Lee Saxby's Wisdom of Coaching Blog

Persistently hunting the persistent hunters

“Ahh, yhes, you have just missed him, he has gone to jail for shooting a man with a poisoned arrow..”

We had driven for over 1000 kilometers over the African Plains.  The previous three villages had all pointed us in the direction of this little village, saying the last guy who knew how to do the long distance running and persistence hunting would definitely be here.  Our group consisted of Lee ‘the best barefoot running coach in the world’ Saxby, Brian ‘Boss N&*^%$’ Taylor, Ben ‘Strider’ McNutt and Werner ‘Stone Age’ Pfeiffer and Lynx ‘I’ll sleep over here’ Wilden.  The trip was really Lee’s idea, who was in the process of creating the launch platform for Born to Run, and inspired us to make the journey to witness the ultimate in natural human movement in Africa.  So we were giving him some pretty stern grief at this time.

The previous evening, our guide Werner, known as “Honey Bird”, had told us a history on the San (the Western term to categorise a multitude of bushmen tribes living all the way  from Botswana to South Africa). The Ju/’hoansi, our hosts, are one such tribe, and call an area of 90,000 sq km around the Nyae-Nyae pans home. Together with the Heikom they had successfully defended themselves with poisoned arrows from the Bantu invasions and so remain a particularly pure (un-mixed up) strain of human genetics!

Since they banned hunting in Botswana last year, the Naye-Naye conservancy area is the last place in Namibia where the Bushmen are still permitted to hunt using traditional techniques and we were here to find proof of the endurance running hypothesis:

Original humans hunted by running down and tracking prey over the hottest hours of the day. Humans have a unique ability to stay cool (sweat) with an efficient and elastic running style enabling us to out-last Antelope who can only manage short bursts to run away before they have to cool themselves down by breathing. Through clever tracking and consistent running, the humans are able to move the antelope on before they are fully recuperated and the beast ultimately keels over from heat exhaustion.

The drive from the village was a ponderous one, and we were becoming pessimistic about whether we would even get to meet someone that knew how to do the persistance hunting. Just as we were about to give up, a demure figure sitting across the room inquired,

“Are you guys doing a project?”

“We are looking for the last of the persistent hunters, but have hit a dead end.”

The mysterious figure was Aleksandra Orbeck Nielsen, who had left a glamorous career in Paris and New York to set up a conservation trust, called: Nano Fasa; to help protect the last wild zone of Namibia. Her goal was to set up a sustainable future for the people in the area. She knew the best hunters around and was about to launch, ‘The Barefoot Academy’ based around 5 branches:

The Hunter “Tracking is like dancing, I feel happy.”

The Gatherer “If we all share, we have enough.”

The Healer “Healing makes our hearts happy and our bodies strong as the antelope”

The Story Teller “We tell stories to teach, to prepare, to share and to connect.”

The Sustainer “When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.”

The next morning Aleks was off to film a documentary, and we decided to go for a run with Ben McNutt’s bushman friend Toma. Ben had been working with Toma and his friend !Ao for the last ten years, leading expeditions to Namibia through his company Woodsmoke. As Toma glided effortlessly through the bush, we witnessed human movement at its most natural, he was deftly moving as humans have done in this part of Africa since before the dawn of humanity.


Back in the village, we met Toma’s 80 years old father, squatting by his hut (while his son slouched on one of the chairs), who regaled us with tales of what he called ‘the running hunt’ and how they used to do it in this area.

“I wish my children would still do the running hunting”, said the old man. “They have become lazy and because they go to school have not had enough time to learn our traditional ways.”

Only 1 in 10 bow and arrow hunts are successful and the older villagers are frustrated that the young are too lazy to pursue this efficient and successful method of running hunting.

Schools, sitting in chairs and the introduction of secondhand first-world padded shoes are affectively crippling the Ju/’hoansi. As a result, running hunting, one of the most original methods of human pursuit is on the verge of dying out.

