Do you want to be antifragile and put on 18 lbs of pure muscle? On the show this week, Dr. Charlie Mize, a good friend and long-time client of Rebel Performance is joining me to discuss how we helped him pack on nearly 20 pounds of muscle and got him feeling better than ever. Charlie is a doctor who specializes in emergency medicine and resuscitation. Previously, he did helicopter mountain rescue and pre-hospital critical care in Bhutan, and he is now with the International Committee of the Red Cross working on resuscitation of the war wounded. With such a physically demanding profession, Charlie’s fitness is essential for his performance.
We dive into the episode as Charlie shares his fitness journey going from having constant pain to hitting PRs on all his lifts. We unpack the necessity of fitness skills in certain career paths, being overspecialized in one particular thing, knowing your fitness limitations, movement-based changes, and understanding the way your body adapts. We then steer the conversation to competition-based training and the power behind having a community to join you in crushing your goals. To close out the episode, Charlie shares some lessons and takeaways from his experience training with Rebel Performance.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [02:15] An introduction to Dr. Charlie Mize
- [04:45] The necessity of fitness in certain careers
- [08:30] Downsides of being overspecialized in one thing
- [10:39] Understanding your fitness limitations
- [16:50] The benefits of having balancing abilities
- [18:30] Movement based changes
- [21:45] The power behind community and competition-based training
- [26:18] Charlie’s lessons and takeaways training with Rebel Performance
- [28:20] Understanding the way your body adapts
James Cerbie: Let’s jump into the episode today with Dr. Charlie Mize. Dr. Charlie Mize, welcome to the show, my friend. Thank you so much for blocking a little time here to come on and chat with me.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Pleasure’s mine.
James Cerbie: So, let’s start here for the people listening, because you have a really cool job and background. So, I think it’d be awesome if we hit what it is that you do and then we can transition and chat. More training talk.
An Introduction to Dr. Charlie Mize
Dr. Charlie Mize: Sure. So I initially trained and I’m a doctor, obviously, and I trained in emergency medicine and resuscitation. For many years, I was the founder and lead for the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan’s prehospital critical care helicopter rescue service and their mountain rescue service. Which involves flying small helicopters into incredibly high altitudes and flying broken people off of mountains and then going into villages and remote hospitals, taking over critically ill or injured, and then trying to resuscitate him and bring him back to ICU?
In the capital, so that was what I did for seven years, and then I worked a little bit in Switzerland while doing similar stuff while coming back here, United States and working, doing resuscitation and genomics medicine in Yale. And then I was recruited to join the International Committee of the Red Cross to work doing. Basically, trauma and battlefield resuscitation work and also pre-hospital like the same sort of thing I did with pre-hospital evacuations and retrieval. So that’s my current gig.
It’s a really lovely job because it’s so exciting. But also it’s a very nice marriage of political medicine and all of that, but also the vigor of working out in the field and challenging terrain. And uncontrolled circumstances, that requires a lot more than just being intelligent to be like that, athletic and so on.
The Necessity of Fitness in Certain Careers
James Cerbie: Yeah, because there’s a very serious physical demand that comes with what you do. Right. Like, if you’re being flown up into the mountains at high altitude and you’ve got to go get somebody who is severely injured, you’re probably already wearing a pack. And then you’ve got to figure out a way to pick up and carry this human potentially. There’s a huge physical culture and physical nature and physical demand with your job.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah. Now, I did the math for about three years, and we’re looking forward to doing more of some of those operations in the future. I don’t know how high altitude, but my future operations will be. But when I was doing that work, that’s basically what prompted me to start working with you, with all you guys at Rebel, because the demands on your body are just so incredible. You imagine even if I was in my apartment in Tempo, the capital was at seven thousand feet.
But if you to fly to 16,000 feet, you get off for 16,000 feet carrying 20 pounds of equipment on your back and another like five, six pounds on a shoulder strap. And then you have to go with just you and one of the persona, actually manhandle a person who can’t bear weight on their own on a rough terrain. It is extremely difficult and you have to do that in a way that you’re also able to perform mental tasks, and so if you’re really the red line physically, then it really destroys, at least for me, destroys my ability to focus on cognitive tasks, like a little bit of a little bit of sacrifice that is acceptable.
