DAYP 8: Mix Intensities to Improve Your Aerobic Capacity / Raise a Genius from Scratch

This week’s content looks at how mixing high and low intensity can improve your exercise work capacity and how one man raised his 3 kids to become geniuses.

#1: Mix Intensities to Improve Your Aerobic Capacity

What we’re doing is actually making you move, but call it recovery… changing the focus not on the intensity side of the equation, but on the recovery… Why? Because that is what is preventing you from reaching your goals. That’s aerobic capacity.

Chris Hinshaw

Chris Hinshaw, who’s coached Crossfit legends Rich Froning and Mat Fraser, sat down with the Power Project podcast team to discuss aerobic or work capacity training (being able to do more work in a set amount of time). The most interesting take away from the interview was how he trains his athletes to recover so they can do more work. His theory is if during your interval “rest” periods you do nothing, then you are training your body to get good at resting rather than improving work capacity.

The general steps for improving work capacity is:

  • Create fatigue. Use high intensity exercise to create fatigue
  • Don’t stop. During your “rest” period do not just stop the movement
  • Use slow movements. Instead do slow and controlled movement utilizing similar muscle groups from your high intensity work
  • Repeat. Repeat this for rounds
  • Increase difficulty. As you improve you can challenge the body by doing more rounds, heavier weight, etc…

The theory why he thinks this works is:

  • The high intensity movement trains your central nervous system (CNS) by recruiting the fast twitch muscles and creating lactate
  • During your active rest period the slower movement trains your slow twitch muscle fibers to use lactate as fuel (reducing lactic acid from your system) allowing you to build stamina over time

Examples on how you can implement to improve the repetitions of:

  • Push ups. For one minute, do as many push ups as you can in 15 seconds, and then for the remaining 45 seconds, flip on to your back and do a very slow bench press with a PVC pipe. Repeat this for 5 rounds.
  • Russian Twists. Grab a plate and then twist side-to-side as fast and as many times as you can in 12-15 seconds. For the remainder of time, drop the plate, and then go slowly and do the same twist but touch the floor with your hands for the remainder of the minute. Do that for 5 rounds.
  • Handstand push ups. Do 3 reps (or whatever is good for you) and then take a PVC pipe and do slow and controlled strict shoulder presses for 10 seconds (or whatever rest time you determine), then take your rest. Repeat for rounds.


  • Kalipa story: He would also lose endurance events at the crossfit games so wanted to improve in this area. His “endurance” training consisted of running 400 meters as fast as he could (68 seconds at 225 lbs) and then rest 60-90 seconds. Each subsequent round he got slower and slower and ended up running 1000m which is not very far for endurance training. Because he was losing endurance events he thought he was slow when his issue was his aerobic capacity, which is routine wasn’t training. Speed workouts should focus on speed… meaning you should be resting as much time as to hit the same pace or times, otherwise you are training a different system.
  • Fraser story: Wanted to do 25 100lb d-balls over the shoulder unbroken (no rest) At the time he could do 12 unbroken. Strength wasn’t his issue (he could move a 300lb atlas stone). He just got tired after 12 reps. So to coach this Hinshaw had him do 3 150lb d-balls (heavier than his goal weight) fast and then take 20lb med ball and go slow and go from ground to left shoulder and then ground to right shoulder for 1 minute (clearing fatigue) for 5 rounds. Notice he isn’t doing any traditional rest. As he got better at this he changed the med ball from 20lbs to 25lbs and then the d-ball from 150 to 200 lbs
  • Lactate threshold / tolerance training – you want to build up your body’s ability to tolerate lactic acid in the blood as it interferes with muscle firings and is a contributor to fatigue. 20 second hill sprint followed by walking down, and immediately doing another sprint after reaching the bottom. Do that for 8 times. Over time your distance you can run in those 20 seconds will decrease so your active rest walking down will get shorter as well. Your job is to not quit 
  • Kids/children have great running form, but when they get into middle school they think they have to lengthen their stride to go faster so they end up over-striding (defined as when your ankle bone is ahead of your knee bone)… which coincidentally does slow you down
  • Make sure you are running safely – take a video of yourself running from the side to see where your foot is making contact and seeing how your stride looks
  • Running speed is based on 2 factors – stride length and your running cadence (how many times you strike the ground in a minute)
  • Ideal running cadence is 160 to 180 strikes per minute … using a metronome app and setting cadence to this beat can help train your cadence to get in the ideal range
  • Build your foundation – worrying about heel strike or midfoot strike while important, is not as important as other factors like making sure you aren’t over-striding and focusing on slow controlled continuous running for 20 minutes
  • Easy pace is defined as something you can have a conversation with someone or recite the entire alphabet in one breath
  • Aerobic endurance is more than just running or cycling it’s anything regarding movement which means it’s involved in everything
  • Aerobic fitness can also be defined as how fast do you recover from bouts of exercise
  • Count the number of footsteps per cycle of breaths (between breaths) – 4 steps or higher per breath and you are doing OK, 3 or less means you are past your threshold and will at some point tire out soon
  • Your easy running pace is something you should be able to do while exclusively nasal breathing
  • The performance enhancing drug of choice for Chris is EPO if it was allows you to get more oxygen into the muscles
  • Weight affects aerobic capacity. VO2 max reduces with additional weight.
  • Biggest mistake he notices in running is people jumping to HIIT focusing on sprinting and speed when those people need to build up their endurance and stamina first.
  • HIIT is good at increasing and training a higher VO2 max, while slow steady state is great at building stamina
  • When running think about moving the elbows down and back
  • All athletes should develop recovery protocols / habits while they are resting between intervals depending on what their training goals are… just as important as warm up or post workout recovery
  • Working on aerobic capacity didn’t harm an athlete’s strength or lifting numbers. The elite Crosffitters Chris coached never ran more than twice a week and no more than 6500 meters (4 miles) and they got faster at running and stronger at the same time
  • If you are 40 years old and not doing a strength based protocol and working end range of motion that is a mistake. It is more important than cardio as it’s important to maintain muscle mass
  • The reason why you see old people “shuffle” when they walk or run is because they’ve lost muscle mass and their stride length reduces as a result.
  • Fraser Story: Mat Fraser wanted to get better at the Assault Bike (a fan bike where you use both legs and arms) as that was a weakness of his. Because you are using both arms and legs the lactate you produce has not many places to go to clear which is why the bike produces the most fatigue. To improve his Assault Bike times he trained legs only, arms only, and then both at the same time. In addition, he used bike erg and set the cadence / rpm’s to the same as his running cadence (180 steps per minute) so this way he got duel benefits of improving his bike time and running pace. Also he trained 60 rpms on the bike erg by moving the damper to 10 and standing up to match his usual assault bike pace of 60RPM. Maximize transference of skills by cross training. Can you do things in parallel to make your training time more efficient?
  • Mechanism of aerobic training is to train at a low enough intensity where you don’t need to recruit any or as many fast twitch (fast fatiguing) muscle cells
  • Fraser Story: Fraser almost drowned during a swimming event during the Crossfit games. The reason was he got passed by someone and then he speeded up his kick to catch up, but since he accelerated his kick and didn’t have the aerobic capacity with his legs his legs used up a lot of the oxygen and fatigued. With running when you get tired you can stop, however with swimming if you get tired, you basically drown or die. Even though he can run a 5:05 mile that does not translate into an efficient swimming kick. To fix this Mat trained with swimming with short fins, long fins, and no fins.

