Unusual blood sugar fluctuations
Long-time fan of your work, first time trying to reach out to you. Thanks very much for any insight you are able to provide. I have been tracking my blood sugar levels over the past 6 months after getting some results from my primary care provider that showed my fasting blood glucose at 93, and my HgA1C at 5.6. Both of these have steadily crept up over the past 5 years. My primary care provider was not concerned because I technically didn’t fall outside of any “normal” range, but I have tried making my way through a good chunk of “Your Blood Never Lies” by James LaVelle, and I decided to try to dig into my tendencies a bit more after seeing a number of things “trending” in the wrong direction, though still “normal.” I am a 38-year-old father of two kids ages 1 and 3, and I want to do the best I can to optimize my health for them.
I am about 162 lbs and roughly 12% bodyfat. Resting heart rate hovering in the high 40s and low 50s, blood pressure typically about 115/65. After getting a home glucose monitoring kit and tinkering with my diet, I found a decent rhythm and meal plan that allows me to largely avoid blood sugar spikes throughout the course of the day. I almost never see my blood sugar rise higher than about 125, and only once or twice saw it higher than 140 in the past 6 months. I respond decently well to my meals and snacks per the recommendations Chris Kresser gave for 1, 2, and 3 hour post eating readings. For a period of time, my fasting blood glucose was pretty consistently between 78 and 90, which I was very excited about. However, over the past 5-6 weeks I have been getting lots of high 90s, low 100s, and even some 110-115. Interestingly, my blood sugar will fall lower though throughout the day (typically to between 90-110, even down to as low as 80 in the late afternoon when I get home from work).
I am a strength and conditioning coach and currently get to workout 3-4 times per week for 30 minutes or so doing kettlebell circuits and the occasional run. My sleep has not been particularly great the past several months due to my son and daughter’s nightime routines and sleep habits. I have lately tried to go to bed earlier when my daughter does in an attempt to get about 8 hours, but it was routine for me to get more like 6.5-7.5 hours “in bed,” while oftentimes waking up several times per night and/or having a tough time falling asleep. I eat pretty well, though not 100% clean, during the week, and kick my heels back a bit on the weekend with some pizza and booze, but I wouldn’t say I completely blow the doors off. These diet practices have been pretty consistent during the period of time before my morning blood sugar began to consistently be lower, and also now that it has gradually crept higher over the past 5-6 weeks.
- A) What do you think could be causing morning blood sugar to be on the “higher” side even if I eat fairly low/clean carb and haven’t changed much diet wise over the past 6 weeks?
- B) If morning glucose is “high” but returns quickly to these 100-110 levels after my eating most of the time and I rarely spike higher than 125 or so, is that still bad for my health, or is an elevated “baseline” ok as long as I don’t consistently get higher than 140 or so as I read in Kresser’s article?
Thanks so much for any insight you can share!
Staying Paleo in the Mountains
Hi, I’m 39 years old and I practice mountaineering. World wide the food recommended while being in the mountains specially over the 4000 meters (where the body battles to adapt to less oxygen and lower temperatures) is a diet rich in carbs and sugars to access glucose faster, since the physical demand is huge and these are easier to access.
Since it´s particularly important to reduce the amount of weight we carry in our backpacks and we are not able to keep this food refrigerated, I´m wondering if you are familiar with this activity, and what would you suggest to eat, and how during an ascent and the days before and after, to stay paleo and cover the demands of my body.
Ps: I usually loose a lot of weight every time i go, that includes tons of muscle lost.
BJJ in your 40s
Dear Robb and Nicki,
Thanks so much for the great podcast. Lovin it!:)
I have a question regarding BJJ:
I’m turning 39 next month and a bit in a midlife crisis: I’m pretty fit, doing my zone 2 and strength training regularly but I miss a bit the elements of play and community in my life. Zone 2 workouts are a bit lonely:)
I know you two are doing Jiu Jitsu and I want to give it a try. Do you have any tips for starting with 39 and training into your 40s? How do you avoid injuries? Any chance to keep nice ears?:)
How did your training approach evolve? My goal is character development and community. Do you think BJJ is ideal for that?