We plan for it. We draw from in advance. We planned in advance. We do all these things to make sure that we offload. We do as much cognitive offloading as possible before we get on scene. But you never know exactly to get there and what sort of condition is going to be and what sort of training and how it’s going to be. So, yeah. So physical fitness turns out to be not just a nice thing, it turns out to be an essential part of the work.
James Cerbie: Yeah, it’s a total necessity for you. Right. I train most people listening to this, most people at Rebel Performance, we train because we’re meatheads that love to throw down and lift weights and have a good time in the gym. We want to challenge ourselves physically. We want to see what we’re capable of, blah, blah, blah, blah. I know you’re a very similar way, but in your profession there is an actual consequence to your physicality, not holding up to the standard.
If I walk in the gym and have a bad day, I have a bad day. I like you show up for work and have a bad day and other people suffer.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah. And like in my early days I definitely was not was not fit in the right ways. So I’m really, really fortunate because my best friend is my brother. My brother is brilliant. He is incredibly talented athlete. But more than just being a talented athlete, he’s a very intelligent athlete. And so my habit is always been to just take things off him like I. I’ve always been very dedicated myself, but my brother was always training to be an all-around physically dominant athlete.
He trained for strength, for muscular endurance, for the capacity. He trained all the various sets of systems. I rode lightweight crew, a division one in college and was fortunate to be on the national championship team. And then I raced after college in triathlon, and so that got me into all these terrible bad habits of basically chasing the thrill of these crushing workouts without allowing myself proper recovery, proper programing, attention to my biomechanics.
Downside of Being Overspecialized in One Thing
And so basically, when I arrived at the mountain rescue work, I was overconfident because I had tremendous capacity here. I was 36 and able to run up 4:50 – 4:45 mile. But I was incredibly weak. I weighed 145 pounds at just under 6”1 and only really lifting weights a little bit in college as part of our training crew. But really I’d never seriously done any sort of lifting, never done any serious training.
And so it’s amazing how just adding weight and altitude just transforms something that you imagine to be a world of aerobic capacity work and to just murder, just total murder. And so I really, really struggled, and I was like alarm, like danger Will Robinson. And so it just caught me off guard because I thought of myself as being in really good shape. But I was not in good shape. I was like over specialized. For one thing, it wasn’t doing any good.
So my brother, who also trained to do this and had for some time, was like, you should be my coach. And so it’s just been a huge difference. I tried lifting on my own for probably six months. I really had tremendous success in injuring myself, you know, like I was proud of how successfully I approach that problem. I was like, OK, like, can I just crush it literally, you know, nothing severe.
But my father is capable. I saw some initial progress, as you’d expect, like the first few weeks. And then the taper off was that. Yeah. So it is absolutely, absolutely essential.
James Cerbie: Can I just interject here a little because I remember when we first connected because Joe put us together. This is over two years. Two years now. And I remember our first chat talking to you and just being blown away, like how cool I thought your job was to like we totally jammed on science and physiology stuff. Absolutely like that being your background and that being my background. But yeah, I can remember. Kind of that first conversation on boarding, look at the assessment, all the different things we look at when we take on new clients and being like, OK, like Charlie’s got an engine for days.
Right. But the primary frustration that you talked about in that initial phone call was I had this aerobic capacity. But that’s not the thing that’s limiting me. Like, I need more strength. I need more muscle mass, and I need a way of accomplishing that without hurting myself. Like back shoulder, hip type stuff. Is that is that kind of the correct framework like where you were when you were coming in the door?
Dr. Charlie Mize: Exactly. Exactly. Like my connective tissue. Just this wholly unprepared for this sort of for the work, so. That’s exactly that was exact. Those are the frustrations, it was like not I mean, and I look terrible, too. There’s also that.
