Dr. Gundry: 00:00 Hey, there. Welcome to another exciting episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where I give you the tools you need to support your gut, boost your health, and live your youngest, healthiest life.
Dr. Gundry: 00:19 Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. For many of us, running a single mile sounds tough, I know it used to be for me, nevermind running an entire marathon. Well, my guest today has not only done that but a whole lot more. In fact, he’s run the equivalent of 172 marathons in a row … In just a minute I’ll be speaking with the ultramarathon runner, author, and motivational speaker, Charlie Engle. Charlie has run 4,500 miles through the Sahara desert and survived 16 months in federal prison. That’s an interesting combination that we’re going to get into, but considers his more than two decades of sobriety as one of his biggest feats to date. Wow, what a history. This is going to be good, folks.
Dr. Gundry: 01:14 He released his memoir, Running Man, three years ago, and has touched countless lives with his story of courage, perseverance, and redemption. Today we’ll discuss his strategies and setbacks with addiction and incarceration, and how running helped him overcome adversity and forge ahead. We’ll also chat about his incredible record-breaking treks around the globe and how physical exercise can help you work through your own struggles. Charlie, thanks for joining me today.
Charlie Engle: 01:48 It’s really my pleasure. That was the best intro I’ve ever had, I believe. Thank you for that.
Dr. Gundry: 01:51 Wow. I mean this is impressive, impressively crazy and motivational. So you look like the picture of health, but you spent a decade of your life addicted to drugs and alcohol?
Charlie Engle: 02:07 Indeed. Yeah, it was my 20s primarily were pretty much a disaster. But addiction doesn’t look like what people assume it does always. I was this really bad alcoholic and cocaine addict, yet I was also the top salesman at my company. My idea was that if I balanced the really bad things I was doing with some amazing good things, that it would all work out. I always thought that the boss wouldn’t fire the top salesman. That absolutely turned out not to be true, so.
Dr. Gundry: 02:50 Most addicts, and I care for a lot of addicts and former addicts, have to hit rock bottom.
Charlie Engle: 02:58 Sure.
Dr. Gundry: 03:00 Is that what happened to you?
Charlie Engle: 03:01 It is. Actually, the birth of my first son was a real catalyst for me. I was 29. I’d tried everything to quit. I had been successful in short bursts but never could maintain, like so many addicts. I was like, “Okay, my son is going to change all that just by his mere presence.” Not surprisingly, what I found with this tiny, beautiful baby boy was love, and hope, and strength, that I’d really never had before. But two months after his birth, there I am again on another six-day binge, and the police are going through my car. There’s bullet holes in the car that were put there by somebody who was trying to shoot me.
Charlie Engle: 03:49 Even after six days of no sleep and all the things I was doing, I had the clearest thought ever. That thought was simple, that nobody is coming to save me. My son can’t save me. I’d always looked for these external reasons to quit. It took, in that moment, the realization that I had to do this for myself and that there was no other way. I went to a 12 step meeting that night. I got up and put my running shoes on the next day. I ran and went to a meeting every day for the next three years without missing a single day. Through that mechanism began to create a life for myself.
Dr. Gundry: 04:35 There’s a lot of teaching that you will always be an addict but you have to be addicted to something …
Charlie Engle: 04:43 Indeed.
Dr. Gundry: 04:44 Right?
Charlie Engle: 04:45 Indeed.
Dr. Gundry: 04:46 Were you a runner before that or did you say, “Holy cow, I’m going to go take a [crosstalk 00:04:50]”?
Charlie Engle: 04:50 No, I was. I had a legacy of running. I’d run in high school. Even in my … like I was a binger. You know, again, with addicts, not everybody is like an everyday all the time user. I would have a couple of terrible months, then I would get sick of it. I would clean up for a month or a couple months or whatever. Running was always a mechanism for me to both get myself physically fit, but I also recognized there’s a combination of self-imposed suffering, almost penance, self-flagellation that actually goes along with that. Because of course, as any self-respecting addict I felt badly about myself. I felt like I wasn’t worthy of love or forgiveness or many of the things that I saw in other people.
Charlie Engle: 05:42 Strangely, running began as a way to sort of purge that what felt like craziness all the time. And I had the side benefit of I just knew I felt great when I ran. Although I will say, people assume I love running. I do love to run, but they make the mistake of understanding that for me running is a vehicle towards not only culture, cultural exploration, but also it’s the stopping that feels great. It’s the endorphin release that comes at the end that actually feeds a lot of what I need and what I feel. The act of running, sure, I like it in a lot of ways, but I like where it takes me more than that.
