Brazil with Erwan.
Ben: So how would you define natural movement?
Chris: Man, sometimes it's the simplest question that are always the ones you trip over. Natural movement. I think the best definition of natural movement is any energy efficient motion which serves a practical purpose.
Ben: Interesting. See, I always thought natural movement was, and correct me if I'm wrong, I always thought it was just like going out and doing physical activity outdoors and using things like lunging, and twisting, and pulling, and climbing, and pushing, and crawling, and ambulating using the world as your resistance, like nature as your resistance. But sounds like you're saying that it's more about moving in a way that is natural for the human body in terms of moving your own fascia and the joint ranges of motion to achieve as natural a movement pattern as possible.
Chris: Well those two things go hand in hand. So the very motions you were talking about, lunging, twisting, ambulating, absolutely correct. Those are all practical applications of natural movement. But my sort of more wonky notion of energy efficient movement that serves a practical purpose, the reason why is because you're trying to stress test any activity against our ancestral [0:20:47] ______ . To give you a concrete example, if you talk to guys like Erwan, they will just tee off on yoga. And the reason why is just no living creature will ever stand immobile in one spot and stress a muscle to the point of tearing. It serves no practical purpose. No animal would never do that, and therefore that is not natural movement. But climbing, crawling, swimming, lifting, throwing, these were all movements that human animals depended upon for survival for two million years. And so this is what we get into, and this is sort of kind of a watershed moment in fitness history is right now we're looking back at there's the stuff we invent and the stuff we've always done. And lot of the stuff we've invented doesn't work, like machine-based fitness. Doesn't work. Yet natural movement, which we've done for two million years, is much more effective in terms of overall fitness.
Ben: I want to ask you a second about some examples of like the Cretans, and how they trained, and what some examples of natural movement in the book are, but you mentioned how Erwan has this opinion of yoga. Do you have the same opinion of yoga?
Chris: Yeah, I do. But the thing about it is I try to keep my own opinions in check as much as I can because I've become aware that my own tastes really affect my opinions or my judgement. So I don't dig yoga, but I also don't think school. And yoga to me is a little bit too much like school. I don't have enough of attention span to like do something for 90 seconds. So that's why I try to keep myself out of the bay a little bit because Erwan's is based on knowledge, mine's based on just personal taste.
Ben: My opinion of yoga basically, and I do yoga almost every morning for about 10 to 15 minutes is for me it forces me to slow down, it forces me to breathe through complex movement patterns. And to me, it's like dance in terms of body awareness. And I would argue that we see elements of dance in just about every culture as a form of natural movement. And sure, maybe going and doing a 60 minute yoga class in your tighty-tight pants at the local health club is not necessarily something very ancestral or natural, but I tell you what, when I wake up and I do like 10, 15 minutes of yoga standing literally barefoot in my underwear out in the forest here in the mornings, it really does help ground me for the day. But then again, so does a nature walk, so does a swim, so does balancing on the logs, or climbing my little walls out here. So, yeah.
Chris: Here's the thing, Ben. Here's where all these conversations always go off in rails is everybody wants to be their own, Game of Thrones. Everyone wants to defend their own kingdom and everybody say else deserves to die. But the reality is exactly right, man. The smartest thing that anyone told me was when I was training for the race for Born to Run. And my coach then, Eric Rory, said, “Don't be confused by the tarahumara, they're not great runners. They're great athletes. These dudes are not going out and doing track workouts. They're picking up logs, and they're carrying them back, and they're building a hut, and they're digging for roots, and they're swimming for fish.” These are doing a bunch of everything all the time, and that's why they don't get hurt. So what you just said right there is a big difference. If a guy is doing a 90 minute Bikram class and then walking out, dusting his palms, saying, “Okay. That's it. I'm done. I'm fit,” that guy's making a mistake. And likewise, the guy who's doing kettlebells all the time and is not dealing with his mobility and flexibilty, that dude's not fit. So again, it's just a little bit of everything is the answer.
Ben: So you talked about parkour a little bit and how that would fall into the category of natural movement. When you decided that you wanted to, yourself, look into parkour and learn a little bit, and I definitely do want to hear how that went for you because I recently had Tim Ferriss on the show and he just about destroyed himself learning parkour, why would something like a parkour, free running, natural movement be crucial in the life of a Cretan trying to defend a tiny island from Nazi Germany?
Chris: I'm just focusing on Tim Ferriss doing parkour, and that is a video I want to see. The problem with that dude is everything he does, he does to the point of destroying himself.
Ben: There's videos on iTunes. It's called “The Tim Ferriss Experiment”. And he has one, he goes around doing jiu jitsu, and three gun shooting, and parkour as one of the episodes, and he messes himself up.