James Cerbie: So let’s kind of actually talk about what we did work hard to get right. Because I think there would be a lot of people listening who can relate to this idea of being a one trick pony. Like maybe you’re a one trick pony in terms of endurance, maybe a one trick pony. And I’m only strong. Or maybe you’re the one trick pony and I’m only Jack, whatever it is. Right. And then we see a lot of people that come in the door with this kind of back hip shoulder pain, like not broken per say.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Right. But no, no, no, not broken.
James Cerbie: Like train and push hard for a while and you eventually run into some issues, right? Yeah. So I would love to dive in and talk about the actual framework, the plan that we put in place for you and maybe just oppose that with what you were doing versus what we had you doing, like what were the actual actions and then what were some of the results that we got from putting those things into place for you?
Dr. Charlie Mize: So the first thing that you guys did was to very carefully look at my movement. Everything from life, like scatological rhythm. How I carried my shoulders, my pelvic tilts, my mobility and my spinal ability and different in different planes, all these things which because I just didn’t like working aggressively on my real capacity, had not really gotten a lot of attention. And then from there. The programing was very intentional, progressive. And the immediate thing was dialling back the amount of work.
Programing in like rest and I don’t mean just like sitting on your back doing nothing but a thoughtful rest. Awful days of rest where you might actually be working. But the work is. I would have like five working days initially and then maybe three or four working days and then two days of work. That was like aerobic work or just almost like physiotherapy type retraining, movement, movement, re-education for my shoulder and my hips and so on. And that would just like and it was just through present day just to continue a plan of gradually improving those mechanics and then right off the gate, like really thoughtful.
We started with like little like using the classic lifts, like squat deadlift bench press that low weights. This is all I can handle and a lot of accessory work to help prepare me and injured. Some real challenges for six months, because I had already hurt myself and I was not making mechanics really poor, but it’s amazing how. That corrected. Over the course of the first year, we basically corrected. All of those issues, while simultaneously dealing with the challenge of me changing positions and traveling a great deal between Europe and the states and having various types of gym access to different types of training equipment, all these other, despite that programing, is consistently adaptable and consistently.
Challenging in a way that really provoked me to grow, I did not, like we all talked about periodization, but I think when you’re doing your own programing and it’s like if you enjoy something, you talk yourself into believing I’m totally, totally mixing up the stuff and you’re not. And so you be like, oh, I know you really like this. We’ll come back to that. We’ll come back to work, come back to it like several months from now.
And so you have forced me to have new physical challenges. That was all it was extraordinary and where I ended up about a year and a half later was like 18 pounds of muscle. Gained. My aerobic capacity is not as good as it used to be, but it’s not that far off the mark, you know, it’s like it’s still really good.
It’s still like I don’t it’s like quickly trainable, like parodists. Like you step on the track and run a mile. I run it like. In the high fives, and that’s just not being the focus of our training right now. So just an example like this, a lot of people who are like me heads are going to think this is pathetic, but the most I’d ever get lifted was like one hundred and thirty pounds. So basically, 18 months saw about 18 pounds of muscle gain by body supervene, has it changed?
Actually, I could do like to like two thirty two forty deadlifts for fifteen. And remember, my one rep, Max, is like around one thirty five.
James Cerbie: Yes. That’s a casual a casual one hundred pound plus 15 reps.
The Benefits of Having Balancing Abilities
Dr. Charlie Mize: I mean like. Yeah, like I might bench press my max, my max bench press was probably around 130 similar. I have no idea where it is now, but, you know, I was repping close to 160 for 15. Like pull ups, I could do like to pull ups, I can crank out probably close to 20. Yeah, just profound. How just how much stronger. And another thing which there’s no real, way to measure this, but there’s a skill in mountaineering that is really underappreciated and that is.
The ability to stand on one leg. OK, to transition if you want to ascend quickly, it’s amazing how having excellent balance, being able to move almost like we can jump from one to the next, if you could do that and have great control and great balance, it’s amazing, in my humble opinion, how much faster and efficient you can be. So my one legged balance is just counting is something that we focus on that we that we decide to train.
