Monday , 15 July 2024
Home Ben Greenfield Corner Ancient Training Secrets for Modern Fitness with James Pieratt
Ben Greenfield Corner

Ancient Training Secrets for Modern Fitness with James Pieratt

From podcast:

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:00:59] Who is James Pieratt of Wild Hunt Conditioning?

[00:03:19] What is a hybrid athlete?

[00:10:01] Fueling stuff for an ultra-marathon through the Sonora desert

[00:12:56] Supplements for sleep deprivation and salt intake

[00:17:08] Ancient warrior cultures

[00:26:16] The English longbowman and what it took to pull back

[00:30:01] The second book about warrior training through history

[00:31:20] James Pieratt’s functional fitness training programs

[00:35:57] Aztecs and weighted running

[00:37:51] What did Spartans eat?

[00:41:53] Abraham Lincoln and George Wahington as athletes

[00:47:42] The best all-around athlete in history – Donald Denny

[00:49:57] How did Walt Whitman get into James’ Book?

[00:53:23] James’s daily routine and his kettlebell program

[00:57:51] Ancient Israeli warrior guerilla tactics 

[01:01:22] Closing the Podcast

[01:02:09] End of Podcast

[01:03:10] Legal Disclaimer

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

James:  The Spartans themselves had a very, very strong preference for game meat over cultivated meat. Deer and wild boar. They also ate a lot of wild hair and birds, small to medium-sized game. They also, you may have heard of this, were famous for their Spartan black soup. And, this was soup that was made from pig’s blood, vinegar, and usually just some chunks of pork thrown in there also. The two things that stood out though were the blood soup and then, of course, Greek mountain tea. I drink it myself now.

Ben:  Fitness, nutrition, biohacking, longevity, life optimization, spirituality and a whole lot more. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Life show. Are you ready to hack your life? Let’s do this.

Alright, check this out, this book by James Pieratt. James, is that how you pronounce your last name? Pieratt?

James:  You’re actually the first person in history to get that right, I believe.

Ben:  Yeah, it’s my long history of studying the written language and interviewing lots of people with funky last names. James Pieratt. Folks, if you don’t know who he is, you should. So, I discovered James, I believe, on his Instagram channel. I don’t follow that many people on Instagram. And, by not that many, I suppose probably a touch above a 100. But anyways, James has this Instagram channel. It’s Wild Hunt Conditioning. And, what attracted me to it is it’s got all of these crazy epic workout routines and physical fitness histories of everybody from U.S. presidents like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington to the Spartans, the ancient Indians, the Chinese warriors. And, as a guy who’s a little bit of a fitness junkie myself and who gets inspired by these tales of just crazy workouts and routines and mental and physical rigor, I just thought his Instagram channel was incredible. And then, I found out he just wrote a book. It’s called “A History of Physical Fitness.” I think you probably should have adjusted the title, James, and had it read something like “A Badass History of Physical Fitness” or “A History of Masochism.”

James:  Accurate.

Ben:  But anyways, though. So, I’ll link to the book if you guys want to check it out and to James’ channel at is where I’ll link to everything.

But, James himself is pretty incredible. He’s a wilderness ultramarathon runner and a record-breaking hybrid strength and endurance athlete. I’ll let him explain to you what a hybrid athlete is. Pretty intense focus on functional fitness. And so, yeah, from the secret training halls of ancient Sparta to the arctic strength-building methods of the Inuit to the underwater world of these aquatic superhuman tribes in the South Pacific. His book breaks it down. He studies this stuff. It’s just fascinating, so I’m super excited.

So, I got to ask you though because a lot of people might not really be familiar with what a hybrid athlete is. How do you describe that?

James:  Your baseline description of a hybrid athlete in the modern traditional sense would be someone with a pretty reasonable grasp on both strength and endurance. Now, this could be someone who just runs and is a bodybuilder and kind of divides time between the two or alternates blocks. But, those are their main focuses, is generally juggling strength and endurance. My personal focus on it is a little full spectrum. When I think of what I strive for in my personal training goals would be like, what’s the perfect guy you’d want with you in a war band like 5,000 years ago or a hunting party? Strength, endurance, technicality, cognitive development, a complete human being beyond that.

Ben:  Right. Preferably can cook a backstrap okay also.

James:  Oh, yeah, preferably. Clutch skill. So, yeah, for me, my personal training. Maybe not to the extent that you have as far as I’ve seen. You’ve done pretty much everything under the sun in terms of training. My own training breakdown kind of has different elements of powerlifting, kettlebells, obviously trail running. I don’t do much street running just because it doesn’t really appeal to me. And then, for a long time, I didn’t really have access to trails so I got kind of burnt out on just running on flat cement in a smoggy city. And then, martial arts, jiu-jitsu, boxing, pretty much a little bit of everything, honestly. And then, I like bow hunting. My dad’s an Appalachian bear hunter.

Ben:  Oh, really?

James:  Yeah. My background would be son of a bear hunter. And then, my mom’s Japanese, and she’s descended from the Minamoto, which is one of the early samurai families. So, it’s kind of where a lot of my interest in history comes from.

Ben:  Yeah. That’s a pretty good genetic makeup. With the hybrid athlete approach, I think in the past, I’ve seen some folks who probably fit in that category classify their proficiency at hybrid training by defining their deadlift strength and their mile time or their marathon time. Do you track anything like that? How much can you deadlift and how fast can you run a marathon?

James:  So, I remember a while back hearing, I believe it was a CrossFit thing, that can you deadlift 500 and run a sub-five-minute mile.

Ben:  Yeah, something like that.

James:  Yeah, yeah. So, I never intentionally leaned into any of that, but I did early on my very first hybrid test was I just wanted to be able to deadlift over 500 and then go straight into a 50-mile run and it just finished, nothing crazy like time-wise or anything. And, this was still pretty early. I’d been doing hybrid training for maybe eight months or so when I attempted this. And, I ended up pulling 520 pounds at Mark Smelly Bell’s gym in Sacramento, spotted by Andrey Malanichev.

Ben:  I’ve worked out on that gym.

James:  Oh, yeah, it’s a great gym. Spotted by Andrey Malanichev no less. One of the greatest powerlifters of all time. He got pulls over [00:06:30] _____. And then, went out to Folsom Lake and the American River Trail kind of along there and ran a 50-miler. And, that was pretty interest.

Actually, honestly, everything went pretty entirely smoothly up to mile 38, but I was still a pretty new Ultra Runner and I just spent a little too much time in the chair and my legs just never came back. So, the last 12 miles of the 50-mile run took almost the exact same time as the first 38.

Ben:  Yeah.

James:  Yeah, just dragging, limping. You what I mean. But, got it done and had a blast. And so, I never really looked back.

And then, I think the next after that, one or two after that was the world record thing, the weighted running world record, which was a complete accident. I didn’t set out to break a world record, I just wanted to see. I was really experimenting with completely unsupported non-stop running. So, it’s like if I have everything on my back, and in theory, I shouldn’t have to stop moving indefinitely, right? So, how long could I go for?