Chris: That's the thing. ‘Cause he's trying to backflips off a garage roof, I'm sure, right from the get-go. Here's the deal with parkour, and honestly I think it's the perfect sport. It's almost, in a lot of ways, you could abolish everything else and just pretty much for parkour. And here's the reason why: I've got this idea that the sports the humans are naturally really good at are the sports where the difference between men and women are pretty minimal and it’s fit for ourselves that it's basically by guys, for guys, like football, baseball, basketball. Those are just activities that guys invented which really demonstrates male upper body strenghth. But those activities, in the wild, are useless. And humans, when it comes to using those attributes of male upper body strength and explosive power in the wild are not particularly strong as animals, or not particularly fast. But where human animals really excell have to do with adaptability, flexibility, resourcefulness, agility, our ability to get up and over obstacles. We're really, really good at that. And that's what parkour is all about. And what's really cool about that is you watch a bunch of parkour people in action, you can't tell who's male and who's female. The ability levels are almost the same.
Chris: Nothing that a male parkour guy can do that a woman can't do. Which again I think is really cool because it's the logic of the species. Why would you want a species that is that divided by ability. It makes no sense where one half of the species is really strong and the other half is really weak. It makes no sense because essentially you have half the species always at risk of dying off. It's wicked cool sick. You see it with endurance sports as well. You get into triathlon, long distance swimming, long distance running, the differences between men and women just start to diminish when you get into these natural human endeavors.
Ben: What about fighting though? What about hand to hand combat? Just playing devil's advocate, it seems like men would typically, like if you put like a top, whatever, ultimate fighter in a cage with a woman that the man would win out.
Chris: Yeah. But ultimate fighting is a totally phony way of fighting. You look at all the list of rules the have in ultimate fighting, we think it's ultimate fighting, there's a ton of things you just cannot do. Even the rules of ultimate fighting say you have to be tidy in appearance. Think about that. Clean and tidy in appearance. That's how regimened ultimate fighting is. So couple things about that. Number one, humans as fighters, there's almost no human I would put into any ring with almost any other animal where I would expect the human to win. We're just not naturally good fighters. We're good runners, fleeers, avoiders, and climbers. But stick a bear, a bull, a snake, any into a ring, the animal wins, the human loses. So the fight is not that good. But secondly, the kind of fighting we've created, it's all kind of phony. Look at boxing. If you're in a fighting competition, why would you ever extend an arm toward another creature's head. The creature bites your arm off. But the one form of fighting that actually is extraordinarily effective was, according to myth, created by a woman, and that's Wing Chun, the art of evasion and using fascia movements.
Ben: How'd you pronounce that?
Chris: I pronounce it Wing Chun.
Ben: Wing Chun. Okay. So how's it work?
Chris: You know who the most famous practitioner of Wing Chun is right now? It used to be Bruce Lee. But right now, Robert Downey, Jr. is…
Ben: Iron Man.
Chris: Yeah, man. Iron Man is all about Wing Chun. He developed into a Wing Chun disciple back when he was trying to get sober. And he couldn't get a role in any movie. But he became a student of Wing Chun, and apparently it disciplined him enough and centered him enough where it vaulted him to superstardom.
Ben: So what is it?
Chris: So what Wing Chun is, it's similar to Gracie Jiujitsu in the sense that every action has a countervalent reaction. The patriarch of Gracie Jiujitsu once defined his art as saying, “If you do this, I'll do that forever.” Whatever you do to me, I'll twist it back on you and I'll constantly come up with an opposing movement, and that will never end until you give up. And essentially Wing Chun is the same thing. There's a basic principle called “sticky hands” where you stand centered, your two hands are in front of you in an x shape, and if you take a swing at me, I will just deflect your hand. If you take another swing, I'll deflect that hand. And it's constant invasion and deflection where you're exerting highly calorically dense muscular activity, and I'm using almost zero calories, fascia evasion.
Ben: Do you know how to do this?
Chris: It's all things. I know enough to say I know it, but actually from Wing Chun in there and you'd destroy me in 10 seconds. I'm a journalist. I dip in, say I know it, and get the hell back out again.
Ben: How do you spell that? The Wing Chun? Do you know?
Chris: So Wing, W-I-N-G, and then Chun, C-H-U-N.
Ben: Okay. Cool. I'm going to link to that. If you're listening in, by the way, all of Chris' books, the things we talk about in today's episode, et cetera, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/heroes. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/HEROES, heroes.
Chris: If I could pop in for one second here, Ben. Wing Chun has some really interesting origin stories.