But like the difference, I could not I had trouble lowering myself down to the ground on one leg and now I can pistol slot comfortably like one, two, three, four, 10 reps left switch 10 or less because the slot left, right, no problem. And that translates so well into all sorts of like that. So that’s another huge improvement. So. And I don’t look as good, you know,
James Cerbie: Phil, I mean, that’s a 20 pound, 20 pounds of muscle will do for you. It helps out a little bit.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah, I mean, I’m still I mean, I’m still lean. I must like one seven.
What about one sixty five now. One the three. Yes, the one said one seventy five. It’s like you’re rock solid muscle would be like that would be the gold. I understand. Like getting there is going to take a little more time.
Movement Based Changes
James Cerbie: Yeah absolutely. It’s just about consistency which are the king of. And so one of the things I want to interject with here, that’s really important because we have conversations on the podcast. This gets floated a lot on the Internet as well. People talk about like creating these movement based changes. Right. And one of the things that’s super important is that it requires a very integrated approach. Like, I get really frustrated and I see people who are like, hey, have shoulder pain or I have back pain or have knee pain or a hip pain.
And they are in this mindset of like, OK, can you just give me three to five exercises that I’m going to do and it’s going to make it magically get better and like it doesn’t work that way. Like it needs all be plugged into a comprehensive, integrated plan. Right. But you’re a perfect example of the fact that, hey, we can get you these movement based changes so that you feel better than ever before. But while we’re doing that, we’re also getting you a training effect, like we’re not here just to lay around in the ground and teach you to move better.
We’re here to move better, to feel good, but then to also, like, smash all your other performance goals. Right. Because that’s where the art takes place, because I think there are a lot of people who are really good at one or the other. And I think, like subjectively, we’re really good as bringing those two worlds together. And I like that’s where we excel. And I think you hear a perfect example of that.
And for people listening, I will say, right, you’re literally the perfect client because you execute like a champ. You do absolutely everything to the tee. And so like that, that helps tremendously, especially when we have a remote relationship, because if you can’t show up and execute and follow instructions and nothing’s going to get better, which with which you are very good at.
Dr. Charlie Mize: So it does make a difference. Yes.
James Cerbie: So pretty fantastic outcomes and results. I’m curious.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Well, go ahead, my brother. I mean, like I have to give some credit. My brother, my it’s like.
James Cerbie: Your brother is the same way. Like both of you.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah. Like, I couldn’t imagine not showing up for your training because, you know, even in the last few years, ever since I left Pluton and I’ve been doing a variety of things decision starting this new work, ICRC, I spend a lot of time like staying my brother or being around my brother or just like when I’m traveling, talking to my brother and he is so inspirational and that he is just like a clock when it comes to his training.
So it’s like I couldn’t miss a day plus, the I mean, I know we’re talking about my home, my goodness, the amount of the increases is that he’s trying to crush a Virginia state powerlifting champion, which he will do. It will happen very often goals. But like, it’s easier to be consistent when you have a whole family culture of physical excellence and dedication to your health. And so it makes it really easy because like I said, my best friend every day is like a nice little reminder. Yeah.
The Power Behind Community and Competition-Based Training
James Cerbie: That’s one of those powers of community and culture as well. Like if you’re surrounded by people and I said this on another podcast, they kind of function like gravity in a sense, because, like, you can’t help but be pulled towards them. You can’t help it be pulled in that direction. Like, that’s one of the reasons we harp on the community and the competition aspect of what we do at Rebel because we know how powerful that is. And just like absolutely it’s that whole you’re going to be the average of the five people you spend the most time with concept.
And if you’re surrounded by people who are constantly improving, constantly getting better, constantly pushing you, like, you’re just going to get grabbed by the throat and pulled along almost whether you want to or not. Right. And that’s the best part.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah, well, I definitely love the community aspect of all the work you guys do to be sure. To be sure. It’s just kind of hilarious that my brother is such a big fan of yours, is the one who brought me into the Rebel real programing crew. Yeah, I feel like I’m probably like the smallest, least strong member of the entire Rebel group, but that’s why it’s important. I’m working on it.
James Cerbie: It’s important to appreciate what the outcome goal is.
