In this episode, I am speaking with Keith Norris, who is the founder of Paleo f(x) and an elite strength and conditioning specialist, as well as a habit-change expert with over 40 years of experience. We will talk about the best workout hacks to optimize your health, the power of tribe, plant medicines, and of course, Paleo f(x).
COOL NEWS: I am actually going to be a featured speaker at the Paleo f(x) Summit in April 2020!
If you’d like to attend the Summit and hear my talk, I’d love to meet you in person! And, you have a chance of winning an all-expense paid trip to the event in Austin…
Paleo f(x) is running an amazing contest right now. You just have to sign up with your name and email to be entered into a drawing to win a $5000 prize package that includes airfare, hotel, and two VIP badges to the Paleo f(x) event!
In this podcast, Keith will cover:
- Why you should go to THIS premier annual wellness event to learn about nutrition, health hacking, fitness, sustainability, holistic medicine, entrepreneurship, and more.
- The tradeoffs of training hard for health and performance.
- The one thing you must do if you want to lose fat and gain muscle.
- The power of building your tribe. Why community is so critical for health.
- Top reasons why plant medicines and psychedelics are rapidly gaining in popularity.
- Ayahuasca 101. Is it safe for you to take it?
Download or listen in iTunes
Listen outside iTunes
Workout Hacks, Tribe, Paleof(x), Plant Medicines with Keith Norris - Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey there. Welcome to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten. Today, I have with me, Keith Norris, who is the founder of Paleo f(x). Before I give you his official bio, I want to tell you about Paleo f(x) briefly, and tell you about a little contest they’re running. Paleo f(x) is an awesome health summit. If you’re going to go to one health summit next year in 2020, this is the one to go to. Also, I’m going to be a speaker there. We’ll mention that a bit more, but I’m going to be giving an epic talk. I have a bunch of friends and colleagues that are going to be giving amazing talks there. This is really a must-attend event. It’s going to be in Austin, Texas, 2020, in April 2020.
Right now, from November 29th through December 16th, they have a VIP contest, a VIP giveaway, where you can basically, all you got to do is go to a web page, you can go to theenergyblueprint.com/paleo, and we’re going to have this link there. On this page, you can enter your name and email, it’s all you got to do, and you can potentially win a $5,000 prize package that includes airfare, hotel, and two VIP badges to the Paleo f(x) event. Plus, there’s a whole bunch of other potential prizes. You can win all kinds of cool devices from the chiliPAD bed system to all kinds of other thing, to expo passes, to all kinds of other prizes.
Go to theenergyblueprint.com/paleo. Enter your name and email, enter that VIP contest right now, then listen to the rest of this interview. Pause it if you need to, and then listen. Welcome, Keith Norris. I want to first give you a little bio or read your bio here. Keith is a former standout athlete and military veteran. He’s an elite strength and conditioning specialist and a habit change expert with over 40 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he’s a co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest paleo platform in the world, which is Paleo f(x).
In addition, he’s the CEO of Phoenix Equipment Group LLC, and a founding member of ID Life, which is a company whose mission is health and lifestyle optimization. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness and personal development blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice, and is the author of The Five T’s, The Art of Goal Setting and Continual Improvement. With that, I welcome you to the show, Keith.
Keith Norris: Ari, thanks for having me, man. This has been a long time coming.
Ari Whitten: Yes, I agree.
Keith Norris: Like you said, before you hit the go button, the last time we saw each other, was at JJ Virgin’s Mindshare Summit. Not enough time to chat there, so much going on, but yes, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.
Paleo f(x) and why it is important for health
Ari Whitten: Yes, likewise. I’m really excited to share this content. I think you’re doing great work. I’m really a fan of what you’re doing. I like also that you walk the talk. You’re in amazing shape and that speaks volumes. With that said, I want to first talk about Paleo f(x). I gave a brief introduction to what this is all about, but I’d like you to talk a bit about it, and why paleo? Why paleo instead of just health effects or health more broadly? What is it about paleo that you identify with or you feel is an important message?
Keith Norris: Right. Way back in the day, say about 10 years ago, Michelle and I were budding entrepreneurs. We had both bailed on corporate America and we knew that we wanted to do something to put a dent in the universe. Neither of us felt that we were doing that in corporate America. As irony would have it, I was in big pharma at that time, and was very disillusioned. Went into big pharma having come out of the military. Really wanted to do something to, what I thought at that time, to help humanity. I wanted to make a good living while doing it, of course, but I wanted to help humanity, and I wanted to find some way to do that. That, to me, seemed like the immediate path.
As I matriculated up through the ranks in big pharma, I discovered that it’s not the way it’s made to be. Big pharma is a business, I get it. Businesses exist to make money, but there were so many approaches to chronic disease that I thought big pharma was just missing the mark. I knew there was another way and a better way to handle those diseases, and that had more to do with lifestyle, and diet, and exercise, and the rubber-meets-the-road thing that people could do. Flash forward, Michelle and I became entrepreneurs. I opened gyms, Michelle opened a catering business, because she’s a trained chef, and we were often running.
Now, during this time, and neither Michelle and I are functional medicine specialists, or in any shape or form, a specialist in those areas, so we had to lean on people and ask questions and get information. We just had this amazing network of practitioners and very, very smart, specialized people in all of these areas, and eventually, we thought, “If we have a superpower, it is that we are super connectors and we love bringing people together, so why not bring all these people together and create?”