Dr. Gundry: 06:33 You know there’s a saying in running that the hardest step in running is the step out the door.
Charlie Engle: 06:39 Totally.
Dr. Gundry: 06:39 Is that?
Charlie Engle: 06:40 100%. Not really for me because it’s embedded, but when I coach people I tell them all the time, “You have to trust me. You haven’t run since you were 12 years old. Think of the joy that you had when you were young.” We all did what was natural as a kid, as a preadolescent, as an adolescent. You got home from school and the first thing you did was run out the door to your friend’s house to play or whatever. We naturally ran everywhere we went because emotionally that’s what we wanted to do, and physically it was the fastest way to get there.
Dr. Gundry: 07:18 Right.
Charlie Engle: 07:19 When we get older, of course, we stop doing that because when you haven’t run in 20 years it hurts. It feels lousy. People get motivated, and they go train seven days a week and it hurts them. Because they don’t understand the way to slowly work themselves into it and find something that works for them as an individual.
Dr. Gundry: 07:41 Yeah. When my wife finally convinced me to start running in my mid-40s I had such awful shin splints. I’m going, “This is not fun. Why would I do this?” But then we got a dog, a very active dog. Actually, I learned to run from watching my dog-
Charlie Engle: 08:02 Thanks to the dog.
Dr. Gundry: 08:03 The dog’s like, “Man, this is great! Let’s do this!” I’m going, “Oh, you stupid dog.”
Charlie Engle: 08:09 Well it’s interesting, right? That even with someone like you with your vast knowledge of physiology, shin splints are just a way of saying tendonitis. That’s really all it is. It’s an overuse injury, which means that you’ve done too much too soon. Or maybe your shoes or off or whatever, but it just takes time like anything else.
Dr. Gundry: 08:34 Did bullet holes in your car help to fit rock bottom or?
Charlie Engle: 08:39 Indeed. Yeah. And it was the … I know you work with addicts. Addicts aren’t, it’s not that we’re not smart enough. If-
Dr. Gundry: 08:51 No. Let’s dispel that myth right now. Addicts are some of actually the most intelligent, smartest people there are on this planet. They really are.
Charlie Engle: 09:01 We’re great salesmen, too. We can sell anybody anything. We’re okay, right?
Dr. Gundry: 09:06 That’s absolutely true. That’s absolutely true. You have to be actually highly intelligent to harm yourself as hard as-
Charlie Engle: 09:14 Voluntarily.
Dr. Gundry: 09:15 Yeah, voluntarily.
Charlie Engle: 09:16 Yeah. Yeah. Certainly it’s a mix of genetics, I’m a fourth generation addict of some type. I have two kids. One of them has struggled, one hasn’t. It’s such a clear path. It is the proverbial loaded gun. If you have it in your genetics and you choose to pick it up, you got a pretty solid shot of suffering some bad consequences.
Dr. Gundry: 09:43 Yeah. No, that’s very true. All right. You run long distances, but now you run really long distances. I mean 35, 50, hundreds of miles. How does that help you?
Charlie Engle: 10:03 Wait, is it supposed to? Yes.
Dr. Gundry: 10:05 I hope it helps you.
Charlie Engle: 10:07 No, it does. It does. It is a vehicle of self-exploration for me. I certainly got the question. Early on in those first three years I actually ran, when I ran every day I actually ran 30 marathons in that period of time, my first 30. I absolutely was, to a degree, addicted to running. I had people ask, not necessarily in a kind way, “Haven’t you just switched addictions?” I understood their point, but the fact of the matter is addiction is about hiding, about being invisible, about not having any feelings. If you do have one, heaven forbid, you tamp it down with some drugs or a drink. Running is, by its nature, the exact opposite. There is no hiding in running. It’s you feel everything both physically and emotionally, or at least I do, when I’m doing this, after I do it. For the first time in my life I was fully present, not only during the run, but during other times. If I go have a run in the morning, which I do most mornings, it does set the stage for me to be energetic, in a happy mood. That’s done and I feel good the rest of the day. Again, people assume you run for fitness, meaning physical fitness. That is such a small component of the reason I run.
Dr. Gundry: 11:44 Well, I’m glad you say that. I think that’s, a lot of people miss that point. Many addicts tell me that they use a drug or alcohol to quiet the noise in their brain. Does running quiet your brain?
