Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 7 - Matt Bach - HEALTH BEFORE FITNESS - Part 1 of 3

When people say like for me and for yours, and what most people say is, I'm just training really hard and that's why I'm tired. And yeah, you're right, but it's deeper than just a superficial tired that people complain about all the time. It's a biological thing.

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When people say like for me and for yours, and what most people say is, I'm just training really hard and that's why I'm tired. And yeah, you're right, but it's deeper than just a superficial tired that people complain about all the time. It's a biological thing. This episode of the Smarter Athlete podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to JESSE: Today on this episode of the Smart Athlete podcast my guest is the winner of Ironman Maryland back in 2014. He also has a 70.3 win at Eagle Man under his belt in 2015. Somewhat more impressively and a little more mysterious, he worked on Wall Street for nearly a decade before leaving. So, we're going to talk about that. And I think just yesterday, graduated with your MBA from Temple. Is that correct? MATT: That's absolutely right. JESSE: All right. So, welcome to the show today, Matt Bach. MATT: Thank you. I’m excited to be on. JESSE: So, I will start with what I just talked about. So, you just graduated with your MBA from Temple yesterday. How was that alleviating, nervous about heading out with it done now? MATT: I'm really glad that it's done. And it's actually like, side note, it's not done. I still have, literally, I have another assignment due and I just graduated yesterday. How stupid is that? JESSE: But how does that work? MATT: Well, you know how at graduation, they don't actually give you your diploma, right? So, I'm guessing that the process for them is, we make sure that you successfully complete the course with the final assignment that's due next Wednesday, and then six to eight weeks later, they send you your actual diploma. So, I'm guessing they're going to like put a hold of my grade or hold on the diploma unless I submit this final assignment, and then they'll let the diploma go out in the mail. But yeah, I'm excited that I'm done with this. It was it's been about 20-21 months. And I did it at full bore, just wanted to get it done and it went really, really well and I learned a lot, so it was good. JESSE: So also like, how are you-- I mean, how are you juggling? So, you're doing your MBA, you've got a family, I assume you're still training to a greater or lesser degree and you have a job. So, for any sane person that seems like a lot. How do you manage all of that? MATT: Yeah. There's been a lot of prioritizing going on, especially the last six weeks because my MBA program was finishing up. And there's essentially like this culminating project called Capstone, that was pretty intense. And it was that on top of the fact that I have a wife and two kids, they’re one in two years old, they're Irish twins. We didn't mean it that way. And between that and the fact that I just started working at UCAN four months ago, there's a very, very steep learning curve there and really, really busy trying to get the business off the ground there. And between all those different things, training is now priority number five or whatever it might be on the list, maybe even six. So, I've literally done almost nothing for like, a month now, maybe even a month and a half. Like I went on a run the other day for 1.8 miles. 1.8 miles like nothing, right? I was dying. My lungs were burning, I was out of shape. JESSE: To me, it's always frustrating in surprising somehow, you take off, what seems like not that much time; a month in the spectrum of your life like a month isn't that long. But then yeah, you go out for that just what should be the easiest-- I mean, you want Iron Man, Maryland for Pete's sake. You've been in pretty good shape, and then you go out for not even two miles and it's like the hardest thing you've done it a long time. It’s always surprising how much it hurts. MATT: Exactly. The bottom line there is training works. JESSE: Right. And you have to keep up with it or it falls away fast. MATT: Yeah, I know it'll come back fast though. You can get back way faster to where you've been, than to try to chart new territory. JESSE: Right. Right. Yeah, it's almost like you've worn that grooving so it's easier to hop back in it versus carving out new material. MATT: Definitely. And I do plan on getting back into it a little bit. I don't know exactly how much yet, so I'm not going to disclose too much. But no Iron Man's on the plan, that's for sure. Not anytime soon. I did ?? 