And so, the pack on my back ended up being about 35 pounds because you need a lot more water and food and stuff plus a little emergency kit stuff in case something–

Ben:  Watermelons, sweet potatoes.

James:  Yeah, all the stuff. Well, you do try to get the stuff that gets you hydrated and calories for the same weight. And then, I went for it, so ended up going over 33 hours without stopping once without breaking locomotion a single time or even stride. And, in doing so broke the weighted running world record, which had been the guy had run 69 miles with a 30-pound weighted vest in Australia a year or two before this. And, it’s pretty niche record. So, I’m sure it’ll be broken many, many more times in the years to come.

Ben:  Is that how much weight you have to use, 30-pounds?

James:  His record was just the specific record he set was 30 pounds for 69 miles. And then, I went 35, ended up being 116 miles, I think like that. So, I broke it pretty considerably with slightly heavier weight.

Ben:  And, does the 35 pounds include the food and fuel that you’re carrying?

James:  Yeah. So, we had a variable. The weight would have varied between 32.5 and 37.5 pounds, but just based off the exact water volume that I was carrying. But, we had it set up to where I could refill water without stopping by tying water bottles hanging just disposable bottles from tree branches with a red ribbon wrapped around them so I could see them in the dark, you know what I mean, along the trail and I could just grab and switch out my bottles as we went. And so, it was pretty efficient. 

Well, I’m pretty slick at the time. I’ve come to mature quite a bit in terms of running logistics and backcountry stuff now. And then, I was also aided in that one by the fact that there was almost no inclines.

Ben:  Yeah, just thinking about that. As you’re talking, my mind goes to what I would select as fuel to get through something like that. I think if I had to choose, I’d probably go with something like Keto Bricks. Those are a thousand calories of bar.

James:  Yep.

Ben:  Ketones. Just some of those little liquid ketone shop bottles. And then, besides electrolytes, I’d probably throw in glycerol like hyperhydrated body.

James:  I like glycerol.

Ben:  Yeah. Yeah, yeah, creatine would be an okay option. But yeah, I’d at least go glycerol, Keto Bricks, and ketones. I think that would cover most my basis assuming I had salt.

James:  Yeah. So, actually this is a perfect segue. And so, I got back late last night from the Sonora Desert. And, I guess this will be the official announcement for it. I have successfully run an ultramarathon through the hottest desert on the planet, which is the Sonora Desert, which by now with satellite imagery. We’re able to measure surface temperatures the entire planet. And, Sonora has measured as high as 177 degrees.

Ben:  Wow.

James:  There’s the whole Death Valley air temperature thing from almost 100 years ago, but now, we have pretty accurate reading. So, Sonora now.

So, I got back late last night right above the Mexican border in Southern California. It would be southeastern California right above the Mexico border and ran approximately 200 miles in about 87.5 hours. And, this was probably the biggest physical test of my life, but the fueling stuff specifically, we had to get really dialed in with. And, it might interest you what we went with.

So, speaking of just on-the-move fuel in my bladder, what I had is a product called Skratch Recovery.

Ben:  For people who think he’s talking about his physical bladder, the bladder is the camelback-style device that you carry fluids in. Yeah.

James:  Yeah. I carry a 3-litter water bladder camelback in my back, which is bigger than the traditional 2 liters that go out but it’s just get me a little bit longer range at the expense of a little bit more weight just to win.

Ben:  Yeah.

James:  Yeah. So, Skratch Recovery and it’s just a composite carbohydrate protein and electrolyte mix that uses milk powder as its base to provide. And then, they add in a little bit of dextrose cane sugar. The one I was drinking was mostly horchata-flavored. They got some cinnamon stuff in there too.

Ben:  Yeah, pretty precisely dialed in, though. Because I interviewed–isn’t that Allen Lim?

James:  Yeah, yeah, that’s Allen.

Ben:  Yeah. So, Allen used to be our physiologist for Team Timex back when I race triathlon. And, his whole Skratch Labs cookbook and his supplements are very well-designed. If you go try to mix milk powder and dextrose and salts on your own, the problem–and, I interviewed Allen back in the day. I’ll hunt it down and link to it in the shownotes. But, the osmolality has to be very precise dialed in. I forget the percentage that he uses, but if you exceed it, you wind up drawing up way too much water into the GI tract and you get diarrhea and gastric upset. But, they do a pretty good job with formulation at scratch. And then, I believe with that milk powder, you get the advantage of some of the similar components as colostrum that help to seal up the lining of the leaky gut, which I would imagine would be pretty helpful for gut permeability in hot weather like the Saharan desert.

James:  Oh, yeah. And, he has a little probiotic strain, lactobacillus strain thrown in that one too as well. But yeah, so they actually went out to Skratch a couple months ago and they did my personal electrolyte panel. Tested my sweat and found that I am super salty. I’m like 880 nanograms per mL, whatever the metric was. The normal person, I think, is in the 380 range and I’m 880. So, I added additional. We talked about how much additional pink salt we should mix. I added creatine not just for the gut and brain health and muscle function, but also, I recently saw some research that indicated megadosing creatine could really help offset some of the effects of sleep deprivation. And, I had played with that during a 100-mile training run when my training peak going into this and felt really good. So, I stuck with that and I felt amazing. I mean, I felt great all the way through. And, I don’t consume caffeine. Well, very little bit. But, the only caffeine I got during the entire 84 or I’m sorry 87.5 hours was Dr. Pepper. I drink Dr. Pepper pretty consistently during the daytime.

Ben:  Yeah, my go-to was a flat Coke when I used to race Ironman, just grabbing it from aid stations. Creatine, that’s true. It’s a good tip. I mean, obviously, you got to be careful because similar to too high in osmolality of fluid, the creatine can give you a little gastric upset if you exceed about 2.5 grams in your dosing schedule. But yeah, for sleep deprivation, it is true, 10 to 20 grams a day more than the 5 grams, a lot of people will load with for strength and power, has good effects on cognition and sleep deprivation. And then, NAD is kind of the second part of that stack if you want to upgrade a little more. Yeah, NAD and creatine are kind of the go-to. Matter of fact, I had to get up this morning at about 3:00 a.m. just with some intensive work duties I had to tackle. So, I’ve been on creatine and NAD since about 3:30 this morning.

And, that’s also interesting what you noted about Allen and your sweat sodium test because he came out to Timex and we did a similar analysis with the patches. I was very similar to you. I’m at 3x the amount of electrolyte loss. And so, when he tested me, I guess it was probably eight years ago. I increased my daily salt intake to 6 grams and it was a game-changer for sleep, performance, for cramping, for recovery. And now, from what I’ve seen, even though I don’t know they’re as good as getting tested by a physiologist or out at Skratch Labs or whatever, you can buy the Gatorade patches on Amazon now and do your own at-home sweat sodium analysis.

James:  I didn’t even know that. That’s pretty cool.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. So, folks could figure this out at home if they want to kind of dial it in. I don’t know how good those patches are compared to the physiology lab measurements.

James:  Well, you could use the old method we used in MMA and jiu-jitsu and just compare your gis after training and see whose is wider.

