From Saunas to Deadlifts: How to Boost Fitness Performance - Dr. Michael Ruscio, DNM, DC

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From Saunas to Deadlifts: How to Boost Fitness Performance

Take your workout to the next level by strength training, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, alternating between cold exposure and sauna therapy, and more  with Eric Hinman 

Eric Hinman–endurance athlete (5x Ironman)–knows a thing or two about training and recovering from workouts in a healthy way. In this episode, he shares what did (and didn’t) help him achieve his fitness goals and how he eventually found a routine that fueled his body and mind. Listen in to hear the power of sauna therapy, cold exposure, strength training, and daily movement for reaching peak athletic performance and optimizing health. 

In This Episode

Intro…00:08
How to Use Sauna and Cold Exposure Therapies…04:28
Eric Hinman’s Story…09:29
What Eric’s Week Looks Like—And a More Approachable Version…15:12
The Importance of Low-Intensity Workouts and Skill-Based Activities…21:38
Good Fitness Tools to Consider…28:43
A Common (and Surprising) Fitness Deficiency that Most People Have…32:22
Considering Mobility…33:56
VO2 Max [Peak Oxygen Uptake]…38:29
Advice for Beginning Bikers…43:47
Make it Easier to Incorporate Fitness Into Your Life…46:45
Where to Find More From Eric Hinman…50:24

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Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio radio, providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up to date on the latest topics, as well as all of our prior episodes, make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates, visit DrRuscio.com. That’s DRRUSCIO.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking with your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

Dr Ruscio:

Hey, everyone. Today I spoke with Eric Hinman. He is a super fit and inspiring guy, former triathlete, and I’d highly recommend giving his Instagram page a look and a follow. That’s how I came across him, you’ll learn that throughout the body of our conversation. But [he’s] someone who provides a good example of really keeping themselves fit and hitting many of the fundamentals of health and fitness that we’ve discussed on the podcast: sauna and cold contrast therapy, weightlifting, cardiovascular training, doing this outside, trying to also do this when possible with people. So I wanted to explore Eric and what he’s found to be helpful. We go into a number of areas in terms of his routine, an easy way to track and get in zone two cardio, some of the recent epiphanies I had as it pertains to throttling back the intensity of some of my fitness, and how it maps onto perfectly the way Eric currently has his weekly routine laid out. I share an adage I try to live by, which is just don’t do nothing. Avoid doing nothing. And, yeah, I think that’s a good gamut of many of the aspects that we touched on.

Dr Ruscio:

I want to take a moment here, as a PSA, to encourage you to continue to explore, prioritize, and enhance your fitness. I have a growing sense and concern that especially in the areas of functional and integrative medicine, fitness is glossed over. Sometimes people are even discouraged from attempting to attend to and improve their fitness due to, in my opinion, and pardon the candor here, but bogus testing, like adrenal testing, telling people that they are not healthy enough, adrenally, speaking to exercise. And I think, unfortunately, there’s a lot here that needs to be reproached, if you will, and improved.

Dr Ruscio:

And this is something I’ve been spending some time thinking about more. I’m running some of my own experiments, so there will be more to come on this. Certainly, I don’t profess to have everything here correct yet, but I do have a sense that there’s a gap here that needs to be filled. And this is one of many a coming conversation where I’m hoping that we can help put this stuff progressively more on your radar screen, as it’s becoming progressively more on my radar screen. And, a little early to say, but I do think some of these—well, I can say for certain hip mobility has yielded sizable dividends in only two weeks. And there’s a few other things I’m doing with protein intake optimization that, too early to tell, but I will definitely report back on once I have more there. Okay, so with that, we’ll go to the conversation with Eric and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Dr Ruscio:

Hey everyone, welcome back to Dr. Ruscio radio. This is Dr Michael Ruscio here today with someone who I have found inspiring, even though I’ve only been familiar in following your work, Eric, for maybe two weeks when I came across you on Instagram. I said, this is a guy who’s really walking the walk. And if people check out his Instagram page, I would highly recommend it. You’ll see Eric, not only are you a fit guy, but you’re always doing something active, and that was just super inspiring for me and set a good example of how I felt I could even up my game. So I wanted to have you on to really unpack how are you finding the time and getting all of this fitness into your daily routine and share whatever pearls we can extract from you. So Eric, I’m really excited to have you here.

Eric Hinman:

Thanks for having me, Michael. I really appreciate it.

How to Use Sauna and Cold Exposure Therapies

Dr Ruscio:

The thing that really got me, I guess a bit inspired and motivated, as our audience knows, I’m a devout sauna and cold plunge goer. I have that set up at my home and it’s amazing to have. And I’ve been doing sauna for about 10–15 minutes per day at about 200 degrees. I mean, sometimes the sauna, depending on when I get in and it’s heating cycle might be as high as 220, might be as low as 180, but typically I’m in there at about 200 degrees, and it’s challenging for me to get up to 15 minutes. It feels like a workout…that last five minutes feels like 15 minutes. And I came across one of your Instagram videos. You were saying that you do, I don’t know if it’s every day or a few times a week, you do either 20 or 25 minutes at about 200 degrees and you’re doing 90 air squats at the end of this. And I’m saying to myself, “Holy smokes, this guy is on another level.” Found it super inspiring. And maybe you can tell us a bit more about that, about your sauna routine and what you’re doing.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, I mean, you’re speaking my language. I love sauna and cold exposure. It’s just as important to me as exercise, eating healthy, sleep. It’s something I incorporate into my daily routine pretty much every single day. I’ve started to mix in different modalities, just not to over adapt to the extreme heat or the extreme cold. So a couple times a week I’ll do an infrared sauna or I’ll just do a hot epsom salt bath. But yeah, the sauna routine here in Denver that we do at my house, my friend’s house—we have a good squad here that all has saunas and cold plunges—we’ll do 20–25 minutes at 190–200 in a barrel sauna, and then 5–7 minutes in the cold. And I like doing 50 squats just as I’m getting ready to check out for that extra, extra grit factor.

Eric Hinman:

But ultimately I’m not I don’t like preaching this savage mindset. I’ve been doing it now for 10 years. So when you have 10 years of experience in anything, you’re certainly going to have a level level of adaption. So I like to tell people to monitor their heart rate and their discomfort in the sauna to decide when to get out. So yeah, for me, my resting heart rate’s around 40. When I get up to 90 or 100, that’s when I know like I’m in that flight or flight mode, it’s time to get out and get in the cold. And then same with the cold. I’ve been doing it for six years now, so I’ve adapted some to duration and temperature. So I tell people go until you start shivering.

Eric Hinman:

If it’s one minute, great. When I first started, one, two minutes I would start shivering. So that’s the healthy place to be when you first start with the cold exposure. If you’re doing it at like 45 degrees, do it until you shiver and then get out, warm back up, do a few rounds, and then I always like ending on cold. And that last round I just do for like one or two minutes and then just let my body heat up naturally so that you get that metabolic boost from your body heating up.

Dr Ruscio:

And I love the point about not preaching an overly, or just in general, a savage mindset. I agree with you there. I think it’s good to push yourself and to be striving to be better, but I think perhaps we’ve both learned from trying to be too savage too quick, you can crash and burn or overtrain. And I’ve definitely felt that with cold sometimes where I’ve overdone it, it’s a little bit harder, I think, to feel like you’ve overdone it with the heat. I feel like the cold maybe sneaks up on you more quickly. But I do think that’s a really salient point, which is me looking at a guy like you, I’m maybe two years in, you’re 10 years in. Okay, inspiration, something to reach for, but be careful not to try to overreach because that can have some downsides.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah. I mean to a certain effect all of these, they evoke a state change and it’s easy to get addicted to that, almost like drugs, where you want more, you need more extreme in order to get a more extreme high. And then I really learned this during my Ironman years where I was certainly over training. And a lot of it was just because I had to do more to get that same high. So I’ve backed off, I try to, like exercise, I shift routines often, shift modalities just so I don’t adapt to something and then have to push it too far to where it’s unhealthy because yeah, you can run yourself into the ground or you can just seek such extreme highs that you have to do too much to get there again. So I think that’s what you have to be careful with is the goal is to feel good day in and day out. The goal is to increase your health span. It’s not to like go absolutely crazy for two months and then you either burn out or you run yourself into the ground by just doing too much and too long.

Eric Hinman’s Story

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah, and that’s maybe a good transition to have you share with our audience, your background. I do want to get into some big picture. How do you look at your week? How are you structuring this to try to provide people with a loose playbook that may provide some guidelines for how they’re looking at their weeks? But you mentioned triathlete in the past and, certainly just from looking at you can tell you’re in really good shape. What’s the backstory in terms of your fitness? And I think now you’re also doing some coaching for, I think it was, for brands or executives? Normally I have a brief, but this is something that we spun up on the fly and so I don’t have my normal dossier in front of me to have all your background here.

Eric Hinman:

Sure, Yeah. So background is about 12 years ago I found triathlon and I played three sports in high school. I played basketball for one year in college. I got into weightlifting in college. So I had some background in sports, I had some background in functional fitness, but I didn’t go to school to be a trainer. I was never a professional athlete. And it was really in my late twenties where I started to build my life around health and wellness, and it was through triathlon. I signed up for a sprint triathlon and instantly was just addicted to it being like business where your results are directly correlated to how much purposeful practice you put in. So I loved that. Like I could control my destiny with it, it doesn’t favor any genetic gifts like height, it just favors hard work and purposeful work.

Eric Hinman:

So that’s what I loved about it. And after I did a sprint, I did an Olympic distance, and then after the Olympic distance, a half iron man, hired a coach, full iron man, almost qualified for Kona. And then that was when I got really serious about it and I’m like, “Geez, I can take this to the Super Bowl of triathlon and I can get to Kona if I really follow a plan and execute.” So I hired a coach and yeah, during a three year period I was able to get to Kona twice, qualifying at Ironman Lake Placid. And then in 2015, I honestly got burned out from it. I felt like I was going through the motions, I had achieved my goals and I shifted gears and started doing some more strength training. I co-founded a CrossFit Gym in upstate New York and just started really living and breathing health and wellness, but not from the standpoint of competing against others, but just like wanting to know what the best version of myself was.