4:45> 70.3 last year, but I probably won't even do a half Ironman this year. I might do some like running or cycling events or a sprint or Olympic. But I'll be getting back into more shape. And I think at some point in my life, I will be going back to take a stab at a - podium slot. So, that didn't happen in 2015 so I feel like I have some unfinished business there. JESSE: Yeah. So obviously, that's your strong point but is it a matter of it’s your strong point and you enjoy that distance? Or do you enjoy the shorter distances, but you're like I’m better at the longer ones? MATT: I think it's really a combination. I think it's just the fact that I'm better at the longer stuff, that I kind of like the longer stuff. I wish that I could be-- I coached cross country and track and field for a while and I still am doing a bit of that right now. I'm advising the team at Montclair Kimberley Academy, a small private school in New Jersey, where I was coaching for a couple years after the late great Tom Fleming was coaching there. So, I was coaching them and one of the things that I noticed is, and it all happened through high school to; these sprinters that are born with just sprinting ability, they work hard. But endurance running, endurance training, is so much more grueling than sprinting training. So, I wish I was a sprinter with all this natural born talent to just run 100 meters really fast because I feel like that life is just so much more enjoyable and less grueling than some of the endurance training that needs to happen to be an Iron Man. JESSE: It always seemed like, obviously anecdotal because I wasn't a part of the training. I too, am not the best sprinter in the world. But it always seemed like when I watch the sprinters, it was like, they would do more drills than working out almost. Where it's like working on your starts, working on all the efficiency of your biomechanics versus all right, getting ready for 5K, and then like, one of my favorite sets would be like eight to 10 times a 1,000 meters. Obviously, you're putting in the work there for 15-16 minute race. MATT: Yeah, that's exactly it. Like how painful can drills be, right? But when you're like a deep in a 10 by 1K, your in suffering. JESSE: Yeah. Well, if you're doing it right. MATT: Right, exactly. JESSE: Yeah, if you're trying to get better. So, this is something I'm always curious about because I've talked to several people, - early in the week I did, recording with getting Chris Douglas, who he qualified for his pro-card, and he had other priorities to not do that. Obviously, you've qualified several times over several years ago. So, I'm wondering if you could share a little bit about kind of what happened to you or what decisions led to not moving forward with that? MATT: Yeah, it's a good question. Something I really debated for quite a while and I think a lot of amateurs kind of debate should I take the pro-card, should I not? And for me, the decision was I was trying to go pro. So, back in 2000-- After I won Ironman in Maryland 2014, in 2015 and then in 2016, I was really kind of taking a stab at it. And that the main portion for me was I was working in Wall Street, I was making good money and I needed to be able to support my family; my wife and my soon to be family with kids and everything and a mortgage in a nice area in New Jersey, in Summit, New Jersey. So, I had to make sure that I could make ends meet financially. And what most pros do is live on couches, and I'm not going to make my wife live on a couch so that I can pursue this dream. So, I needed to kind of make things a little more buttoned up before I jumped any sort of full time job to go give that a full time shot in pro triathlon. So, that was definitely one of the big barriers there was like one of the things for me is I'm if going to go pro, I'm going to really try to go pro, like be a pro, be a full-time make a living off of it kind of pro. And there's nothing against the other people out there, and there's tons of them that take the pro-card, and then they raced professionally. And I haven't considered doing that for a little bit. But ultimately came to that decision, like I just mentioned, like if I'm going to do it, I'm just going to completely do it. And I just never got to the point where financially, I could make ends meet. And then the other factor was, I ended up having a couple kids. And then the other factor was that I ended up getting injured in 2016. And in 2015, I discovered I had hormone issues from making some mistakes in my training and my fueling that caused some hormone issues like low testosterone. And then I also noticed that I had low bone density, which was a hip issue. So, I had in my-- It was actually in my hip, it was my femur, but my femoral neck had a small stress reaction in it. And I discovered that right after a Boston Marathon 2016, and then I ended up kind of being scared, and said, let's stop, I need to figure out what's going on. I'm here and try to get my bone density back. And so that was kind of a process to get my hormone levels back and then my bone density back to some degree that never really comes fully back. And so all of that combined kind of just made it -- And then I went back to business school, like all these things kind of just happened at around the same time that all of it just led