Hope you have some insight! Thanks so much:)
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Nicki: It’s time to make your health an act of rebellion. We’re tackling personalized nutrition, metabolic flexibility, resilient aging, and answering your diet and lifestyle questions. This is the only show with the bold aim to help one million people liberate themselves from the sick care system. You’re listening to The Healthy Rebellion Radio. The contents of this show are for entertainment and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast should be considered medical advice. Please consult your licensed and credentialed functional medicine practitioner before embarking on any health, dietary, or fitness change. Warning: When Robb gets passionate, he’s been known to use the occasional expletive. If foul language is not your thing, if it gets your britches in a bunch, well there’s always Disney+.
Robb: Welcome back, folks.
Nicki: Hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of The Healthy Rebellion Radio. This is episode 168. Apologies for missing last week. Still trying to get our rhythms and feet under us here, but it’s coming along.
Robb: It is, it is. Just want to throw out there take care of yourselves. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and it’s all pretty heartbreaking and senseless and heavy.
Robb: Yeah, just putting that out there.
Nicki: Now’s a great time for being in nature when you can, telling the people around you that you love them and meditating for sure. I don’t think we have any upfront news here, so I think we can just jump right into our news topic.
Robb: Cool. It is an analysis of studies pertaining to masks in morbidity and mortality weekly report, characteristics and quality of all studies from 1978 to 2023. This is Vinay Prasad and a few other folks publication. Backing up a little bit, early in the pandemic I remember the discussion around masks emerged. And I remember St. Fauci the good said, “Masks don’t work.” And I thought, well, that’s clearly bullocks. It’s got to help some. And then I got in and really started researching the topic. And it had been very well researched, like looking at influenza and other airborne transmissible contagions. And it really didn’t do much of anything. And there’s a host of reasons like thinking of 50 different things. But the long and short is it didn’t really do much of anything. It was remarkably unimpressive what mask wearing did for reducing transmission. And that’s if everything was worn properly and was fitted and on and on, and not using it as a pirate eye patch one minute and then a table wiper the next, which is what ultimately-
Nicki: And made from every different type of fabric density and material as possible.
Robb: Yeah, I remember.
Nicki: I know there were some that-
Robb: Alyssa Milano was knitting masks, and then postscript when people started giving her a ration of, she said that they were lined, but apparently that ended up being-
Nicki: A lie.
Robb: … liar, liar, pants on fire kind of thing. It was perplexing to me. Just instinctively, it’s like, well, geez, wearing a mask should help, but it really doesn’t. The pre-COVID data on this was pretty clear, although things can always change. And my goodness, did they change. Post-pandemic, masks really worked and really reduced transmission, and man, you just needed to lean into those.
But what was interesting about that, and this is what emerged out of this review paper, is that there were claims around efficacy that were just not remotely supportable given the evidence. No blinding in certain studies, not enough power in other studies. They literally just made this shit up. And Vinay Prasad’s interesting to me in that he’s a real critic of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which I think were not given fair shakes. Ivermectin was underpowered in its dosing, hydroxychloroquine was actually administered at known to be toxic levels, so they were set up to be failures from the beginning.
But there’s other things. He’s been quite vocal on the insanity of insisting on additional boosters, particularly in the young, and also in masking. And so I think that this one is worth a look. I’ll read the conclusions and relevance. MMWR publications pertaining to mass through positive conclusions about mask effectiveness over 75% of the time despite only 30% testing masks and less than 15% having statistically significant results. No studies were randomized, yet over half drew causal conclusions. The level of evidence generated was low and the conclusions drawn were most often unsupported by the data. Our findings raised concern about the reliability of the journal for informing public health policy. There you go.
Nicki: There you go.
Robb: Not to belabor this, and I know we do do have a tight timeline today, but just to dip our toe into all of this stuff going on with Israel and Palestine, I’ve seen the most ridiculous shit where people are saying, “I think that this is staged. Those bodies don’t have enough blood.” Absolutely-
Nicki: Or that woman crying about her grandmother being murdered is acting.