Ben: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you about. Where does this tie in to the whole Cretan thing?
Chris: Yeah. So the creation myth of Wing Chun is it is an Asian martial art, and the only one created by a woman. And it was back when one of the Chinese dynasties was invading a monastery, and all the male monks were killed but one woman, a priestess, escaped in the woods. And there in the woods, she learned from the animals and she realized that most animals aren't going against each other like a pair of grizzlies. What they're doing is using their opponent's strength against him. So they're in the woods, it was kind of like a Tarzan thing, she learned this martial art and became the basis of Wing Chun. And again, the identifying principle was that all you need to do is constantly use fascia, elastic recoil, and you can consciously turn your opponent's strength against him. But here's the deal: like most creation myths, that was all make-believe.
The real origins of Wing Chun have to do with an ancient Greek wrestling form known as pankration, which is a P-A-N-K-R-A-T-I-O-N. That began, where else, on the Greek island of Crete in the ancient Minoan culture. You hear about King Minos and the minotaur? Those were all true stories. There actually was a King Minos, and he did have some very crazy bull ritual. And the way you could actually survive in the ring with a bull was by using this art known as pankration. Well pankration was such a deadly fighting art that it was banned in the ancient Greek Olympics after a couple years. They tried it for a couple of years, the only ones who liked it were Spartans. Everybody else was freaked out by this this. ‘Cause you could gauge eyeballs out, you could bend fingers back, you could go after testicles all you wanted. It was no rules. Real no rules. And that's why the sport was kind of lost. It was just considered too savage for modern sports.
Ben: Interesting. So this Wing Chun, what would happen if you put a Wing Chun practitioner into a cage with a UFC fighter?
Chris: My guess would be that you'd lose all your television viewers because the Wing Chun person would just not move and just very effortlessly make a fool out of this guy. And I'll tell you what. You want to see Wing Chun? Check out that first Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey, Jr. There was a beautiful demonstration of Wing Chun.
Ben: I remember that.
Chun: He was toying around, toying around, until suddenly there's a little bit of time pressure, and then he kicks the crap out of the guy in 30 seconds and he's gone.
Ben: Is there a big difference between that and Aikido?
Chris: The only difference is Aikido is by going on the ground and Wing Chun believes, “Don't go on the ground.” They believe you go on the ground, you're in trouble. Aikido and Gracie Jiujitsu believe the ground is the place to go. But with a Wing Chun person, you'll see them almost always stay on their feet.
Ben: Interesting. You mentioned something and during your description of Wing Chun about fascia and using your own fascia intelligently for you. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Chris: Yeah. This is kind of an interesting thing too and this was an eye opener for me 'cause it really went against my own understanding of what fitness was all about. I came of age in the 70's when the greatest revolution was the Nautilus machine. Like those first Nautilus machines were rolled out and this was the secret of getting strong. But what I didn't understand was that these machines and even weight-based exercise was a brand new innovation. That was not the way people got fit for most of human existence. But again our understanding of when fitness came about had to do with pumping iron. Pumping Iron came out in 1970s, and suddenly we saw men who were bigger than any men had ever been in history before. And the way they were doing this was by injecting themselves with steroids and sitting down in a machine and stressing individual body parts until that body part became torn and filled with blood and expanded. That became the notion of what fitness and strength was all about, was being about as big and muscle bound as you could possibly be.
But then I saw the research a little bit deeper and realized until the 1970s, gyms were kind of like CrossFit boxes. They were big open spaces full of medicine balls, and Indian clubs, and these great things called Strength rings. Like Teddy Roosevelt was a master of the strength rings, and these are just two iron rings that two guys would hold in each hand, and your goal was a trying to yank the other guy off balance. But here's a problem – those kind of movement-based exercises, the kind of things that use a lot of fascia and not a lot of muscle, they're not profitable because you can't fit a lot of people into a gym like that. But the muscle-based model, that became extremely profitable, and that's why exercise and fitness shifted away from emphasizing fascia and more to emphasize muscle.
Ben: Interesting. So in terms of fascia, like as far as how that actually works, what I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that by tightening up fascia in one area of the body, you can essentially like spring load another area of the body. So like if I was going to, I think one of the examples that you use in the book, if I was going to punch you and I wanted to do as much damage as possible, I would bring my fists in very close to my face or to my body so that I've got a very short lever arm, and I would twist my hips to throw my body, and specifically like the fascia that kind of forms the X pattern across the body, I would twist my hips to force that fascia into its spring-like tension and then release. And if I wanted to enhance that even more, and I think you talk about this in the book as well, you can actually turn your fist into more of a deadly weapon by holding a cellphone, or a matchbox, or something like that inside the fist so that you provide like a back support for all those bones. And so once you wind up the fascia, you release your fist that way. Was that a goat, by the way?
