Brian MacKenzie is an outlier.
I met Brian in February 2007 in Costa Mesa, California at the 1st CrossFit Endurance Seminar. Brian was passion and fire - he spoke as if what he was teaching was the law. Fast forward 9 years and the whole endurance world has shifted its belief in training programs and ideology on nutrition. Brian’s vision and passion were a big part of that shift. Over the years I have learned that there are specific people that you can watch and see what they are doing, whatever it is they are on to...is the next market shift. Brian is one of these people.
I look at patterns in the marketplace and observe is happening in my own CrossFit box. I see what people need, and what industry leaders are shifting toward. People are tired, worn out, and need a counter to the intensity of life, work, and training.
I began watching what Brian was up to when I listened to Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reese, and Brian on Tim Ferris's podcast. Laird is a legend, Gabby is an icon in women's health wellness & performance, and Brian is the man that can really stir the pot! One name kept coming up - Wim Hof. After listening to that podcast I went to the source, The Iceman. I will leave that for another article.
Once I connected the dots I knew that I had to get Brian down to Austin, Texas for the Performance and Breathing seminar.
Below is a glimpse into my experience at the Performance and Breathing seminar and Hot & Ice Seminar.
Twenty-eight participants have gathered around the front of the room finding their place on the floor. The energy and excitement of learning new information is in the air. Brian opens up the seminar speaking on different methods of breathing and working through mobility - opening up the hips and back to engage the lungs and achieve a deeper breath. There is a notable difference in Brian in his presentation and his overall demeanor. He is much more relaxed and laid back, but teaching with impact on how breath improves performance...relaxing the mind and the central nervous system. We are also introduced to the training mask. Brian spoke of his skepticism of the mask before testing it.
We are then introduced to a Wim Hof method breathing cycle. We move through four rounds of 30-40 focus breaths followed by an exhale, then holding the breath for each person's maximum time, then repeat 30-40 breaths for 3 more rounds. The final round you hold your breath and do maximum push up set. Each participant has a different experience, but is high on oxygen and the removal of CO2 from the system.
After lunch we are introduced to the training mask. I personally have an aversion to the mask due to its extreme look. After learning and experiencing the impact of the breath on the nervous system, I was intrigued on how the mask could help performance. Brian encouraged warming up with the mask vs. training. Training in the mask can lead to break down of performance and you're taxed by the work. We ran through multiple metabolic sets, working with the training mask and working without it. My primary physiological feedback was better alertness and broader lung capacity. As the day began to wrap up you knew self-practice and discovery was the access point to higher capacity in performance and recovery.
Ice and Heat Day 2 consisted of cycles of ice bath and heat via dry sauna. Brian opened the day with the power of ice and heat as a natural element and how his previous view of ice treatment was incomplete. We began by placing one leg into the ice bath for 1 minute. It was explained to test your body as you felt comfortable. Max time spent in ice was 5 minutes. Each participant began with 3-5 minutes then went to heat as long as necessary to re-heat the body's core to extremity. The goal is to prevent hypothermia as your body adapts to the cold. All sorts of amazing hormonal responses are occurring as you transition from ice to heat. I will focus on norepinephrine / noradrenaline that is released into the bloodstream that will decrease inflammation and calm the central nervous system. I personally have had tremendous positive response from practicing cold therapy - reduced inflammation, calming of mind body, and overall better life experience. We were encouraged to rotate through 4-5 cycles of ice and heat over the course of 60 minutes. As the morning began to wrap up everyone's interest had been piqued and excitement to continue to practice was encouraged.
I highly recommend the course to get started on breath performance and ice and heat. It's the beginning stages to opening a new lifestyle of train smart, recover smart.