Robb: Is acting. And here’s how we prove this and whatnot. We’re in this post-truth world. And we’ve talked to people like Chris Kresser about this. I think he’s smarter than we are and keeps his head down more but just chats with us a little bit about this. And the interesting thing is some people will push back. And this is where the movement towards more censorship and control like on the Canadian-
Nicki: Justin Trudeau.
Robb: Justin Trudeau getting in and looking at podcasts and whatnot.
Nicki: Regulating all the podcasts that can air in Canada.
Robb: Some people would say that we don’t have enough censorship. I would argue exactly the opposite, that this is, again, one of the inevitable consequences of, to some degree, censorship, but also this psyop process. And I will admit that I’m at a point where I don’t know what to believe anymore. Is any given thing just spun up?
I remember early on, there were folks, pretty credible folks, Kelly Brogan saying that 5G was causing COVID and transmitting the COVID virus. And I popped my head up saying, “There’s no way this is possible.” And man, there were a bunch of pissed off people, which then me off. And I did that big piece on 5G broadly. But one of the classic psyop moves is to take a little slice of truth and then attach it to a bunch of bullshit that’s easily refuted, and then-
Nicki: Then the whole package gets refuted.
Robb: … and then the whole package gets refuted. And I can’t even think of the number of situations now where it’s kind like, I don’t know. Is this accurate? Is this real? But I do think that the more that censorship jumps on us, the more that people sign off on censorship versus really vigorous open debate of topics and ideas, that debate is the only way that we get through this. It’s the only way that you come out the backside of a legit psyop and have some grounding in reality.
Because there is still this truth that part of science and part of even good journalism and stuff like that is that we can accurately explain what we’ve observed, what we’re seeing, and provide some predictive value about the future. And again and again, what we saw come out of the COVID powers that be rhetoric was bullshit that didn’t describe anything pertaining to reality. If you just get vaccinated, it will stop the virus in its tracks. This was utter bullshit. We’re years down range and it’s still circulating. It appears to be circulating at a lethality that is about on par with a common cold, which is what one would expect and what people had predicted and still begs the question of should we have just let it go? Much like Sweden and many other places.
But anyway, I don’t want to belabor this. I know we are on a little bit of a tight timeline. But this point of we have lost complete trust in institutions, it’s really dangerous. It’s not good. But our institutions are really fucked up. You can’t trust them very much. Or maybe it’s trust, but verify is at best the thing that we give these. And doubling down on censorship is not going to fix any of this.
Nicki: Should we link to that little video clip of that podcast, Modern Wisdom-
Robb: With Eric.
Nicki: … with Eric Weinstein?
Robb: Yeah, we absolutely can. Yeah.
Nicki: I only watched probably a 20 minute excerpt, and I know, Robb, you’ve started and you’re listening to the entire conversation, but it’s a podcast that is new to me. I hadn’t heard of it before. It’s called Modern Wisdom. And just a fascinating little exchange the part that I saw. Much to what you were just speaking to about losing trust in the institutions and whatnot. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes.
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Robb: Chocolate medley.
Nicki: … medley coming in November. Some fun stuff on the horizon. Remember, you can buy three boxes and get the fourth box free at drinklmnt.com/robb. That’s drinklmnt.com/robb.
All right, we’ve got three questions today. The first one’s from Jack. “Hi, Robb. Longtime fan of your work. First time trying to reach out to you. Thanks very much for any insight you’re able to provide. I’ve been tracking my blood sugar levels over the past six months after getting some results from my primary care provider that showed my fasting blood glucose at 93 and my HG A1C at 5.6. Both of these have steadily crept up over the past five years. My primary care provider was not concerned because I technically didn’t fall outside any normal range, but I have tried making my way through a good chunk of your Blood Never Lies by James Lavelle, and I decided to try to dig into my tendencies a bit more after seeing a number of things trending in the wrong direction, although still normal.
“I am a 38 year old father of two kids ages one and three, and I want to do the best I can to optimize my health for them. I’m about 162 pounds, roughly 12% body fat, resting heart rate hovering in the high 40s and low 50s, blood pressure typically about 115 over 65. After getting a home glucose monitoring kit and tinkering with my diet, I found a decent rhythm and meal plan that allows me to largely avoid blood sugar spikes throughout the course of the day. I almost never see my blood sugar rise higher than about 125 and only once or twice saw it higher than 140 in the past six months. I respond decently well to my meals and snacks per the recommendations Chris Kresser gave for one, two and three hour post-readings.