Chris: It's one of our sheep. One of the moms escaped and the baby's out there screaming.
Ben: Nice. So would that be a correct understanding of how you would use the fascia in something like a fighting situation?
Chris: Yeah. That was exactly it. So what Bruce Lee demonstrated was, again, Bruce Lee was a little dude. He got a little bit ripped, but essentially he's a small guy, and he had a thing he called “the one-inch punch” and that was his way of demonstrating how powerful fascia was. He can stand right in front of you, put his fist one inch away from your chest, and then make it explode and knock you flying across the room. And I've actually had this done to me. I had a guy stand right in front of me an inch from my chest, I had a telephone book in front of my rib cage in order to protect my ribs, and this dude blasted me across the room from one inch away. And the reason why is because of all that elastic recoil, and essentially what Bruce Lee said was that if your punch with your right fist, the punch begins with your left toe and you're torquing your body like a corkscrew, and pow! And then letting all that power explode.
Ben: So how would you use something like that in, let's just say a less violent situation such as running. How would these principles apply there?
Chris: Well, think about be about Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali actually only became a great boxer when he became a bad fighter. When he started to get out of shape, that's when he became a really good boxer. So think about Muhammad Ali in his later fights, the dude never seemed to move. He was just, you watch him in the ring, bounce, bounce, bounce, leaning against the ropes. When you think about “The Rumble In The Jungles” with George Foreman, what Muhammad Ali was doing was not only using fascia, but using the ring ropes as extensions of fascia. What he would do is lead back against the ropes. And essentially what your fascia is, it's all of that rubbery tendon and tissue inside your body. Very similar to the ring ropes. So what Ali would do is leaning against the ropes, and when Foreman would swing a punch, he would bounce off the ropes and use the spring from the ropes to heighten his own fascia. But what Ali was doing all the time was trying to get as much free energy as possible. So when you think about something like running, think about the guys in the front of a marathon, how they barely see any moving or even trying hard off. And then you think about the guys in the back in the marathon are all huffing, and puffing, and straining. The guys in the front are all using free elastic recoil, tiny, tiny bouncing strides. The rest of us who are trying to lunge forward are using much less efficient muscular strides.
Ben: Is that something that pairs well with the minimalist or the barefoot style approach with the shoes that you talk about in Born to Run?
Chris: Yeah. We think about this too. If you're trying to spring forward, you don't want a bunch of mush under your foot, right? Like if you're trying to run fast, you don't want to do it on soft sand. You want to get down on the hard sand toward the water. And it's the same thing with running. If you're trying to run as fast and efficient, you don't want a bunch of gunk, you want to actually have contact with the ground so your tendons can load up and spring forward. So a great way to get any kind of a run, I believe, is just like, even if you don't want to run barefoot, begin your run with your shoes in your hands. Stand on the sidewalk and just bounce up and down a few times. Little easy bounces like you're jumping rope, and then just spring forward a few strides. Then put your shoes back on, and you're going to feel the real difference between what it feels like to use your elastic recoil, and what it feels like to have all that elastic recoil absorbed into the mush of running shoes.
Ben: So in terms of the Cretans, they were using these type of principles to run across the island, like to deliver messages and to evade the German invaders, like they were using their fascia, they were using short strides, they were using minimalist footwear, all these principles that you're talking about?
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I've read a lot of incidents of people referring to something they called “the Cretan bounce”, and I saw that in different travelers accounts dating back to the 1600s, assuming anytime somebody went to Crete, they were always be struck by the fact that, “Man, these shepherds are bouncing like kangaroos.” And I saw it myself. The first time I went to Crete, we were on a cross-country hike, we're up in the mountains, and we're struggling up this hill, and I look across at a hill next to us, and there was some dude just literally bounding up the hill like he was on a pogo stick. What the guy was doing was the same principles that I was talking about with barefoot running, this guy was actually putting into practice by using elastic recoil to ascend the steep mountainous climb.
Ben: And it all comes out just short, choppy strides and minimizing ground contact time?
Chris: That's it. When you actually dissect a human leg, there is more elastic recoil in our legs than are in a kangaroo's legs. So your legs are loaded up like golf balls. But the problem is again, if you're trying to out think nature and muscularly push yourself, you're going to lose. If you just shorten your stride, keep your posture erect and straight and give yourself some bounce, then you'll fly.