Right, because it’s I always talk about attribute bars of strength, hypertrophy, power, endurance movement would essentially be the core five. I want to give you all of those. But if you think of them like dimmer switches, every person based off of their goals, what they’re trying to achieve, like we’ve got to be able to move the dimmer switch is up and down a little bit. I don’t want any of the dimmer switches off. Right.
But you’re the perfect example of an athlete where it’s like we’re playing this constant trade-off of I can’t have the capacity, the endurance come down too far. So it’s that balance of like, how high can I push strength? And I appear to be without the endurance following many some critical threshold. And we’re always trying to find that balance for people depending on what it is they need, what their goals are like, Joe, your brother, we can afford to push strength and hypotrophy to be far higher because we can afford for his endurance to fall a little bit lower.
Granted, your brother still has a huge engine, right?
Dr. Charlie Mize: He does, yeah. Yeah.
James Cerbie: And so is that constant balancing act of figuring out what adaptations do we want, what stresses do we need to impose, when do we impose them? And we’re just constantly figuring out how we want to move these things around.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah, it’s yeah, absolutely. It is. It is it’s also I mean, it’s like for you guys. It’s not that a person with a great deal of study can’t come up with a basic plan, but expertize is really important. As someone who has spent years of his life studying and learning and continues to study and learn to be expert, a handful of. Physiologic topics, I recognize that there are real limits to how good your program can be when you’re doing it yourself, and that’s assuming you’re an expert in it.
And if you’re not an expert in it, and those limitations are even more real. So there is a saying in medicine that a physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.
James Cerbie: I like that.
Dr. Charlie Mize: That’s because you’re good at you’re going to make mistakes for yourself. You’re going it’s like one of those things where you are just going to be blinded by your own hope that things are not as bad or your hope that they’re worse than they are or whatever it is your color.
James Cerbie: You have too many biases for yourself. You can’t be like the objectiveness is not there like it should be.
Dr. Charlie Mize: And there’s none. That’s like the definition of subjective, right? It is the opposite of what subjective. It’s like trying to look out into looking in is like that is what subjective is like arrogant cogito, ergo something like you are definitely looking in so. I for sure was like, I’m getting plenty of rest. No, not like I am definitely cycling through different programing goals. I was like, I understand. Like I’m a gentleman who has dissected five human cadavers.
And that’s a very I think compared to an average coach and client has a pretty good understanding of muscle, skeletal anatomy and biomechanics. I roasted toasted Holy Ghost. So there’s really no comparison. Like, I like the improvements, the injury rate, the coverage from past injuries, all these things. Tremendous.
Charlie’s Lessons and Takeaways Training With Rebel Performance
James Cerbie: Man, I love to hear it. Were there any, like other big lessons or takeaways that you kind of found over the last two years of working together that you think would be beneficial for people listening?
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah, I think there’s one thing I would like to say, I think along those lines. This is old North African expression, which is like God last fall, man plans, and it’s the notion that, no, I’ve always found in my life that making life decisions two steps is always fraught with peril. But one step you’re always allowed one step. And as pertains to training, I think one of the most important things about having working with you guys is how you are not just it’s not like yours is like the first six weeks you start started your program.
It works even if it’s just like the shock to your body system. Do you think it works? Then problems arise, life happens, things change, and so what’s really wonderful is that I don’t have a single. My life circumstances changes, my body adapts much faster in this domain and more slowly in another domain. Turns out that my mobility came back really quickly, but my strength lagged. And so making a plan for yourself the last six months.
That’s kind of like a recipe for not getting the best out of yourself. And so what I really have loved working with you guys was. This constant checking in gently at the end of every week, more prominently at the end of every training cycle to ensure that. The goals have changed, the target has changed, and that we will need to adapt the stimulus to achieve the outcome. One like I was doing my own training. We definitely did not.
Understanding the Way Your Body Adapts
I might give a lot of thought consideration into writing my own plan, for example, but then I wouldn’t check in with myself. And I found that a lot of these prefabricated plans, like what I was trying to do, my own lifting. I worked with some of the templated stuff and that’s the problem. It’s when you when something when your body adapts in a way that’s not just across the board cookie cutter, your body adapts in sort of a measured way, which I think is actually how most of us adapt our own physiologic histories. But having someone kind of deal with that. Huge, huge, hugely important.