Ben:  Yeah. It won’t tell you the salt composition but at least it’ll tell you your fluid loss.

James:  Yeah, yeah. Well, no, the more white crust on the gi, the more salt you lose, right?

Ben:  Oh, yeah, for the white crust. Absolutely.

James:  We used to joke around, but honestly, that’s probably a pretty good method if you were to, you know what I mean? 

Ben:  It is except for the fact that that salt intake drives salt loss. So, sometimes people will show no white crust. But then, if they’re using a much of electrolytes, they’ll show it. So, you got to control for that a little bit. But, man, you have done some crazy things. So, I ate chicken and played Scrabble last night and you ran the Saharan Desert yesterday.

James:  Dude, no, no. So, it was from Tuesday morning to Friday night of last week.

Ben:  Okay.

James:  But, still chicken and Scrabble sounds–me and my wife were just talking about that. We’re not really big socializers, we’re kind of introverted home bodies and we live up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. So, just talking about kind of getting back into some board games and she gets more competitive than do I though ironically. So, it will go down, no doubt. But, I like simple things. I think it’s important to keep your world small if you want to do big things.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. Well, speaking of big things, let’s lead with the big stuff. In writing this book, we don’t have time to cover every last population and individual that you looked into, but I’m just curious for you as the author. Who is your favorite in terms of the population or the individual?

James:  It’s really hard to narrow it down, obviously, but you’re always going to have those one or two cultures that maybe kind of speak to you a little bit more than anything else. And, for me, it’s pretty much the Spartans and then certain Native American warrior cultures like the Apache and the Comanche. The Spartans, I think particularly I find them interesting. There’s peak eras and clans within the samurai era where maybe you can see something comparable, but for the most part, the Spartans are really the only time that we see in human history, what is a culture completely devoted to war and physical perfection and war look like. And, I mean, it’s everything, everything that they did for centuries was just dedicated to becoming physical apex predators on the battlefield and in the Olympic games.

I mean, I think there was something like they were entire [00:18:22] _____ be like 80 years that passed where no one won a Pankration gold medal except to Spartan. That’s just an absolute dominance.

Ben:  The Pankration was the ancient form of MMA, right?

James:  Yeah. I mean, no holds bar to MMA, punching, kicking, there were knockouts. Apparently, the ancient records say that submissions were more common than knockouts, but knockouts were pretty common. And, the thing was there were no time limits or weight classes so you went until one guy literally physically could not go, whether it was due to he was just too fatigued to defend himself and he got pounded out or choked out, whatever. But, there were no round and no classes.

Ben:  It’s sounds kind of like this football match that I took my family to in Italy. Yeah, the calcio storico. We went to it and it’s basically, I think, it’s like 25, 30 guys on either side. And, the only object of the game is to get the ball from one end of the field to the other and throw it over the fence. And, pretty much anything is allowed, punching, kicking, holding, dropping, wrestling, grappling, anything. And, it was a spectacle, man.

James:  Dude. There’s a very small percentage of the population on Earth that will ever see that with their own eyes. That’s awesome that you got to.

Ben:  Yeah. And, of course, there’s ambulances and people getting drag out on stretchers throughout the game. It took a good 45 minutes for the actual game to start due to riots and fights and that false starts. But, once it got going, holy cow, it was incredible.

I was just going to ask you a little bit about the way that the Spartans trained if you’ve been able to dig into and find out what an average training day would look like for a Spartan warrior.

James:  So, it’s really interesting because we have to understand contextually is the Spartans were enigmas and mysteries even in their own time. They spoke a different language than the other Greeks. They were from a different wave of immigration. They were they were from an older population on the Greece that was there the Dorian Greeks as opposed to the later Messinian Greeks that say most of the other ancient Greek city-states were descended from.

So, Spartans really they were kind of ancient mysterious in 500 BC. And they didn’t let people come into their country unless they were invited such as emissaries from other countries, certain messengers. They were very extremely xenophobic in general or worse, but they were very tribal, clan-like in their own way. But yeah, no, definitely no open borders. But, having said that, we know about my approach. Generally, most people when confronted with this question would either avoid it or just kind of make some shit up. That wasn’t good enough for me. Not even as integrity as an author but just my curiosity.

So, I started looking at like, okay, let’s start with what events that they won because they would compete against other Greeks, right? And, if you’re winning an event, it stands to reason. So, we started there, then I went to some of the visitors and some of the people that would go particularly when the Athenians would be trying to court the Spartans to join a war against the Persians or against whoever. You know what I mean. They’d send messengers and they would see–sometimes the Spartans would even do a little psychological thing where they’d arrange a training session in front of visiting dignitaries just to be like, “Yeah, this is what our guys can do.” You know what I mean?

Wrestling and grappling were huge. I’m sure you’re familiar, but many listeners might not know what a [Hal tier] is, which is a stone/kettlebell. It came in many different shapes, but it’s kind of a unique hand weight carved from stone. And, the Spartans were big on using these for traditional say dumbbell, kettlebell liftings but their main thing they used them for or a primary thing they used them for was jumping weights. They do long jumps and high jumps carrying these dumbbells in their hands.

Ben:  Oh, interesting.

James:  Oh, yeah, yeah. So, very cool plyometric. In short, plyometrics were a big part of Spartan training.

Ben:  Yeah, like weighted plyometrics though.

James:  Weighted plyometrics. And so, part of this and a lot of people today will think like, “Oh, you shouldn’t load your joints underweight.” And, I mean, maybe I’m biased as a weighted runner, you know what I mean, but it’s anything else. You apply a gradient of progression, just like someone shouldn’t deadlift 500 pounds if they’ve never deadlift or squat 500 pounds they’ve never been under a squat bar. Obviously, that would be bad for your joints too. So, if you’re building up to doing this the right way.

And then, of course, there was a race in the Olympics but the ancient Olympics called the hoplomachus. Basically, it shifted a little bit but generally, it was a 200 to 400-meter foot race in full armor carrying a shield, and the Spartans were dominant at this event. There’s ancient records that they’re dominant year after year. And basically, you’re running in a breastplate and greaves with a solid aspis shield or an ancient bronze-covered oak shield on one arm. And, I’ve never tried anything like this, but I cannot imagine how hard it would be to stabilize the asymmetry and weight from, you know what I mean, having one unburden armed and one arm carrying a 22-pound oak shield, and the size of it, the awkwardness and then the actual armor, but the Spartans were savage at this.

And apparently, there’s some rumor that this event was actually started with an ulterior motive in the Olympic Games, and that was to get the ancient Greek hoplites very, very good at running across a 2 to 400-meter range, which is coincidentally the effective range of the Persian bow, which was the main weapon of the Persian armies that were their main threat at that time. And so, basically, the idea was some clever guy was like, “Hey, let’s create an event but let’s make it really, really convenient for getting our guys to run across, to neutralize Persia’s biggest weapon in case it comes to a fight,” which it did.