Ben: That's why they say plyometrics are so good, like single-leg hops, and skips, and bounds, and leaps because they actually increase tendon stiffness and they increase the spring recoil. Like when you look at all the studies done on how weight training helps athletes, especially for the better athletes, all of the studies that have shown the greatest efficacy are what are called low force, high velocity training. Meaning like even if you're going to do squats, for example, you don't choose a heavy weight and lift it slow and controlled. You choose a light weight and you lift it explosively to develop increased tendon stiffness.
Chris: Well you know what the Russians sprinters used to do too is do box jumps before squats. Here's another thing too is you know what another word for plyometrics is? Parkour. Basically it's the same thing.
Ben: So did you take parkour lessons?
Chris: Oh, man. Here's my parkour evolution. To me, this was like, you know that scene in Good Will Hunting where there was weird math equation on the board and everyone walks by they have an opportunity to solve it? And finally Matt Damon, the janitor, figures it out. To me, that's what the Cretan resistance was all about. It was this weird math equation on the wall. My question was, “Alright, these guys are living in the mountains on weeds, and yet somehow the Germans can't catch them. So physically how are they pulling this off?” That to me was a math equation. And then one of the answers, I believe, had to be parkour. But I didn't know anything about parkour, I didn't know how to know anything about parkour. I lived in, you heard the sheep outside right? There's no parkour in Lancaster. And then one day, I happened to be in downtown Lancaster at the local [0:43:51] ______ pharmacy, I'm in the checkout line, and through the window I just see these two guys just go sailing by the window, like they're sprung out of the canon. And this happened like three or four more times, they kept sailing back and forth. So I hustled outside and those dudes were doing parkour on the handicap railings. So that became my intro. So I started doing some parkour with them, and they said, “Look, if you really want to get to the motherlode, you got to go to London to a place called “Parkour Generations”. It's the best teaching academy in the world.”
Ben: I actually know, that's Dan Edwardes' place right?
Chris: Exactly. Yeah.
Ben: I was just in the, I think he was on the Spartan Cruise.
Chris: Oh, yeah! Man, that dude is Superman. I spent a lot of time with him. But here's what I did first. I wanted to test this theory about men and women. So my first class was actually in all women's class, a Thursday night all women's jam. And believe me, these girls beat the tar out of me. They were amazing parkour athletes.
Ben: So when you took this parkour class, what's an example? Like what's a class actually look like?
Chris: So when I began, the first thing we tried to deal with was just precision jumps, because almost every movement, you're going to land on your two feet on the ground. No matter what you're doing. Any kind of a jump, or twist, or vault, you're landing on the ground. So you begin with how to stick a jump, and you start to do precision jumps. One of the things I love about parkour is no matter how small the movement is, you can find infinite interest in absorption, just trying to master that one move. So a precision jump is just a crack in the sidewalk, you move two feet away, and then you jump and you try to land on that crack as precisely and silently as possible. And you will never do it to your satisfaction. You'll always be a little bit louder than you want to be, a little bit off target. You begin with precision jumps. Once you feel comfortable with those, you might move to a simple vault, like a step vault, where you just step up and over an obstacle and then land on the ground. But what I think about these is that they're not competitive-based, they're not performance based. They're purely skill based. So you become your own harshest critic as you try master these movements.
Ben: So do you think that going to a class is the best way to learn parkour versus like in some kind of a DVD or something like that?
Chris: Yeah. It's best for a couple reasons. One is I think that by instinct we are hunting animals, we really tend to thrive in a group and a community. But secondly this is something that I don't think people have really fully explored yet, but our talent as humans for mimicry, it's pretty powerful. We tend to naturally copy movements around us. I've actually seen this in runner classes where there's a master runner in the middle and people in a line next to them, and whoever's closest to the best runner will start to run better, and people who are further away aren't running quite as quickly. So the reason why you would benefit from a parkour class, number one, it's fun. Number two, just being able to mimic someone else's movements, you're going to pick 'em up a lot faster.
Ben: Nice. I've already written notes to myself, by the way, to look into Spokane for parkour classes and also Wing Chun classes.
Chris: That's the cool thing about parkour is wherever you go is, there is some little community somewhere.
Ben: Yeah. I definitely want to make sure that we get a chance to talk a little about the nutrition concepts in the book and where nutrition fits in because I was amazed, going through some of the stories, as they're leading the general through the mountains, and as Patti, and Zahn, and some of these folks are running crazy amounts of miles, they've got very little food available to them. And in many cases they're just harvesting a lot of these wild edibles, like nettles, and mint, and stuff like that. What was their secret?