At that time, we thought it would be a mastermind type situation. We’ll get a couple of hundred people together, bring in some attendees and it would be a great little gathering and trade of information, and rubbing elbows, and this would be a good thing. Well, that first iteration of the “mastermind” where we’re going to throw turned into [sound cut]people. We had to scramble for a venue. Ari, it just took off after that. It was beyond our wildest dreams. We had no idea it would turn into what it has turned into today, and we have loved every minute of it.
Right now, we always say it’s an unruly teenager, and it just does what it’s going to do and we just try to keep some borders around it and let it be what it’s going to be. The show is itself is really dictated by the tribe, the collective tribe. What do they want? Who do they want to see? What do they want to hear, and what kind of activities do they do they want to see at this show?
Ari Whitten: Yes. I want to get into tribe in a minute, but first, I want to talk a little bit more about this paleo idea. I know that when you talk about paleo, you’re talking about a kind of a gist of natural health, of being aligned with our ancestral environment and lifestyle habits, but there are a lot of people who maybe don’t know enough about paleo to really get that, and there are a lot of, for example, people who are vegans, who are influenced by vegan thought leaders and who are like, “Oh, paleo? That’s nonsense. That’s terrible stuff. It’s just meat-based diets, and that’s all paleo is, and it’s bad for you, and I got to avoid anything with paleo in the title.” What would you say to somebody who’s coming from that frame of mind?
Keith Norris: It’s very interesting you brought that up, Ari, because a few years ago, we had the same idea. We thought if we really want to put a dent in the universe, like we both do, we’re going to have to drop this paleo term and find something else that is more inviting and encompassing of whole health. We thought about that and we thought about, “Okay, well, if we drop paleo, what will we call it?” We racked our brains, we thought, health kept coming up, but health is such a watered down term. We couldn’t figure out what to call it if not Paleo f(x).
Then we talked to some branding experts and to a number, every branding expert we talked to you said, “If you abandon this term now, you are crazy. You are [sound cut] crazy. You have built this tribe, and now, you are in a position to own the term. Now, you define it. What is paleo to you? You define it and you start pumping up that information because it’s your term now.” We’ve done exactly that. We took that to heart, we maintain the paleo brand, the name, and we have expanded it. If you come to Paleo f(x), will you hear talks on diet and exercise? Absolutely, you will, and that’s really how we started.
That was, Ari, we starting it, but you also hear talks on psychedelics, and shamanism, and personal relations, and emotional, mental health, all of these other aspects. We really have created seven pillars of health. We believe that to be an optimized human being, you really need to elevate all seven of those pillars. If you focus on just one, say, diet and exercise, that’s great, but if you let the other slide, you’re no better. We have now termed paleo, an all-encompassing health optimization movement. It’s very interesting, you mentioned the vegans and vegetarians. We actually had Joel Kahn at the show last year, which was super interesting. A lot of eyebrows obviously.
Ari Whitten: You don’t bang vegans over the head with a club, and cannibalize them, or anything like that?
Keith Norris: [laughs]. No. I get the whole idea of the vegan vegetarian movement. I totally get it. We do a lot of things in our lives in the name of ethics, in the name of religion, and all of these that aren’t necessarily healthy, optimize health. Now, there’s ways that– and you know this and your listeners know this. If you are a vegan vegetarian for ethical reasons, there’s ways to supplement around it. You can bolster the diet. I personally don’t believe it’s the best diet you can eat, but I have no hate for those who choose to eat that way.
Here’s the other thing. We agree on 90%, right? None of us want to see– if we’re talking about the humane raising of animals, none of us want to see CAFO operations. None of us. Paleo people don’t want to see that. Obviously, vegans/vegetarians don’t want to see that. What are the things that we can agree on? I think that’s the better starting point than to find the nitpicky stuff that divides us all.
Ari Whitten: Yes, I’m with you. Also, on the paleo, the original idea of the paleo diet. There are certain things that have become somewhat controversial. For example, grains, legumes, dairy. Different paleo experts over the years have reenvisioned some of those. Should we really be avoiding dairy? Should we be avoiding lentils? Despite the fact that lentils are clearly associated with good health, from basically every study we have on them. Should we be avoiding whole grains? What is the evidence for and against that position? I’m just curious in your envisioning of paleo, given that you run Paleo f(x), how do you feel about some of those paleo dietary issues?
Keith Norris: This is one thing that I can give a total kudos to this tribe, and the people within this tribe, and especially the thought leaders within this tribe. is they will change an opinion, given evidence. You’ve seen the opinions change in 10 years over the idea that grains and legumes must absolutely be avoided. It all depends. It depends on your personal situation, it depends on your health conditions right now, it depends on if you’re super sensitive to those types of foods.
What we generally say is, here is the basic paleo temple, or template. Temple, [laughs] Freudian slip. Here’s the basic paleo template. Give it a run for 30 days. See how you look, feel, and perform, and then tweak it from there. If you want to add grains into your diet, or legumes, or whatever the substance is, now, that you’ve given it a run for 30 days and you’ve been relatively clean, go ahead and add them back in, see how you look, feel, and perform. This isn’t a religion. All it is is a template.
You’ve seen people like Robb Wolf change his stance on a number of things, and that’s what I love about the people in this movement. Chris Kresser, the same way. If they have overwhelming evidence that contrasts with what they thought prior, they have no problem saying, “Hey, I thought this before. I’ve seen the evidence. Now, I’m changing my position.” Which is very very, very heartening.
The importance of tribe
Ari Whitten: Yes. I agree with you 100%. You mention earlier tribe and community. I personally think that this is a much undervalued and underappreciated factor in health and the human experience. Not just health, the functioning of our organism at a cellular level, but also our happiness, our experience in life, our sense of meaning, and satisfaction in life. What is your take on tribe and community as someone who is actively taking steps which I think are amazing, wonderful steps, to build more of a tribe and community with this event, and with this platform of Paleo f(x)?