At the Battle of Marathon, that was a big part of what happened. They basically, the two armies, the Greek and the Persian armies stood and looked at each other across a beach for two days. They’d line up. They just kind of mad dog each other and then be out there for hours and then they’d go back to camp. And, no one was really willing to make the first move. And then, on the third day, there was a Greek general who just like his omens, he woke up and ate his weedies or the omens were right, whatever it was. But, when the time was right, standing there, he just gave his men the order to raise shield and he just said “At them.” Just two words, at them, and the entire Greek army just rushed and they just engaged. It’s just a dead sprint, 400 meters across through the arrow fire and they smashed into the Persians. They think you’re going to take losses no matter what, but you’re sprinting across that space. It’s the only time for the Persians to get off a couple alleys and then you got armored guys who are bigger and stronger than you on you with spears and you have a wicker shield and a dagger and your bow is now useless.

And so, that was a pretty cool story. And, of course, that’s the origin of the marathon too.

Ben:  I’m just curious what you think of that 300 Spartan workout that was going around for a while.

James:  I don’t even know if I’ve seen it, but I’m going to guess that it probably wasn’t a hugely historically accurate representation of how they train.

Ben:  It’s deadlifts. I forget the whole thing. I did it with my sons. I told my sons that we could watch the Spartan movie, which I think might be based on that battle you were just describing.

James:  It was. I love that movie.

Ben:  And, I took them in the garage, I said, “You guys do this Spartan workout with me. If you can finish in an hour under, we’ll go into the basement and watch the movie.” So, they did the whole workout and then we went into basement and spent half of our time down there with their eyes covered or with a blanket pulled up over it because I kind of forgot how intense the violence and some of the other portrayal of graphic imagery gets in that movie. But yeah, I think the workout probably doesn’t come close to what you just described.

I want to come back to whether or not the Spartans actually did eat weedies because I am curious what you found out about their diet. But, I was just thinking as you were describing the bow, I think a lot of people hear that or they hear you and me talking about the bow. Maybe they’ve shot a recurve or a compound with the cams on it, which obviously makes the draw pretty easy. And again, I do want to come back to the Spartans, but you have a section in the book where you described, I think it was the English longbowman and what it actually took to pull back a bow or what actual arm strength was required for someone who was an archer.

James:  It was insane. Okay. So, for starters, these guys were not what you would call freak athletes. And, medieval England, these guys are 5’6 to 5’8. They’re in that 135 to 165, not giant humans. But, the thing is they start at a very, very early age by drawing bows. And, those bows get progressively larger and heavier. So, for instance, the source of the English military power during this ring, they didn’t have the powerful like the huge armies of knights and French cavalry like the French did. A lot of the mainland armies had big pike formations and stuff. England was, despite being a world power, they were just kind of a small backwater and their main military asset was their longbowmen. They shot bows that these average-sized dudes were shooting bows that were 6, 6.5 feet long made from yew wood, which is itself a pretty soft wood, very strong under compression though. Makes an excellent, excellent bow, especially if you use the sapwood on the–anyway, long story short, if you construct it right, you can take advantage of the natural properties of the tree and create a massive bow. They called this medieval machine gun because it was fired with such force and a skilled guy could just fire arrow after arrow after arrow and sort of support this military strength for their upper peasant class, the humanry to basically every Sunday you had to teach your sons how to practice at any given opportunity. They had fairs with archery contests with massive prizes, heavily incentivized being good at the bow.

And so, these guys got really good at the bow and to the point that it actually changed their physiology. And now, there’s archaeologists when they’re investigating medieval battle sites, they can pull skeletons out of the ground and look at a skeleton without any equipment at all and say, “Hey, that guy right there almost certainly was an English longbowman.” The reason for this is because the bones in their arm their shoulder formations and the muscle attachments are actually so much more robust and thick not only than the average person but then they’re on one side versus the other. So, if you pull and the guy’s right humorous bone is twice as thick, his shoulder is more robust and you can tell all the muscle attachments were giant on that side, a longbowman.

Ben:  Yeah. Almost like if you were to dig up 100 years from now an NBA basketball player, you’d look at the tibial tuberosity and know that they were a jumper.

James:  Yeah. Even an arm wrestler, like that guy Devon, whatever. One of his arms is huge. You know what I mean? But, it’s amazing. You said bone density. So, it’s super, super cool.

Ben:  And, it was 150 pounds, I mean, without the cams.

James:  Oh, some of them got up to 200. That’s the thing too. That’s the thing. And, they have guys now that can pull accurate reproductions of these bows, but the thing is these guys are 250-pound. Some of them are actual strong men that they have to have.

Ben:  And, for anybody listening in, I mean if you walk up to the cable machine, if you have the gym next time, just put the stack on at least 150 and try a single arm row and tell me how that goes.

James:  Yeah. No, 100%, bro. I recently did some online content.

By the way, new news dropped this morning. I started my second book, actually, that will focus on warrior training, specifically.

Ben:  So, the book that you’re writing now, it’s basically more training program-based?

James:  No. So, this will be research-based academic but readable. So, it’s basically I’m going to pick out, maybe 20, I’ve got maybe 12 of them so far, 20 good warrior cultures. The Spartans and Gladiators will be in it. Oh, Gladiators, I got some good stuff on them. Spartans and Gladiators. We’ll have Plains Indians. We’ll have, you know what I mean, your Aztecs and your Incas, your Samurai. And, it’s going to be a deeper dive into each culture. Whereas, the first book, it was cool but it was meant to introduce people to the idea of, “Hey, this is what I geek out on. This exists. Here’s a little sampling of a million different things from ancient boxers to Spartans and Gladiators,” like little sample platter so to speak. Now, I’d like to kind of really dive in and flesh out starting with the warrior training, specifically.

And so, it won’t be sets and reps or anything like that, literally just be academically like, alright, this is how they trained. This is what they ate. This is what, you know what I mean, the way they fought in battle and why they trained like this in this specific way.

Ben:  Yeah. But, you do have a training program. I think you wrote about the book, it’s like Rocky meets Muhammad Ali meets Mike Tyson type of training plan.

James:  Yeah. So actually, I believe last, my people checked, I’m in the top three functional fitness training program distributors on the planet. And so, I write and program training. So, training programs, books, and seminars are kind of my bread and butter beyond the athlete stuff.

Ben:  If somebody was listening in and they wanted to try a training program on for size, what would be a good one to try?

James:  So, over at, actually one of my goals is to be also the biggest free program distributor in the fitness game. So, most of the stuff over there has at least you can try it for free or there’s free programs. The most recent one just, for example, I put out is a completely free program based on Berserker training, Viking Berserkers. These guys were the guys that ate psilocybin, went into–

Ben:  I was going to say, does your book come with henbane and psilocybin extract?

James:  Oh, yeah. You and me can discuss the legality of that. We find a workaround. That might be, but yeah. And again, the Berserkers themselves, they didn’t leave written records. There’s no specific workout things. However, we can also reproduce Viking strongman movements that were used broad spectrum. We can also extrapolate certain things based off performance factors.