Ju/’hoansi like Toma and his brother have both gone to school, discovered chairs (they even have two chairs outside their hut) and started wearing poorly fitting secondhand Western shoes (often at least 2 sizes too big or too small). After being coerced by their insistent father, they have tried the running hunting, but so far without success.

“We gave up.”

“It was too hard.”

Toma and his brother say that they cough from smoking and as a result of tuberculosis. Although they reluctantly admit they ‘should’ stop smoking and start running to make their lungs stronger.

As the sun rose on our final day and we set off up the hills to Nhoma camp,, which had become rundown by an infamous Boer who had committed the crime of selling the Ju/’hoansi the free giveaway secondhand shoes he had received as ‘donations’ from the West.

Aleks has recently launched a tracking school and the skill of running hunting will be part of it. Students will come for a minimum of 2 weeks to help build up the camp, contribute to projects, and learn the ancient ways of these humble, wise and beautiful people.

It was easy to distinguish the people that had started wearing Western shoes, as their toes were already warped. Whereas those who had stuck to the original natural sandals had beautiful straight toes. The people of Nhoma only hunted in the traditional bushman sandals – these days mainly made of tire rubber. The local cobbler complained of the lack of skins to make the shoes in the original way. They used to make two different types of sandals – one for hunting with a big toe groove for extra grip and a flat one for everyday use.


As the sun burnt into the bush, the film makers were capturing the locals gathering the larvae to make their poisonous arrow heads and we set off on our 1000km return trip back to Windhoek, on the way witnessing a final termite hatch at Roy’s camp. As a wise lady said, “Termites show that when we unite together we can build great things.”

We look forward to all coming back to inaugurate the tracking school, don the locally made bushmen sandals and run down a Kudu.. and try to escape without a poisoned arrow in our ass!

user error

‘A user error is an error made by the human user of a complex system.’



The life-span and productivity of a precision-engineered tool like the human body is directly related to the skill level of the operator and their knowledge of it’s ‘modus operandi’ and maintenance needs. Certain engineering principles are universal and timeless but it is important to read the ‘small print’ regarding each manufacturers definition of a ‘lifetime guarantee’ and ‘normal wear and tear’ as these definitions vary greatly between countries, cultures and institutions.


The Bulletproof Runner workshop has been designed as an applied, ‘hands on’ education in the skillful operation of the running anatomy by improving technique (biomechanics) and enhancing biological adaptation and recovery (bioenergetics).

Click HERE to find a local Bulletproof Runner workshop (more regions coming soon)


Rehabilitating the human foot – part 2 socks

It is an accepted fact that warm feet and a cool head are necessary for good health.

Alfred Vogel. Swiss naturopath

Nothing much has changed since 1889 when Thomas Ellis, the Consulting Surgeon to the General Infirmary in Gloucester, England published THE HUMAN FOOT, its Form and Structure Functions and Clothing with the warning that “few persons at all realize the amount of injury traceable to socks and stockings”.

“The ordinary median-pointed or even-sided sock is productive, directly and indirectly, of much of the evil put down to the charge of boots, and should be discarded by all who wish to use their feet as feet. The separate stall for the great toe is always desirable, but for those who, happily, have no distortion and full use of the great toe, a sock with a straight inside line will suffice. The three forms are shown in figs. 42, 43, 44.


The separate stall for the great toe is an element of great importance, but, as regards function, there is no advantage in a separate stall for each of the smaller toes; they all move together and do very well in one casing. Under some conditions of unhealthy skin it is of decided benefit, but only then.

On the material of which the sock is composed the comfort and the healthiness of the skin much depends. It is important that it should be of wool, not of a character liable to mat together; that it should be porous, readily absorbing perspiration and readily allowing it to evaporate. Cotton does not readily absorb moisture at all, but once wet it remains clammy, and is a long time drying. As a material for clothing a foot pent up in a boot it is most unsuitable.”

