Would you climb to the top of Kilimanjaro in 30-degree weather wearing nothing but boots, shorts, and a knit cap? Today’s guest did it and he wrote the book on it. We have NY Times bestselling author of What Doesn’t Kill Us, Scott Carney to tell us why he put his body through such extremes and why we all should get out of our physical comfort zones for better health, mental resilience, and disease resistance.
We talk about dads’ health a lot on the GDP – diet, exercise, and finding the time to take care of ourselves, but we’ve never had a show like this. Scott Carney believes our comfortable modern lifestyle is making us weak and shows how to use 15 minutes a day to make ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally invincible.
Think about it. We get up from our warm beds into a warm shower. We walk from our front doors to our cars, from our cars to our workplaces. Whether we go to the store or the gym or the movie theater, our climate is controlled. We are never exposed to the elements. Our environment is always the same.
Our human evolution was not built for that. Our bodies developed systems for survival and adaptation, but we are never challenged. Our habitat is static and these systems aren’t exercised anymore. This is why Scott Carney believes there is more to human health than diet and exercise. He suggests there is a third pillar, the environment you inhabit.
If your environment is static, you’re not exercising your systems.
Scott Carney’s story
Grew up in Rhode Island with a good family. His father was a surgeon and was absent most of the time. He was a good man, but worked probably 100 hours a week. Scott and his father were not incredibly close because of that. But he had a close relationship with his mom, and spent most of his childhood whacking sticks at trees, pretending he was a knight.
Scott says that did everything he wanted to do as a kid. He played video games, went sailing, dug for mollusks on the beach. He played Dungeons and Dragons. The game was considered counter-culture at the time, but being dungeon master involved a great deal of storytelling. Scot was telling stories to his friends throughout his teens, and he thinks that’s why he became a writer.
Scott grew up in an exclusively white suburb. In 5th grade, his parents asked him to choose a school. When they visited a poorer school in low-income community, he saw his first black kid in a skull cap and he told his parents that this was the school he wanted to attend. He was a minority and he chose it for that.
I’m interested in finding places that make me uncomfortable.
Scott’s mission before was debunking false gurus and selling his articles to magazines like Playboy and Details. One day he spotted a picture of Wim Hof sitting on an iceberg in nothing but a pair of shorts. Wim Hof had broken all kinds of records when it came to testing the limits of the human body, but when Hof claimed to be able to teach people to do the same, Scott had to go out and debunk him. He had seen deaths result from people with claims like this. Maybe Wim Hof was a genetic freak, but normal people would die if they followed him.
Scott meets him and is unimpressed with Hof’s appearance. His big ruddy nose from years of alcoholism, his bad balding head with long hair hairstyle, gave him the aura of a smelly homeless dude. Still, Scott went to Hof’s training center in Poland. The first thing Scott sees when he arrives at the dilapidated farm house is a guy outside his window, barefoot and only wearing his underwear in the dead of Polish winter. The man was throwing snow on himself and Scott could see the steam rising from his body. He wondered what he had gotten himself into.
But after hanging out with Hoff and training under his methods, Scott realized it wasn’t bullshit at all. He could learn to do the same things. He found out he could get comfortable with the cold, and he could learn these skills quickly. At the end of the week, in 2-degree weather, Scott found himself in boots, shorts, and a hat climbing to top of a mountain and burning up all the time.
This started him on the path that would lead him to Kilimanjaro and his bestselling book, What Doesn’t Kills Us.
What Doesn’t Kill Us
We are hairless apes with billions of years of development behind us. Our bodies and cells are evolved to change in relation to the signals we receive from light, temperature, and elements.
But we have factored out our environment. The systems created to respond to changes have gotten lazy and weak.
Scott says that when those systems aren’t used, they turn against us, causing inflammation and chronic health problems from blood pressure to auto-immune diseases like Lupus, Crohn’s, and allergies.
15 Minutes to Exercise Your Systems
Scott says that when you start giving people environmental stimulus that is uncomfortable, you start to trigger the fight or flight response that modulates all sorts of systems in the body. If you learn to control your physical response, it can help with all kinds of problems, even anxiety.
Fathers don’t have a lot of time to train in the snow and climb mountains in their boxers, but staying in a comfort zone for a man is deadly. This quick 2-phase morning routine will help sync your systems.
- Wim Hof breathing protocol – You can do this exercise in bed. What you’ll essentially be doing is hyperventilating. Breathe deeply in and out thirty times. You’ll get lightheaded, and this is normal. Then after the last breath, hold it till you feel like you’re going to gasp (but don’t pass out). Then take a half-breath and hold it for ten seconds. After that, do another cycle of thirty breaths, then hold again. The second time you’ll discover that you can hold much longer. You might see colors behind your eyes. You will feel dizzy, amped, and full of adrenaline. Do one more rep of thirty breaths. Now, let all air out, get on the floor, and do as many pushups as you can while holding your breath. Tip: Do not eat beforehand. All your blood will go to your stomach.
- The Cold Shower – After your breathing exercise, you can eat breakfast. Then hop in the shower. Start off with warm water and at the end, turn the water all the way to cold (the colder the better). The goal is this: when the water is cascading, instead of clenching your body and shivering to create heat, learn to relax in the cold. Get the mental power to be at ease in this stressful environment. This teaches body to find another way to heat itself, thus raising metabolic rate. This exercise also helps anxiety by activating the fight or flight and then stopping it
Wisdom to Make Us Better Men
Dads are constantly faced with stressors. Work, kids, relationships. How can we be better responders instead of horrible reactors?
Scott Carney is not a dad, but he says to always try to do things that make you uncomfortable. Stay curious throughout your life. Explore. Find something weird, strange, new, or unfamiliar. When we lose our curiosity, we die a little bit.
Kids have great curiosity. Learn from them.
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