Eric Hinman:

And I was running multiple businesses and I realized that exercise, eating healthy, good sleep, recovery routines, they were fueling my mind. It felt like I was firing in all cylinders, just unlimited energy and insane mental clarity and opportunity started to come my way. So I’m like, “geez, if I can if I feel good day in and day out, I love this lifestyle I’m living and I’m creating opportunities for myself, this is what I want to continue doing for this chapter of my life while I’m an able-bodied person.” So that was when brand deals started to come in as I built a following on social media. And over the last four years I’ve landed on what my role is within the niche of influencer marketing and that’s really helping brands build their ambassador programs, introducing them to distribution channels, hosting big events. Just having been a business owner, like I know if someone is paying me, they want ROI [return on investment], so I’m going to provide ROI the best I can. And I know it’s probably not just by posting one picture on Instagram, it’s by all of my social network, introducing brands to other people, introducing brands to other brands and just really moving the needle for them.

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah. Love it. Love it. And coming across your work was, I think, fairly serendipitous because as I’ve been thinking more and more about my clinic and our audience, so many of the people who are listening to this or reading a transcript of this, they may have some sort of annoying health issue they’re trying to get past. It might be irritable bowel, it might be inflammatory bowel disease, it might be hypothyroidism. And it’s a huge gift in my mind to be able to help those people go from chronic symptoms to not having those symptoms any longer. But I think there’s a massive gap in the field of functional and integrative medicine where there’s so much obsession over fancy lab testing and treating those test values with all these fancy nutraceuticals. And people are really not, and I include myself partially in this, they’re not hitting well enough, especially as it pertains to fitness.

Dr Ruscio:

These fundamentals, like you said a second ago, can fuel this abundance of energy and focus. And this is one of the things I think I’ve taken for granted in terms of I’m a clinician on the one hand, I’m a person who does sauna and contrast therapy and exercises somewhat religiously on the other hand. And I want to start getting those two different areas to coalesce into the clinical practice because I, again, I feel that there’s this gap and this under serving of people who’ve had health conditions and they go from having symptoms to not having any symptoms, to some extent, but they could probably have even better energy and better mental clarity if we dialed in some of these facets of VO2 max training, zone two training, strength training, stability training.

What Eric’s Week Looks Like—And a More Approachable Version

Dr Ruscio:

And so coming across your work was really serendipitous in that regard. And maybe as a big step back, is there a framework through which you look at your week? Because what I’m envisioning is, you have, let’s say, a week and you can only do so much exercise in that week. Do you do all stretching? Do you do all strength training? Do you do all aerobic? What’s the parameters that you’re looking at, to try to give people a way of wrapping their head around, “okay, what facets do I need to include in my fitness routine, my health routine to make sure I don’t have any massive gaps?”

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, I mean, I’ll talk about my routine, but also remember that I’ve been doing this for 12 years and I’m able to monetize a life of movement, so it’s going to be overkill for most. So I’ll explain mine, but then I’ll also explain where I think people can get the most bang for their buck if they’re working from nine to five, they have a family and, they have some balls they can’t drop, right?

Eric Hinman:

So yeah, my routine is, I go back and forth. So I keep my stoke high for each discipline. So one day will be a big gym day, two/two-and-a-half hours in the gym, and it’s going to be CrossFit-type training. So I’m going to do like a 15-minute warmup to prepare for the movement patterns I’ll be doing. And then it’s going to be complex lifts, either squatting, pulling a deadlift or pushing a press or a bench press movement, probably some Olympic lifting. And then a series of either metabolic conditioning workouts or high intensity intervals. I like using cardio machines for those like the assault bike, the rower, the skier. I do not really like doing CrossFit metcons where say you’re deadlift or snatching these movements that were not supposed to be done under high duress. I don’t like doing those. I’ll do them in competition obviously, but it’s certainly not what I preach for someone who is not looking to compete in the sport.

Eric Hinman:

So yeah, using those cardio machines or like body weight exercises or light weights, but going hard, spiking your heart rate. You should be sweating profusely. And oftentimes the working sets are only 20–40 seconds, but I want to die afterwards. Like I am absolutely redlining and I’m resting for probably two times the work time in order to back that same effort up again. And then I do accessory work at the end. So it’s going to be more isolated movements just to strengthen the smaller tendons and ligaments. So that’s one day.

Eric Hinman:

And then the next day is more of an aerobic cardio day. So zone two, which for me is around one 130–135 heart rate. And that’s going to be I generally don’t go over two hours with any aerobic capacity work, which may sound like a lot to most, but Iron Man days I was doing upwards of six to seven hours of aerobic training in a big day. So that would generally include a mountain bike ride or a trail run, a hike, something outdoors, soaking up the sunlight, or a long EMOM outside, again using cardio machines or body weight type movements.

Eric Hinman:

And yeah, I’ve really found a great balance just going back and forth between those two. I’m really excited each day for whatever the modality is. And I also feel like it gives me a chance to recover from each of those training disciplines. And then where I think you get the most bang for your buck is doing strength training [with] heavy ish weights, 60–80% of your one rep max for three to five sets, three to five reps, complex lifts, back squat, front squat, deadlift, overhead pressing movements, bench press, and then those highly aerobic conditioning workouts.