There was a guy about 1,000 years ago who walked three steps carrying a 1,400-pound 30-foot sheep’s mask on his back. And, it was a feat that all the modern strong men tried to replicate. Eddie Hall tried it, failed. All these guys, Nick failed, all these guys. Hafþór Björnsson was the only one who could manage it. And, we’re talking a thousand years before performance-enhancing drugs of the modern kind even existed. And so, you can look at these and be like, “Okay. So obviously, this guy’s walking with something heavy on his back if he’s going to train.” And then, you hear training with sheep masks, training with bags of rocks. You just get little scraps of things here and there. And so, I piece that together into a program that people can do for free at home. Literally, you can do it with bags of rocks, your buckets of rocks, its branches, its sticks, stones. The idea being that I could put out a primal cool training program that no one would ever have to pay a dollar for in terms of buying a program or a gym membership or any special equipment or anything like that.

And, that was honestly more exploratory. Most of my stuff is like alright, here’s how to get strong. If you have dumbbells, kettlebells, and/or barbells and you want to replicate the way or integrate the way that.

Ben:  One of my favorite books back in the day when I used to race Spartan was Zack Evan-Esh’s “Underground Encyclopedia of Strength Training.”

James:  I like that.

Ben:  And, it was all just rocks logs. Yeah, Zach’s got a great. It’s kind of a big-picture book but great training manual. Kind of sounds like the type of training systems you’re putting together.

James:  Yeah, yeah, pretty much. So, some of the training programs are based off my own stuff. So, it’s like if I go do something like last year, I ran across the state, I ran the Oregon section of the PCT. It’s 500 miles, about nine and a half days. And then, after that, people are asking, “How do you train for it? What do you do?” So, I just put out the training program. And, nothing crazy, not hundreds of dollars or thousand. Here’s 40 bucks or 50 bucks or whatever. And, it’s just exactly how I trained. It’s the Apache breathing method I used, you know what I mean, which is filling your mouth with water and basically going for high-intensity hill runs without spilling a drop of that water.

Ben:  Meaning forced nasal breathing.

James:  Forced nasal breathing. Also, mental control because everything in your body is going to want to swallow that water. Don’t swallow that water. Like, the Apache would have to spit it out for their instructor at the end. At the end of a training session, the young boys would have to spit it on the dirt and just prove that they hadn’t swallowed that water the whole time either. And then, the longer you run, you get this weird thing where you’re feeling thirst yet your mouth is full of water and all you want to do is swallow that water and drink it but you can’t. It’s good mental control. Get for nasal breathing.

Ben:  I used to have my sons follow me around the obstacle course with a mouth full of water. And, I jump in the ice tub while I was doing push-ups. This was back when they were six years old and they just chased out. And, they didn’t have to do any exercise, they just had to chase me with a mouth full of water.

James:  No, that’s awesome, bro. Yeah, with kids, you make it fun too and there’s nothing that they won’t just run straight towards. But, yeah.

So, I do stuff like that. I would do, like the Incas were known for running weighted, the Incas and the Aztecs were both known for running weighted. Well, some of it was for war, which is kind of cool, but honestly, a lot of it came from the fact that their rulers were hyper-rich emperors. And so, say you’re an Aztec Emperor and you’re chilling. Tenochtitlan is now Mexico City, which is a highland mountain flat capital. 

Like, me and my girl, we were in Soka, we stopped at Nobu and got some sushi. We probably would have driven down there and just eat there without any business being down there. But, if you’re some Aztec Emperor and you just decide that you want Nobu one day, all you have to do is send a guy to run 320 miles to the coast, get some fresh caught sashimi, and have it back. Have relay runners bring it back 320 miles in about 18 hours.

Ben:  Yeah, [00:36:59] _____.

James:  Yeah. So, same the thing. They would do that with snow and ice. The emperors would want a snow cone and literally just send a guy to run to the mountains in relays to bring back blocks of ice to be chiseled out. And then, of course, you’re seeing like they found cacao in the southwest, bro. Think about that. Like Anasazi cacao. Cacao comes from how many hundreds of miles away in the jungles. You know what I mean.

Ben:  Yeah. Somebody had to get it, you’re right.

James:  Yeah.

Ben:  And, they weren’t using horses?

James:  No, no. Horses weren’t even on the new world yet, bro. The horses didn’t come to the Spaniards. That’s why in the Native American messenger, runners were probably in terms of ultra, ultra, your hundreds and hundreds of miles of runners. They’re the best thing that we know of in terms of history within the last several thousand years.

Ben:  Wow, incredible. 

James:  Because they didn’t have, yeah, wheels or horses.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. I got to come back full circle to the Spartans because I promised, but what did they eat?

James:  You’re going to love this. So, in throughout the other Greek city-states, you had a lot of lamb, a lot of the same cheeses and olives and type stuff that we see today, a lot of figs. The Spartans themselves had a very, very strong preference for game meat over cultivated meat to the point that they eat deer and wild boar. They also ate a lot of wild hair and birds and like small to medium-sized game. And, they also, you may have heard of this, were famous, had a very negatively mixed reputation but were famous for their Spartan black soup. And, this was soup that was made from pig’s blood, vinegar, and usually just some chunks of pork thrown in there also, and essentially boiled and they ate it completely unflavored beyond adding some salt to it. But, the Spartans themselves sweared by this as a staple food, kind of a strong peasant’s food. And, they were also said to have blood sausage and stuff like that. But, like I said, they were big on game. So, the two things that stood out though were the blood soup and then, of course, Greek Mountain tea, which is still probably drink it myself now.

Ben:  Almost everything you’ve just listed is very rich in coenzyme Q10 and you find that a lot in game meat. So, you’re basically just fueling up the mitochondria for endurance.

James:  Yeah, that actually won the sport. Of course, Spartans above all, they were the best run. Spartathlon is one of the most famous ultras in the world that goes throughout the part of the world. The Spartans themselves were just, like I said, they were and oh, the other thing, they were without exception they trained barefoot; ran barefoot, lifted barefoot, fought in battles barefoot, completely barefoot too not like little leather slips, which are fine. I wear little simple kind of soleless type shoes, moccasins, and stuff myself, but the Spartans just pure barefoot. They made their children go barefoot. They trained barefoot. And, they swore you, once your feet were adapted, you could run faster. 

Ben:  Now, why would you pick them versus a couple of these other populations like the Indians or the ancient Chinese warriors who also seemed pretty impressive?

James:  They were all very impressive. And, let me be clear. The biggest thing in any scrap between any deadliest warrior matchup is always going to be the individual. You know what I mean. The baddest dude. But, the way I think about it is let’s say that two twin brothers at birth, they take their first steps and each one trips into a separate time machine. One goes to ancient Sparta and one goes to ancient China. You know what I mean? If those two guys meet in some sort of battle, the Spartan’s going to win if you ask me. However, there’s different types of battle. If you’re an aquatic warrior, you don’t want to get in a fight on a sand dune against an Arabian horsemen in North Africa or anything like that. But, for me, it comes under the level of dedication. The Chinese, they’ve created some great warriors, some great military, some great military minds. And, let’s be honest, it heavily influenced the way we work out to this day. 

