Brian Mackenzie on Going Beyond Information for Deeper Understandings

When I originally got into human performance, I was young. Very young.

I liked going fast at the age of 4, and although it was in a swimming pool, it transcended very quickly into skateboards and BMX bikes. These things manifested into skiing, snowboarding, surfing, and continued with swimming into my late teens and early 20s. I took these fascinations through many twists and turns until it finally landing into a career in my late 20s with coaching. I got good at coaching roughly 4–5 years into the process… right about the time Facebook started; 2004.

Needed Alternative Ways to Train

That same year I did Ironman Canada, preceded by Ironman California (a half Ironman) and began looking at alternative ways to train for endurance events. My backgrounds in swimming and cycling made my “runs” look abysmal. Meaning I did pretty well on the swim and bike sides, but not so great on the running side. So, I started looking into the extremes of running. I read several articles (although there were very few at the time) on men and women running through the mountains in what were called ultra endurance runs.

Fascinated with concepts, principles, and with a decent understanding of physiology along with mechanics, I began toying with the idea of mechanically efficient running, intensity, and recovery. In 2005, I opened my first gym and it became the laboratory for all of this. Between the strength and conditioning equipment, treadmills and bike ergometers, we had the use of mini-saunas for heat exposure, altitude machines for low O2 training, climbing walls, and a slew of clients, and coaches who were willing to see how far we could take this idea.

My Process of Training Development

I spent the first 4-yrs of my career doing things one way, then another 6-yrs by going to the beginning and looking at something in an entirely unique way. So we climbed that mountain and as this internet and social media thing grew we were able to share more and more with others on the ideas. Many people are to thank for that process, including mentors, friends, partners, clients, coaches, and a community of people who embraced the theories we were putting out. 10-yrs of learning, which had come after a decent amount of book learning, and almost 30-yrs of wanting to go fast.

In the time since this paradigm shift, we’ve collectively been looking at more and more developmental theories and ideas that were typically done one particular way or were a byproduct of something else occurring. If you’ve followed our work you know that breathing is at the tip of this spear head. That in and of itself is not the only thing we have been “tweaking” or looking at differently. And although you may believe jumping in an ice bath or sauna or interval training is some static exercise, you might want to pay a little closer attention to the language and ways we are pushing these things. Tradition is great, and although each of these ideas is grounded in hundreds, if not thousands of years, of customs, doing things one way is about as inhuman as it can get.

Human Evolution is a Factor

When we start to look at history, and how we’ve evolved as a species, there are really only a few points where we see very fast changes. The advent of fire (controlling it), tools (using them), agricultural, and information. Each comes with promise, and each comes with consequence. I’ll let you use your imagination with the first 3 – there may be others as well – but as for the Information Age we have seen the greatest rise in how we can learn. This is what I believe may be our greatest asset as a species. The sharing of information and ability to apply that to ones own experience. This is our concept of N=1.

If we really break things down, information as a stand alone is meaningless. It is noise. Unfortunately, by and large most of us, including me, do not know what to do with that information, nor can we store that information. It has to sit on a hard drive or link in order for us to retrieve for later. So as social beings all operate, we formulate biases to what types of information we like. This is quite subjective, and incredibly problematic for those of us that cease to explore information further, and more importantly apply it to an experience. One can not live in theory without practice, and this is how the Information Age has been eroded at its foundation.

Go Beyond the Information

The unique part about being the human animal is that we also have the ability to observe our own behavior, although I’d argue not enough people are doing this, and more information is providing us with a chemical conditioning that is no different than the tobacco industries way of making smoking cool. The ability to read something quickly online and reproduce that information without application has left us with a growing mental problem that will more than likely continue to have us going to “I’m right dot com” or thinking research and theory are practice. We must not forget either, that any theory devoid of practice is only an idea, and it is up to the naysayer to show the theory does not hold true. This is where the “my opinion counts” crowd needs to be observed. This can be seen in any comments section of anyone spending time bringing down an idea they don’t agree with. We are not entitled to be sitting at the table with those who go to war when we’ve never been to war.

In my 2 decades of experience in an industry, I have been a part of this wave of misinformation, and I’ve played a role in pushing people to understand deep practice. I can find no better vehicle than the idea of going fast. Now, that may not be Usain Bolt, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong, or Dale Earnhardt, it may mean getting off the couch and walking, or doing some breathing.

Going fast eludes to the idea of learning. My Art of Breath co-founder Rob Wilson conceived an idea that I believe shows exactly where we are at on a scale of adaptability.

Ignorance is < Information is < Knowledge is < Learning.

Interestingly, this shows where bliss can be had. The ignorant shall remain blissful, as will those who employ a learned state. It is in information and knowledge where we get stuck and begin to believe we have the answer. There is no answer, there are tools, and our convenient lives have allowed us to regurgitate anything without trial. This stops all forms of learning. This stops adaptability. This stops our species from progressing.

I train and have developed training programs based on ideas that I challenged. These ideas all look at long term intrinsic human development. I challenged ideas by doing something. Although I’ve run my mouth or my typewriter pretty poorly in the past, for quite some time we have been testing or putting these ideas to practice. I have made it a part of my life to share that information, not with the idea that we are giving anyone knowledge, but that we are pushing you to see how much more we all can learn.