Charlie Engle: 12:05 Yes, in a way. I will say that it maybe is like this, a roulette wheel normally has like one ball and a lot of slots. I feel like sometimes I have like a ball for every slot and when you spin it they’re all bouncing around. If I go out for a run, they do all sort of settle into their spot. They eventually roll around and find their spot and things sort of click.
Charlie Engle: 12:28 I learned a long time ago, I do take an audio recorder or these days my phone when I run because I do have good ideas, or at least what I think are good ideas, when I run. There is clarity there, I think, that I find it harder to have sitting in an office or trying to sort things out on a computer, where you got emails and phone calls and texts coming in all the time. I can’t keep one thought in my head for more than 30 seconds because there’s 20 more that want to shove in. Running does help me solve that.
Charlie Engle: 13:08 I want to say just one quick thing. Addiction is … When I ran those first three years I thought that what I needed to do was take a scalpel and eliminate the addict. Like if I could just cut that part of me out that then I would be okay. It took that time to figure out that my addictive nature and my addictive qualities are actually all the best parts of me, as you sort of pointed out a moment. Without those I probably would just be sitting on the sofa playing video games. It makes me do things and it makes me pretty good at a few things.
Dr. Gundry: 13:43 No, you’re right. The ability to hone in and concentrate on something, I mean you guys have rare gifts in that way as long as-
Charlie Engle: 13:53 Positive and negative. My wife says, “Use your powers for good.”
Dr. Gundry: 13:58 We’ve got an addiction crisis again in this country, as if it ever went away. How do you help somebody kick this problem? Any tricks?
Charlie Engle: 14:11 Man, that’s a tough one. It has changed, you actually just referenced. In my day, I’m old enough that it felt like addiction was a long-term … A person might start drinking. They might start with smoking weed. They might start whatever and it’s this progression. What we’re seeing with young people these days is they are zero to 100 in a minute. They are going from never doing anything to doing heroin and fentanyl like tomorrow, and it’s killing them.
Charlie Engle: 14:43 Two things that I would absolutely love to put out to your amazing audience is kind of the idea that we see at airports all the time, “If you see something, say something.” Very often it’s self-apparent. We really do see these things. But dealing with that with anybody in our life, it’s a pain. It causes emotion pain and it’s hassle, it throws us out of our routine. It’s hard to do. And that person very often is likely to say, “Screw you. I don’t want to talk to you about this. I don’t have a problem.” But you have to take a stand with people.
Charlie Engle: 15:21 For the people who might be the addict out there that are watching, you have to finally ask for help. Everybody thinks they can do it alone. I assure you, I’m confident in saying that I am one of the stronger mental people that you might ever meet as far as like just determination. I could not do it alone. I tried over and over. It wasn’t until I looked for fellowship, and support, and had somebody to actually help me. We spent 99% of our lives preparing, all of us, for the one percent when everything goes wrong. If you don’t have a support network, whether it’s addiction, disease, whatever it might be, you’re in trouble. So find that support system.
Speaker 3: 16:10 Dr. Steven Gundry’s latest book, The Longevity Paradox, is out now. Like his first New York Times Bestseller, The Plant Paradox, this will be a game changer in helping you reverse disease and live a long vital life. Pick up a copy today at your local bookstore, Barnes&Nobel or Amazon, or download the audiobook on Audible.
Dr. Gundry: 16:31 So you’ve had crazy things. In 2007, Matt Damon produced what, Running the Sahara, a documentary. Your team ran across the Sahara desert?
Charlie Engle: 16:46 It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Dr. Gundry: 16:47 Why did you want to do that?
Charlie Engle: 16:49 That’s a-
Dr. Gundry: 16:50 What inspired you? Come on.
Charlie Engle: 16:52 I freely admit, after the fact, it almost looks like I had a great plan and I had some big … I wanted to see if it was possible. Firsts in the adventure world, firsts in almost any field are really hard to come by. For me, having the opportunity to try something that had never been done before and see if it was possible was very alluring. And it fulfilled that need for me. Again, I freely admit that there is a part of me, and maybe it’s my addict, maybe I don’t know what, curiosity, that I try to approach every situation with a curious mind, and an open heart, and the acceptance of the fact that I’m going to get something out of it. It may not be what I want or necessarily even need.
Charlie Engle: 17:43 But I try to look at the philosophy this way too, comfort is like ridiculously overrated. I don’t know. Somewhere in the 50s we invented the electric can open because we were just like all of a sudden too lazy to open our own cans anymore. It’s like all innovation has been towards making life easier. What have we ever gotten from that?