Having said that, neither one of them were a society completely and utterly designed to create the perfect warrior, which is all the Spartans were. They were the only one. Like I said, you could isolate some like Takeda Shingen and his men in feudal Japan. They had a pretty badass clan that was pretty dedicated to war, but the Spartans, we’re talking hundreds and hundreds of years. How do we make the perfect guy? And then, of course, how do we make that guy think his entire life is just dedicated to the perfect death in defense of his nation?

Ben:  Right. That was their entire culture’s identity.

The interesting thing is that if you look at our current presidential candidacy, you would not expect a president to fall into any of the categories that you and I are right now talking about. But, you have not one but two presidents in the book, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

James:  Yep.

Ben:  Why did you put them in the book?

James:  So, the truth is there was no ulterior motive. They were both just freak athletes just by coincidence. I mean not by coincidence, obviously. Hard men from hard times who got hard men to follow them, so obviously they were capable of doing hard shit. But, the truth, George Washington was, I mean you almost can’t even credit for him. He was just born a freak athlete. Everyone who knew him they just talk about everything he tried he got good at quick. He had immense physical strength. His ability as a horseman was second to no one in the colony. You know what I mean. Rode like a native.

And, Abraham Lincoln was just a really good wrestler with crazy physical strength who did all sorts of actual wrestling matches, competitive wrestling matches, frontier wrestling matches, which would have been MMA-like kicks and punches would have been allowed in frontier wrestling, and went 301 propaganda side whether he actually went the Rickson Gracie style, 300 wins without anything going wrong. He won against every notable person that he faced. Even before he was president, people were willing to lie for him or say exaggerate abilities–

Ben:  301, geez. And, the style of wrestling was a little different then. I’m looking at this page. You describe it as, yeah, catch wrestling. What is that?

James:  Yeah. So, that would be basically wrestling with submissions but also, like I said in the frontier wrestling, there are a lot of times matches would have strikes. You would agree to the rule set but we shake hands with the guy and then you’d go do it and there could be small variations. Yeah, you could get choked out. You could get a heel hook or a toe hole that tore your knee or ankle apart. You know what I mean. Get knocked out. And so, that can happen. Yeah, very, very few.

Generally, no biting or eye gouging, which were in rough and tumble fighting, and a little earlier on in the colonies, rough and tumble stuff. In colonial eras, they did allow biting and eye gouging. In fact, there were a number I recovered from English governors in the new world sending them home to England basically just asking for help like they were coming back with eyes gouged out and fingers missing and shit like that from all these, yeah, these rough and tumble matches and the colonies, Virginia and shit.

Ben:  Now, how strong do you think George Washington was?

James:  I mean, he’s known to be 6’2 or 6’3. He was a tall dude, a big dude. He didn’t leave any deadlift numbers behind or anything, but there was this actual written account of these guys that basically they were screwing around one day in a field just trying to see who could throw this iron bar the furthest, which is literally we’ve been doing this stuff since the first caveman picked up the first rock. His first friend saw him do it and wanted to try it too. So, these guys were just throwing an iron bar in a field and they’d go mark it. See like, “Oh, this guy threw it.” How it far went? They mark it. And, I guess he just rode up on his horse one day and they didn’t even really know who he was at that time. He just asked if he could try it and he just literally threw it double the distance of the farthest prior throw and they couldn’t believe it and just punched into the earth. And so, he was significantly stronger than strong men in an area in time where survival required you to be pretty strong.

Ben:  Yeah. But obviously, exercise science, supplementation, even performance-enhancing drugs, Adderall, et cetera, have come a long way since then. So, in a cage fight, who do you think would win, George Washington or Joe Biden?

James:  George Washington. George Washington, George Washington, George Washington. Pretty much anyone. But no, I totally agree Don’t get me wrong. It could be easy to overly romanticize the past and be this and start believing things that are true or less than likely. I think I’m a big believer. I’m a big supporter in everything that science has done to advance athletic performance and nutrition and longevity and all this stuff in the last hundred years, let alone the last 2,000 years.

Having said that, the one thing I think that we can’t dismiss is the fact that our culture–well, actually, I mean we’ve been alluding to this, but our culture, we are not a culture where our priority is health and physical fitness or martial prowess. No matter how much we like to believe it or think about it, we’re a culture that prioritizes Kardashians and political elections and whatever else is going on. And, that counts for a lot when you think about the fact that there are cultures that even in ancient Greek levels of technology spent 500 years putting every resource of their entire culture behind creating perfect athletes and warriors.

Ben:  Yeah. And, you were forced into it a lot of the time. I mean, you were forced into weather and inclement conditions, hard labor, outdoor labor. There weren’t indoor cushy jobs. I mean, look at me, I’m walking on a treadmill right now while I’m talking to you because I literally have to fabricate a primal ancestral lifestyle as a podcast or so I’m at least moving.

James:  No, you nailed it. That’s why I always say, the reason we have to go seek out these cold tubs and hot saunas and long runs and hard lifts and mobile lifestyles, why every time I on my laptop I try to sit on the ground or do something else because it’s just so easy to just get stuck in that chair.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. Now, how about this guy who you describe as the best all-around athlete in history, this Donald Denny guy? What made you choose him as the best all-around athlete in history?

James:  He might be. So, the thing is that I can name a dozen people that could beat Denny in any one or two things. I just don’t think that there is anyone who ever got–I mean, the guy literally, he ran legitimately fast times in 100-meter stuff, 200-meter stuff. He could throw stones and cabers and shot puts. He could lift crazy, crazy maximum heavy things. He had some insanely close-to-undefeated record and not just in wrestling, in different wrestling disciplines and styles. I mean, I also think that he was a Highland Games champion. And, I think the Highland Games–

Ben:  He was a Scottish, right?

James:  Yeah, yeah. And, the Highland Games, especially the earlier versions of them, I think, did an excellent job of really, really demanding someone to be an excellent well-rounded athlete. I mean, you had foot races. You had hurdles. You had heavy lifts. You had dynamic throws, plyometric-type stuff. You had actual wrestling. You had strong-man event. It’s just a really good medium to prove, like hey, I can do everything. Talk about the ultimate hybrid athlete probably that guy.

Was there tribal warriors that could run longer, Maasai warriors that could jump higher, sprint fast? Of course, but we’re talking a guy, again, in the time before performance-enhancing drugs, at least the modern type, who’s just eating. He’s literally waking up. He’s eating haggis. He’s picking a few eggs out.

Ben:  I tried to [00:49:29] _____.

James:  How’d that go?

Ben:  I used the stomach of a sheep that I’d shot and ground up a bunch of kidney and heart and liver and kind of did my own twist on it. And honestly, when that stomach tripe fat melted and the oven bake over all the organ meats with some of the herbs I threw in there, it was actually super tasty.

James:  That sounds pretty good to me. I mean, I like stuff like that in general, though. I’m pretty meat and potatoes, meat and bones with my food.

Ben:  Yeah. Yeah, this definitely fell into that category.

