Enhancing Mobility, Heat Exposure & Managing Your State
Happy Thursday from Cusco, Peru!
I hope you’re having a lovely week.
Here are three things I’m exploring in the realm of healthy longevity this week.
I hope you enjoy and apply what you find to be useful.
Let’s dive in.
🫀 Live Longer
Flexibility vs. Mobility (And Two Killer Mobility Exercises)
Christopher Sommer (@GymnasticBodies), former U.S. National Team gymnastics coach and founder of the GymnasticBodies training system, has a wonderfully clearcut distinction between mobility and flexibility:
Flexibility can be passive, whereas mobility requires that you can demonstrate strength throughout the entire range of motion.
Here are two exercises to take your mobility to the next level:
Jefferson Curl (J-Curl)
The J-Curl is a controlled, slowly rounded, stiff-legged deadlift.
Here’s the step-by-step:
Begin by standing up straight, legs locked, holding the barbell waist-high with your arms shoulder-width apart. Think deadlift top position.
Tuck your chin tightly against your chest (keep it tucked for the entire movement) and slowly bend over, one vertebra at a time, from the neck down. Keep your arms straight and the bar close to your legs. Lower until you can’t stretch any farther. Keep your legs as perpendicular to the ground as possible (not bending the knees), and try to not push your hips back until your head is below your waist. BONUS: As you become more flexible, stand on a box with the goal of passing your wrists below your toes.
Slowly stand back up, rolling one vertebra at a time. Your chin should be the last thing to come up.
That’s one rep. Complete 5-10 reps total.
Start with 15 pounds and progress slowly with the end goal of having your body weight on the bar. This exercise is fantastic for thoracic (mid-back) and hamstring mobility.
J-Curl advice from Sommer:
“Progress slowly and patiently. Do not rush. For this type of loaded mobility work, never allow yourself to strain, grind out reps, or force range of motion. Smooth controlled movement is the order of the day.”
Sommer recommends performing J-Curls at the beginning of each workout. I advise finding a frequency that you can sustainably maintain.
The difficulty of this seemingly simple movement (just like L-sits) will leave you shocked and second-guessing the well-roundedness of your training routine.
Here’s the step-by-step:
Sit in a pike position (legs straight and extended in front of you, ankles touching or slightly apart, back upright, and with a 90-degree angle between your legs and torso) on the floor. Point your toes and keep your knees locked.
Walk your hands out on the floor as far toward (or past) your feet as you can.
With your hands in place, try to lift your heels 1-4 inches off the ground and lower them back down. That is one rep/pulse. This will be extremely difficult for most people. Dial down the difficulty by placing your hands midway between your hip and knee. See how you do and then adjust your hands as needed so you can only perform 15-20 pulses.
If you did really well, place your lower back against a wall and try again. Can’t do it anymore? Odds are you were rocking back and forth like a cradle and not just pulsing your legs. Doing the movement against a wall keeps you honest.
💪 Feel Healthier
Using Heat Exposure to Improve Endurance and Increase Growth Hormone
Although I do not consider heat and cold exposure a core tenet of longevity, they are a powerful tool to maximize the benefits of your training.
Here are two heat exposure protocols from Dr. Rhonda Patrick (@foundmyfitness):
For improved endurance: A 30-minute post-workout sauna session twice per week for 3 weeks increased the time it took for study participants to run until exhaustion by 32% compared to baseline.
For increased growth hormone (GH): Two 20-minute sauna sessions at 80⁰C (176⁰F) separated by a 30-minute cooling period elevated GH levels two-fold over baseline. Alternatively, two 15-minute dry-heat sessions at 100⁰C (212⁰F) separated by a 30-minute cooling period resulted in a five-fold increase in GH. In both cases, the GH spikes persisted for a couple of hours post-sauna.
If you don’t have access to a sauna (like me), hot baths are an effective alternative to increasing GH over baseline in addition to causing a large release of prolactin which helps to heal wounds.
Tim Ferriss stays in a hot bath or sauna for around 20 minutes. This is generally long enough to significantly increase his heart rate and make him feel dysphoric (but NOT dizzy or lightheaded) and want to get out (this coincides with dynorphin release). Once you get out, cool off by drinking ice water or with an ice bath or cool shower.
He repeats this cycle of heating and cooling 2-4 times.
Note on Cold Exposure Timing
Studies have shown that cold exposure (entering an ice bath or cold plunge, but probably not a cold shower since it is not cold enough) can interfere with progress from muscular and cardiovascular training.
Try to perform cold exposure on a rest day or if on a training day as many hours apart from your training session as possible.
🧠 Cultivate Purpose
Managing Your State and Emotional Reactions and Actions
Last Wednesday I had an extremely stressful 12-hour journey from San José, Costa Rica to Santa Cruz, Galápagos.
I’ll spare you the details, but it involved three flights, two buses, one ferry, and much worry over country entry requirements, delayed flights, and tight layovers (all of which I was sleep deprived for).
In the end, luck was on our side and everything turned out alright. But it led me to reflect on the importance of being able to manage your headspace and emotional state.
It’s easy to slip into a worried frenzy and let stress spiral you into a state of reactiveness when things don’t go to plan or unexpected events occur.
But the ability to rise above, remain calm, and effectively handle both yourself and the situation is critical to your performance and the length and quality of your life.
“Calm is contagious.” – Rorke Denver, former Navy SEAL commander
Learning to manage your state regardless of external influence will help you live longer by managing stress (a silent killer) thus keeping your cortisol levels in a healthy range.
The ability to effectively control your headspace also enables you to be happy without depending on anyone or anything―no one or nothing can rain on your parade if you’re able to make your own sunshine.
So, what’s the practical takeaway of all of this? Three things come to mind.
Takeaway #1: It’s critical to engage in daily activities that train you to be aware and in control of your mind and body. For me, that means meditating and journaling on a daily basis in addition to maintaining proper exercise, sleep, and nutrition practices.
Takeaway #2: On top of these daily habits, carving out regular intervals (monthly, quarterly, annually) for self-reflection provides the space and time you need to see where you are coming from, where you are, and where you are headed.
If you want to consciously shape the person you become and the life you create, reflection is a necessary practice.
"The unexamined life is not worth living." – Socrates
Takeaway #3: And when all else fails, chill the f**k out.
Ranting, raving, yelling, ruminating, and otherwise working yourself up when something doesn’t go to plan only shaves time off of your life by unnecessarily spiking cortisol and unquestionably reduces the enjoyability of your day as well as those subjected to your Tasmanian devil-like behaviour.
None of those actions will make the situation better. Stay calm, put a smile on your face, and walk forward while reminding yourself that life is short and should be savoured in every moment.
And, as always, please give me feedback. Which section is your favourite? What do you want more or less of? Other suggestions? Just hit reply to this email and let me know.
Much love to you and yours,
P.S. If you enjoyed today’s newsletter, follow me @jackrossdixon on Twitter for daily tweets and threads on how to live longer, feel healthier, and cultivate purpose while living simply.