Ben Greenfield smiling in a forest.

MOVEMENT

Boundless Health, Fitness and Energy: Ben Greenfield Explains How

By Lashaun Dale

As January comes to an end, plenty of people who set a New Year’s resolution to get in shape have abandoned their goal. This is unfortunate and often a consequence of unrealistic goals and fitness routines that don’t deliver on their promises for the individual.

Ben Greenfield’s lifelong pursuit of a joyful, adventurous and fulfilling life is packed with knowledge from the trenches and the lab. For the past three years, Greenfield has been working tirelessly to create the book he always wished existed: a complete guide to optimizing the mind, body and spirit—written with no stone unturned and no fluff.

Fitness professionals and enthusiasts alike will be happy to discover Greenfield’s new book, “Boundless” (Victory Belt Publishing, January 2020), makes that knowledge instantly accessible to the layperson, health professional and extreme athlete. In “Boundless,” he pulls together the most current, cutting-edge research on every strategy, tool, biohack and resource he has tested and uses in his own regimen—as well as his clients’—to enhance performance, fat loss, digestion, recovery, immunity, cognition, hormones, sleep and longevity.

24Life Editor-in-Chief Lashaun Dale caught up with Greenfield to discuss what it means to be boundless, his advice for people just getting started and his top tips from the book.

Boundless author Greenfield preparing for a workout.

Lashaun Dale: “Boundless” is more than 600 pages, and it’s like a 21st century bible for fitness. What inspired you to write it?

Ben Greenfield: I wanted a comprehensive blueprint for the human body and for energy. I wanted to write the last book someone would ever need to read to optimize their energy levels—I call that being boundless. And I wanted to write the kind of book that I like to read: entertaining, fun and a big adventure that you read over and over again.

LD: How did you write it?

BG: I sit down and ask a question and dive into the research until we have an answer—let’s say, How can you fix your gut?

I try to map out in my research all the different issues that could be causing a compromised gut. Typically, I’m writing with two to three research assistants to find the research-proven strategies that will address each of those issues. I’ll do that test and I’ll repeat it, talk to doctors about it and get as much information as I can, and then weave the personal experience, the actual practical stuff, into the book.

QUOTE: I wanted to write the last book someone would ever need to read to optimize their energy levels.

LD: Have you always been into your health and fitness?

BG: Well, I’ve always been passionate about physical culture and grew up in North Idaho playing outdoors. I got a master’s degree at the University of Idaho in exercise physiology and biomechanics. I opened a series of gyms and personal training studios in Washington and Idaho. We had an exercise physiology lab, had doctors on staff and chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists, and created one-stop shops for sports medicine. Eventually, I pivoted toward speaking and teaching others, started a podcast and a blog, and began to write books.

When our twin boys were born 11 years ago, I began to do a lot more online consulting. Now I travel around the world speaking, and I invest in different companies in the health and fitness and nutrition sector. I own a nutrition supplements company called Kion, and I help to formulate supplements for it.

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LD: What is your philosophy when it comes to goals and resolutions?

BG: I approach goal settling in a manner similar to my research process. I stack the rituals, routines and habits that are going to allow me to reach that goal. For example, if my goal is 10,000 steps a day, I’m going to put a walking treadmill in my office. I’m going to save phone calls for the afternoon when I’m free to take the calls while I’m walking the back roads behind my office. For each meal, I take a quick five- to 10-minute postprandial stroll. Setting the goal and quantifying the goal is a lot less difficult than equipping yourself with the tools that you need to reach that goal.

LD: What advice do you have for someone just getting started on a fitness routine?

BG: The very best advice I can give is to think of your body as a battery. All your cells operate based on specific electrochemical gradients. When that normal electrochemical gradient is kept optimized, your results improve dramatically in terms of how your body responds to that diet or exercise routine. Your energy levels improve dramatically.

LD: How can you charge the human battery?

BG: Get outside barefoot, walk on the beach or swim in the ocean or expose yourself to the Earth’s negative ions. That helps to reset some of the positive charge that accumulates inside our cells from exposure to things like cellphones, Wi-Fi, appliances. Get some sunlight: We know that photons also help charge the human body as a battery and increase mitochondrial activity. Fluctuations in heat and cold have health benefits like nitrous-oxide production, fat reduction, increased cellular resilience and increased detoxification: Try things like hot-cold contrast showers or saunas followed by a cold shower. Water and minerals help carry a charge to the body. Drink good, clean, pure water from a good filtration system with minerals added to that water from sea salt or trace liquid minerals.