Keith Norris: Right. I use to say that stronger people are harder to kill, and I still think that’s true. I think that physical exercise and just having your body be physically fit really armors you against a lot of insults. Now, I have changed my thinking to include tribe with that. That emotional well-being I think is as powerful as the physical well-being when it comes to having an organism out in the world that is bulletproof.
Ari Whitten: Not only that, but having backup helps too. It’s harder to kill a bunch of individuals than one bu itself.
Keith Norris: Right. There’s just study, after study, after study, that has rolled out that has pointed this concept of tribe. It’s just very hard to wrap a definition around. What does tribe look like? Tribe can look like an extended family. Living with an extended family, which our in culture is really frowned upon, but in other, especially Mediterranean cultures, that’s the norm. It can be. Yes, it incorporates that, but it’s also your network of friends, and we’re not talking about your 5,000 Facebook friends. We’re talking about your intimate contacts. The people that you can talk to on the daily, and this is so very, very powerful.
There’s a great book on tribe, it’s called Tribe by Sebastian Junger. I don’t know if you’ve read it, or if your listeners, but it is a fantastic look at just what tribe means to people. I wish that when I was in the military, I had access to that information, because I can tell you Ari, I would come back off of extended deployments and I would come home. The whole thing you’re thinking about while you’re on deployment is, “I got another 120 days. I got another 100 days.” You’re just counting the days until you get back home, and then you get back home and you’re depressed.
At that time, I could not figure out what it was. I thought I was freaking crazy. Now, I’m home with my wife, and kids, and family, and I’m back in the US, all of these. All I can think about is going back on deployment, why is that? I must be nuts. The whole thing, it was tribe, right? When you’re on deployment, you have to rely on a close-knit group of guys to see you through. I put my life in your hands, you put your life in my hands, and there’s something about that that is just so compelling. Sebastian Junger does a great job of spelling out exactly why that is.
Ari Whitten: I recommend a lot, and I’ve talked about this a couple of times on the podcast in some previous episodes with psychologists, but there’s a great book by Philip Cushman. It’s called Constructing the Self, Constructing America. It’s basically a history of psychotherapy and the origins. It tracks from a historical perspective, the origins of psychotherapy as a profession, and really positions it in the historical context of the dissolution of tribe and community.
The more we lost tribe and community, the more it became necessary for people to seek out therapists. The more mental health problems, especially, depression and anxiety, and this low level sense of emptiness, a void, something’s missing in my life, like what you’re describing after you came home from deployment. It’s like, “I don’t get why– intellectually, I can’t really understand why I’m depressed. I’m out of this stressful environment, and yet there’s something missing. I’m secretly craving to be with my band of brothers,” and that’s what we’re missing.
I think it’s a huge factor in health as obviously you do as well. I was going to mention one other thing which is, I think for a lot of people– I can speak for my personal experience as a man, but I think this is true also of women to a large extent. For men, I think we bond, we connect to each other through lived experiences, and often like hard, physical experiences. Whether that’s athletics as a kid, or whether it’s a military experience, whether it’s an outward bound, outdoor, adventure-type experiences. These are where bonds between men are formed that really are lasting bonds.
I think women connect a little bit more just through conversation, and just being in each other’s presence, and speaking, and connecting emotionally. For men, I’ll speak for myself as a 36-year-old man, I find it’s not easy to make friends at this age with other men, like real deep bonds with other men. I’m very close with my brother. He’s my best friend, and we have a life-long bond. There’s a couple other guys that I have that kind of relationship with, but it’s really hard to make new friends and cultivate a new tribe. I think it’s also true, in this day in age, for women. It’s difficult as an adult to make new friends.
Do you have any suggestions on how someone could apply this information about tribe and community? How can they take that, and what can they do to cultivate more of a community or tribe?
Keith Norris: Well, you know there’s one thing that’s available to everybody and just about every city in America. There’s a lot of things about CrossFit, that from a strength and conditioning coach perspective I could ping on, but the one thing that they nailed is tribe. Very, very difficult workout, if you’re scaled such. You’re in a tribe, your box is your tribe. They nailed that, and that’s just a daily thing you can do.
It doesn’t have to be CrossFit, but it can be some kind of thing like that. Spartan races are another example of things you can do in that arena. I can tell you, personally, when I was in the pharmaceutical industry, I lived a little bit closer to West Virginia at that time, and we would go twice a year, and do white water rafting. Just a group of guys, just out white water rafting, it’s so, so cool. You can find those little pocket all over the place. I just bring up CrossFit, because that’s the easiest one. That’s just about every city you can go to.
If you ask me why CrossFit succeeded over the last two decades to the point to where they are now? Just starting off as just a little online thing back in the late ’90s to where they are now, it’s tribe, man. People gravitate to that. They really, really want that. Yes, you’re right. Sporting activities when you’re younger, the military when you’re younger, all of those are great activities. You can join in a CrossFit, or these rafting. Rafting’s just one example. Spartan race, whatever it is. You can join in those, and they are so much more than just the activity itself.
How plant medicines affect your body and health
Ari Whitten: I’m with you. That’s great advice. You mentioned a couple times now, plant medicines, psychedelics. How does that fit in to this picture of Paleo f(x) What about it is paleo or how does it relate to this whole concept of heath optimization?