“For a period of time, my fasting blood glucose was pretty consistently between 78 and 90, which I was very excited about. However, over the past five to six weeks, I have been getting lots of high 90s, low 100s and even some 110 to one 15. Interestingly, my blood sugar will fall lower throughout the day, typically between 90 and 110, even down to as low as 80 in the late afternoon when I get home from work. I’m a strength and conditioning coach, currently get to work out three to four times per week for 30 minutes or so doing kettlebell circuits and the occasional run. My sleep has not been particularly great the past several months due to my son and daughter’s nighttime routines and sleep habits. I’ve lately tried to go to bed earlier when my daughter does in an attempt to get about eight hours, but it was routine for me to get more like six and a half to seven and a half hours in bed while oftentimes waking up several times per night and/or having a tough time falling asleep.
“I eat pretty well, though not 100% clean, and kick my heels back a bit on the weekend with some pizza and booze, but I wouldn’t say I completely blow the doors off. These diet practices have been pretty consistent during the period of time before my blood sugar began to consistently be lower and also now that it has gradually crept higher over the past five to six weeks.
“My questions. A, what do you think could be causing morning blood sugar to be on the higher side even if I eat fairly low/clean carb and haven’t changed much diet wise over the past six weeks? And B, if morning glucose is high but returns quickly to these 100 to 110 levels after my eating most of the time and I rarely spike higher than 125 or so, is that still bad for my health? Or is an elevated baseline as long as I don’t consistently get higher than 140 or so? As I read in Kresser’s article.”
Robb: There’s a lot to unpack in that. I think one thing that may be occurring here is some dawn phenomena, which is a natural occurrence in the morning for blood sugars to be elevated. There’s lots of back and forth on whether or not this is ultimately a problem. I do think that the sleep, if you’re only getting six and a half to seven and a half hours in bed, I-
Nicki: With multiple wake ups per night.
Robb: … I got to tell you that’s going to fucking crush you. It’s super well established that a short slept individual ends up developing a degree of insulin resistance on par with a type two diabetic. What does Frankl always say? “Simple but not easy.”
Nicki: I like that.
Robb: This would be a simple but not easy thing to do. You go sequester yourself somewhere in a hotel, no kids, no distractions, no TV. You go to bed early, you get your workouts, you get your circadian rhythm, but you get a legitimate eight to nine hours in the rack and you see what that does.
Nicki: Not in the rack, but just of actual sleeping.
Robb: Well, at least. Yeah. And ideally, that is primarily composed of sleep. I’d be shocked if you didn’t see a dramatic improvement in your blood sugars with that. It’s tough. Having young kids is tough. Modern life, the 40 hour work week that actually is more like 50 or 60 hours. And-
Nicki: And then you add the kids in there.
Robb: And then you add kids in there. There’s 164 hours in a week. If you work 60 hours and then you’re supposed to sleep similar if not a little bit more than that, there’s no fucking time left. It’s tough to pack all this stuff in.
I did have a thought. And I linked to a recent talk that Michael Rose, who’s a evolutionary biologist, he gave. And it’s peripheral to this. I really think that the main issues are dawn phenomena and also the lack of sleep. I would really bet that that’s the case. However, Michael Rose has this great very math-based perspective on aging. And he really makes the case. He’s an interesting cat. He’s very, very smart and he’s very… Looks down his nose at most of the paleo ancestral health space. We’re all a bunch of bumpkins who don’t really understand things to the degree that his brilliance does. And I think he would be comfortable in me couching it that way. I’ve had him on the podcast before. He’s brilliant. He’s also a prick at times.
