Best of 2023: Books, Podcasts, Exercises, Apps, Studies, and More ...
You’ll learn: What I loved most in 2023, from exercises and entertainment to Burn the Ships workouts and new research.
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Today, we’re wrapping some of my favorite things from 2023. We’re covering the year’s best:
Smart Phone App
Burn the Ships Workout
Let’s roll …
Three Best “New” Exercises
New is in quotation marks because there are no new exercises. Rather, there are exercises we discovered or already knew but did more of. Here are the ones I liked most this year:
Carrying weight over distance—rucking—is my favorite form of exercise. But we all mostly ruck with the weight in a pack at our back. This year, I did more front-loaded carries—exercises where you carry the weight at your front. My back, core strength, and cardio are better for it.
I do at least a few front-loaded carries of about 100-200 yards each week (I tack the exercise to the end of a workout at random).
Half Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill
This exercise is like a combo meal—a lot of good in one package.
It builds your overhead strength and range of motion while forcing you to control your shoulder in a vulnerable position. It also strengthens your core and improves your ability to rotate and move your hips (people today rarely “twist”).
You’ll be better at everything,
Have a stronger core.
Build more resilient shoulders.
Experience less back, hip, and knee pain.
It’s part of The 2% Warmup.
Bent Single-Leg Box Step Down
Remember: The legs feed the wolf.
I got this from the wise Doug Kechijian from Resilient Performance.
It works on leg strength and balance from a disadvantaged position while helping relax the lower back. I load it lightly with a GORUCK Ruck Plate Carrier.
I do a few sets of 15 on each leg at least once every two weeks.
Best Smart Phone Application: ClearSpace
Get your time and attention back on track.
I talked about this app on EconTalk with Russ Roberts (one of my all-time favorite podcasts) and Rich Roll (release coming soon).
If you’ve read Scarcity Brain, you know that everything from slot machines to social media to dating apps to online retailers and more hook us by using the scarcity loop. (Related story: Why We Get Hooked On (Insert Anything)).
The scarcity loop is the ultimate killer of moderation. To interrupt the loop, you need to interrupt any one of its three parts.
Which brings us to ClearSpace. If you find yourself using an app too often, download ClearSpace. It’ll reduce your app use—guaranteed.
I heard about this app from Royce Branning, the app’s founder. After hearing me on a podcast, he reached out and suggested I try ClearSpace. I’ll admit I was skeptical. Like, you want me to use an app so I can use another app … less?
But I tried ClearSpace. And I quickly realized its power. It works by—you guessed it—interrupting the scarcity loop. It alters the third part of the loop, slowing down how quickly, mindlessly, and frequently you can repeat a behavior (in this case, opening and using an app).
Three Best Books
I enjoyed reading and gained much wisdom from these books this year.
Outlive by Peter Attia
A deep and profound dive into health and the science and art of aging well. Peter gives you a roadmap to preventing many diseases before they start (and delaying the ones you do get for as long as possible). I hope doctors read this book and begin deploying Peter’s ideas around Medicine 3.0, which focuses on healthspan and chronic disease prevention.
I particularly love Peter’s idea about “The Centenarian Decathlon.” (And special thanks and shoutout to Peter for mentioning my work around rucking in the book).
Building a Non-Anxious Life by John Delony
Mental health stuff can get a bit too woo for me. Too touchy-feely.
Delony isn’t about all that—he’s a fun, funny, cool guy talking about a big problem in a relatable way. I love how he packs 20 years of research, personal experience, and working with others into six daily choices you can make to free yourself from anxiety (in all its forms and manifestations).
Devotions by Mary Oliver
I keep coming back to this book. My days are better when I read at least one Mary Oliver poem.
Best Burn the Ships Workout
Your body will work longer if you work it.
July: Carry What You Kill
I love all the Burn the Ships workouts, but July’s edition holds a special place in my heart.
We created this workout in collaboration with the University of South Carolina’s head strength coach. It’s based on the four fitness skills every human needs (read more on those four skills here).
The workout is called Carry What You Kill—a nod to our evolutionary history of carrying prey back to camp. It’s long and tough, but it works the fitness skills we should all be working on but don’t.
What I loved most about this workout was watching myself and all of you improve each week.
Many people completed half the prescribed rounds the first week but finished the entire workout by the final week. That’s what we’re after.
GORUCK Sand Medicine Balls
We love carrying around here. Carrying is the best, most overlooked exercise. GORUCK’s Sand Medicine Balls are perfect for carrying. I got them in early 2023 and used them far more than I anticipated.
September’s Burn The Ships workout pairs perfectly with the Sand Medicine Ball.