Dr. Gundry: 18:08 Nothing.
Charlie Engle: 18:09 There’s no lesson in easy.
Dr. Gundry: 18:11 Well, so explain this to me. You slapped on a pair of tennis shoes and stepped out on the Sahara desert and said, “Let’s go gang.” This sounds like an incredible organizational feat. Describe some of that. I mean how do you do this?
Charlie Engle: 18:29 Well what’s funny about that is you probably, if you predicted what happened in that first week, you probably could. It was a dive into the abyss where absolutely everything imaginable went wrong. The 50 things that we thought maybe could go wrong, just weather and whatever else, those things went wrong too. But we ran out of food. We ran out of water. We got lost. I had two crew people quit. It was 140 degree ground temperatures. You can practice and train and prepare at home when it’s 80 degrees and whatever, and you can go take a shower at the end of the day. But then when you get out there it’s a different world.
Dr. Gundry: 19:12 This makes Badwater look like a walk in the park.
Charlie Engle: 19:14 I did Badwater a bunch of times. In a way, Badwater is a compressed suffering, as I like to say. Where do you know at least with Badwater it’s going to end. Somehow in a certain period of time it’s going to be over. With the Sahara desert it kind of just went on and on. But we fell apart, quite frankly. Back to the lessons of addiction, what I realized about a week into it was I was so intent on putting my feet in the Red Sea at the end of the expedition that I forgot that it really is, like everything else, this one day at a time adventure.
Charlie Engle: 19:57 Like on day eight I focused on running a marathon in the morning and get to lunch, then I’d run another marathon in the afternoon and that would be my whole sole focus. Get to the end of the day, and lay on my mat and looking at a billion stars, and give thanks for the fact that I was actually able to be out there suffering, and experiencing sort of a, I guess a very life-changing experience for me.
Dr. Gundry: 20:29 And your shoes are melting?
Charlie Engle: 20:31 Yeah. Well, Badwater that happens for sure. In Death Valley we had some funny, everything wants to stick you and poke you in the desert because it’s trying to protect itself. Put it this way, I had a unnamed in this moment shoe sponsor who had air pockets in their shoes. Those things, like I’d be running along and it’d be like … like a tire. It was a really amazing experience. The Tuaregs and the people of the desert were like so many impoverished places, where they would offer you absolutely everything they had.
Charlie Engle: 21:15 I’ll tell you, anybody who’s never, if you’ve driven into a village in an impoverished country you’re treated one way because you’re driving in a car. They can’t relate to that really. You’re above them. You run into that same village and nobody wants anything from you. They run along with you, and laugh, and have a great time, and wave at you as you pass through having no idea why you’re there. It’s a-
Dr. Gundry: 21:43 “Let’s go watch the idiot?”
Charlie Engle: 21:44 Yeah. Right. Right. “Hey, there’s some guys coming through your village.” But yeah, no, and it’s true. Kids just run and have run. That’s what they know. Language barriers aside, it was nothing but just human interaction. That is why I’m out there. I’m certainly not running across the desert to help myself physically. I did, I pounded myself physically. I mean it was two marathons a day basically for 111 consecutive days.
Dr. Gundry: 22:16 So tell me, what kind of physical toll did that take on you?
Charlie Engle: 22:21 Yeah. I don’t know. Stay tuned.
Dr. Gundry: 22:24 Yeah, yeah.
Charlie Engle: 22:26 I was, let’s see. I’m 56 now so I was basically 46 at the time of the run. I think the other thing that happens is that people assume, like if you saw me run you would kind of go, “Huh. That’s not particularly attractive.” I am an incredibly efficient shuffler. The other misconception with running is when I enter 100-mile race, it doesn’t matter how fast I run the first 50 miles. Why would I go fast? My goal is to get from here to the end as fast as I can, which means a really measured approach where hydration and nutrition actually play a much bigger role than physical fitness. And then, mental fitness, whatever that means. I’m not sure how fit you have to be mentally to run 100 miles. I always like to say that it’s 90% mental and the rest is all in your head.
Dr. Gundry: 23:25 Very good. I love it. You are a master of endurance in these situations. Can you give people an example of how do you endure in difficult situations?