Eric Hinman:

So assault bike intervals I think is one of the best tools out there where a 20 calorie bike sprint or 20 to 30 seconds of work and then 60 seconds of rest, doing that 6–10 times. If you only have 45 minutes to workout, that’s the type of workout I would recommend three days a week, and then maybe two days a week get outside, go for a hike, go for an easy run trail run, go for a bike ride, soak up the sunlight and get some aerobic cardio in just to work your heart.

Dr Ruscio:

Love it.


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Dr Ruscio:

And one of the things things I’m coming to appreciate, and I actually just took my mountain bike that, gosh, maybe two years ago I was hauling down a hill somewhere and went off the road and totally just destroyed my, my back tire. Thankfully there was thick grass so as I went flying off the bike I walked away totally unscated. But in thinking about my routine, one of the things that I bump up against, and I’m assuming many people listening to this also hit, is too many days I’m trying to go pedal to the metal. I mean, pretty much, if I’m being honest, six days a week I’m trying to just go all out every workout. And I’ve been able to sustain that for the most part, I think because I’m just so obsessive about sleep, supplementation, diet, recovery, but I don’t feel it to be a sustainable pace and I also feel that I’m hitting a plateau.

The Importance of Low-Intensity Workouts and Skill-Based Activities

Dr Ruscio:

And as I’ve started to come out of my own bubble and get my bearings back into the fitness field, and I’m listening and learning from various people like yourself, I’m seeing how recurring of a theme some type of zone two or low intensity, longer duration cardio pops up again and again and again and again. And biking seems to be a great way to do that. For a little while I was trying running, but doing that three days a week, my leg just felt beat up after a while. And so having a mountain bike which is being repaired, plus I’m getting a road bike, I look at that as okay if you’re burnt out or just cycling in every other day like you’re doing your routine, these low intensity routines seems to me to be something that people can do even when they’re not in the mood to exercise. Is it really that hard to go outside and go for a bike ride? And I think this provides an opportunity for people to get A) conditioning that they may need and are not getting, but also do it in a way where you’re getting outside, hopefully you’re getting some sun and it doesn’t feel like, “ugh, I can’t go do a heavy squat workout today because I don’t have all that umph.” Great, this is something that you should be able to do most of the time.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, I mean, you hit the nail on the head. Only about 10–15% of my exercise volume each week is at a really high intensity. The rest is, again, going back to the percentages, I’m doing 60–80% of my one rep maxes. I very rarely am going above 90% with any of the lifts. And for the cardio volume, yeah, 80, 85% of my cardio each week is done at a low intensity, that zone two intensity. And then 15% is done at that red line intensity. So yeah, you can maintain it in your twenties and your early thirties, but after a while you’re really going to beat yourself up with that and you’re not going to develop any aerobic capacity. It does translate much better to aerobic capacity than, let’s say aerobic capacity translates to strength and aerobic capacity.

Eric Hinman:

But yeah, to build your aerobic capacity, it’s that low volume work. And yeah, biking for me is always my afternoon exercise. So if I do CrossFit in the morning, I’ll typically bike in the afternoon. If I run in the morning, I’ll typically bike in the afternoon, because it also serves as active recovery. It’s low impact and you’re just, the blood keeps flowing. I think it’s better than laying on your back and resting, just becauseyou’re keeping the blood flowing so you won’t get a sore the next day.

Eric Hinman:

And then the other thing also that I love is I pick skill-based activities over mundane activities. So for example, I trail run instead of pavement run, I mountain bike oftentimes instead of road bike, and I have access to it. So that’s something also to consider is what do you have access to? But I just feel like these skill-based activities where you have to be in the moment because either there’s risk involved, your skill involved, the flow state that is produced after is so much more than doing something that is not skill-based where you don’t have to be completely present doing it. So that’s why I choose to do Olympic lifting, mountain biking, a lot of these skill-based activities because it just teaches your mind presence.

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah, and I think that’s great. And also we’ve discussed in the podcast in the past, the pretty clear difference in things like vigor, mood, and subjective wellbeing people experience if they exercise outside as compared to inside. And some elegant studies that actually looked at this. And they’ll take a large gripping of people, half of them exercise outside, half of them exercise inside, and those exercising outside report higher levels of happiness, wellbeing. And so from that perspective alone, I think it’s worthwhile for people to really try to adopt, whether, like you said, to be trail running or mountain biking, and especially if you can get some sun exposure along the way. I mean now you’re getting three-fold benefit—play and engaging non-monotonous activity, time in nature, and hopefully some sunlight exposure.

Eric Hinman:

Can’t agree more. And I mean, everything I’m doing I enjoy. I enjoy being outside. And I agree with you. You’re soaking up the sun’s rays, you’re connecting with nature and yeah, you get a tremendous high just from that. And you get so many more benefits than being inside on a treadmill, which I don’t think many people enjoy. And then also like the workouts in the gym, I mean, the reason I also get a high from them is because I’m training with people I enjoy being around. There’s music playing that I enjoy and I can just get into that flow state because of the people and the environment that I’m in. So yeah, I think it’s super important to choose people that you really want to be around when working out and then also doing a lot of it outside instead of just having it as a checklist item.