Keith Norris: Well, I think if we want to look at this from through a paleo lens or through an ancestral wellness lens, every culture has a shaman medicine man who’s job it is to mediate between the natural world and the human consciousness. It just depends on where that particular tribe is located as to what plants they use for these purposes. It could be mushrooms, it could be ayahuasca, it could wachuma, it could any of a number of these substances. I think it is part and parcel to the human condition to explore one’s consciousness.
In our culture, especially in the last 40 years, 50 years, that was really not only poo-pooed but outlawed. I think it’s so very important from an evolutionary perspective that we come back and revisit that. That’s what drew me to it, from that aspect, is just studying shamanism in general, and just noting that every culture on face of the earth has some aspect of navigating human consciousness. That’s what drew me to it, yes.
Ari Whitten: This is a challenging question. For people who have never experienced a plant medicine journey like what you’re describing. How would you describe the experience and the potential benefits that one could get from going and having an experience like that?
Keith Norris: Generally, in our culture when you talk about psychedelics or plant medicine. It’s associated with partying, just the rave scene, this, that and the other. Believe me, when I was younger, I had pulled out all the stops. I’m no stranger to that scene, but this is totally not that. These ceremonies are very humbling. They are respectful of the medicine, and they are done with a purpose of diving deep, and doing deep, psychological, spiritual work.
Terence McKenna famously said that– he was speaking of psilocybin, that setting makes all the difference in the world. It’s true with any psychedelic or with plant medicines, the setting sets the tone of how the journey is going to work out for you. Experience-wise, it’s very hard to describe in normal language what you experience in these states.
Ari Whitten: Maybe let me ask it this way. How would you describe it relative to– if you’re describing a sort of doing deep psychological work, how would you describe it relative to let say a psychotherapy session, or doing psychotherapy on a regular basis, or meditation?
Keith Norris: People in these realms will tell you that one ayahuasca journey is worth 10 years of psychotherapy. It is that intense or it can be that intense. It is a rocket ship ride in the deepest depths of your consciousness. Sometimes that’s blissful, and puppy dogs, and rainbows. In other times, you’re left fighting demons the entire time. If you believe what the shamans say, and I do, there is an inherent intelligence in all of these medicines, and the medicine knows what you need and when you need it.
It will either impart information to you or unlock the door to your subconscious, and let those things come out that you need to deal with that have been locked away by your conscious mind, probably for good reason, so that you can walk around in the natural world and still be a functioning human being, and let that stuff out so that you can deal with it in a space to where you can deal with it. I have had personally just so many revelations of things that have hamstrung me in my normal day-to-day life, and how I react in certain situations.
Being able to go back and dive into my subconscious, and see why I react that way, and be able to untangle the threads of that has led me to live now a much more productive life just here in the day-to-day. Again, could I have gotten there through meditation or psychotherapy? Maybe, but utilizing these plant medicines in the right form and fashion, and with the right facilitators, which is hugely important, I feel like I fast-tracked to healing, really.
Ari Whitten: Yes, I’m with you. I think there’s also something– I’ve gone through a PhD program in clinical psychology. I have quite a bit of experience there, and I have quite a bit of experience with some plant medicine journeys. I would actually agree with the general sentiment of a strong plant medicine journey being something equivalent to 10 years of psychotherapy, or 10,000 hours, or something to that effect.
I also actually think even beyond that, there’s places that you can access, or there’s blind spots that you can be shown, you can be forced to look at in a very painful, very uncomfortable, sometimes very saddening way, with plant medicine journeys that you might never access through any amount of psychotherapy. Because to some extent, they’re just accessing, I think different aspects of consciousness.
So much of psychotherapy is you’re still in this more stereotypical left brain, intellectual more analytical frame of mind, where you’re looking at things very consciously, very analytically, very logically. A lot of what happens in a plant medicine journey is not logical. It’s not stuff that you can arrive at through any amount of intellectualization. In fact, I would argue that in many cases, more and more intellectualization just creates layers of delusion that actually act to inhibit your ability to see some of these blind spots about different ways of functioning.
As you said, it’s definitely not all sunshine, and rainbows, and unicorns. I’ve had some very painful experiences on this. This is not something that is addicting that you’re looking to go back to every week and have another one of those experience, because it’s just so fun. It’s not like an ecstasy trip. It’s something that can really be deep and dark, and teach you some painful lessons, and show you some stuff about your ways of being in the world that are not very nice to see and that really just be like, “Hey dummy, maybe you should knock this off.”
I’ve personally had some experiences that have legitimately altered my course as far as my career, why I do what I do now, and have altered my relationships profoundly and maybe even saved my relationship with my wife. I am absolutely a big advocate of this for the right person, and maybe you want to speak to that as well. I said a lot there so I’ll let you go where you want to go with all that.
Keith Norris: I totally agree with everything you said Ari. It is very, very difficult and serious work. If your listeners out there are contemplating doing this, number one, first and foremost, you have to find a practitioner who is on the up-and-up. If there’s any downside to the recent popularity of these types of substances is there’s always people who want to capitalize on that popularity. People are starting to crop up that have no business facilitating these ceremonies. Recommendations, word-of-mouth, just check the person that you’re journeying with. That’s the first and foremost.
Number two, once that is done, it’s not easy. Like you said, you are signing up for some serious hard work, and not just at the ceremony itself, because that’s just the beginning of it. It’s all the integration that follows, in the days and weeks after the ceremonies. It’s very, very important because if you don’t integrate all of this, all of that hard work means nothing. You just went through the wringer and okay, so you went through the wringer. If you don’t go through the integration and actually make changes in your day-to-day life, then it’s all or naught. You might have had a rocket ship ride and the show of your life, but did it do anything to change your life? That’s going to be up to you in the days and weeks following.