But he makes a really airtight case around this notion that as we get older, we absolutely will lose the capacity to deal with neolithic foods. And depending on what your background is, like if you’re Pima Indian or Inuit or something like that, you probably should have never eaten neolithic foods ever. And then if you’re more Northern European, it depends on the person, but somewhere between 30 and 50, he’s like, “You really need to eat,” what he calls a Trader Joe’s organic paleo type diet. It doesn’t have to be over the top. You don’t have to do caveman reenactment shit, but ditch the grains, ditch the dairy, yada, yada, yada. And I think there’s some really compelling cases to this. And his point is to maintain health at the highest degree that you can because he is of the opinion that if you live long enough, aging actually stops. And this is a whole peripheral thing.
Nicki: That’s interesting.
Robb: It’s very interesting. And the bummer is that you get pretty fucking old before aging technically halts. And there’s a whole genetic reaction norms. And I barely understand the math behind it. It’s been so long since I’ve been in stuff like that. But it just makes the case that once you get old enough, biology evolution doesn’t really care about you because you’re so far out of the reproductive lane that it just doesn’t care. And anyway, I’m getting far afield on this thing, but I would… As you get a little bit older, we need to tighten things up more. That’s just all there is to it on the food side.
Nicki: And as we’ve always said when we are answering questions regarding shift work and whatnot, when people have this constrained sleep or this really challenging sleep, the thing that you can control is your food.
Robb: Is your food. Yeah.
Nicki: Jack is saying that he eats pretty well, though not a hundred percent clean during the week and has pizza and booze on the weekends. There might be a case, although not as fun, to really tighten it up. Maybe you do eat 100% clean during the week, and maybe on the weekend you’re really selective.
Robb: You get a meal.
Nicki: Yeah, you get one. Maybe it’s a shot of tequila, or something clean and not beer, something that’s going to have less effect on-
Robb: At least potentially. Yeah.
Nicki: Potentially. Yep.
Robb: Yeah. I would really, by hook or by crook, try to figure out how to shore up sleep. And I would really give some thought to tightening up your diet broadly. We’re at that age. It’s funny because you have the Lane Nortons and you have all these folks that have beaten the ancestral health model down, and it’s because there are some goofy notions out there. There’s goofy notions around so long as you keep insulin low, then you can’t gain body weight and some things like that. And so it opens the scene up for some heavy scrutiny. But I really think this Michael Rose stuff is on point, both his look at aging, his perspective on what we can do to forestall the negative impacts of aging and whatnot. Yeah, that’s what I got for you.
Nicki: Okay. And I will link to that in the show notes. Our next question is from Lucia on staying paleo in the mountains. She says, “Hi. I’m 39 years old and I practice mountaineering. Worldwide, the food recommended while being in the mountains, especially over 4,000 meters where the body battles to adapt to less oxygen and lower temperatures, is a diet rich in carbs and sugars to access glucose faster since the physical demand is huge and these are easier to access. Since it’s particularly important to reduce the amount of weight we carry in our backpacks and we are not able to keep this food refrigerated, I’m wondering if you are familiar with this activity and what you would suggest to eat and how during an ascent and the days before and after to stay paleo and cover the demands of my body. PS, I usually lose a lot of weight every time I go, and that includes tons of muscle loss.”
Robb: What I have here is a link to a previous interview that I did with an amazing woman, Gina Shively. The title is Fat Fueled Sheep Hunting. It was salty talk number 19, so pretty early in this whole process. She is a Alaskan bush pilot and a professional sheep huntress. And she faced a similar challenge. She’s got to run up and down these absolutely huge mountains. And you want to optimize for calories per gram of weight effectively. And funny enough, fat beats the pants off of everything. And there’s lots of different angles on this.
Now, you need to be fat adapted. You can’t just go into this flatfooted and just shift everything around and expect magic to happen. You need to go through some of the [inaudible 00:23:30], the art and science of low carbohydrate performance and fat adapt. And I think modified Atkins and/or a legitimate therapeutic ketogenic diet is the way to go on this.
But there’s a lot of different angles on this. On the water perspective, if we are primarily burning fat for energy, that alone, depending on your work output, you can get up to 200 grams of water just from metabolic processes. The burning of fat ends up liberating water, and so you get 200 grams of water that you wouldn’t have got otherwise. You didn’t have to pack it, you didn’t have to pump it, it just came as a consequence of your metabolism.