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah. Love it. Love it. And you said something about better than laying on your back, and it totally connects with this mantra I’ve found helpful, which is I’ll say to myself, “just don’t do nothing.” And so I’ve found that even going for a walk. And I’ve found my way into, okay, well if I’m not ready to go get under a heavy bar or what have you, go for a walk. And now I’ll have the ability to go for a bike ride. And I want to share that with people because I have really found, I will definitely feel worse if I just lay on the couch. Doing any sort of movement is better than doing nothing. Even if it…I shouldn’t say “even if it’s low intensity,” in a lot of regards, it seems that the low intensity is actually just as important as high intensity.

Dr Ruscio:

So something for people to keep in mind, if you’re setting this really high expectation bar for every time you exercise, let’s plan into your routine some simple stuff that gets you doing things you enjoy, as you said Eric, with people you enjoy, perhaps if that’s possible, but just avoid doing nothing. I think that’s that’s a low bar we can set. And again, I’ve been amazed the times that I have done nothing thinking, “Oh, I’m tired,” I feel worse. But if I just go and walk or something, I feel better.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah. Yeah. And also a lot of these things I consider them multitasking without multitasking. So if you have to take a meeting and typically you would sit during a meeting, like go for a walk while you’re taking that meeting or go on walking meetings. And then for me, like sauna/cold plunge, that’s when I like having people over and having conversations. That’s pretty much the only time I am sitting still throughout the day and I want to meet with people. I love meeting new people so I have them come over and I do the sauna and cold plunge with them. So I kill two birds with one stone without multitasking and they get my complete presence in the sauna.

Good Fitness Tools to Consider

Dr Ruscio:

Now one thing I want to, and I love that by the way, and I’m going to try to aspire to do more of that because I think that’s fantastic. What are you using in terms of, I’m assuming you have a heart rate strap, chest strap and maybe an app on your phone. Like if we wanted to give people who are new to this some parameters for “Okay, I want to do zone two cardio, I know almost nothing about this.” Is there a strap? Is there an app? And then what’s a general parameter for my heart rate? I can look into again, maybe it won’t be uber accurate, but at least we can give people an approximation to get started.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, so I have a COROS watch. Garmin, Polar, all of these companies now make wrist-based heart rate watches and they work really well. Up until the last 10 years, it was mainly the chest strap that you would have to wear. But yeah, get a wrist-based heart rate monitor (COROS, Garmin, Polar), and that’ll track your heart rate in the moment. And then also it will track your average heart rate when you are exercising. And the general rule of thumb, and this is called the Maffetone Method, is take your age and subtract it from 180. So, I’m 42, I subtract that from 180, that’s a 138. That’s approximately what my aerobic heart rate zone is. Mine is a little lower just because I’ve been doing so many years of aerobic training. But yeah, rule of thumb is 180, subtract your age from that and that is approximately your aerobic heart rate zone. If you really want to figure it out, you could do, let’s say, a 15–20 minute all out effort on a bike or run a 5K and see what your max heart rate is and then take about 75–80% of that and that’s what your aerobic heart rate zoning training should look like.

Dr Ruscio:

And that is the upper that you want to not go above? Or you want to be within five or so points of that?

Eric Hinman:

Correct. Five or so beats of that number. Yep.

Dr Ruscio:

Okay. Yeah. So easy, right? Not, not too complicated. I know there’s some other formulas out there, like you’re saying and you’re alluding to that are a bit more robust, but I don’t think it has to be super complicated. And I also, as I’ve been tinkering with this, you learn what it feels like and it feels like a very mild level of activity and it’s easy to know, okay, like now I’m running faster because this is one of the things I’ve always had to bridle myself when I was first learning how to do zone two cardio. I drift and I drift and I drift toward this faster pace that I always want to run at. After a while I learned, okay, here’s what zone two feels like. And it’s, I think, a good opportunity for people to tune into their bodies and it’s really quite sustainable. You are not working hard at all.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, I mean you should be able to have a conversation. If you get to a point where you wouldn’t want to have a conversation with someone, that means you’re probably outside of your zone two. You’re breathing, but you’re not out of breath. You don’t need to collapse afterwards and it should be an effort that you feel like you could sustain for a really long period of time.

Dr Ruscio:

Perfect. Love it. There’s one app all throughout that I’ve found helpful. It’s called Runmeter. And what I like about this is you can connect it to a device and you can also set parameters and it will tell you every minute if you’re going too slow, meaning your heart rate’s too low it’ll “say speed up heart rate too low.” If you’re going too fast, it’ll say “slow down, heart rate too high.” And so this has been nice because it allows me to zone out and get these periodic pings. The app says nothing if you’re on track, but again, it tells you to slow down or speed up on a minute over minute interval, which is nice.

Eric Hinman:

I love that.

A Common (and Surprising) Fitness Deficiency that Most People Have

Dr Ruscio:

Where do you think most people, Eric, in your experience, are deficient? And maybe you’re just surrounded by people who are super fit, so maybe you don’t feel like you’re the best person to ask this question, but just curious if you have any perspective there? So our population I would say, is very well educated regarding health and nutrition and diet. Fitness, probably moderately so, but where do you think most people seem to not be paying enough attention?