to this decision like I'm not going to make a stab at going pro. And instead, let's go back to refocus my efforts on family, going back to school, making this transition from Wall Street to something else. At the time, I didn't know what it would be. We can go into what that turned out to be in a moment. JESSE: So, with the issue, was that like a pre-stress fracture? Can you explain more about what that was specifically? MATT: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So, it's a stress reaction is essentially what you just said, a pre-stress fracture. So, the Boston Marathon, I ended up running 10 miles of that race, I didn't run the whole thing. And I think if I ran the whole thing, I'm almost certain I would have had a stress fracture, by end of it. And it's in a very bad spot. It's on a point of, I think it's called a point of compression. I forgot what it is exactly, but it's on my femoral neck, it's the more dangerous side of the femoral neck. And if I had a stress fracture there, I would have probably been in like a full like cast or a wheelchair or crutches for like probably six months or something. So, it would have been really, really bad. So, I decided even beforehand, I didn't know I had a stress reaction, I just thought I had some hip impingement or something and some inflammation. So, I knew I could run 10 miles of the Boston Marathon without having too many issues from it. So, I did that and I just ran with a buddy and buddy's name is ?? 11:36>. And I ran with him for like 10 miles at six minute pace alongside him and just cut it at that point. I just hopped on the subway. And it's good I did because I would have been in really, really bad shape after that. JESSE: So, I was kind of curious about like pain management. So, I had a pre-stress fracture in one of my shins during college and ran several races. I mean, I remember running 5K indoor conference. And starting out, not too much, but I was in a serious amount of pain by the end of the race. It was short enough that I finished it. It wasn't like I went out and ran 10 miles. But I mean, like what kind of discomfort are you going through in that 10 mile period? Is it just like a normal ache and pain or is it building? MATT: It was kind of just an ache and you're a high level athlete like you know that when you start racing, especially when you're racing, like you've got a lot of endorphins flowing through your system, and a lot of things that are kind of stopping that pain from being there. So, during that time, my level of discomfort was like a three, it didn't really-- like I could definitely have completed the marathon. But I'm almost positive that if I either by the end of the race or maybe several hours later, I would have been in a bad, bad place. And you're also again, a high level athlete so your pain tolerance is probably way better than your average person like mine is. I've got pretty good pain tolerance, I think it’s through all these years of suffering. JESSE: Yeah. Well, to me, it's almost like there are certain kind of pains like, if I stub my toe like that affects me more than if we're going to go out and run like threshold like a threshold intervals or something on the track. That kind of stuff is almost more just like a gauge, rather than pain you know what I mean? It’s like almost disassociated at this point. MATT: Yeah, you're using that like perceived effort as a right level of suffering. It's almost more like, like people use the word pain a lot. But to me, it's almost more discomfort than it is pain. JESSE: Right. Unfortunately, the English language is a little bit stunted in this area, maybe Germans better, they've got so many words for everything. But there's different kinds of pain. And so when you go to the doctor and trying to diagnose something, they'll say things like, is it burning, is it shooting, is it stabbing and that they'll try to describe these kinds of pain. So, I feel like using the word pain is almost obtuse when you're trying to describe the experience you're going through running versus getting punched in the face or something, it's a very different experience. MATT: Yeah, totally. Yeah. JESSE: So you have low bone density and I think I read your blog where you were diagnosed with osteoporosis. Is that correct? MATT: Yeah. So I mean, people have different measures of osteoporosis, I think the different Institute's that are out there either use negative 2 or negative 2.5. So, I had negative 2.0. So, according to some I don't, I never did, I only had osteopenia. According to some I was right on the border of having osteoporosis, which is that was like a huge wake up call for me. And like I said, that's one of the reasons why I was like hey, I need to pull the cord here and not cause myself any sort of long term damage that's going to affect the rest of my life. Especially when I'm 60-70 years old, I don't want to be in a wheelchair or something because my bones can't support me. So, I needed to make sure that I wasn't doing myself any more