At higher and higher altitudes, a ketogenic state ends up being protective around neurological function, energy transfer. The ketone bodies are more energetically beneficial for the brain and the heart. You really do need to pay attention to electrolytes. Whether it’s LMNT or something else, you got to pay huge attention to that, particularly in navigating around altitude sickness and whatnot.
But I would really lean you towards a more fat-based way of eating. And so we’ll have a link to this episode with Gina. I would listen to that. I’d reach out to her. She’s a wonderful person if you get a chance to go to Alaska. She invited us to go to Alaska and hang out with them. And I absolutely will take her up on that at some point. But I would reach out to her and ask her, “Have you tweaked things? Are you doing anything different?” But this makes a lot of sense. A very fat fueled approach to this makes a ton of sense from a weight to energy density perspective alone.
Nicki: Awesome. And we can put a link to her Instagram also if you want to check out what she’s up to and message her on there. Okay, final question. BJJ in your 40s. Chris writes, “Dear Rob and Nicki, thanks so much for the great podcast. I’m loving it. I have a question regarding BJJ. I’m turning 39 next month and a bit in a midlife crisis. I’m pretty fit doing and my zone two and strength training regularly, but I miss a bit of the elements of play and community in my life. Zone two workouts are a bit lonely.”
Robb: Indeed they are.
Nicki: I know you two are doing jiu-jitsu, and I want to give it a try. Do you have any tips for starting with 39 and training into your 40s? How do you avoid injuries? Any chance to keep nice ears. How did your training approach evolve? My goal is character development and community. Do you think BJJ is ideal for that? Hope you have some insight. Thanks so much.
Robb: You want to start on this? Or-
Nicki: Yeah, I can. I’ll kick it off, especially since I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also right after my 40th birthday.
Robb: Really? I got serious with mine right around that time too.
Nicki: Your 40th birthday?
Nicki: Right. Because it was right when we moved to Reno and you had just turned 40.
Nicki: Yep. Yep. Yeah, similar to you, Chris. I turned 40. I wanted to do something active; wasn’t sure what. I didn’t want to just do CrossFit or be in a gym. Robb had been doing jiu-jitsu for, gosh, several years at that point.
Robb: A couple years. Yeah.
Nicki: And when I first met Robb, he was opening CrossFit NorCal with John Frankel, who is a, what, fifth degree, fourth degree?
Robb: Fourth or fifth degree now. Yeah.
Nicki: Fifth degree black belt and Brazilian. And then Robb has many friends in the jiu-jitsu world that would come and visit. I’d been steeped in some of the community aspects of it with just… And just hearing Robb, and whether it was Frankl or Henry or whoever, just waxing on and on about all things jiu-jitsu whenever these people would visit. I was like, okay, maybe I should give this a try. The first time I tried it when I first met Robb, I was like, “This sucks. This hurts.” My shins. It didn’t click.
Nicki: I turned 40 and decided to give it a go. I started first in a women’s class at one of the gyms in Reno. Just that felt a little more approachable for me. And then I ended up training with Robb. And as a female, it can be pretty intimidating. You’re rolling around on the ground with mainly guys, big guys. I mainly worked with Robb for I would say probably at least a month. And then he handpicked some people, like, “This guy is really great and mellow. That person, that person.” And then you just slowly ease your way into it.
I do think it can be great. I see no reason why somebody shouldn’t start in their 40s. But to answer your question about starting and avoiding injuries and all of that, I think it’s really important to find the right school, especially one that does an introductory program or a foundations class. Just like we’ve preached incessantly about CrossFit, it’s a whole new movement pattern, a series of movements that it’s great to be given a little bit of a handholding in the beginning just so you have some idea of what’s going on.
Robb: Well, and again, to back up, Nicki and I were two years, three years into running the CrossFit gym. And we were in this dingy warehouse. We had a pretty good class that day. It was maybe 40 people. It was pretty hopping. We were like, “Wow, we have a lot of people in here.” But when everybody left, we went through and counted up the number of waivers that people had signed because we had a first class for a year, first week free or whatever.
Nicki: First week free, and so we had tons of people coming in.
Robb: We had 1,000. We didn’t have tons, we had 1,000 fucking waivers. And we had fewer than a hundred people.