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, I mean for me included, I thought fitness was more about aesthetic growing up. And honestly until my late twenties, until I got into Ironman, I didn’t associate exercise with mental clarity, emotional wellbeing, stress, resilience, a robust immune system. So I lacked that, that knowledge and awareness. And so I would say awareness is probably where we are the most defficient in that I think still a lot of people think that exercise, eating healthy, all of that is just to get to a certain aesthetic and they fail to realize or they’re just not aware of the mental clarity that it brings, the emotional wellbeing, the stress resilience, the robust immune system, and just feeling like the best version of yourself. So that’s what I really try to preach is the aesthetic is a byproduct. I’m doing this because I want to feel good day in and day out and I want to show up as the best version of myself.

Dr Ruscio:

Love it. Love it.

Considering Mobility

Dr Ruscio:

One area, I’m curious to pick your brain if you have any thoughts, is mobility. Recently I uncovered that my hip mobility was not where it should be. And even though I have things like a sit-stand desk, I was just too much in the frontal plane, didn’t have enough rotational movement, wasn’t doing enough things from the floor. So now as an example. And as one easy technique for our audience, when I fold my laundry—I do it once a week—I do it all from the floor and I sit in different positions. But that one thing has given me maybe 20 minutes just living like a hunter gatherer. So that’s been one easy way and I’m trying to find progressively other ways of spending more time on the floor. And this just forces you to have better hip mobility. But in terms of mobility, are you having to do certain things to keep yourself from drifting into imbalance?

Eric Hinman:

I love that analogy by the way. And having Aaron Alexander here this past weekend, he eats all of his meals sitting on the ground, crosslegged. He has incredible mobility. So for me this is not the easiest solution, but I get a lot of my mobility from Olympic lifting, from the CrossFit-type movements where you have to have pretty good mobility to snatch a lot of weight overhead, overhead squat a lot of weight to front squat weight. So the majority of my mobility and the focus for me is, is coming from those lifts. I do not do really anything in addition. But I do believe that a lot of mobility is also impacted by inflammation and that is something that I am always on top of with the cold exposure and the saunas is reducing the inflammation from that day’s training. So I very rarely wake up super stiff. I’m not the most mobile person because I do run, I do bike, and those two movements definitely do not help with mobility. But the Olympic lifting and the CrossFit workouts, they really counteract the running and the biking. So I do have some pretty good mobility from that.

Dr Ruscio:

What about movements that are in the transverse plane or that are rotational, is there anything in particular that you’re doing there?

Eric Hinman:

I honestly don’t do a ton there. So cross, I mean of all of the training I do, the biggest deficiencies with it are going to be rotational things. I do do core exercises, so I’ll do Russian twists, I’ll do planks, I’ll try to keep my core super strong for deadlift, back squat, all of the complex lifts you have to do with CrossFit training. But yeah, I don’t do a lot of like throwing. CrossFit does require a lot of hinging so I get a lot of hinging movements. But yeah, the running, biking, CrossFit, they two deficiencies would be rotational strength and then also like speed and agility. There isn’t a lot of speed and agility being tested with the training that I do becauseit’s generally slower, running slower, biking, and then weight lifting and just working in one plane with the various movements.

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah, it’s funny you say that because those are the two things that I’m trying to do more of, which is mobility type movement and then also some explosive work. I do sprints but I’m just seeing this landscape of, well if the hips are not where they should be, the sprints are going to be inhibited. And then also sprinting is, again, frontal plane. So I’m trying to get more lateral shuffles and things like that. Ideally I’ll go back to playing soccer once per week because gosh, what a wonderful array of different movements that you’re forced to do when you’re playing a sport like running and looking over your shoulder, then opening up your hips to receive the pass. So I think if people can get sport in, obviously you want to on-ramp yourself, be careful that you don’t jump too quick, but that’s a great way through play and enjoyment and not feeling like, “well, now I’m doing hip mobility,” to make sure that you keep your body moving in all these different, planes.

Eric Hinman:

Sure. Tennis, pickleball. I was playing pickleball a bunch when I was in Florida this past winter and I mean, that was really fun and there you go, you’re getting your speed and agility and rotational work playing a pretty fun sport. That’s skill-based, so you have to be present while you’re playing.

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah, I actually played pickle pickle ball for the first time last weekend. It was surprisingly fun and simple.

Eric Hinman:

So fun.

Dr Ruscio:

You don’t really need much equipment except for a bag of paddles so.

Eric Hinman:

No, and no steep learning curve. Tennis takes some getting used to on how to hit the ball, but pickle ball, most people can just play immediately and do pretty well.

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah, it’s pretty forgiving definitely.

VO2 Max [Peak Oxygen Uptake]

Dr Ruscio:

What about anything regarding VO2 max? This is something I’ve been seeing pop up in terms of VO2 max training, which seems to have different themes of work as hard as you can and then recover for a similar interval, whether it be 30/30, a minute/a minute, three minutes/three minutes. It sounds like you’re getting some of that with the assault bike training that you mentioned earlier and some of those similar techniques. But what role do you think this has?