Ari Whitten: If I can add one thing to that, you just reminded me of a quote from– I think it might have been Carl Jung or one of the Jungian therapist, in a book on dream analysis I was reading during my PhD program. There was one quote that stood out in my mind, which was, “You have a responsibility to the dream,” which is a different way of thinking about it. Most people think of dreams as just these random visions and things that come to them in their sleep, and then you’re like, “That was interesting,” and then you forget about it. What is meant by this, you have a responsibility to the dream?
Basically, it’s if you analyze your dream and uncover some message from that, something that’s being communicated to you, you have a responsibility to it to try to live that out, to practice living that message out in your daily life to turn it into something that you’re actually consciously implementing in your life. I’ve always looked at these journeys in very much the same way as you were just getting at, that it’s not just you have an experience and then everything’s changed from then on out. It’s, you have a responsibility to that experience, to the realizations that you had, to practice being a better person in the ways that it showed you.
Keith Norris: I love that parallel between the dream world and the ceremony space, because in both of these, in different ways, your subconscious is allowed to open up some. The same thing in the dream world, your subconscious is trying to speak to the conscious you. A lot of times, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, or you can’t make heads or tails of it, but that’s what it is. It’s on YouTube, to look at that, look at those dreams, wrestle with them, and try to figure out what your subconscious is telling you. A lot of that, in the same way, in the ceremony space, you’re faced with things that may be black and white, that you deal with, but in many times it’s not.
Many times it’s in a language or a situation, that you’re unsure what exactly is that. What am I trying to be told here or what is being imparted to me? That’s where the integration part really comes in. Sometimes you’re smacked across the face with the obvious and you’re like, “Okay, I got that.” For me, many times it’s almost analogy, or a metaphor, and it’s not necessarily just black and white.
I’ve done almost 70 ayahuasca journeys and a number of wachuma journeys and people ask me why I keep going back. I asked myself very early on, after about the 15th or so ayahuasca, I was like, “Okay, what’s going on here? Why do I keep feeling the need to go back?” The reason is, is because every time that I go in, it’s number one, it’s different. Everything about it is different, from the time you take the medicine, the drop in, everything is different, and I’ve always come away with more things to work on. It just keeps going and going.
There was a time there where I was like, “There can’t be any more. Oh my God, there just can’t.” I go back again, and yes, it’s just peeling back layers of an onion. You just go deeper and deeper and deeper. The teachings are more profound, the realizations are more profound, and it’s just a beautiful experience. I agree with you Ari. I am a completely different person now than I was before I started this process. I would like to think that I’m a more effective person. I would like think that I’m a more loving person, and just a better person to be around.
I really now know what my purpose here is in this life. Before that, I wrestled with that. I had imposter syndrome. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was in this entrepreneurial game, and I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur. How can this be? I learned a lot about myself throughout this process, which I think is golden.
Ari Whitten: On a final note, to wrap up this particular topic. Do you have any thoughts on who should or should not do this? Given that we’ve both just really spoken very highly of this as something that’s profoundly affected and profoundly benefited our lives as individuals, are there any warnings you want to say about who should or or should not maybe look into doing an experience like this?
Keith Norris: Well, I think the biggest thing is, and I tell people this who come to me face-to-face and want to discuss it. Don’t let me talk you into anything. If you feel called to this work, you’ll know it. It will make itself apparent in your world, but don’t let anyone talk you into doing anything. I think if there is a safety stop or a do-not-pass-this-line, it’s if you have to make that decision on your own. Don’t let anybody talk you into it. You will know when you’re ready.
From the medical side of things, the old standby if people with history of schizophrenia, and things of that nature, probably not good candidates for this. Otherwise, man if you feel so called and you’re willing to do the work, and again this is not taking your car to the brake shop and you’re going to come out, everything’s hunky-dory. That’s just not the way it works.
You are signing up for potentially a very rough few days, potentially, but you are definitely signing up for weeks and weeks and weeks afterwards of integration work. You may find out things about yourself that you’re not too pleased with, because we all have demons lurking in our subconscious. If the medicine decides that you need to deal with one of these demons, you’re going to deal with it.
Ari Whitten: Well said.
Keith Norris: On the flip side, you always have tools. I have never been given a demon or something to work on that I have not also been given the tools with which to deal with that entity. For those who want to dive into it, I would fully endorse them doing that. Again, with a caveat, find a practitioner who knows what they’re doing. That’s huge. That’s everything really.
The best workout hacks for optimal body composition
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. I want to shift gears completely to training, which is really your wheelhouse more than anything, that you’ve been in fitness and training for a very long time and that’s your original expertise within health, as it was for me as well. I know that you’ve talked quite a bit about health versus performance. Like how you would train an athlete versus how you would train the average person to optimize their health. Let’s talk a bit about how those different training programs might be structured.
Keith Norris: Just laying the groundwork for this, as an athlete, I’ve been on both sides of this. In my early life, I was the highly-trained athlete and I was the guy living on the razor’s edge of maximal performance, but one step away from just complete breakdown, and that’s true of all competitive athletes. It is so competitive that to be able to push the body to the point of maximum output, you’re just running the razor’s edge of anything going wrong, and just a crumble tumble down. That’s why, by the way, the competitive athletes are young, [chuckles] because they have the resilience to be able to accept that stress, but they also don’t have the time in the trenches to have fallen apart at some point.
There’s that, and I think that’s very, very important for people to realize when they take on a training protocol, is if you are not a competitive athlete, there is no reason whatsoever to push the body to a state that keeps you on that razor’s edge.