Nicki: Clients. Paying clients.
Robb: Paying clients.
Nicki: What was happening was people were coming in, we were giving them the good old CrossFit dose. This got our witts about us and had an on-ramp class and private training and really slowly ramped people up. People would just peel out. They’d either be so sore, they’re like, “Oh, that’s not for me,” or it was too hard or they didn’t understand it because we didn’t take the time to really get them properly steeped. And so this is what we’re talking about with jiu-jitsu. There are some schools where you’ll show up and you’ll just go right into a class. And you are going to get your ass kicked and it’s going to not be so fun.
Robb: And it’s not good under any circumstances, but the older you get, the more our recovery capacity is compromised and different things like that. The less good it is. And ironically, the schools that operate that way, unless they have a really famous instructor and they live in a high population density environment, usually they don’t do that well. There’s so many sides to all this, or facets to all this stuff. You don’t want a gym that’s barely hanging on because they don’t clean the bathrooms, they don’t clean the mats, they don’t maintain the facility. The instructors are usually grumbling because they don’t get any type of compensation and all that stuff. There’s just this whole weird, fucked up environment to it. Do they offer a legitimate beginners program? And if you live near a Straight Blast Gym, I would strongly recommend checking them out, although they’re not the only game in town. With that regard. Some of the Gracie Combatives programs have a similar on-ramp or foundations program.
Nicki: Beginners program.
Robb: Beginners program where you go 8, 10, 15, 20, 30 classes. And then, like with Straight Blast Gym, you do all of this foundation stuff where you do positional exploration of the movement, a little bit of positional drilling, but you don’t do live rolling until you really have… Basically it’s when you get your first stripe as a white belt where you have, in theory, a basic understanding of all the major positions, a little bit of defense, a little bit of attack. But really, the defense at that point is far more important.
And perhaps most important to all this stuff, you have some sense of what reasonable pacing looks like, which is really hard to figure out for a lot of people. And one of our coaches in Straight Blast Gym came prevost. It was genius. Because you always tell people slow down or relax or whatever. And he just said, “You got to breathe less hard.” If you’re breathing harder than your opponent, you’re losing. And it’s genius. I think it’s absolutely phenomenal.
There’s all this stuff. Do they have a beginner’s class? Do they have morning, noon, and night classes? Do they offer some one-on-one coaching? Do they have a women’s only class? And I will say this, the evening classes are almost always more of the meat eaters, like younger.
Nicki: You’ll usually get an older crowd at noon just because they are able to take time off from work. Although we have some younger folks at the noon class here [inaudible 00:33:19], but-
Robb: We have some younger folks there, but I will say that in general, you’re going to find a mellower scene at morning or noon classes. The evening class is usually… Folks are going to be getting after it.
Nicki: And then a lot of it too, as you’ll learn, is what energy are you bringing to it? Assuming you find a great school like an SBG or similar that has a foundations program so that you can get ramped up in a slow, progressive manner, then there’s also the energy that each person brings to a live role. And some of it’s what you bring. Chris is saying that he’s missing the playful piece. And jiu-jitsu can be incredibly playful. In fact, that’s what I love about jiu-jitsu as I like the playful piece of it. But not everybody does jujitsu for play.
Robb: To play.
Nicki: A lot of people do jiu-jitsu to win. And so you can find people who are really competitive, and every time you roll with them, it’s like hard and they’re going for bear. And their number one goal is to just submit, submit, submit. And sometimes, a lot of white belts have that energy because they’re new and they’re just like, “Ah.” And they have all this energy and they’re trying to figure out what do I do? And I don’t want to get put in a bad position. That energy can come from a new player, but it can also come from an experienced player who’s just… Their mindset is just I am here to win.
For a playful player like me and what it sounds like Chris is wanting, sometimes that’s not fun. You’ll learn to spot who in your gym is a playful player and who is a more competitive player. And maybe you don’t choose to do open roles with the ones that are super competitive all the time. Or maybe you’re more selective if you have that opportunity.
Robb: You can be more selective. And a way to navigate that is to ask them to work on something specific. “Hey, I want to work in my open guard bottom. Can you pass? And when you get passed, we’ll reset.” Doing more isolation type drilling. It’s alive, but if you constrain it a little bit, it really takes the anxiety off of things for folks.