References, sources and more:

#2: Raise a Genius from Scratch

“What if there was a formula for genius? What if you could engineer in a lab, a Caesar, a Mozart, or a Picasso? This man (Lazlo Polgar) who not only theorized this was possible, but did it, 3 times….”

Ben Wilson

You don’t have to be filthy rich or a genius yourself to raise a genius. In this “How To Take Over The World” podcast with Ben Wilson, he talks about Lazlo Polgar, a psychologist who premeditatively and purposefully planned and raised 3 children to become world class “geniuses” in their area of expertise.  This may be only one anecdotal example of somebody with little else besides ambition and intention of creating geniuses, but it’s an interesting story. Plus he wrote a book about it detailing the reasons for wanting to conduct this real life experiment in the first place.

Steps to raise a genius:

  • Begin early. Education should start early (3-6 years of age). These early ages is when the child’s brain is believed to most “plastic”
  • Specialization. Focus should be spent in 1 concrete field. Ideally, the child should be drawn towards that field in one way or another.
  • Unification of work and play. Learning should be fun and educational. A child should not feel there is a clear distinction between work and play or at the very least should not feel that work is the opposite of play.
  • Confidence and skill progression. When progressing in building their skill, they should experience success early and often. Competing with those too far beyond their skill level may not be productive.

NOTE: Lazlo Polgar’s Book “Raise a Genius!” – The book is less of a “how to” book and more of a justification for raising a genius.


  • Polgar read 400+ books to learn about the psychology of genius.
  • His family was not rich and spent the money he did have on chess books.
  • Living in a communist Soviet Union, he encountered a lot of obstacles to convince people to help train his daughters but was dogged in petitioning for their rights to compete and learn.
  • He believed that geniuses don’t only contribute 2-3 times more to the betterment of society, but exponentially more. They were communal treasures.
  • This process he outlined should be done for the benefit of the child, not for the parents who wanted to live through their child.
  • The common objections people have of geniuses not being well rounded or miserable were proved false when you look at how well rounded in skill and education and happy Polgar’s daughters were as kids, how they turned out as adults and their reflection of their memories of their childhood.
  • The other objection that Ben Wilson will agree with is that they will be “weird”.  To be great is to be weird. Unlike other people, you’re doing things that others don’t do which by definition is “weird”.
  • “Dare to be different and dare to be great.”

References, sources and more:

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