Fitness is a measure of the body’s work capacity.

Three indicators to evaluate fitness: 
Strength. Endurance. Skill

Three levers for improving fitness:
Stress. Recovery. Food.


Strength can be divided into three characteristics: capacity, alignment and mobility

Capacity is the measure usually associated with strength and is usually associated soley with muscles, ‘how much can you bench?’. A more nuanced approach I learned from Coach Christopher Sommers is to recognize there are three components to strength: bones, tendons and muscles and they all have different stress and recovery timelines.

Alignment is positioning. Bones are held in position by tension in muscles and tendons. Proper alignment maximizes power output and requires balanced tension. Posture is the most visible indicator of alignment.

Mobility is range of motion. To optimize fitness, mobility requires a balance between flexibility and tension. Hypermobility reduces work capacity and increases the possibility of injury. Limited range of motion reduces work capacity and increases the possibility of injury.


Endurance is determined by the bodies ability to store, release and burn fuel. For simplicity, fuel can be divided into three categories: sugar, fat and blends

Anaerobic (absence of oxygen) endurance is fueled by glycogen (sugar) stored in the muscle. Effort at levels above the heart’s ability to supply blood with fresh oxygen are generally limited to two minutes or less. When anaerobic endurance thresholds are exceeded, muscles begin to shut down from acidosis (build up of hydrogen ions).

Aerobic (with oxygen) endurance is fueled by fat. The average body can be fueled by fat for well over a month (45 – 60+ days as a rough estimate).

Most exercise is fueled by a blend of sugar and fat with the proportion determined by the amount of oxygen available. For the average person at 65% VO2 max, a 50/50 blend of sugar and fat are burned with the sugar provided by triglycerides stored in tissue and glycogen stored in the liver. ‘The Wall’ in marathons or ‘bonking’ is primarily a result of depleting glycogen stores in the body. In a fasted state (ketosis), the body burns a blend of fat and ketones manufactured from fat by the liver to conserve sugar.

Metabolic chemistry is more complicated and involves other means of producing ATP (fuel), but characterizing the duration of effort (< 10 sec < 2:00 min < 4 hours) and the amount of effort (% of max heart rate) is a good way to develop a training and fueling strategy.


Skills consists of cues and direction of applied force. Skill is the demonstration of coordination. Coordination consists of muscles fired by cues from the senses. Said a different way, coordination is the right muscles fired by the right cues to generate force in the right direction. 

Stress & Recovery For Fitness

Fitness is different than health. At elite levels of athletics, health is often compromised to increase fitness. For the military and first responders, optimum fitness is often a higher necessity for survival than optimum health (longevity).
Although the goals are different, the same stress & recovery loads (physical, mental and emotional) are useful for prioritizing training.
The type, quantity and duration of load and recovery are adjusted to make specific impacts on the strength, endurance and skill indicators listed above.

The indicators listed above provide higher fidelity on where work capacity (fitness) can be improved. 

Food For Fitness

Like stress and recovery, food can also be used as a lever for improving fitness but the intent is different.

The quantity and sources of sugar and fat in the diet will directly effect body composition and the ability of the body to store, release and burn fuel.

While ingredients from plants and animals can easily provide all the required nutrients for an average person, high work outputs may require concentrated supplements with the associated risk of toxicity.


Health is a measure of how well the body is working.

Three levers for improving health:
Stress. Recovery. Food.

Three indicators to evaluate health:
Digestion. Inflammation. Hormones. 

Stress & Recovery

Stress and recovery are both required for health. The type and amount of recovery depends on the type and amount of stress.

Stress can be divided into three categories: physical, mental and emotional.  

Physical stress is load placed on the bones, tendons and muscles. Physical recovery happens when the load is reduced. Load is characterized by both quantity and duration and can be broken into three levels: atrophy, adaptation or injury.

Thinking creates mental stress (firing neurons). Mental recovery happens during sleep. Recovery is required to clear out the byproducts of neural activity and replenish fuel for thought. Learning (forming and strengthening neural connections) also takes place during recovery.

Emotional stress releases hormones. For health, two types of hormone releases are particularly important: Flow & Distress. Emotional recovery from flow requires relaxation to recharge hormone levels. Emotional recovery from distress requires identifying and removing the cause of the distress, relaxation to heal and flow to establish a healthier hormone profile.