Eric Hinman:

I mean I think it’s super important and it was, I had a decent VO2 max when I was competing in Ironman, but my VO2 max is definitely higher now. Training more CrossFit-style stuff, assalt bike, rower bike, or any of those low-impact machines are going to be incredible machines to increase your anaerobic power. And the key with it is going as hard as you possibly can until you start to really taper off and that’s when you should stop and then you need to rest long enough so that you can back that effort up, call it six, eight, ten times. So for me what that looks like is I, one of my favorites is 10 rounds, 20 kl assault bike intervals. That takes me about 20 seconds and then I rest until the two minute mark. So it’s a lot of rest, but I need that rest in order to back that effort up again. And my mindset back in the triathlon days was if I’m in the gym for an hour, I want to be going for an hour, I don’t want to rest.

Dr Ruscio:

Right.

Eric Hinman:

But if you want to increase your lactate threshold, if you want to increase your VO2 max, if you want to increase your anaerobic capacity, watch how Crossfit athletes train, like their intervals are very short but they’re going at a very high intensity and sometimes they’re recovering three times, four times what that work time is so they can back up that insane effort time and time again. So that’s how you increase it is short, hard intervals.

Dr Ruscio:

One of the reasons why this has become so much more interesting to me, is some of the work of Peter Attia. And I know he’s probably been banging on this drum for many, many years. I’ve just recently resurfaced some of his work and he plots out some fairly impressive data points showing that longevity and VO2 max have a really tight correlation. So that’s just something I’ll put out here for our audience in terms of, and there’s this old moniker that I like, which is, if you can’t, you must.

Dr Ruscio:

And so if you feel like you’re not in adequate enough condition to work as hard as you can on a bike, on a rower, go all out for 30 seconds, then that’s something that you very likely should do, at least from some of the research that I’ve seen through various lectures. That there’s this tight agreement between the longer someone…I don’t want to say maintains, becauseVO2 max naturally declines every decade of life to my understanding, but the more, the more you can prolong your VO2 max or I guess we should say, the more you can decrease the decline in the VO2 max, there’s a tight correlation with that and longevity.

Dr Ruscio:

So I would say one more reason for our audience to really be thinking about building up your conditioning so that you can really go all out on something like a bike or a rower or whatever because of this correlation between VO2 max and longevity.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, I mean I agree with that a hundred percent. And there’s also going to be some other things that are likely associated with a high VO2 max is someone with a high VO2 max likely is going to have more muscle mass than someone with a low VO2 max and someone with a high VO2 max likely is moving a hell of a lot more than someone with a low VO2 max. So we know that muscle mass and we know that elevating your heart rate every single day are things that increase healthspan and lifespan.

Dr Ruscio:

Right. Yep. Great points.

Advice for Beginning Bikers

Dr Ruscio:

Well, what else? Is there anything else that you think we have…I mean obviously there’s so many crevices we could explore here. And maybe one question I will pose for you in terms of, this is just a personal question, but I’m going to be purchasing a road bike and I’m trying to get a road bike that can do half and half gravel and pavement because for me here in Austin there’s a lot of areas where it’s some pavement and it’s sort of a gravel trail. Any recommendations in terms of a good bike and tire combination to get for that?

Eric Hinman:

Sure. I mean I think it depends how far you want to take it. I’ve always made the mistake of like going entry level in something and then end up getting the nicest bike for that discipline because I get addicted to it. So be careful with that. Road biking and gravel biking are definitely two very different things. It’s going to be difficult to find a bike that performs really well on both. Again, like depending how far you want to take it. I have Specialized S-Works bikes, I love them. I think they make incredible bikes. I have a Tarmac, which is my road bike, and then I think that Diverge is their gravel bike. The diverge would be really good on gravel and it’s going to be enjoyable on road. But if you go with a bunch of your Austin cycling friends and they all have road bikes with that tire size you may have some trouble hanging on just because they’re going to have a much higher rolling speed with a thinner tire and a lighter bike.

Eric Hinman:

So yeah, I would pick which one you’re going to do more often and then maybe focus on getting that a bike for that specifically that’s higher-end so you really enjoy that experience. I don’t know Austin gravel riding, I do know Austin road riding, you guys have some great road riding out there going out towards like B cave and stuff. So road riding is nice because generally depending on where you are in the city, you can just leave right from your house. You don’t have to truck it anywhere. Whereas the gravel biking unless you live out in the country on a gravel road, like you’re probably going to have to cart your bike. So it just puts one more hurdle in the way of doing it with gravel biking.

Dr Ruscio:

Yeah. And this is great. And so for the audience what I’m trying to do is exactly what you alluded to, be able to just roll out of my garage and then ride for about an hour. And I’m actually really looking forward to being able to do this two or three times per week. Get my heart rate monitor set up whether I use my…I do have a Garmin Phoenix watch or I use the heart rate monitor, hook up to the app and just be able to ride and stay in this sort of comfortable zone and get these two or three hour sessions per week where it’s super simple.

Make it Easier to Incorporate Fitness Into Your Life

Dr Ruscio:

I feel like if I had to drive 20 minutes to then ride for an hour and then drive 20 minutes back, I’m merely doubling the amount of time it requires for an exercise session. If I was in a sweet position like you Eric, where this was the centerpiece of my life, that would be a lot more doable. Unfortunately for me, I’m a nerdy clinician and a lot of that stuff just eats up my time. So I’m trying to thread that needle of really getting the good sessions but also having the amount of prep and travel be as low as possible.