Charlie Engle: 23:43 Endurance is a state of mind as much as it is an act of the body. Very often people want, we all want our results right away. Our experience though does tell us that it takes time to get where we want to go and the journey is in fact worth it. If it’s a physical journey, it is a matter of some moderation until your body adapts, until you’re comfortable. A good example would be if you, have ever been to altitude, to high altitude?
Dr. Gundry: 24:16 Oh, yeah.
Charlie Engle: 24:17 How do you feel when you first get there?
Dr. Gundry: 24:20 Lousy.
Charlie Engle: 24:20 Terrible, right? So if you give yourself that time and you don’t even have to do anything. You just have to breathe and sleep and hydrate. Do all of these things, your body will do its job all on its own if you let it. I think the thing about endurance is really just a matter of being patient with endurance, both physically and mentally. Setting yourself up for success by understanding it’s a long-term commitment, not a sprint.
Dr. Gundry: 24:52 Okay. So your book Running Man, describe, this is a memoir, right?
Charlie Engle: 24:57 Indeed.
Dr. Gundry: 24:57 This is, okay.
Charlie Engle: 24:59 I tell it all.
Dr. Gundry: 25:01 Tell me in 2010 you were convicted of mortgage fraud.
Charlie Engle: 25:06 Indeed.
Dr. Gundry: 25:08 The conviction you say is unjust, which is fine. You went on to serve 16 months in prison.
Charlie Engle: 25:14 I did.
Dr. Gundry: 25:15 How did that come about?
Charlie Engle: 25:17 Yeah. Well interestingly, it is in some ways a direct result of the notoriety that came from Running the Sahara. The other piece of the puzzle that we didn’t discuss, and I’m still very proud of, is that Matt and I created a non-profit called H2O Africa, which today is called Water.org. Out of Running the Sahara is the world’s largest clean water non-profit. We passed a billion dollars in funding recently.
Dr. Gundry: 25:47 Wow.
Charlie Engle: 25:47 So out of a crazy idea with no expectations, good things can blossom. Bad things can also blossom. I lived in small town, North Carolina, attracted the attention of one particular IRS agent who saw the film and decided that he wasn’t interested in what I did but rather, in his opinion, how I did it. Without all the minutia, it’s in the book, I never came out and defended because in today’s society defending yourself is the surest way to be skewered. I actually just kept my mouth shut and let other people, the New York Times, a lot of other journalists and professionals, examine the situation and basically make their own choice to come out in defense. Long story short, I was the only person in the United States at that time to actually be charged with overstating my income on a home loan application from 2005.
Dr. Gundry: 26:49 I’ve heard of that recently happening.
Charlie Engle: 26:51 Yeah. Right. It has progressed as we’ve gone forward to other people. But at the time, I was essentially the only person being charged with this. I fought it because I didn’t do it. I was actually found not guilty of doing it, interestingly. But guilty of other things like mail fraud because I took a closing package and put it in the mail, even though it had information in there, excuse me. That I didn’t put in there-
Dr. Gundry: 27:24 You’re getting choked up over this, I can tell.
Charlie Engle: 27:26 I’ve been talking a lot. The idea that this happened to me was incredibly unfair yet the addict part of me, to bring it all the way back around, part of me believed that I was getting something I deserved. Psychologically I understand the way my own brain works pretty well, at least in hindsight. I was scared. I mean I went to trial, I fought it. I got sentenced to 21 months, 16 of it that I did actually in prison, and two in a halfway house. Needless to say it changed everything. Overnight there were no more speaking gigs or sponsors or anything else. I was kind of purged from my own life in a single day.
Dr. Gundry: 28:28 You could have taken this opportunity to feel really victimized and maybe head right back down into the gutter.
Charlie Engle: 28:36 Totally.
Dr. Gundry: 28:36 But you took this to inspire you and inspire others. What happened?
Charlie Engle: 28:43 I had spent years doing motivational-type speaking and telling other people that what happens to us isn’t nearly as important as what we do about it. Things happen to everybody, good and bad, and your response to that is what matters. Well, that’s easy to say when most of the things are in this little middle ground. I maybe had more highs and lows than most people but I finally, through no choice of my own, had the opportunity, let’s say, to act in the way that I had been speaking for years. My teenage boys dropped me off in front of federal prison on Valentine’s Day 2011. I kissed them goodbye and walked through that gate. I was scared and I was angry. I was angry about what had been done to me. Right?
Dr. Gundry: 29:42 Yeah.