Let’s just keep some common sense about this. I don’t train that way now either. When I look at the way that I train versus the way I trained when I was in college, although the principles are the same because principles are few, methods are many, although the principles are the same, I have dialed down a lot of things that made it to where– I plan on doing this already for the rest of my life, and I plan on living well into my hundreds, I’ll just say that. Training is going to be both a piece of that and a reason why I continue to live, but it has to be done in a smart fashion.
Ari Whitten: Yes, absolutely. From a practical standpoint, what does some of the differences look like as far as how an athlete might train or how you trained when you were an elite athlete, versus how you might train somebody today who is just looking to be healthy and energetic?
Keith Norris: A lot of it is the time investment that I put in personally. I don’t train clients personally anymore because I have since sold my gyms because thanks to Paleo (f)x taking off, I [chuckles] just didn’t have the time to do that anymore. Although I still love it, I still stay in the game, but there is a time limitation for the average person. That’s cool. You don’t need a whole lot of time to be in tip-top shape. You really don’t.
My workouts, although I generally work out just about every day, that’s more for mental health than it is for my physical well-being, but my workouts are rarely more than a half-hour. They’re very short, bam, to the point. I’m in, I get the work done, and I’m back out and doing my thing. An athlete can’t do that. An athlete, just by definition of having to work skills and the idea that they have to maintain every piece of their body to the tip-top condition, just means they’re going to have to have a lot more time investment.
What does that look like practically? If someone comes to me and says they want to be a healthy human being and look great, feel great, look good naked, all of those things and they’re expecting that it’s going to take them two hours a day, seven days a week to do that, no it’s not, it’s not going to be– That’s not at all what it’s going to take. At first a high school senior comes to me a D1 prospect, and says, “Yes, I want to play college football, but I only wanted to devote 30 minutes a day to working out.” Sorry, that’s not going to happen either.
We have to figure out what side of this spectrum we’re on. Mostly what that boils down to is, if you’re in a situation like I am, I utilize exercises that are big bang for the buck exercises. Deadlifts, sprints, dips, pull-ups, and all variations of those exercises, those are the 80%. Doing those and smart mixing and matching of those, you’re off and running and you’re great. Now, when I was a competitive athlete that wasn’t going to cut it. A lot of the extra time for a competitive athlete in the strength and conditioning side of it, means that they have to do a lot of high-rep exercises. It looks a lot like bodybuilding, number one to put on muscle mass, that’s a lesser effect, but number two for tendon and ligament strength. That’s the only way you can really build up some serious tendon and ligament strength is by high-rep exercises and that just takes time. It takes a mind-numbing amount of time to be able to do that. In fact, if you follow Louie Simmons at Westside, 80% of their work if you follow up throughout the year is ancillary work.
What does ancillary work look like? It looks like bodybuilding work. There’s only 20% that’s dedicated to the meat and potatoes of powerlifting to maximize speed and maximize strength, 20%. The rest of it is ancillary work. The normal person can look at that and go, “Huh, if Elite, the number one powerlifting team in the world, is spending only 20% on the meat and potatoes stuff, what does that mean for me the average person?”
We can draw some conclusions from that and I do. I think Louie Simmons and the whole Eastern bloc training system, I’ve been a big fan of since I was a kid. I was lucky enough to be trained with people who were just starting to implement these types of training methodologies when I was young and they worked. The concurrent conjugate method, I think, is far and away superior to any linear periodization that you can put out there.
Ari Whitten: Now let’s just presume that everything you said there in the last 45 seconds completely lost 90% of people who know nothing about periodization and Eastern bloc training methods and all that stuff. There’s a language that we can speak to one another as people who have been doing this for, I’ve been doing it for 20 years, you’ve been doing it for 40 years. There’s another language we got to speak to the average 50-year-old man or woman who has never done weight training before in [chuckles] their life.
Keith Norris: Let me give you my last three days of workouts. It’ll take me 30 seconds-
Ari Whitten: Yes, please.
Keith Norris: -and it’ll clear up a lot of confusion. Three days ago I ran 60-yard sprints, two sprints in a row, then I went and did muscle-ups with a bar that looks a lot like kipping pull-ups for people who are familiar with CrossFit, only it’s on a fixed bar. I did five muscle-ups, 25 bodyweight dips, two sprints. I went through that circuit five times, bam, done, back on my bike back home.
The following day I did heavy trap bar deadlifts super-setted with a floor press. Floor press looks very much like a bench press except you’re lying on the floor underneath the bar, so it limits the range of motion for the press slightly. Again, five rounds and in the floor press, I picked a weight where I was about five repetitions. In the deadlift, I ramped-up to a weight to where I was doing three reps.
Ari Whitten: Let me jump in a little– Quick, for people listening who have no idea what the names of these exercises, deadlift is basically picking a heavy weight up off the ground. The floor press is a pressing motion like a bench press, or you could also do in the place of something like that, a push-up if you’re doing bodyweight exercises.
Keith Norris: Sure, or dips or whatever. The idea is I have roughly a push-pull. That’s how I set up my weight training, it’s in a push-pull fashion. If I’m doing some kind of press, I’m doing some kind of a pull, and I’m just going back and forth between the two exercises. That’s the absolute easiest way and that’s what I do. 90% of the time, that is my workout. Every now and again it’ll be a Sunday, I’ve got the key to the gym, and I just go back and do my burrow thing, I’m back in my element again. I can train [chuckles] two hours and then hang out with the guys in the gym, but that’s not my normal. My normal is two exercises back-to-back rotating one set here, one set there, one set. Very, very short rest in between sets. I get it done, bam, half hour I’m out of the gym and I’m back home, and that’s including the warm-up.