James Cerbie: Yeah, it’s just a law of diminishing returns, right? And part of that feedback process, the communication with the athlete is so important. And just looking at their numbers and what’s happening week by week is I want to see what this curve is doing, because within any phase, within any block of training, we have some outcome, some adaptation that we’re chasing. Right. And we want to be cognizant, aware of when are we starting? Like when is that plateau coming?
When is my line rounding out and hitting a ceiling? Because as it’s rounding out hitting a ceiling now, I know, OK, we need to change something has to change some stimulus adaptation needs to take place. Right. And I think to your original quote, it falls very much in line with the Mike Tyson. Everyone has a plan, so they get punched in the face.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Yeah, it’s exactly right.
James Cerbie: Because that’s the thing that a lot of you run into is like they sit down, we get a template program. The first few weeks go great. But then week six, seven, eight, they start running into issues of like, I’m not making progress anymore or things are starting to hurt. And that’s the point in time where our coach is so valuable because that’s where the coach is like, perfect, cool, we’re going to go do this. Right.
And so it’s just like a little stair step effect, like we just keep stair steping our way up over time and then a year goes by and you’re like, holy hell, I just don’t even recognize the person I’m looking at in the mirror anymore.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Let me tell you, like maybe parting thought. Let me tell you a physical challenge I had that I could not have conquered, but for your coaching. So I went back to do six weeks of work in the mountains in eastern Himalaya. After we’ve been training for like maybe 14, 15 months. We had a call to a guy who fell and broke both bones in his lower leg. We have heard that like sixteen thousand feet still dream.
And he was also like a savage alcoholic, and you decided to do, you know, it was to basically get slammed on cheap rum up there for cheap, cheap, cheap whiskey. And he then developed like haemorrhagic gastritis is broken. His leg is like vomiting blood, and he can’t feel great.
This is a great situation to be silly with silly now. He wasn’t a large guy. Thankfully, he was probably only about one hundred twenty pounds short. So we go to get this guy and the terrain is so rocky that you can’t land close to him. We have to wait till we land probably about seventy five meters away from him and we’re downhill from where he is. OK. So this is like light still on the ground, we clamber it was not like it was like a hike, but you had to use your hands on a few occasions and we would climb to where the sky is quickly.
Right. And already the difference, like before like I’m not it was hard, but I’m not torn up and destroyed. Then we rope this guy, we create a little double bowling, and we both this guy’s arms and we basically do a like a drag through the snow, I think we just basically dragged this guy, like one of us, basically, like lifting up on his legs a little bit to reduce the total amount of weight and me pulling him the 75 meters towards the aircraft.
This is after we get on the side, put IV and give him some medicines, like give us some anesthetic. So he’s like a more chill and then. We drag on and I was thinking to myself, like here I am at just over 16 past the. Right, and I’m doing a sled, basically a sled in the snow. The guy who is this guy weighs one hundred and one hundred and one hundred twenty pounds carrying of weight.
You know, there’s no way I could have done that. There is no way I would not. There was there was there was no way. Now, when I was my heart rate, extremely high when I got. Was that. Yes, that was very, very hard, but. You know, like I was like pat myself in the back, I was like, look at me crushing, you know? Crushing it, yeah, so like.
Gentlemen, I hope, I hope I hope my new work with the Red Cross puts me in similar circumstances. I don’t know if it will, but if it will, then I know that you guys will work with me to be ready to meet any of those challenges.
James Cerbie: Beautiful, Dr. Charlie, thank you so much. Man, I’m so glad you got to come on. Thank you for being an amazing, fantastic client friend. Hopefully we can actually get out a backpacking trip of our own soon.
Dr. Charlie Mize: Oh, hell, yeah.
James Cerbie: You can go out and tear it up. Some place would be amazing. But thank you so much, my man.
Dr. Charlie Mize: All right. Talk soon.
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