Charlie Engle: 29:43 It took about a day for me to figure out that I wasn’t going to make it if I was going to be bitter and angry. This situation was untenable under those circumstances. So who I was going to be in there, behind bars, was totally up to me. It was still my decision whether or not I was going to do it in a way that was impactful, not only for me, but for other people. I did what I always do, I ran. I went there and the first chance I got I started running around the rec yard. If we were in lockdown I would run for six hours at a time in my cell, in place.
Dr. Gundry: 30:26 Whoa.
Charlie Engle: 30:26 I mean I looked more than a little crazy, I’m sure. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing-
Dr. Gundry: 30:33 In prison.
Charlie Engle: 30:33 In prison. It could be helpful. People did sort of like steer a wide path. But slowly, I think actually I’m getting ready to step right into your incredible wheelhouse, which is so much of life is attraction rather than promotion. You can talk about things all you want, but people are more attracted to action. If they see results in you, then they want to come do what you do.
Dr. Gundry: 31:04 True.
Charlie Engle: 31:07 If I switch that over and spend too much time telling other people what they should do, like whatever, then for me it gets a little tricky. What happened in there is guys started coming up to me saying, “Hey, can you teach me how to run?” When I got there there were probably three or four guys running regularly. When I left I had a running group of 50 guys. I had 25 of them doing yoga with me three days a week out on the softball field. 11 guys lost more than 100 pounds. Most of these men had never had anybody ever pay any attention to them in a positive way, physically and emotionally.
Charlie Engle: 31:52 When I left they thanked me. They were like, “Oh, we’re so grateful.” I’m like-
Dr. Gundry: 31:56 “Could you stay a couple more years?”
Charlie Engle: 31:57 Yeah. I was like, “I got to go.”
Dr. Gundry: 31:59 Sorry.
Charlie Engle: 32:01 No. I say the same thing. The thing is what they didn’t understand at the time is what they did for me. That experience actually got me through it. It wasn’t the other way around. It gave me purpose because we need that, I believe. It gave me energy and power and humility. A side note is I’m in there with … I could feel sorry for myself for getting this 21-month sentence, and I’m in there next to a guy in the cell next to me who got 25 years for some tiny amount of crack cocaine or something, and had his whole life taken away. It’s perspective, very often. It gave me a perspective that I’m a pretty freaking lucky guy.
Dr. Gundry: 32:48 So you weren’t in a white-collar crime country club.
Charlie Engle: 32:51 No. This was a prison. This was a prison. Was it Sartre I think who said, “Prison is other people”? Oh no, “Hell is other people.” Well, the hardest part is being away from family, and of course being surrounded by people 24 hours a day that you actually can’t get away from. Finding a way through meditation. I did my best to eat healthy as I could with really unhealthy choices. Those things are still a big part of my life.
Dr. Gundry: 33:26 Yeah. Okay. Now you’re out. You’re a convicted felon. What happens after that? That was just a few years ago.
Charlie Engle: 33:41 Yeah. Once again I feel incredibly lucky to be who I am because most people get out of prison and they can never get a job. They’ve got this F for felon practically tattooed on them. The end up on the public dole for the rest of the … It’s a terrible fiscal decision for society too because it punishes everybody. It punishes all of society not to give people better ways to reintegrate. But for me, I basically just did again what I always did. I started running. I took my energy and organized something called the Icebreaker Run, which was me and five other recovering drug addicts ran across the United States. We ran a relay, 24 hours a day for 24 consecutive days to the NAMI Mental Health Convention in Washington DC.
Charlie Engle: 34:37 It was to raise awareness for the need for greater mental health services in this country. Because so much of what we all experience in the news, and personally daily, and certainly out here in beautiful Southern California, where you’ve got a ridiculously difficult homeless issue. It’s so much of it is wrapped around mental health. I just, you know what Doc, I just kept doing the things that I do. Kept moving forward because continuous forward movement pretty much will always win out over the rolling up in a fetal position option, so.
Dr. Gundry: 35:15 Good for you. Okay. So you’ve done all this wonderful stuff and now you’re not satisfied. You’re going to do a 4,500 mile trek from the short of the Dead Sea to the peak of Mount Everest? You’re not just going to go to base camp?
Charlie Engle: 35:29 That would be … Why? No. It’s pretty at base camp but I hear it’s prettier on top, so.
Dr. Gundry: 35:35 When and why are you doing this?