Ari Whitten: Got you.
Keith Norris: It’s just as easy as that.
Ari Whitten: There’s a few different goals someone might have with an exercise regimen. There’s obviously more complexities, but let’s just break it down to like, someone’s interested in muscle mass, someone’s interested in fat loss, or someone’s– You know, screw body composition, I don’t care about fat loss or muscle gain, I just want health, energy, longevity. Do you have any thoughts on how you might structure those different training programs differently for people with those different goals?
Keith Norris: For me, this is something I find– Let me back up a little bit. When I was in the pharmaceutical industry, my hobby at that time was training collegiate football players. I just happened to be in an area where there was a college there, and I got to know the strength and conditioning coach. I was looking for a place to train, he was looking for someone to help train football players and so it was a beautiful marriage. I trained football players and volleyball players, too, during this very long period.
Then I exited the pharmaceutical industry, which meant that relationship ended. Moved to Austin, opened gyms, and now I’m training the general public, which I have never done before because I’ve constantly been with athletes. I thought, “I’m going to have to totally re-gear my training for each one of these types of individuals coming in.” But what I found out over the years was the prescription for everything that you just described, all of those buckets, pretty much the same. If I can get people stronger in basic exercises, their body will take care of everything else.
Now, we might want to fine-tune here and there after. If someone wants to put on a little bit more muscle mass, okay, we’re going to skew things to a little bit higher repetition, get more repetitions in. It also depends on the muscle fiber make-up of the person. I know we’re getting out in the weeds again, but some people just have a propensity to put on muscle, others don’t. That’s largely a genetic thing so we have to navigate that. Largely, already the prescription for the average person is pretty much the same. Lift something heavy, a number of repetitions, do it consistently and everything else will take care of itself. Really, it’s that easy. Seriously, that easy.
Ari Whitten: Do you have any thoughts on endurance training? Does endurance training fit into this paradigm? Is that something that you recommend or is it just a personal preference thing? If somebody likes doing that activity, “Hey, go do it, but we’re going to focus on this other training”?
Keith Norris: I think it’s more personal preference, Ari. I don’t think that a lot of endurance training is needed for overall health. I think if you train in the way I just put it, it’s pretty- it’s a cardiovascular hit. Let me tell you, going back and forth with heavyweights like that with very little rest, you’re going to– That’s a cardiovascular workout, too.
Ari Whitten: Yes, especially if you’ve got sprinting in there, like one of those workouts you gave.
Keith Norris: Right. Now, if someone wants to compete in something like, “Hey, I have a 10K coming up that I want to run.” Well, you’re going to have to put some time on the road. There’s smart ways to train to where you don’t beat yourself up, putting in a whole lot of miles on the road training for a 10K. That’s a whole other discussion that we can have.
For instance, I rode a 500-mile bike race in Oregon back in June. Did very, very little training to get ready for that, but I was able to do it largely because I had this base of lifting. Now I still had to train on a bike to be able to pull it off. By the way, I didn’t train enough because [laughs] I ran out of runway, but I was still able to do it.
Here’s somebody who spends most of his time in a gym and just decides, because his friend is going to go out to Oregon to ride a 500-mile bike race, “Okay, I’ll go with you. It sounds like fun.” Boom, get on a bike and go off and do it.
Ari Whitten: [laughs] It’s funny that you said that sounds like fun. If somebody invited me to do that-
Ari Whitten: -like, “Screw you, I’m not doing that.” [laughs] That sounds like the most masochistic thing I could possibly dream up.
Keith Norris: Well, let me just say it sounded like a lot more fun before I actually got to Bend and was like, “Oh, this is a thing. These people are serious.” Now, was I competitive? No. I mean, I wasn’t at the front of the pack. I wasn’t pushing each days winning or each one of the day’s races. That was not me. I was pulling up the back. But the fact that a guy could just roll out of the gym and be able to hop on a bike and do that, I think it speaks to– Not to me, but it speaks to the efficacy of this type of training. If I were to take it more seriously, I could start rolling in longer bike rides and maybe I could be at the middle of the pack.
Ari Whitten: Well, you’re also a big guy. What are you, 230 pounds or something?
Keith Norris: Actually, I’m 205. I look a lot bigger than I actually am, which is about the weight that I played college football at, by the way, [inaudible].
Ari Whitten: Interesting. That’s the weight that I am as well. The other side of this as far as endurance training is, the average person who knows nothing about fitness, no background in exercise science, they don’t really know anything about it. They are typically, in most cases, not going to start by going into a gym and lifting weights. They’re going to start by going on a treadmill or a stationary bike. They’re going to start with some endurance exercise or cardio, because that’s kind of what most people in the general public think is the best form of exercise, or the healthiest form.
To the average listener, and I’m sure there’s a large portion of people listening to this who maybe go to the gym or maybe do exercise three times a week or four times a week, and they just do jogging or bike riding or swimming or something like that, what would you say to them about how they could optimize their training?
Keith Norris: Well, the first thing I would tell them is that I believe, and I’ve seen this play out so much over my training career and over my life, that really muscle is metabolic currency. The more muscle someone can carry within reason– Now as soon as I bring up carrying muscle mass, people think professional bodybuilder. That’s not what I’m talking about, not at all what I’m talking about. I am just talking about a healthy amount of muscle mass on a human frame, whether that’s a female frame, male frame, whatever. That is really the metabolic currency. Anytime that you start to throw endurance work in there, you have just given your body the signal to jettison muscle. That’s really the last thing the body needs at that point.