There was one guy that kind of surprised me, though. I didn’t expect to see a poet in the book, this Walt Whitman guy. I mean, he obviously didn’t have to work out but he did. Tell me about this guy.

James:  Dude, Walt Whitman was [00:05:09] _____. So, I didn’t know too much about him as a poet or anything other than that. When I came across some of his quotes talking about the ancient Greeks and how their performance in the gymnasium and the palaestra, basically the best version of a man, physical training, competition, martial humbleness. These were key things that him in the late 1800s was already seeing were lacking in American society.

We have his actual workout routine. He left an actual workout routine of squats–

Ben:  Yeah, you got it in here. Yeah. You want me to read it?

James:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ben:  It says in the evening, he wrestled a 12-foot oak tree for exercise every night well into his 60s. Even after suffering from a stroke, he woke nearly every day to do calisthenics for an hour, swim in a cold river, then eat a plate of unflavored lean meat with a chunk of bread and a cup of tea and this daily calisthenics routine. It says he always did it outdoors. I’m assuming no matter what the weather was, he had a dynamic overhead stretch, planking, lunging, single-leg deadlift, fence hops, springing over a fence then back again, shadow boxing, and jump squats. And, that’s all in addition to his cold-water swimming and the evening, whatever that means, wrestling a tree. I can only imagine.

James:  So, yeah. Apparently, he would literally try to do judo throw. I mean, trips and throws on a tree and he would [00:51:46] ____. Apparently, he would be fully into it, high intensity. But, yeah, just literally trying to pull a tree out. I mean, isometric is one, every sort of isometric movement you can think of, I suppose. It’s like, look at that daily routine, that morning routine, that exercise routine, especially for a guy who’s in his 40s, 50s, 60s and tell me that’s not excellent. You know what I mean? Tell me that your fitness influencer is going to do better than that today and programming something.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. I like that mentality too because again, me, I don’t have to work out. I wake up and I write stuff and I podcast, but man, you feel so much better when you go outside and you jump in cold water and swing some kettlebells around and chase through the forest for a little while and lift some heavy stuff. And honestly, a lot of this stuff, I actually had this documentary film at my house over the weekend. They’re like, “We want to film you working out.” So, they set up all the lights and stuff in the gym because they wanted some clean predictable single space, whatever, dumbbell chest presses and goblet squats, which are great. But, I told them, “Look, let’s go outside and show people how I really workout.”

So, they wound up chasing me through the trees with their little camera stabilizer doing rope climbs and rock carries and balance beams. But yeah, I think especially with this style of training that you talk about in the book and simulating a lot of these ancient athletes. I think it’s unpredictability inclement weather, undulating terrain. I think a lot of that is just as important as stepping into a health club and lifting heavy stuff.

James:  I think it’s more important. So, both the outdoors in the health club, they can give you hypertrophy, they can give you your energy systems training, your anaerobic, your aerobic, your creatine phosphate. You can do all of that outside. The only thing I would say is if you’re really into uniform hypertrophy, you want to build a certain physique, all that, get some uniform stuff. Get a couple pairs of dumbbells and light medium and heavy weight and everything else you can do with trees, with rocks, with a kettlebell or two. I don’t even have a gym membership. I can deadlift 550. I’ve run a 500-mile ultra marathon and I don’t have a gym membership. So, what does that tell you? You know what I mean?

Ben:  Yeah.

James:  And, right now, I do a lot of calisthenics every day. It was something. I’m a former drug inmate and one of the things that really helped me kind of build, which is daily routine. So, it’s just your meditation, your Bible, or whatever your thing is in the morning first thing, then calisthenics, then you start your day. Don’t even think. Don’t even do anything. For me, that was just a very, very simple thing I could do. I still do that. But, right now my workout, I have couple kettlebells from my buddy over at Great Lakes Girya. Yeah. And, those kettlebells are insane. He might be making tungsten kettlebells, by the way.

Ben:  That’s pretty cool.

James:  Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I’ve never even heard of that. Basically, I reconstructed their Soviet Olympic team and the Soviet Special Forces program, the kettlebell movement that they used. And, it’s very similar but different to what you’d see. So, overhead presses instead of just being here or here’s a basic overhead press. The Soviets like to do a clean and double press. So, it’s clean press, press, one rep. Or, alternating like press, press on one side, press, press on the other side, one rep. Instead of swings, they like to do deficit high pulls like stand on two boxes, get that weight all the way down, and then come all a dynamic high pull all the way up high here. Just little things.

Ben:  They don’t really teach that stuff in the–because I did the RKC certification. That’s pretty standard, swings, goblet squats. Where do you learn that stuff?

James:  So, I’m unique on this. So, it’s Pavel and all that. He has a lot of good stuff, but this is different. I sat down with actual defectors and then most of them old man now starting with one guy who was a 5’4 sambo guy that was on one of my jiu-jitsu teams that was just giving all of us problems and he was 65. And, we’re just like, “Dude, what is going on with you?” And, it turns out he used to be a Spetsnaz guy. I’m sorry, a paratrooper. And so, I started talking to him. I actually got my hands on a variety of different little clips of actual Soviet archival footage. Some of it, I got a couple of the exercises from clips I found on YouTube, although it’s pretty sparing here and there. I dug up some of it from old strength training forums from westside barbell from 2011 or crazy shit. Other stuff from a buddy, a couple buddies I have at westside. Didn’t get too much of it from Pavel because he speaks more in principles and stuff like that as opposed to specificities. And, I don’t know if he–at least I’m not sure.

Ben:  Pavel Tsatsouline, former podcast guest for those you wondering who we’re talking about.

James:  Oh, yeah. He’s the guy that got me into kettlebells. I mean Pavel’s awesome.

Ben:  Yeah, me too.

James:  But yeah, just in terms of the historic geeking out I just went. So, yeah, found all sorts of archival footage, interviewed three different defectors. I went back and had a conversation with one of the guy and he told me some stuff that has me thinking I’m going to try to build a sequel maybe towards the end of the year at some point. But, I released it for 24 hours only, the Soviet program earlier this year and it actually sold more kettlebell programs than any except there were like a couple–

Ben:  I was going to say I want to try it. I’m going to have to connect with you afterwards and try this out.

James:  Yeah, I’ll send it over, bro. I’ll send it over. It was one of my limited edition drops. It was only for 24 hours and it outsold all but the three biggest kettlebell programs of all time. so, I was like, “Well, there’s interest there.” It’s fun. They did a lot of lateral swings and stuff to staggered stance, split stance. So, just small variations on the shit. If you’ve been using kettlebells for two years, you’ve seen swings, you’ve seen presses, you’ve seen Turkish getups. And so, this is just kind of a little flavor on that.

Ben:  Yeah. I’m curious. You mentioned you read the Bible in prison and I was thinking about this before the interview because I was just reading a little bit in 1st and 2nd Chronicles. And, I was thinking about some of these ancient Israelites because they were kind of a force. David had his mighty men. Went to battle. A few of them would defeat a few hundred Philistines. Did you ever dig into any of that, the ancient Israel training techniques or warrior tactics?

