Hormesis: If it Doesn’t Kill You…

Lately I have been listening to the work of an incredible scientist, Dr David Sinclair, Harvard geneticist. His most recent book, Lifespan is essentially a document detailing his quest to cure ageing. One concept he introduced to me in this audiobook is hormesis, the notion that stressing yourself will do you good, aka the popular aphorism, ‘whatever does not kill you simply makes you stronger’. Having given this some thought recently I found a way to put it into action this morning on my run. The details are below. This was a starved run and thus hard work. If you are interested in the book but not sure then Sinclair was recently on the Joe Rogan and Rich Roll podcasts so you can try before you buy.

Garmin Data

Data Summary

Mile Splits

Graphs

Now, with the summary above done I can detail what I learned on this run. Firstly, I really ought to pay better attention to the pavement as I went over on my ankle twice, albeit not badly so thankfully there was no injury but it could have been worse. Secondly, I learned to stress myself. In his work Sinclair details several different stressors that can be hugely beneficial to humans: endurance sports, fasting and cold exposure. The first two I am working on already but the third had never occurred to me previously. Serendipity allowed me to improvise today, however. Running along the Leeds-Liverpool canal I came to a railway bridge on my regular route which was being repaired and thus the pathway was closed, so I had to improvise. This meant taking an adjacent path which either continues as tarmac, or, crucially, there is a short trail. I took the trail and got absolutely drenched, both from the rain and also the muddy filth and freezing cold water that was flowing liberally on the trail.

What I discovered was not only that running in crap conditions is great fun and feels amazing afterwards, but also that I need to get better shoes. I have to be honest and say that I haven’t done as much running as I would like over the last fortnight because here in the U.K. we have had some pretty severe storms and it’s genuinely dangerous to be out in the countryside in such conditions. Where I live you can’t go anywhere for more than twenty minutes before you end up in rural surroundings, and I try to avoid pounding road too much because it is hard on my 6’1, 16 stone frame. I’m a pretty big guy so softer ground is good. I also live in a place where, should I run distances, I end up on country roads where people drive like dickheads. Add that to storm weather and it can be pretty difficult.

That all being said, however, Sinclair’s work and influence has shifted my perspective. I have to start stressing my body more. If I am to run ultra distances as I previously committed to doing then risk is inherent to that, both of injury and some generalised danger. Also, when I thought about it I realised that people are far more likely to endanger me on my bike due to the bizarre cyclist hatred that exists in England and that never stopped me cycling so I think it’s time to start to really hammer myself to get good at serious endurance again. I’ve cycled over 100 miles on a good few occasions, so I can run it for sure.

This means that I can’t fast 5 days out of 7 though. I just can’t see how that is possible, so I have a plan. I will fast on non-running days, meaning that when I do run my fast will commence at 2000 that evening and I fast through to lunch the next day. There is no way I can run endurance distances without eating. That’s crazy and, whilst I am no nutritionist, it can’t be good or healthy for me.

When faced with a closed pathway I took the trail, got myself covered in crap, soaking wet and freezing, but it felt amazing. It didn’t kill me so it must have made me stronger. I then finished up the morning by cooking myself this delicious brunch consisting of savoury pancakes stuffed with potatoes fried in garlic, chilli, ginger and turmeric followed by a fruit salad. Yum!

One thought on “Hormesis: If it Doesn’t Kill You…

  1. Pingback: Hormesis Redux: Electric Boogaloo – Junior's Gone Wild

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