Expanding on our previous post Rehabilitating the Human Foot – part 1, BTR recommends that socks should be:

  • TABI or single-stall shaped with a snug fit around the instep and heel but with no constriction around the toes for a GOOD/NATURAL foot.
  • made from a natural wool blend e.g. merino wool

Toe socks can be useful to separate the toes when a skin infection is present but the wearer should be aware of the sensory tradeoff with the resulting decreased postural control (the act of maintaining, achieving or restoring a state of balance during any posture or activity).


T.S. Ellis (1889) THE HUMAN FOOT; Its Form and Structure, Functions and Clothing. Churchill

Junji Shinohara, Phillip Gribble (2011) FIVE-TOED SOCKS DECREASE STATIC POSTURAL CONTROL AMONG HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS AS MEASURED WITH TIME-TO-BOUNDARY ANALYSIS. Athletic Training Research Laboratory, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA

Run in the sun

“Let there be light”

Genesis 1:3

The use of Heliotherapy or ‘sun-bathing’ for health reasons precedes recorded history, but the first documents recording the theory and practice of ‘solar therapy’ were written by the ancient Greeks. Heliopolis, the ancient Greek city of the sun was famous for it’s healing temples. Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) had a large solarium within his sanatorium on the island of Cos. The famous physician/historian Herodotus who believed that ‘the sun feeds the muscles’ recounts a visit to a site of a historical battle between the ancient Egyptians and Persians in his book ‘the histories’:

“The heads of the Persians are so weak that, if you were to toss a single pebble at one, you would make a hole in it. But the heads of the Egyptians are so strong that, using a stone, you could break one open only with a good deal of effort. They said that the reason for this (which I found easy to believe) was that the Egyptians, beginning straightaway in childhood, shave their heads and expose them to the sun, which hardens the bone. This is also the reason why Egyptians do not go bald: among the Egyptians one may observe the fewest balding men of any race in the world. This, then, is the reason that the Egyptians have such strong heads. The Persians have such weak heads for this reason: they are always wearing felt caps from the beginning of their lives.”

From the late 1800s, heliotherapy became a key part of certain treatment regimes for tuberculosis, rickets and war wounds, reaching a peak in the 1920s-30s with the ‘Rollier method’ of heliotherapy becoming a standard procedure in certain hospitals in Europe and the US (fig 1).


Although heliotherapy has been usurped by the modern sciences of ‘photobiology’ and ‘photomedicine’, and our understanding of solar radiation and it’s effects on the human body has evolved (fig 2 and fig 3), evidence suggests that intelligent use of sunlight is (still) a powerful tool in preventing many acute and chronic medical conditions.


BTR-light-therapy-fig3BTR believe that running in the early morning sun is a natural way to maintain metabolic health, accelerate recovery and avoid Over Training Syndrome (OTS).


Hobday RA (1997) Sunlight Therapy and Solar Architecture Medical History

Herodotus The Histories Penguin Books

Cannell JJ et al (2008) Athletic Performance and Vitamin D Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise

Cannell JJ et al (2008) Treatment of Vitamin D deficiency Expert Opin. Pharmacother

Karu TI (2010) Multiple roles of cytochrome c oxidase in mammalian cells under action of red and IR-A radiation IUBMB LIFE

Holick MF (2004) Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers and cardiovasular disease Am J Clin Nutr

Lindqvist PG et al (2016) Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort Journal of Internal Medicine

Begum R et al (2015) Near-infared light increases ATP, extends lifespan and improves mobility in aged Drosophila melanogaster. Biol. Lett. rsbl

Where are the flat feet?

If you listen to the physiotherapy/orthotic industry, there is an epidemic of flat feet. The BTR coaching community have lost count of how many clients have visited us and claimed that they have flat feet. I only remember two clients with flat feet from the many 100’s of pairs of feet I’ve seen. Of clients claiming flat feet, some may have natural feet, but many present high-arched feet, the opposite of what they think they have (read our earlier post good, bad, ugly part 3 feet for our definition of natural, flat and normal feet).