James:  I haven’t. They’re fighting tactics but not the training techniques so much. They were excellent guerilla fighters. So, the thing is the Roman Empire, in terms of conquest and expansion, they did it better than everyone except the Mongols. The Romans hated Judea. They hated it. There were no major armies. None of the traditional obstacles yet they just could not. It was the one place they went where people just would not bend the knee to them. It was like you could conquer a town or a city and then you would just be dealing with 70 years of guerilla warfare after from that one group and then it was just over and over. So, they were expert guerilla fighters. Hit and run, very, very good at materializing to attack and then dispersing in different directions. Very good at using improvised weapons. Obviously, we’re all aware of David and Goliath, just what a sling can do. Anyone who’s even played around with the sling and a little piece of rock knows. So, that’s insanity.

Ben:  Yeah. Obviously, that was years of training from defending sheep, but yeah.

James:  No, exactly. But, that’s the thing is their physical traits came from their lifestyle, which is you go or the more hardscrabble you go, you see this more and more.

Organized exercise generally is done as war training, as a community activity, like Celtic festival, the Highland Games or it’s born from just your lifestyle of if you’re a Hebrew farmer, you’re going to get really, really strong at lifting and sifting earth all day long. And, if you’re a Hebrew shepherd, you are going to have crazy endurance from running around the mountains, literally keeping up with sheep and then fighting off wolves and then scrambling here and there. You’re going to be good with a sling. You’re going to be good with a bow and a spear.

Ben:  In rugged hot territory too. I had the Israman one year on the Red Sea. They say it’s the hardest half Ironman in the world. And, my feet were all bleeding and blistered after the race because the surface of the ground was so hot. We had to ride our bikes up between the Egypt and Israel border. And, it was stupid hot and then the terrain is just rocky and exposed and open and thistly. And yeah, it’s a hard area.

James:  Yeah, yeah. Sonora was actually kind of like that too.

There’s a quote that I like, “The gods of the valley are not the gods of the hill.” It’s actually a quote from the American Revolution from a guy named Ethan Allen. But, basically what I take that to mean and he said it to the British as a threat more than anything. It’s like, “Hey, you guys live down here in the New York Valley, you do your thing in a certain way, me and my boys up in of Vermont, we were raised and we live a different lifestyle and it makes a different type of man. If you come up here and you’re going to find out.” You know what I mean? And so, I always take that to mean hard places, hard lives, they make hard men, and Israel, for sure, man.

Ben:  Yeah. Well, man, if you want to get inspired to be hard, this book, “A History Physical Fitness,” I’ll link to it if you guys go to You may have heard me mention some other interviews like the one with Pavel and some other resources. I’ll put them all in there along with links to James’ website, his Instagram, great follow, Wild Hunt Conditioning on Instagram.

James, this is so cool and I might have to have you back on for part two when you finish this next book.

James:  Oh, I will. I will be happy to come chat on that. I’ll have a bunch more research by then too.

Ben:  Alright. Cool, man. Well, folks, again, go to The book is a history of physical fitness by James Pieratt. Until next time. I’m Ben and James signing out from Have an incredible week.

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

What I Discuss with James Pieratt

-How James Pieratt, the founder of Wild Hunt Conditioning, draws inspiration from historical warriors and ancient fitness practices to craft engaging, rigorous workout routines…05:32

-The concept of a hybrid athlete, a person skilled in both strength and endurance sports, and the way James embodies this through combining heavy lifting with ultra-endurance running…07:52

-James’s physical and mental tactics during a challenging run along Folsom Lake and the American River Trail…11:05

-Nutrition strategies James used during his ultramarathon through the Sonora desert, focusing on his hydration techniques and choices for maintaining energy levels under extreme conditions…14:33

-Supplements James recommends for mitigating the effects of sleep deprivation during long endurance events and his personalized approach to managing unusually high salt loss through sweat…18:36

-Spartans’ unique training regimes, their societal structure revolving around warfare, and what modern fitness enthusiasts can learn from them…21:40

-The intense physical demands placed on English longbowmen, including the incredible strength required to wield their iconic longbows effectively…34:48

-James’s upcoming book, which will provide an in-depth look at various warrior cultures through history and their distinct training methodologies…38:26

-James’s widely acclaimed functional fitness programs, which are designed to enhance physical capabilities through historically inspired exercises and modern fitness techniques…39:45

-The historical practice of Aztec warriors running with weights to prepare for battle and the cultural importance of physical skills in Aztec society…44:15

-Dietary habits of ancient Spartans, including their reliance on game meat and the infamous black soup, which played a crucial role in their nutritional regimen…46:16

-Unexpected athletic backgrounds of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, highlighting Lincoln’s wrestling expertise and Washington’s physical vigor…50:15

-The life and achievements of Donald Denny, one of the most versatile athletes ever, proficient in a range of sports from weightlifting to traditional Scottish games…56:07

-How Walt Whitman, known primarily as a poet, was featured in James’s book for his robust physical routine and his philosophical views on the benefits of fitness…58:22

-James’s daily routine and his innovative kettlebell training program inspired by Soviet athletic practices…1:01:48

-The guerrilla warfare techniques of ancient Israeli warriors, their strategic prowess in battle, and how their challenging environment shaped their military tactics…1:06:16

-And much more…

Imagine having the ability to explore the secret training halls of ancient Sparta, the Arctic strength-building methods of the Inuit, and the magical underwater world of a tribe of aquatic superhumans in the South Pacific…

Today’s guest, James Pieratt, one of the longest-ranged runners on the planet, has made it his mission to take you on a journey through history that provides valuable insights into how you can improve your own life through physical fitness and mental fortitude.

In this episode, you’ll gain insights from James, a record-breaking wilderness ultramarathon runner, into the training tactics of ancient warriors (which he teaches at Wild Hunt Conditioning), receive an in-depth look at the Spartan warrior diet, uncover the incomparable strength and wrestling abilities of historical U.S. presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and get a sneak peek at his new book, A History of Physical Fitness, which analyzes the evolution of physical fitness trends, training techniques, diets, and mentalities.

Get ready to uncover the strategies that have unlocked James’s superhuman potential to run 500 miles in ultramarathons—all without the aid of a gym membership—so you can equip yourself with both ancient wisdom and modern methods for optimizing your life!

Please Scroll Down for the Sponsors, Resources, and Transcript.

Episode Sponsors:

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Kreatures of Habit: My go-to recommendation for high-protein overnight oats! Go to and use code BGL20 for 20% off your first purchase.

JoyMode: Want to spice things up in the bedroom and boost your sexual performance? And do it naturally without nasty prescription drugs? Go to or enter GREENFIELD at checkout for 20% off your first order. 

Lagoon: Sleep is one of the most essential biohacking tools you have. Lagoon has helped me improve my sleep immensely by pairing me with the performance pillow that has everything I need. Go to and use the code BEN for 15% off your first purchase.

Resources from this episode:

– James Pieratt:

– Podcasts and Articles:

– Books:

– Other Resources:

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