Food can be broken down into three categories: plants, animals and unknowns

Different combinations of food will produce different levels of enjoyment for different periods of time. Being familiar with the effects of food on digestion, inflammation and hormones provides the best opportunity for selecting food which provides the most enjoyment for the longest period of time.


Digestion can be broken down into three parts: stomach acid, gut walls and gut flora. Stomach acid plays a critical role in both disinfecting whatever is consumed and digestive signaling. The gut walls and gut flora play vital roles in  absorbing nutrients and maintaining the body’s protective barrier.


Inflammation is the bodies quick response mechanism. Inflammation is a generic immune response composed of heat, swelling, pain, redness and loss of function.  Excessive or chronic inflammation is both an indication of chronic illness and a cause of chronic illness. 


Hormones work well as indicators because they have effects which are easily noticed. Mood, energy and body composition are all driven by hormones and can all be adjusted using the levers of stress, recovery and food.

Stamatis Moraitis

In 1976, Stamatis Moraitis left Florida and returned to his boyhood home on the Greek Island of Ikaria to die.

He had been living in the United States since 1943. America had become his new home and he had lived the Amercian dream. He had found work, got married, bought a house, bought a car and raised a family.

Thirty-three years after arriving in America, Stamatis was diagnosed with lung cancer. He received three second opinions. All three doctors confirmed the diagnosis. Stamatis was in his early sixties at the time of the diagnosis and the doctors estimated he had between six and nine months left to live. Funeral expenses were cheaper on Ikaria so he figured he would die there and leave more money behind for his wife.

He and his wife traveled back to Ikaria and moved in with his elderly parents. He spent his days in bed resting while his wife and mother cared for him. After a few days, his childhood friends started visiting in the afternoon, staying for a couple of hours and a couple bottles of wine. On Sundays he would walk up the hill to church.

Weeks passed, then months, then years. He planted some vegetables.

He added a couple rooms to the house. He got the family vineyard running again. He started producing wine, slowly at first, eventually working up to 400 bottles a year. By the time he reached his seventies the cancer was gone.

Stamatis continued to work in the vineyard until he died in 2013 at the age of 98 (or 102 depending on who you asked). He never found out why the cancer disappeared.

The Mediterranean Diet

I learned about Stamatis from Dan Buettner’s article in the New York Times and his book The Blue Zones. Dan Buettner met Stamatis while he was working on a National Geographic project studying areas of the world with the highest concentrations of 100 year olds (which the researchers had labeled blue zones).

In his book, Dan describes the Ikarian diet as a typical Mediterranean diet, “breakfast of goat’s milk, condensed wine, sage tea or coffee, and honey and bread. Lunch was almost always beans (lentils, garbanzos), potatoes, greens (fennel, dandelion, or a spinach- like green called horta ), and whatever seasonal vegetable their garden produced; dinner was bread and goat’s milk…meat was reserved mostly for festivals or holidays…”

When Dan last talked to Stamatis in 2012, it had been 35 years since Stamatis had gone back to Greece to die. Dan asked Stamatis how he had recovered from cancer:

“It just went away,” he said. “I actually went back to America about ten years after moving here to see if the doctors could explain it to me.”
“What happened?” [Dan] asked.
“My doctors were all dead.”

Next week we’ll visit a village in Norway where there are no fresh vegetables for eight months of the year, meet a man who cut off nine toes with a pocket knife and examine three factors behind the confusion in dietary advice (then we can start building a plan from the foundation of these stories).

Here’s Dan’s article from the New York Times and a picture of Stamatis:
The Island Where People Forget To Die


Dr. Terry Wahls

Dr. Terry Wahls
If you were diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), you would want all the resources Dr. Terry Wahls had at her disposal.

MS is a degenerative neurological autoimmune disease. The body’s immune system literally attacks it’s own nervous system. As the disease progresses, the victim slowly loses the ability to move.

Dr. Wahls is a licensed internal medicine doctor and has access to the top specialists in the country. After her diagnosis in 2000, she traveled to the Cleveland Clinic where she saw the best doctors and took the latest drugs.

None of the drugs worked.