A widespread belief is that persons with flat feet are at increased risk of injury. Cowan (1993) studied US Army Infantry trainees over a 12-week training program and evaluated the risks of exercise-associated injuries among men with flat, normal and high-arched feet. The results showed an association between arch height and risk of injury. The 20% with the flattest feet were at the lowest risk! The higher the arch, the higher the risk of injury!

“Results of this study indicate that having low arches (“flat feet”) was not associated with an increased incidence of injury regardless of how we measured arch height. Rather, there was a significant linear trend for increasing risk of injury with increasing arch height for seven measures or indices of arch height, with flat feet at lowest risk of injury.”

This should not have come as a surprise to Cowan if he was familiar with the Hoffman (1905) study. Hoffman studied unshod populations in Asia and Africa and found that “The height and shape of the longitudinal arch have no bearing on the strength or usefulness of the foot. The height of the arch appeared to bear no relationship to the gait. In shoe-wearers, the affection commonly called ‘flat-foot’ is often associated with more than ordinary eversion (pronation) of the foot on standing and walking. This eversion is due not to the low arch, but to the associated weakness or stiffness of the joints of the foot and weakness of the muscles”. See fig 1 for the variety of strong, flexible and functional feet that Hoffman found in unshod populations.


Weak, inflexible feet are the problem, not height of the arch. A Natural Foot is strong and elastic and provides a wide, stable platform for all functional-human movements including; standing, squatting, lifting, walking and running. A Natural Foot will often be incorrectly misdiagnosed by medical professionals as a flat-foot.


Cowan DN. (1993). Foot Morphologic Characteristics and Risk of Exercise-Related Injury. Archives of Family Medicine, 2, 773-7.

Hoffman, P. (1905). Conclusions drawn from a comparative study of the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing peoples. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 3, 105-136.

Wired to Run (the runners high)

“We all need something to help us unwind at the end of the day. You might have a glass of wine, or a joint, or a big delicious blob of heroin to silence your silly brainbox of its witterings but there has to be some form of punctuation, or life just seems utterly relentless”

Russell Brand

A running-induced altered state of consciousness is known as the ‘runner’s high’. The ‘runner’s high’ has been described subjectively as pure happiness, elation, a feeling of unity with one’s self and/or nature, endless peacefulness, inner harmony, boundless energy, and a reduction in pain sensation. It would appear that there is an intrinsic, neurobiological reward for humans who run long distances, that might explain why humans run for ‘pleasure’, despite the increased metabolic cost and risk of injury. An emerging theory in the sports medicine and evolutionary biology literature is that endurance exercise elevates endocannabinoids (produced internally), eliciting the same ‘psychoactive’ effects experienced from exogenous (ingested) cannabinoids such as marijuana. Cannabis and cannabinoid-based medications have been used for centuries to treat pain, spasms, asthma, sleep disorders, depression and loss of appetite. More recently (the last 30 years), their antispastic, analgesic, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties have been confirmed in over 100 clinical trials. The anticipation of the endocannabinoid ‘high’ experienced after a long run is instrumental in establishing a long-term running habit (fig 1). Some researchers consider this an ‘addiction’, with potentially negative consequences to family life and work commitments if an ‘addicted’, habitual runner is prevented from running (due to injury, weather, travel etc,) and begins to suffer from ‘withdrawal symptoms’. These symptoms (irritability, restlessness, frustration, depression, insomnia and general fatigue) are remarkably similar to the ‘symptoms’ experienced by people prevented from eating and sleeping. Should these species-specific, health-promoting activities also be classified as ‘addictions’ with potentially-negative-withdrawal symptoms? If homo sapiens did evolve as endurance walking, running, hunter gatherers, then low-intensity-long-duration movement is probably a species-specific requirement for optimal-metabolic and psychological health. However, not all species are ‘wired to run’, and many non-cursorial animals such as rats, ferrets and bodybuilders experience a negative-biochemical reaction to endurance exercise (fig 2), and must seek alternative strategies to meet their cannabinoid needs (fig 3).






