I make no attempt to hide the fact that I’m a huge Tony Robbins dork. As my first post explains, it was at Tony’s Unleash the Power Within seminar where (in addition to walking across hot coals) I was inspired to become vegetarian and start this very blog. I’m not going to try to sell you on what Tony teaches, but what I like about him is that he studies the people who are getting the most incredible results in certain areas of life, then models them and teaches what he has learned. It’s about results, not theory.
To model someone getting astounding results in the area of physical performance, Tony turned to a man whose accomplishments are truly amazing. A man who ran 1000 miles in less than 12 days and holds the American record for distance in six days — 577 miles. That man is Stu Mittleman.
On Tuesday night, I got a chance to see Stu speak to a small group of about 40 people, as part of a Tony Robbins PowerTeam meeting (told you, I’m a dork). For two hours, Stu talked about his story and the things he has done to train his body to burn stored fat rather than sugar for energy, the primary reason he’s able to run such incredible distances. Stu’s beliefs are radically different than traditional fitness tenets, so be warned. But you don’t see the Governator, Jillian Michaels, or Tony Little (The Gazelle!) running across the country, do you?
Rather than try to synthesize a coherent story out of my notes from Stu’s talk, I’ll just list the points I took away from it.
Stu’s diet and training principles
- In most every culture, athletes that achieve elite status have shorter-than-average life expectancy. The reason? Elite athletes are generally built for short, fast movements and spend much of their lives training in an acid-producing, stressful, anaerobic state. They shouldn’t be the ones we look to for lifelong fitness advice.
- Of the roughly 160,000 calories worth of energy in our bodies, only 4500-5500 are stored as sugar, and the nervous system requires much of this sugar energy. When athletes “bonk,” it’s because the brain shuts the muscles down in order to conserve sugar for the nervous system.
- 146,000 calories (85%) of our energy is stored as fat. By training our bodies to burn fat rather than sugar for fuel, we can tap into this nearly endless supply of energy and achieve unbelievable levels of endurance.
- Our modern, mostly-sedentary lifestyle is so different from the way humans have lived for nearly our entire existence. To compensate, people try to work out at high intensities for short periods of time. The body turns to sugar to fuel such intense states of exercise.
- Exercising in an anaerobic state and consuming sugar create acid in our bodies. The acid is quarantined in fat, making it difficult to burn fat for fuel and creating a vicious cycle. To break out of this cycle, we need to eat alkalizing foods and train primarily at low intensities.
- Half of the time we spend exercising should be in a comfortable, aerobic state in which it’s easy to carry on a conversation. Of the remaining half of the time, two-thirds should be spend at threshold level (where aerobic becomes anaerobic) and only the remaining one-third should be spent at an anaerobic level. This distribution can be visualized as a pyramid.
- We are designed to be the most able roamers of the earth. It’s psychological concepts like “the wall” and worrying about things that haven’t happened yet that prevent us from doing what we’re capable of. Most of these concepts have been invented by people trying to sell us stuff to prevent them.
- Exercise should be done mostly in a state of total awareness, processing everything you’re experiencing and “learning to be everywhere your body is.” Stu uses sights, sounds, and feelings rather than heart rates and intensity levels to describe exercise states, since our bodies vary so much.
- The body doesn’t know miles; the body doesn’t know pace. It knows only frequency, duration, and intensity.
- Stu’s diet consists primarily of water, salads, oils, low-temperature cooked vegetables, vegetable soups, certain lower-starch grains, seeds, nuts, and fish. He used to be a vegetarian but believes fish is very healthy.
- Regarding supplements, Stu thinks it would be preferable to get our greens through whole foods, but because of the stresses of modern life, he considers greens supplements to be an “alkaline seatbelt on the acidic highway of life.”
- I asked Stu after his talk about what he consumes during a long run, and he said he eats mostly things like almonds or pureed vegetables, not sugar. Certainly not commercial sports drinks, and not even something like a banana!
- “Focus on results and you won’t change. Focus on change and you’ll get results.”
Stu might be the only runner I’ve ever heard of who doesn’t eat sugar for fuel on long runs. I mean, endurance runners practically survive on gels, gummies, and sports drinks! The idea that sugar is a good thing when you’re running is nothing short of gospel. But it’s hard to argue with Stu’s resume, so consider me intrigued.
I really doubt my summary has done justice to the inspiration I gleaned from listening to Stu speak. I was so excited about this stuff that as soon as the talk was over, I ordered a copy of his book, Slow Burn: Burn Fat Faster By Exercising Slower. I can’t wait to read it and start applying it to my ultra training.
Hope you’re inspired to put this information to good use! I’ll be sure to write a book review once I’m finished with Slow Burn. If you see a post called “How I Ran 600 Miles” or “I’m Running to California Tomorrow,” then you’ll know that it worked!