Chris: That was the thing that perplexed me because I go for a 10 mile run, I come back, I am ready to murder a BLT. I'm hungry. And how these dudes do this for months and months at a time with no opportunity to even stop and rest, not only are they working harder, but they're doing it on much less than I have available. And I think the answer really was revealed back in the 1990s, back when the first Ironman triathlon these were struggling with the same problem. I mean these people are trying to tackle an endurance challenge which no one had ever done before. And the first mystery they had to crack was, “How do we actually few ourselves?” And the answer for guys like [0:48:35] ______ was fat as fuel. And this was a real simple concept that the guy who became most famous for it was Phil Maffetone. And what Maffetone realized was most of us are in this constant sugar cycle where we're burning sugar all the time and we're replenishing sugar. Right now my body fat is probably something like 14%. That means you put me on a life raft in the Pacific and I'd be fine for like three months without eating any food. And what Maffetone realized is it's not that difficult to tap into those fat reserves and yourself off the sugar cycle. And then at that point, you can fuel yourself for hours and days at a time.
Ben: We actually got a guy on the podcast named Barry Murray who works with a bunch of athletes, specifically who want to become fat adapted and want to got out and do these long fasted workouts. And we had a fascinating discussion for like an hour, and Phil Maffetone is a friend of mine as well, and we talk about all the different ways that you can get yourself into this state of fat adaptation. Some of things that Barry talked about, for example, was doing intermittent fasting, like long periods of time during the day that you go without eating, shifting your diet towards a higher fat intake and lower carb intake, doing fasted morning workouts on an empty stomach, and even including things like more minerals and more electrolytes so that you can maintain adequate blood pressure in the absence of high amounts of carbohydrate intake. I'm curious, for you, Chris, in implementing these efficient nutrition principles of this concept of like metabolic efficiency, have you found specific, either dietary principles, or foods, or diets, or supplements that you've turned to help you to either accelerate the process or make it more comfortable?
Chris: Yeah. And here's the difficulty I think with any revealed truth is the problem with revealed truths is that it's hard to make money off them. I think one of the difficulties with barefoot running is it's very hard to monetize barefoot running, and so therefore it sort of washed away in the tsunami of marketing for running shoes. And I think it's very similar with fat adaptation. Phil Maffetone perfected fat adaptation and he can write the instructions out on like an index card. That's all you need to know, he can write out for you in about 30 words. The difficulty with that is it's hard to make money off it, and so it just becomes, people try to overcomplicate it and over market all the peripherals that you just don't need. So for me, to become fat adapted, you basically follow Phil Maffetone's two step process. Number one, you do the two week test. Again, one thing I love about Maffetone is he realized that if it's complicated or if it's painful, people are not going to do it. So he tried to make things as simple and as instinctive as possible. So number one is a two week test. All you do in the two week test is you strip out all the high glycemic foods from your diet for just two weeks. And the end of the two weeks, you start to reintroduce some of those foods. You will feel the physical reaction that those foods have on you. And to me, that is a pretty good indication of whether they're beneficial or not beneficial. So number one, step one: two week test. Step two: put yourself on the 180 formula, which essentially is you find your aerobic threshold by subtracting your age from 180, find out what your maximum heart rate is, and then start to train according to a heart rate that is below your anaerobic threshold. And that will stop you from pushing into a demand for high sugar foods. Those two steps, two week test, the 180 principle. and to me that's it. You are on your way to becoming fat adapted.
Ben: Yeah. I remember my very first exposure to this was way back in the day, Ironman champion Peter Reid was an instructor at the same triathlon camp that I was teaching at down in Solvang, California, and Peter Reid was another kind of like disciple of Phil Maffetone, along with another Ironman triathlete, kind of legend, down there named Chuckie V, and they brought us out to the track and they had us run four laps while keeping our heart rate as low as possible. And I remember it was one of the most difficult four laps that I'd ever done because of the struggle to keep the heart rate within that 180 minus age range that you were just talking about. And at the end of it, they told us about how a guy like Mark Allen would train and he'd be forced to walk the hills and go so slow, running a seven and a half and eight minute mile at his aerobic heart rate. And by the time Ironman rolled around, he was churning out five and a half-ish minute miles at his aerobic heart rate just from frequently practicing at that heart rate. So it is pretty amazing, this idea of metabolic efficiency.
Chris: And when you think about that, Ben, it makes such logical sense. Maffetone's point was that if you can be energy efficient at 10 minutes a mile, well eventually you're going to be energy efficient at nine minutes a mile, and then eight, then seven. Your body's going to adapt, and so what you end up doing is you're going to get stronger, but your heart rate's not going to go up. So just be patient and you will reap the benefits.
Ben: Yeah. It does take time though, man. It takes time. Meaning that you got to put some volume in.