Dietrich A, McDaniel WF (2004). Endocannabinoids and Exercise. Br J Sports Med

GrotenhermenF, Muller-Vahl K (2012) The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids. Dtsch Arztebl Int

Duhigg C (2012) The Power of Habit

Glasser W (1976). Positive Addiction

Robbins JM, Joseph P (1985) Experiencing Exercise Withdrawal: Possible Consequences of Therapeutic and Mastery Running. Journal of Sports Psychology

Raichlen DA et al (2012) Wired to Run: exercise induced endocannabinoid signalling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high’. J Exp Biol

‘Scientific evidence’ part 2 – misplaced faith in meta analysis

“He uses statistics like a drunken man uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination”

Mark Twain

img92In the absence of the context provided by natural laws, and the credibility conferred by replication, modern science has turned to the meta analysis approach to judge what ought to be taken as ‘best available’ evidence. Meta analysis is a statistical procedure that combines individual studies on a topic. The studies entered into the meta analysis often have a wide range of outcomes as each study contains different individuals and sometimes different ways of measuring the outcome of interest. The goal of meta analysis is to derive a new ‘overall’ result that supposedly represents one huge study with a much larger sample. It is the top of the evidence-based pyramid and is believed to provide the most trustworthy facts / evidence. However, like all statistical procedures, the output is only as good as the input. Given that there is heavy publication bias in journals towards positive effects, with replications and zero-effect studies not being represented (Rosenthal, 1979) meta analyses outcomes are also highly likely to be biased (Oakes, 1986). In the world of evidence-based practice, this is known as bias in = bias out, or the BIBO monster. This is using statistics for support not illumination.

So what is credible, trustworthy scientific evidence?

Trustworthy scientific evidence is:

  1. That which agrees with natural laws and
  2. After satisfying 1, that which has been replicated many times in different samples but with the same or a similar result.

Applying these simple filters can help anyone to avoid confusion in the face of equivocal research findings, and to avoid being duped by the latest craze / fad / fashion. The BTR model is based solely on scientific evidence fitting this definition i.e. trustworthy, credible and undisputed.


Oakes, M. (1986). Statistical Inference: A commentary for the social and behavioural sciences. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Rosenthal, R. (1979). The “File Drawer” problem and tolerance for null results. Psychological Bulletin, 86(3), 638-641.

‘Scientific evidence’ part 1 – old versus new ‘science’

“Science is built up of facts as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house”. (Henri Poincare, 1904)

In 1963, B.K. Forscher wrote a letter to the editor of the esteemed journal Science titled “Chaos in the Brickyard”. The letter expressed his concerns about the proliferation of meaningless studies that failed to adhere to the sound theory-building ideals of the scientific method. The situation has not improved. Indeed, with the advent of the so-called ‘evidence-based model’ for judging the value of ‘facts’, the situation has worsened dramatically.

Old approach to ‘science’

Before the term ‘scientist’ came into being, natural philosophy was the term used to describe the study of nature and attempts to understand and explain natural phenomena through observation, theory formation, and evaluation of predictions of those theories against nature using inductive reasoning to decide if the predictions and their parent theory were supported or not. Popper (1980) advanced this approach with his ‘falsification’ ideal, allowing the use of deductive reasoning to decide if theories had been falsified in light of data, or had survived to be possibly disproven another day (read confirmation bias post). Both falsifications and survivals were published and presented to other natural philosophers, who attempted to replicate the survivals in particular. If a positive finding was repeated many times and not once falsified, that theory was accepted as relatively trustworthy ‘evidence’. In fact, theories that survived many years of such practice were elevated to the status of ‘natural laws’. These ‘natural laws’ were used to drive further theory formation, and to act as ‘validity checks’ of findings from new investigations, i.e. if a new fact violated an existing and undisputed law, its value was questionable. Furthermore, if the new finding could not be replicated, it was deemed a fluke and so, of little value to the body of trusted ‘evidence’.