Her condition steadily deteriorated and by 2007 Dr. Wahls required two canes to walk and could no longer support her own weight while sitting in a chair.

Dr. Wahls began to experiment on herself.

She found promising research on mice and, with the help of the doctors she was seeing, she converted the mouse size doses of supplements into human size doses. The deterioration slowed.

Change your food. Change your health.

Dr. Wahls focused her attention on the sub-cellular chemical reactions occurring in the brain and in mitochondria. She came up with a list of vitamins and minerals to fuel those chemical reactions. She did more research and came up with a list of food which provided the nutrients she was after and many more. She ended up with a diet which focused on meat and vegetables and avoided sugar, seed oils, eggs, dairy, beans and grains.

If you watch her TEDx talk, Dr. Wahls is understandably passionate about a hunter-gatherer approach to eating, it literally saved her life. Four months after starting her modified paleo diet to heal her body and electrical muscle stimulation to regrow muscle, Dr. Wahls was walking without a cane again. Nine months after starting her diet she was able to complete an 18 mile bike ride.

Paleo is one approach. “What should I eat?” is such a tough question because we all respond to food differently. I’ll talk more about Dr. Wahls later, but in the next installment I’d like to introduce you to a man who beat cancer eating a diet containing three of the big paleo forbidden foods: beans, grains and dairy.

Dr. Terry Wahls’ TEDx Talk



9 June 2015. Changed “Recovery through food” to “Change your food. Change your health.” based on a reader question on the list of specific nutrients Dr . Wahls developed. Her improvements were due to additions and subtractions to her diet. article – Does diet matter



1) Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D are tightly linked.

2) Bones provide the primary storage site for calcium.

3) There is increasing evidence elevated levels of calcium can cause calcification (hardening) of soft tissue, to include arteries (increasing the risk of heart disease).

Dangers calcium – magnesium imbalance

Welcome. is focused on one question:

“How do I improve health & fitness?”

Website Organization

Email Sign-Up.  I periodically provide email updates on what I’m up to and highlights of information I find particularly interesting.  My goal for my emails is to keep the brain power commitment low enough for people like my wife. My wife is smarter than I am and she is a believer in health and fitness but she does not want to spend limited time and energy reading about the nuances of the Krebs cycle.

Notes. The notes are peeks behind the curtain at the sausage making. I wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re like me and really enjoy geeking out on physiology. The notes are in various stages of development, which means they are not always easy to follow. The notes are posted because I believe there is opportunity in openly sharing information. The notes page also has an archive of the blog posts from the first year of the site (May 2013 – May 2014).

People. While there are still many, many unknowns about health and fitness, there are also a lot of intelligent people working on the same questions. The “people” page has a list of individuals pushing the boundaries and providing me with ideas and inspiration.



Eat To Be Healthy
– Eat real food
– Pay attention to how you feel
– Fix systems, not symptoms
(…more info)

Move To Be Capable
– Mobility before coordination
– Coordination before strength
– Strength before endurance
(…more info)

Think To Be Ready
– Choose your goals
– Identify indicators
– Memorize
(…more info)

Connect To Be Effective
– Connect
– Generate curiosity
– Provide a path
(…more info)

Recover To Be Functional
– Relax
– Sleep
(…more info)


Top 3 Recommendations
The Talent Code
The Art of the Long View
Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception

Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception

Stress and Your Body

Secrets of Sleep Science: From Dreams to Disorders

Biology: The Science of Life

The Paleo Solution
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Nourishing Traditions

The Talent Code
Anatomy Trains
Becoming a Supple Leopard

How Will You Measure Your Life?
The Art of the Long View
Moonwalking with Einstein

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

Chris Kresser – Heart Disease
Chris Kresser – Thyroid
Chris Kresser – Reflux

Breaking Muscle – Mobility Routine
Breaking Muscle – Overtraining
Catalyst Athletics
Eva Twardokens

Seth Godin
Gaping Void

Website Organization

The home page serves as a Table of Contents. It provides an overarching structure for the information in the posts.

I shifted to the table of contents approach in April 2014. Original posts from July 2013 through February 2014 are still available in the monthly archives.

As I fill in more details, I’ll update the home page and link to the new material. My goal is for all supporting information for the health and nutrition focus points to be available from the home page in three clicks or less.