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, yeah. Does it fit with your lifestyle? Yeah. That’s so important with anything. We bought our house in Colorado where we purchased it, strictly because I wanted to be closer to the mountain so I could mountain bike one mile to a trailhead and be in the mountains. Can road bike right from the house and be on bike paths. So yeah, I mean your environment will definitely dictate your ease of being able to do some of these things and that’s where the awareness comes in is if you do want to build your life around some of these principles, you do have to be aware of your environment, the people you surround yourself with and those are either going to make it easier or harder for you to reach your goals.

Dr Ruscio:

Yes. And this is a great point to maybe echo and loop in some of what I’ve taken away from my conversations and time spent with Aaron Alexander where, and just yesterday I was eating not from the floor but from a full squat position. So one of the things I’m trying to do is again, eat more like a hunter-gatherer would, I feel that actually stretching my pelvic floor. And with the hip tightness has come a little bit of pelvic floor tightness and it’s like, oh here’s something that in normal free living human environments I would probably be doing all the time just doing stuff from a full squat position, making a fire, whatever it may be. So I have a couple pillows on the floor, a meditation cushion, and then I also have in my upstairs bathroom doorway, you can get these really innocuous pull up bars.

Dr Ruscio:

Not the big ones that have to like kinda like hook around the doorframe, but there’s ones that can be installed. It’s just a straight bar right in the doorframe you can barely see it so it’s not an eyesore, and a few times per day as I’m coming and going into the bathroom, I’ll just hang. And to your point, making it really easy to have these things almost in your way allows you not to have any barriers to hanging for shoulder mobility or sitting for hip mobility. So I just want to echo that. I think that’s really important for people becausethe more you have to do, if you have to drive 10 minutes to go to the gym to do this stuff, it’s just one more hindrance.

Eric Hinman:

Yep. Agree.

Dr Ruscio:

Well, what else? Is there anything else that you want to cover? This has been I think, a very fruitful combo, but anything that is important that you think we missed?

Eric Hinman:

No, I don’t think so. I mean, just to echo a lot of these things that we’re all doing is for that mental clarity to be the best business owner, the best husband, the best father, it’s again, not for the aesthetic. And same with the sauna and cold exposure, I think it’s often looked at as that’s what athletes do to recover, but the sauna and the cold are two things where you need zero skill whatsoever to walk into. And you are going to get those benefits from it. You’re going to get that hit of serotonin you’re going to build stress, resilience, you’re going to build a robust immune system. So I think those are two of the things that are like just easy to start doing where you don’t need practice, you just need to find it or find a group of people that they have it so you have access to it.

Where to Find More From Eric Hinman

Dr Ruscio:

Love it. Love it. Eric, where are you hanging out online and where can people learn more about what you’re doing?

Eric Hinman:

Yeah, Instagram, best place to find me. It’s just my name Eric Hinman. Shoot me a DM with any questions you guys have. And, I love chatting about this stuff, so always happy to interact and engage.

Dr Ruscio:

Awesome. Well Eric, thanks a lot and when I’m in Colorado, let’s get a workout in. And please take it easy on me.

Eric Hinman:

Would love to hang with you here. You’re welcome anytime.

Dr Ruscio:

Awesome. Thanks my man. Appreciate it.

Eric Hinman:

Cheers Michael, have a good one.

Outro:

Thank you for listening to Dr. Ruscio Radio today. Check us out on iTunes and leave a review. Visit DrRuscio.com to ask a question for an upcoming podcast, post comments for today’s show, and sign up to receive weekly updates. That’s DRRUSCIO.com.



➕ Dr. Ruscio’s Notes

How to Use Sauna and Cold Exposure Therapies

  • Sauna therapy: 
    • Enjoy 20-25 minutes in the sauna at 190-200 degrees fahrenheit
    • Make sure to monitor your heart rate
    • 90-100 bpm is too high
  • Cold exposure therapy: 
    • Try to withstand 5-7 minutes or go until shivering begins
    • If 5-7 minutes isn’t doable right away, start smaller and increase your exposure (with 30 seconds to a minute) over time

 

Eric’s Weekly Workout Routine 

  • 1 day of 2-2 ½ hours of CrossFit-type training
    • Complex lifts including deadlifts, bench press, and olympic lifts
    • A series of metabolic conditioning workouts or high-intensity intervals using the rower machine or assault bike  
  • 1 day of no more than 2 hours of aerobic cardio exercises (mountain bike, hike, trail run, and bodyweight exercises)

 

Squeezing in a Workout on a 9-5 Schedule

  • Strength training 
    • Opt for heavier weights and do one set for 3-5 reps
  • Assault bike intervals
    • Go on the assault bike for 20-30 seconds, then rest for 60 seconds. Repeat 6-10 times.
  • Go outside for a hike, trail run, or bike ride (twice a week)

 

How to Establish and Execute Healthy Exercise Habits

  • Instead of sitting at your computer for a meeting, take the call on a walk. 
  • Have people do the activity or exercise with you. 
  • Get a wrist heart rate monitor for tracking purposes. 
    • To calculate your aerobic heart rate, take your age and subtract it from 180. 
  • Focus on how you feel. Exercising should:
    • Improve mental clarity
    • Relieve emotional stress
    • Boost your immune system

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Discussion

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