And so even though I’m a brown belt, there are some big athletic four stripe white belts and blue belts and stuff like that, and sometimes I just don’t feel like going through the meat grinder with them. And so I’ll say, “Hey, can we do this?” And usually it’s giving them an advantage spot. I’ll work mount bottom, cross side bottom, open guard bottom, or whatever. It’s like, “Hey, if I sweep you or submit you, then we’ll reset. If you change positions or submit me, then we’ll reset.” And we just go. And I get some really good reps in. They usually get some good reps in. Because we’re working within this game then, usually they are a little bit more playful. It’s not that like, oh fuck, you’re going to submit me kind of thing. That’s another thing to keep in mind is just asking for some positional drilling for the open map session.
And a crazy thing to do is if you were working, say, cross side top, say, “Hey, can we work cross side top? And we’ll trade off each time you do one session and I do one session.” And then you go from there. Then you’re actually working on the shit that you worked in class and you get more reps on it. Which usually people will go through class and then it’s like slap, tap, go, and it’s their A game and you’re never really working on the other stuff. That’s a great way to deescalate.
I guess in review, try to find a really well run school. It should be impeccably clean, should have morning, noon, and night classes. You should have a range of different people in there, ages, male, female. Again, the ubiquity of classes. They should have a beginner’s program. And then you go in and you just get to know some people. And there should be other people like you in there, a little bit on the older side and you can talk to them, “Hey.” And then as far as injuries-
Nicki: And just say, “My goal is I want to do this for fun and to challenge myself and to have this community, but I don’t want to get hurt.” And you can voice that.
Robb: Yeah. And then as far as injuries, I got to say, you going fast is how both you and other people get hurt. And so if you’re rolling with another white belt and they’re trying to take your head off, yes, by all means protect yourself. But by and large, going slower, trying to control your breathing, which this is all really hard stuff to do in the beginning. And you really have to stomp on your ego because if you go harder, you might, quote, “win” more in the beginning, but all that you’re learning to do is to wrestle super fucking hard. You’re not actually developing the timing and the rhythm and the dexterity to be able to do this stuff at a Jedi type level.
Nicki: If you have the opportunity to work more with upper belts, even though they’re likely going to come out on top every time, they’re going to be more safe than white belts.
Robb: Without a doubt. Yeah.
Nicki: When I started, that was something that Robb pointed out to me. And so if you’re going to do open rolling, roll with upper belts. They have more experience. They’re not going to accidentally gouge you in the eye or do something crazy, which can happen with-
Robb: One of our first-
Nicki: I gouged Robb in the eye once.
Robb: First seminars together, our good friend, Henry Aiken, literally 30 seconds into this thing, we’re working some cross side stuff, and Nicki just thumbed me in the eye. And I was like, “Oh my God.” Yeah.
Nicki: Yeah. The phrase spastic white belt is a thing.
Robb: It’s a thing. Yeah.
Nicki: It’s a thing. Yep. Anyway, Chris, I think I’m excited for you. It’s awesome. It’s one of the most physically challenging, mentally challenging, fun activities. You can do tons of community, you bond with people, I would say, faster. And it just cuts through the bullshit because you meet somebody, and then there’s just so much contact that you get to know. I really like this person, or their energy is, eh. It cuts through that mating dance really quickly.
Robb: Very quickly.
Nicki: But we’ve met some of the people that we love the most in jiu-jitsu. It’s just a great environment and I think an amazing sport to do into your later years.
Robb: Indeed. Cool. Thank you, everybody for the questions.
Nicki: I think that’s all we’ve got for today. Yes. If you have a question, please submit it robbwolf.com. There’s a contact page and then a dropdown where you can submit a question for the podcast. Please remember to check out our show sponsor, LMNT, at drinklmnt.com/robb. Remember that chocolate or caramel is coming out in just a couple of weeks, so if you’ve been missing that, have no fear, it’s on the horizon. And just take care of yourselves, everyone. Sending good vibes and love to you all. And we’ll be back next week.
Robb: Bye, everybody.
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