New approach to ‘science’

Forscher (1963) recognised the deterioration of the rigorous ‘old-science’ approach many decades ago, highlighting that modern ‘scientists’ were inclined to simply churn out investigations that were not based on careful theory building, and were not evaluated against accepted-trustworthy ‘evidence’. Faith in ‘science’ was apparently restored by the development of the ‘evidence-based-practice model’ that has since spawned organisations like the Cochrane Collaboration and journals based on its principles (e.g. Evidence-based Medicine). Rather than judging the value of investigations against undisputed laws, as in natural philosophy, the evidence-based model assesses trustworthiness and value based on the rigour of the research design and experimental  approach, trusting that statistical principles and elimination of confounding factors will ensure validity of new ‘facts’ (more about the problems with this in part 2). Old fashioned replication is discouraged by editors of journals who refuse to publish work that is not ‘novel or original’. Negative / falsifying findings are also unlikely to be seen by others as they are deemed of little interest compared to ‘positive’ findings which, without replication, could simply be flukes. In fact, a recent and high-profile investigation of the replicability of scientific publications found that of 100 previously-published-positive findings, only 36% could be reproduced (Nosek et al., 2015). The failure to judge the value of new ‘evidence’ against established ‘laws’ leads precisely to the problems raised by Forscher (1963) and by Poincare over a century ago i.e. a collection of useless ‘facts’ without the context that alone makes for useful ‘evidence’.


Criticisms of the evidence-based model

Many areas of modern ‘science’ are characterised by lack of consensus and equivocal findings, with the latest ‘understanding’ often changing on a weekly basis with the latest new piece of research. Running injury causes and cures and dietary recommendations are two prime examples. The lack of context in the evidence-based model, and the failure to dismiss shiny-new ‘facts’ and fads that cannot be replicated and / or make no sense against undisputed laws, is the explanation for this. It is for these (and other) reasons that evidence-based practice has been widely criticised with arguments that are well established, including nonsensical findings (Britton et al., 1998; Strauss and McAlister, 2000; Mullen and Streiner, 2004). The nonsensical findings and the lack of consensus characteristic of modern ‘evidence’ are highlighted beautifully by an old joke of the couple who visit their rabbi for marital advice:

The husband delivers a long list of complaints about his wife, to which the rabbi replies, “You’re right, you’re right.”

The wife then gives her long list of complaints about her husband, to which the rabbi replies,“You’re right, you’re right.”

About to leave, the wife yells at the rabbi, “How can you tell us both that we’re right? One of us must be wrong!”; to which the rabbi replies “You’re right, you’re right.”

How to avoid being buried alive in the pile of equivocal ‘facts’

The majority of the most significant discoveries in the history of science (the ‘laws’) were discovered long before evidence-based practice reared its ugly head. These discoveries were made using old methods of natural philosophy, based on solid theory, and guided by natural laws. We should heed the words of Poincare and Froscher and choose our stones / bricks carefully from the pile / brickyard. Only then can we build something that looks and functions like a house. It is from such carefully-selected bricks that the foundations of BTR and the walls of its wisdom are built.


Poincare, H. (1904). Science and Hypothesis. Dover: Walter Scott Publishing Co.

Forscher, B.K. (1963). Chaos in the brickyard. Science, 142, 339.

Popper, K (1980). The Logic of Scientific Discovery (10th Ed). London: Hutchinson

Nosek, B.A. et al. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349 (6251), aac4716.

Britton, B.J., Evan, J.G and Potter, J.M. (1998). Does the fly matter? The CRACKPOT study in evidence based trout fishing. British Medical Journal, 317, 1678-1680.

Strauss, S.E. and McAlister, F.A. (2000). Evidence-based medicine: A commentary on common criticisms. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 163, 837-841.

Mullen, E.J. and Streiner, D.L. (2004). Evidence for and against evidence-based practice. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 4, 111-121.



Zombie breathing patterns

“Over the oxygen supply of the body, carbon dioxide spreads its protective wings.”