Charlie Engle: 35:38 The idea actually came about 10 years ago the way so many things do, they take a long time to work out. Metaphorically speaking I’ve had a lot of lows and highs in my life. It literally just popped into my head. “Why don’t I go from the lowest place on the planet to the highest?” And carry a little flask of water from the Dead Sea and pour it out on the top of Everest and join these two ends of the earth in a symbolic gesture. Symbolism is great, but then there’s hard work.
Charlie Engle: 36:12 I’m very happy to say that I have even just recently put together an amazing film team, a group of sponsors and partners that we’re announcing soon. I’m actually not just doing Dead Sea to Everest. What I’m actually doing is going from the lowest place on each continent to the highest point on that continent. The first one’s only a couple of months from now, Africa. I’m going from the lowest place in Africa, which is a lake over in Djibouti, across Ethiopia, through the Rift Valley, into Kenya over the Masai Mara Region, to Tanzania, and up Kilimanjaro to the top.
Dr. Gundry: 36:55 Ah.
Charlie Engle: 36:56 Yeah. I’m doing it with a buddy of mine, Andre, who, I always lead with this. Andre is noticeable for a lot of reasons but Andre has no legs. He won the Hawaii Ironman Disabled Division a few years ago.
Dr. Gundry: 37:12 Wow.
Charlie Engle: 37:12 He’s hand-cycled across the US. As you can tell, I like telling stories. The mechanism for me to do that is to go out and do things, and hopefully have an opportunity to hopefully gently tug some people along with us, either online or even a few in person. Just remind people that yes, balance is needed in some ways in life, but you can’t find balance on the sofa. You need to get out and do something.
Dr. Gundry: 37:46 You’ve talked about the mental aspect of running. What kind of tricks can you give people to get them through taking on a new activity or taking on an unpleasant task to get where they want to go?
Charlie Engle: 38:02 I have one trick for sure because people do this to me all the time. They come up and they say, “Gosh, you know I really want to run but I hate running.” My answer first and foremost to them is, “Look, if you go into your job every day and you say, ‘I hate this job,’ or you go home every day and you’re like, ‘I hate this relationship,’ guess what. You really are putting yourself in a place where you can’t win.” A certain amount of self-deception can be healthy. If you’re going to try any kind of exercise program, any kind of new nutrition program, in my view you can’t start it from the premise of, “I hate this.” That kind of self-talk really makes it difficult. Find a way around that by, you don’t have to say you love it, but maybe at least don’t say out loud that you hate it. I think that’s, it’s not even just a trick, it’s just a basic idea of ingraining yourself with a positive outlook towards this new challenge.
Charlie Engle: 39:01 You referenced earlier that that first step is really out the door. I think the biggest mistake people make is I’m an instinctive trainer, I’m an instinctive runner. If you ask me how many miles I’m running tomorrow, I have no idea. I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow. I think people become a slave to schedule without listening to their body and sort of taking in the information that they’ve got at any given moment. I think finding a way to be more intuitive about it, hopefully that intuition doesn’t say, “Stay on the sofa.” But to be intuitive and to actually just budget your time. Because most people, their biggest problem they say is time, right?
Dr. Gundry: 39:50 Right.
Charlie Engle: 39:51 So if I tell them to go run five miles, it seems daunting. They’re staring at their watch constantly. If I say, “Budget 30 minutes. Can you budget 30 minutes?” They’re like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Okay. All you’re going to do, you’re just going to go walk. You’re going walk. You’re going to start walking. If you feel good you might jog for five minutes then walk some more. 15 minutes into it you turn around and you go back.” If you could just get yourself to do that a few days a week. I mean, just like with nutrition, you’ve got to make the commitment to try it. If you give it one week and quit because you haven’t seen the results, then you were wasting your time to begin with.
Dr. Gundry: 40:29 Right.
Charlie Engle: 40:30 If you’re only going to give it that short time or whatever, then you weren’t serious about getting the result in my opinion.
Dr. Gundry: 40:38 Yeah. I’ve said this before but I actually write people prescriptions to get a dog.
Charlie Engle: 40:43 I love that.
Dr. Gundry: 40:43 Literally, on a prescription pad.
Charlie Engle: 40:45 Can you write me one?
Dr. Gundry: 40:45 Yeah.
Charlie Engle: 40:45 That would be fantastic.
Dr. Gundry: 40:45 I’d be happy-
Charlie Engle: 40:47 We really need a dog, so.
Dr. Gundry: 40:48 They actually bring it back framed and say, “This is the best prescription a doctor has ever done for me.”
Charlie Engle: 40:54 Fantastic. I’m going to do that too.