Chris: That's the thing about it though, Ben. I think what become frustrating with people is like whenever something is going to benefit them, the first question they'll always ask is, “How long is it going to take?” Like what is your problem dude? Honestly, I hear it with barefoot running all the time. You tell people, “Hey, here's a way you can learn to run where you'll enjoy it more and you won't get injured. Why is your question, ‘How long is it going to take?' What difference does it make? Dude, I just gave you the keys to the kingdom. Why do you got to be so quick to get to the finish line?
Ben: Yeah. I did the study at University of Connecticut with Jeff Volek where they took a group of athletes who followed a high fat diet and they found a correlation between the amount of time spent on the high fat diet and fat oxidized during exercise. And I personally found that it took nearly 2 years of following a high fat diet and using these metabolic efficiency principles before I really felt like I could do things like go on entire weekend without eating or go on a six hour bike ride with water and electrolytes and feel just fine. But most people feel, they go through that first two week period where they feel like crap and they throw up their hands in despair and assume that genetically they can't become fat adapted.
Chris: Well that's the thing about it though, own and again I'm sure there are things that I am impatient about, but when I hear this, I just kind of mystified. I was a collegiate rower, it was taken as a given that it takes you seven years to perfect your rowing stroke. So if you want to do this sport, you're going to practice for seven years before you're any good. You want to play the violin? Well, you're going to practice for 12 years before you're any good. So two years in order become fat adapted, to me, that's a bargain. And secondly why isn't Jeff Volek, why isn't he a surgeon general? This dude has been so important, not just for performance athletics, but for all around human health. And besides me, you, and Phil Maffetone, not many people have ever heard of him.
Ben: Yeah. He's a pretty cool dude. So I have two more questions for you, Chris. The first is when I was reading your book, I was shocked when I got to the part about how far these Greek running messengers actually ran. Because what people say is that the first guy who ran a marathon died, and this, what was his name?
Ben: Yeah, Pheidippides, that he actually died. And then you talk about how far these guys actually ran. It wasn't a marathon, was it?
Chris: Well here's the thing about it was, so Pheidippides, the guy who died at 26.2 miles, there actually was a real Pheidippides, and there's a possibility he might have actually been born on Crete. There was an entire elite core of foot messengers called hemerodrome, which means all-day runners, and these guys literally meant all day, like a 24 hour span that you would run. The real Pheidippides didn't run 26.2 miles, he covered more than 300 miles in one weekend. He ran during the Battle of Marathon. He ran from Marathon to Sparta to ask for help, that's 152 miles. Spartans said, “We'll be there, but we can't be there until Monday.” He turns around and ran all the way back to Marathon, which is another 152 miles. And then, because he was a warrior, chances are, as soon as he got there, he grabbed his sword and plunged into the battle. So in his three day span, he covered 300 miles.
Ben: And these Cretan runners, in your book, they're doing very similar feats. These guys, it's crazy. You get to a part of the book and they need to go, for example, get a German uniform for one of the guys to change into, and it's like 10 hours away. And so George, one of the characters in the book, he just runs there, and gets it, and runs back. And these guys are just like doing stuff like that every day.
Chris: That was it. That's what caught me was at first blush you're blown away by the courage, by the recklessness. And then the second thing was just the practical concerns of the whole [0:57:50] ______, how the hell this guy in ten hours through that mountain and then turned to go back again, and that's where I was really intrigued. And the first thing was it was very easy to verify the facts that these things actually happened. So then the second thing became, “Okay. Now as an athlete, what can I learn from these dudes?”
Ben: Yeah. It's crazy. So the other question I want to ask you is based off what you learned in this book, if someone's listening in and they want to develop some of these same athletic skills that these Cretan runners and these Greek heroes have and display in the story, both physically and mentally and they had all the resources in the world, if you were them, what would be some of the first things that you would do to become one of these Cretans super athletes?
Chris: That's a beautiful thing about it is you don't even need all the resources in the world. You don't need any resources. I think the things I would do, the thing I'd do first and foremost would be become fat adapted. I would get off the sugar cycle because so many other things change. Once you're off the sugar cycle, your energy level increases, your endurance increases, your strength increases. So just by changing your metabolism alone in a couple of weeks, you're on your way to becoming a much better athlete. And then number two, I would go back to the whole parkour model. If not in the parkour, Spartan races, Tough Mudders, CrossFit, these are all approximations of the same thing. They basically turn yourself into an all-around body weight athlete.
Ben: That's a good point. You can train for an obstacle race.