Johannes Friedrich Miescher, MD, 1885

Most cursorial animals rely on ‘panting’ to thermoregulate during exercise, but humans have adopted a more efficient ‘sweating strategy’. This physiological adaptation underpins the phenomenon of the ‘persistence hunt’ and the ‘endurance-running hypothesis’. Exaggerated breathing behaviour known as ‘hyperventilation’ or ‘overbreathing’ (fig 1) is a sign of physiological stress and a classic symptom of Over Training Syndrome (OTS). All aspects of OTS have biological, psychological and social influences that need to be considered, but the act of ‘breathing’ is a biomechanical behaviour that can be COACHED.


Maintaining adequate oxygen delivery to the cells is essential to human health, particularly for the brain, which requires consistent delivery of both glucose and oxygen to function properly (see zombie runners post). Numerous physiological systems are involved in supporting oxygen homeostasis, but one of the most crucial (and the most misunderstood) is the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by oxidative activity of the cells (fig 2) and maintained in extra-cellular fluid and blood. The amount of CO2 in solution in the blood (carbonic acid) influences the acidity (pH) of the blood; the pH and temperature of the blood in turn affects the affinity of haemoglobin for oxygen and it’s ability to release oxygen to tissues and cells (dissociation) (fig 3). Hyperventilating or ‘overbreathing’ reduces carbonic acid in the blood, creating a higher pH (alkalinity), increasing the affinity of haemoglobin for oxygen and reducing it’s ability to dissociate and release oxygen to the cells.




High pH increases the affinity of haemoglobin for oxygen and reduces dissociation (release to tissues)

Low temperatures have the same effect (see zombie diet post)

Hyperventilation in otherwise healthy runners is symptomatic of metabolic acidosis from prolonged fasting or low-carbohydrate dieting, OR a habitual-faulty breathing pattern due to chronic stress (sympathetic dominance) and poor biomechanics (fig 4).


BTR considers the ‘skill’ of breathing to be as important as the skill of running and is a fundamental part of the ‘Bulletproof Runner’ system.


Bramble DM & Lieberman DE (2004) Endurance running and the evolution of Homo. NATURE

Langdon JH (2005) The Human Strategy: An Evolutionary perspective on Human Anatomy

Ganong WF (2005) Review of Medical Physiology

Gamble JL (1960) Chemical Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology of Extracellular Fluid

Stewart PA (2009) Stewart’s Textbook of Acid-Base

Henderson Y (1938) Adventures in Respiration

Heppenstall ME (1944) The relation between the effects of the blood sugar levels and hyperventilation on the electroencephalogram J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry

Buteyko K. (1990). The Buteyko Method, An Experience of Use in Medicine

The Zombie Workout


The biggest risk factors for development of Over Training Syndrome (OTS) in runners are inappropriate training volumes, and intensities that compromise mitochondrial function (fig 1) and storage and utilisation of liver and muscle glycogen (the hallmark of the BTR zombie runner)  (fig 2 ). The risk of OTS is further increased when inappropriate training is combined with a zombie diet, or any diet that promotes excessive proteolysis/gluconeogenesis and autoxidation of lipoproteins (high dietary PUFA intake or reliance on ‘burning’ stored-body-fat PUFAs). The adaptive benefit of any type of exercise or training is based on the synthesis of new proteins (especially enzymes). Mitochondrial protein biogenesis and enzyme function in particular are paramount for healthy, high-performance running.



Runners motivated by purely ‘health’ reasons should avoid the ‘anaerobic glycolysis’ zone as much as possible. Runners motivated to improve their ‘performance’ should design their excursions into this zone based on their age and specific event.

At BTR we recommend ‘dipping into the well’ no more than every 72hrs as a general rule of thumb.


Selye H (1978) The Stress of Life

Verkhoshansky Y (2007) The Block Training System in Endurance running

Verkhoshansky N (2012) General Adaptation Syndrome and it’s application in Sport Training

Frayn KN (1996) Metabolic Regulation: A Human Perspective

Atkinson DE (1977) Cellular Energy Metabolism and It’s regulation

Meerson FZ (1984) Adaptation, Stress, and Prophylaxis

Viru A (2008) Adaptation in Sports Training

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