I don’t always watch TV, but when I do …
A road rage incident spirals into an insane and prolonged feud across 10 episodes. Binge it.
A young, genius chef returns to Chicago to take over his deceased brother’s sandwich shop, which might be the most chaotic place in the world. Season 2, episode 6 is perfect television—it’s like a 66-minute panic attack.
It documents the most insane, ridiculous trial ever. But the trial is a hoax—except one juror, Ronald Gladden, doesn’t know it’s all fake. Props to Ronald for being a role model for kindness.
Plus, a damning admission: Real Housewives of Salt Lake City
I snickered when my wife first started watching this show. She’d have it on as I did stuff around the house or sat reading on the couch.
And yet I frequently found myself stopping what I was doing or looking up from my book to watch the show. Drinks were often being thrown into faces. Hair was being torn out.
The spans when I’d stop to watch kept getting longer. And longer.
Next, I found myself asking my wife deep questions about the characters, their backstories, and their interpersonal dramas.
Eventually, I had to admit I was hooked.
My wife and I now make a ritual of watching this show every Wednesday night. The characters are relatable, and the backdrop of Salt Lake City (where I grew up) and its cultural and religious quirks complicates the storylines.
3 Great Podcast Episodes
If you’re interested in my work, you’ll probably enjoy listening to some of the recent podcasts I was on. Two fun appearances this year: Joe Rogan Experience Episode #2039—Michael Easter and The Diary Of A CEO.
Here are three podcasts episodes that I wasn’t a part of and enjoyed:
Chris Gardner on Rich Roll
Chris is one of the most innovative and reasonable researchers in nutrition today. What I like most about him: His research answers big, practical questions that actually matter to the average person. He and Rich Roll cover a lot of useful nutritional ground in this episode.
The Daily: Elon Must at “DealBook”
This is the full interview where Elon famously told advertisers who pulled their ads from Twitter to “go f*ck themselves.” That clip got a lot of press and Elon got a lot of criticism. But listen to the interview in full—I think this is a great example of how our media ecosystem pulls salacious clips to get clicks at the expense of full context. And, often, sanity and understanding.
Making Sense with Sam Harris: What Do We Know About Our Minds?
The philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris speaks with psychologist Paul Bloom about the nature of the mind. They cover everything from the unconscious origins of behavior, language, mental health, happiness, bullshitting vs. lying, and much more. It’s a fun tour through psychology.
Two Big Research Findings
Ground-breaking new studies showed us the power of Ozempic (GLP-1 analogs) and plant-based diets.
Ozempic vs. Everything
More research shows that Ozempic and other GLP-1 analogs have powers beyond weight loss.
A blockbuster study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that Ozempic decreased heart attack deaths by 20% in patients with heart disease.
Like any drug, GLP-1s come with side effects and we’re still learning about their long-term impacts. I believe GLP-1s are neither perfect nor fatally flawed—we have much more to learn, but they offer a lot a promise.
2% will run more information on GLP-1s in 2024 …
The Vegan Vs. Omnivorous Diet Twin Study
Stanford researcher Christopher Gardner took 22 pairs of identical twins. One twin ate a healthy omnivorous diet; the other ate a healthy vegan diet. The results after eight weeks:
The vegan twins saw their LDL Cholesterol drop by 14 points, while the omnivores didn’t see a statistically significant change. That reduced the vegans’ heart disease risk.
The vegan twins lost four more pounds compared to the omnivores.
The vegan twins saw a 20% drop in fasting insulin.
Why use twins? This allows researchers to control for genetics and past lifestyle factors.
The findings suggest that plant-based diets might be moderately healthier than diets including meat and other animal products.
Big picture: Even if plant-based diets are optimal, they’re still practically challenging. Dr. Michael Albert, an Obesity and Cardiometabolic doctor, put it well:
I read the study and still don’t want to eat a predominately plant-based diet. I acknowledge that my omnivorous preference may be suboptimal when compared to a plant-based approach but don’t care. It’s not hard to admit these things—no mental gymnastics required.
The key: The researchers compared healthy versions of each diet.
If a person were to eat a plant-based diet composed of mostly ultraprocessed plant-based foods, they’d likely be less healthy than an omnivore who ate a healthy omnivorous diet.
Thanks for reading.
Have fun, don’t die.
Sponsored by GORUCK
When I decided to accept sponsorships for this newsletter, GORUCK was a natural fit. Not only is the company's story included in The Comfort Crisis, but I've been using GORUCK's gear since the brand was founded. Seriously. They've been around ~12 years and I still regularly use a pack of theirs that is 11 years old. Their gear is made in the USA by former Special Forces soldiers. They make my favorite rucking setup: A Rucker 4.0 and Ruck Plate.
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