Chris: Yeah. I mean essentially these are all different approaches to the same truth. I mean I think the fact that we see the sudden surge of three things simultaneously, obstacle course racing, fat as fuel, and CrossFit, I think those all tests for the same thing, that we're getting away from the gym, sugar cycle, and we're getting into the body weights and fat adaptation cycle.
Ben: Interesting. So obstacle course style training, developing metabolic efficiency and the ability to use fat as a fuel, and then CrossFit style workouts in terms of some of those movement principles that rely upon all the body's different energy systems rather than just like one or two?
Chris: Honestly I think CrossFit was on its way to becoming, in my eyes, the perfect exercise system. Where I feel it missed the goal was when it became so competitive, it became competition based. But the athletic principles are dead on the money. I think the execution, unfortunately, at times is lacking. But that's essentially it, man. It's about using body weight and efficient motion.
Ben: And then based on the book, plenty of wine and tea too, right?
Chris: That's the thing about this guy, George. He climbed 50 miles through the mountains, showed up at a cave, delivered a message, then take a big long slug of moonshine before heading back out the door again.
Ben: Yeah. Exactly. But at that point, you're so fat adapted and insulin sensitive, it doesn't matter.
Chris: Right. You've earned it.
Ben: Yeah. Well if you're listening into this interview, you can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/heroes. I've been taking lots of notes about everything from Wing Chun, to parkourgenerations.com, to the podcast I did with Barry Murray on becoming fat adapted. I've got Chris's Amazon page there. as well as his website ChrisMcDougall.com, and the link to his previous book, “Born to Run”, as well as this current book, “Natural Born Heroes”. And I know that if you're listening in, you know that I don't necessarily fall head over heels over every book that I read, but few and far between I find some that I really feel extremely comfortable recommending and that I think are going to do you a great service, and this Natural Born Heroes is one of them. So Chris, thanks for writing it and thanks also for your time today.
Chris: Ben, I had a blast, man. Now I want to write another book so I can go back on your podcast.
Ben: Awesome. Alright, man. Well maybe you can come out here to Spokane, Washington and write a book about my little seven year old boys running through the trees and becoming little Cretan runners out here in the backwoods of America.
Chris: I love it, man. Little Spokane Savages.
Ben: There you go. I love it. Spokane Savages. Alright. Cool, man. Well, thanks for coming on. And again if you're listening in, visit bengreenfieldfitness.com/heroes and have a wonderful week.
I just finished reading what I consider to be one of the best books of 2015: Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.
In the book, best-selling author Christopher McDougall, today's podcast guest and a guy who you may recognize as the same author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen travels to the Mediterranean, where he discovers that the secrets of ancient Greek heroes are still alive and well in the razor-sharp mountains on the island of Crete – ready to be unleashed in the muscles and minds of casual athletes and aspiring heroes everywhere.
In the story, Chris recreates an amazing true tale of a band of Resistance fighters in World War II who plotted the daring abduction of a German general from the heart of the Nazi occupation. He makes his way to the island to experience firsthand the extreme physical challenges the Resistance fighters and their local allies faced, and on Crete, the birthplace of the classical Greek heroism that spawned the likes of amazing physical specimens such as Herakles and Odysseus, McDougall discovers the tools of the heroes, including skills such as natural movement, extraordinary endurance, and efficient nutrition, skills that are still practiced in far-flung pockets throughout the world today.
If you want to be a modern-day athlete who can hone ancient skills to be ready for anything, then this podcast episode is for you. Prepare to get inspired to leave the gym and take your fitness routine to nature—to climb, swim, skip, throw, and jump their way to your own heroic feats.
So who is Christopher McDougall ?
Trained as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, Chris covered wars in Rwanda and Angola before writing the international bestseller, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. His fascination with the limits of human potential also led him to create the Outside magazine web series, “Art of the Hero”, and then most recently, the book Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.
During this audio interview with Chris, you'll discover:
-How Chris combines a life of immersive journalism and juggling family life with a study of extreme sports…
-Why the tiny island of Crete was such an important part of World War II, and how the Cretans developed such amazing athleticism…
-How to manipulate your body's own fascia to generate huge amounts of force, to run faster and to master natural movement…
-The only form of hand-to-hand combat that you should learn if you really want to learn to fight as efficiently as possible…
-Why Chris studied Parkour to prepare for his trip to Crete…
-How the mighty Cretan runners ran dozens and dozens of miles on virtually no calories, and how you can learn to do it too…
–Why it's a myth that running a marathon killed the first person that did it…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
–My podcast with Barry Murray on becoming fat-adapted
–Chris Mcdougall's Amazon author page
Do you have questions, comments or feedback for me or Chris? Leave your thoughts below and one of us with reply.