QUOTE: By engaging in health and fitness, you’re equipping yourself to live your purpose and make the maximum impact that you can on the world.

LD: How do we make the effort consistently? What makes it all worth it?

BG: We know from looking at centenarian and Blue Zone populations and talking to some of the active, older individuals in my book, like Arthur Vanne and Mark Sisson and Larry Hamilton, that there are biochemical corollaries to longevity and health.

But we also know there are far simpler metrics directly associated with reduced all-cause risk of mortality and increased longevity. Like grip strength: Do you do deadlifts? Do you hang from a pull-up bar? Do you use a grip-strength trainer when you’re in your car and you’re stuck in traffic to train your hands? Walking speed is another indicator. When you’re out walking, can you get yourself to walk at just a slightly faster pace than your brain wants to go? Can you keep elevating your walking speed as you age? Strength, particularly fast-twitch muscle fiber composition, is associated with longevity. Are you working on things like plyometrics? Do your strength-training workouts allow you to move explosively through a range of motion versus just lifting slowly?

By engaging in health and fitness, you’re equipping yourself to be the person that you were meant to be in terms of you living out your purpose and making the maximum impact that you can on the world.

Four Boundless Upgrades to Try This Week

Ben Greenfield in an ice bath.

Train your brain.

Download an n-back training app and commit to practicing for just five minutes a day, or choose one activity that makes smoke come out of your ears, like learning a new song on an instrument (or learning a new instrument), playing pingpong or tennis, doing a crossword puzzle or reading a book about a complex topic.

Embrace healthy fat consumption.

Your task is to incorporate the mighty avocado bowl into your diet each day. Take an avocado, slice it in half and drizzle it (or drench it, if the spirit so leads you) with a high-quality spicy or savory extra-virgin olive oil. Then add sea salt and whatever else might titillate your taste buds, including turmeric, black pepper or one of my favorites: a slab of mouthwatering coconut manna. Eat half the avocado as a snack, or for a surprisingly satiating meal, eat the whole avocado on a bed of arugula or other dark leafy greens.

Turn your body into a lean, mean, fat-burning machine.

Tomorrow morning perform “strike, stroll, shiver,” a potent one-two-three fat-loss technique. First, consume some caffeine in the form of coffee or tea. (If desired, take a few other choice supplements, such as bitter melon extract.) Second, perform 10 to 40 minutes of light, fat-burning aerobic activity. Finally, take a two- to five-minute cold shower. That’s it. Make this practice a staple in your life to help keep lean year-round.

Prioritize your sleep.

Each morning this week, preferably within a couple of hours of waking, expose your eyes, ears, skin or entire body to as much natural sunlight or blue light as possible. Just 10 to 20 minutes counts. Each night eliminate as much artificial light exposure as you can by wearing blue-light-blocking glasses (or in a pinch, sunglasses), limiting screen time or installing blue-light-blocking software on your electronic devices. Try reading a paper book instead of staring at a screen.

Visit https://boundlessbook.com/book-resources/ and get the research, details on these upgrades and much more when you purchase the book.

Get to Know Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield on a hike with his two kids and wife.
First thing you do when you wake up?

Gratitude journaling.

Last thing you do before you go to sleep?
4:8 breath work.

No. 1 travel tip?
Get out into the sunlight.

Last book that you read?
“Awareness,” by Anthony de Mello.

A podcast you’d recommend?
TED Radio Hour.

Food you cannot live without?
Rib-eye steak.

What do you do to de-stress in a moment of overwhelm?
Deep-breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth three times.

What workout would you do in 24 minutes or less?
Turkish get-ups, front planks and kettlebell swings stacked as three exercises, as many rounds as possible.

What message would you like to share with the world?
Love other people.

Video & photo credit: Ben Greenfield

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Author

Lashaun Dale

Lashaun Dale loves yoga and fitness and finds magic in movement, music and mobs of people. She holds degrees in International Relations, Philosophy and Applied Anthropology, as well as an MPH from the School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York. With two decades of group fitness programming experience, Dale is former editor-in-chief of 24Life magazine, a regular contributor to SELF and Women’s Health and Fitness, as well as popular blogs and podcasts. She’ll teach yoga anytime she is given an opportunity to get her om on.

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