harm. But since then, my negative two has gone up to about a negative 1.6, negative 1.7, and that's partly because my hormones just came back, I was able to naturally restore my testosterone levels. And it's partly because I was only 29-30 years old at the time, and that's sort of on the tail end, but still in the range where you're building bone. Now, that I'm 32 I'm not probably not building bone really anymore. So whatever I've got, I've got and this is enough for me to be able to run 30 or 40 miles a week, I don't know if I can run 40, 50, 60 miles a week, given my bone density now. I haven't been able to test that yet. JESSE: I want to get to the testosterone stuff here in a minute. But would you to kind of like improve your health and then improve that, I’ll say bone density score and the actual bone density. I mean, are you just taking rest, are you taking supplements like what changes to kind of move you forward in a positive direction? MATT: The area is not that well known. Now, most people don't know, even doctors. I met with an endocrinologist who had no idea that endurance training could be linked to low testosterone. And it's something that people should be aware of, because if you're overtraining, that's what it could cause and most people don't end up having their testosterone levels measured so they have no idea. And the symptoms are you feel tired and you have low libido, and maybe have sleep disturbances, maybe you're moody. But the symptoms that people experience are a little different depending on who you are, and how bad it is. But if you're noticing any of those things in yourself, go get your testosterone levels checked. It's covered by insurance, you just need to explain what's going on, tell your doctor what you suspect might be happening. Nine times out of 10 they're going to be like, oh, sure, okay, yeah, let's have a some blood work done and we'll run your testosterone levels. And if it comes back and you're at like 100 total testosterone, boom, you've got your answer for why you're so chronically fatigued, why you have low libido, and all these things. When people say like for me and for you, and what most people say is, I'm just training really hard. And that's why I'm tired. And yeah, you're right but it's deeper than just a superficial tired that people complain about all the time. It's a biological thing when you end up with the low testosterone, that you're chronically fatigued for a biological reason. And you have low libido. And for me, I mean, none of this is too personal or not, but I didn't want to have sex for weeks. Weeks on end, I didn’t, no desire. And that was really strange because I was 29 years old. I was like that is not how it's supposed to be. So, that to me was like one of the triggers saying, I need to get this thing looked into. And Cody Beals, the pro triathlete, he's written about that on his blog. And he was the one, by reading his blog, that kind tipped me off to this idea that maybe I should be looking into this. So, the things that kind of help it when I was trying to reverse it, bringing back that balance, so one of the biggest piece is, is the nutritional side of things. And I was, I was just taking in too few calories. I was eating probably like, three to 4,000 calories a day, maybe. But it just wasn't enough given how much I was doing. I was doing a lot of training at the time and it just wasn't enough to support what I was actually doing. So, if you're running at like a 750 calorie deficit or more per day, then you can end up into some real trouble with your hormones. That's one piece of it. The other piece is that endurance training, in general, just does affect your testosterone levels and the average testosterone level in the studies for endurance athletes, like ultra marathoners, marathoners, Ironman athletes, tends to be, I think it's something like one or 200 total testosterone less than your average person. Just to give some perspective, like you got 300 to 1000 is typically approximately the range that they use for normal and I was at 150 at one point. And Ryan Hall was at like, five like, he was almost nothing. The average for somebody my age at 29 is about 600. It was like I said, I was at 150. And people tend to experience symptoms when it gets below or around 300. And after I started naturally just restoring balance in my life and using some natural supplements like I was taking vitamin D, omega threes, zinc, a handful of natural supplements like that; I was able to restore my testosterone levels and just using time, right and a better like training balance and nutrition balance, adding some body fat to myself. I was able to get back up to the point of around three or 400 within two or three months. And then I was able to get back up to around 600 after I guess it was probably about eight months or a year. And now last I checked it was like high 600. So, perfectly normal again, but it was kind of scary. Go to Episode 2 Go to Episode 3

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