You can look at the difference in physiology between a sprinter and a marathon runner. That’s what we’re talking about. Now, obviously there’s a genetic difference. For instance, [inaudible] that magnify that difference, but the difference remains. I think that from a health standpoint, if someone enjoys endurance work, absolutely. Knock yourself out. I now enjoy riding a bike too and I roll that in to the mix.
But if you’re looking for a bang for the buck exercise for your health, I think that should go on the back burner. Jogging, running, unless you’re sprinting. That’s a whole other category. It’s just not a bang for the buck exercise. Again, I get it, it’s easy, anybody can do it. It is accessible. Anybody can get running shoes and go out in the street and run. If that’s your only option, that’s a hell of a lot better than sitting on the couch. I’ll put it that way, but if I were to put a hierarchy on exercises, that would be pretty low on the hierarchy.
Ari Whitten: What would be above it, just for clarity for people who maybe can’t read between the lines there?
Keith Norris: Any kind of weight-bearing exercise, any kind of lifting weights. Again, it does not have to be [inaudible]. It’s picking something heavy up off the ground. It’s about as basic as it gets. By the way, that’s probably the best bang for the buck exercise you can do in the gym. If people are worried about that and worried about good form — and they should be, you need to have very, very good form — seek out a trainer. Again, a lot like we’re talking about shaman, word of mouth means a lot.
Ari Whitten: I was going to say the same caveat.
Keith Norris: Same caveat, but there are very, very good trainers out there. You just have to look around for them. I would really push people to– If they’re going to do endurance exercise because they love it, please add in weight-bearing exercises on top of that to mitigate the muscle loss that’s going to come from that.
By the way, Ari, your listeners know and I know you know that jogging is probably one of the more inefficient ways if you’re thinking that you’re going to drop weight. What happens is the calories you burn are minimal, but the body perceives needing to make up way more than the calories you just burned jogging. It’s very, very difficult to use jogging or long-distance running as a weight loss methodology.
Ari Whitten: It’s really easy to get into the mentality of, “I just went for a two-mile, a three-mile jog. Now I can reward myself with some pizza or salsa and chips.” Then, when all’s said and done 12 weeks later, you haven’t actually lost any body fat.
Keith Norris: The whole irony to this whole thing, Ari, is the more you run, the more efficient you get at running. The more efficient the body is, which means the fewer calories you expend during a run. Again, I don’t want to dissuade people. If it’s the couch or running, go run. [laughs] But I would highly encourage you to add some weight-bearing exercise along with that.
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. Keith, we’ve covered awesome range of different health topics here. This has been a super fun conversation. I would love if we could wrap up, maybe with your top two or three key takeaways that you want to leave people with, which could either be things that you’ve already mentioned, or if you want to inject one or two new pieces, feel free.
Keith Norris: I would say number one is your right to explore your own consciousness as a birthright and take it to heart. That doesn’t have to be through psychedelics or plant medicine. It could be through meditation, it could be through psychotherapy, it could be through a number of different means, but that is your birthright. There is so much to be gained by doing that both from a personal perspective and what you can offer the world after you have become a better person.
Number two, we just talked about it. Let’s add some resistance exercise to our overall training. Again, it does not have to be super, super fancy, man. Just super simple. I just gave you an example of what my workout was, just lifting something heavy up off the ground and press something heavy off the ground, just back and forth. It’s meat and potatoes, super, super easy and good for you.
Lastly, I’m going to take the self-serving route here and come to Paleo (f)x. Seriously, this is a whole tribe thing. This is a group of people. We’re probably going to have close to 10,000 people this year. This is your tribe, this is a chance to connect. To your point, Ari, you’re going to meet like-minded people there from all over the world. That’s one of the things that we see year to year to year at Paleo (f)x is these groups of people who met at Paleo (f)x, have little mini-reunions at Paleo (f)x. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
Ari Whitten: Yes, awesome. Keith, thank you so much for coming on the show, this was a blast, really, really enjoyed this. Everybody listening, again, go to http://energyblueprint.flywheelsites.com/paleo. Go enter this VIP contest. Again, you can get all kinds of amazing prizes. There’s a $5,000 prize package that includes airfare, hotel, and two VIP badges to the Paleo (f)x event. There’s also all kinds of other prizes. http://energyblueprint.flywheelsites.com/paleo.
Also, I’m a speaker at this year’s event. As I said before at the beginning, this is going to be an epic, must-attend event. Really, if you go to any health event in 2020, this is the one to go to. Of course, I’m going to say, you definitely don’t want to miss my talk. On a personal note, Keith, I want to say thank you to choosing me to be a speaker at this event. It’s a big honor for me. I know you guys get, I think like 500 applications or something from people reaching out to you to speak there, so it’s a big honor for me that you guys and Michelle actually came to me and reached out wanting me to be a speaker there, so thank you, really a big honor for me. I’m super excited to go. Again, thank you for coming on the show, and everyone listening, go to Paleo (f)x.
Keith Norris: Thank you, Ari.
Workout Hacks, Tribe, Paleof(x), Plant Medicines with Keith Norris - Show Notes
Paleo f(x) and why it is important for health (3:13)
The importance of tribe (13:50)
How plant medicines affect your body and health (22:07)
The best workout hacks for optimal body composition (39:08)
If you want to win a ticket to the Paleo f(x). You just have to sign up with your name and email to be entered into a drawing to win a $5000 prize package that includes airfare, hotel, and two VIP badges to the Paleo f(x) event!