Dr. Gundry: 40:54 Because a dog forces you out the door.
Charlie Engle: 40:57 Oh my gosh. Absolutely.
Dr. Gundry: 40:59 Yeah.
Charlie Engle: 40:59 Yeah.
Dr. Gundry: 41:01 To me, seeing the joy … We have three dogs, we usually have four. But seeing the joy that a dog gets outdoors, it’s just, you forget the shin splints and you forget-
Charlie Engle: 41:13 You do.
Dr. Gundry: 41:14 You really do.
Charlie Engle: 41:15 Well and that joyful feeling is what people can get if they do it the right way. Sharing it with other people, finding a buddy to do some running with is a much easier way to do it also.
Dr. Gundry: 41:25 All right. As you know, I think nutrition is way up on the pyramid of important things for your health. Tell me about nutrition and what you do. Where is it in the scheme of things?
Charlie Engle: 41:41 Yeah. Good question. I grew up in the South, we’ll preempt it with that, a very meat-centric kind of an upbringing. About 20 years ago I decided to make a change. I went to a vegetarian diet. Today, of course, I don’t use the word vegan just because it bring up so many weird connotations today, but plant-based-
Dr. Gundry: 42:09 Plant-based is good.
Charlie Engle: 42:10 … is what you would absolutely call me. I am fully plant-based and have been for a really long time at this point. It has worked really well for me, for the challenges that I have. That said, here I am sitting, one of the things that I pride myself on is this idea that I always have more to learn. I think one of the big mistakes people make, whether it’s physical activity or nutrition or anything else, is they think they’ve got it licked and they close their minds to new ideas. I’m very interested to read your book and to find out a little more about-
Dr. Gundry: 42:52 Well, I am very much plant-based. But I try to tell people there are certain plants that like you and certain plants that don’t like you. Anytime anybody worries about getting protein I just remind them that a gorilla and a horse are plant-based animals and they have more muscles than we will ever have, even you.
Charlie Engle: 43:13 Totally.
Dr. Gundry: 43:13 Yeah.
Charlie Engle: 43:14 No, I could not agree more actually. I’m really intrigued about some of the things that I’ve read that you promote and that your studies have shown. It’ll be a fascinating journey for me so stay tuned.
Dr. Gundry: 43:30 All right. Great. Keep this in mind on the way up.
Charlie Engle: 43:33 Yeah.
Dr. Gundry: 43:34 Okay, before we go, you know I am a huge proponent of exercise and I write about it, but I do believe there is too much of a good thing. Off camera, I mentioned to you that Marc Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple and the Primal Blueprint, who was in his prime a great marathoner and a great ultramarathoner, now at least tells me, and I think he’s said this publicly, that the farthest a human being should run is 100 yards because of the toll long-term cardio has in my view on the heart. What say you?
Charlie Engle: 44:15 Well, what if the police are chasing you Dr. Gundry? I mean then can you run more than 100 miles? I’m sorry.
Dr. Gundry: 44:20 Well, believe it or not, I think we are actually were designed to run about 100 yards to get away from a wild boar.
Charlie Engle: 44:26 Well, for hunting. I mean I, with all due respect to Mark, the one thing that doesn’t take into account is, in my view, what Mark should be saying is that Mark should not run more than 100 yards at a time. Because it’s none of his business how much I run. It really is, the mistake that I think a lot of experts make is putting a massive blanket over everyone and that blanket statement covers everybody. I mean we are soup, as I like to say, with all these different genetic inputs, and then of course environmental situations too. For me to not run would be … I could find another way. Look, I’m a cyclist, I do hot yoga, I like doing all kinds of physical activities. I mean to not run, for someone to say blanket that nobody should run more than 100 yards I think is trying a little too hard to make a provocative statement that he can get a response. I don’t, I don’t, you know.
Dr. Gundry: 45:38 All right. I’m going to put this softball right over the plate for you.
Charlie Engle: 45:42 Oh, good. Thank goodness. I’m left-handed here.
Dr. Gundry: 45:43 Oh, okay. What do you say to all the people, “Look at the people who are dying during runs”?
Charlie Engle: 45:51 Yeah. I got the question two weeks ago. A guy say, “Three marathoners died at the Chicago Marathon. I mean is running dangerous?” I said, “Yes, it is. But there were 5,673 that died on their sofa last weekend. For God sakes, do not sit on your sofa because to me, that is a place that clearly kills people.”
Dr. Gundry: 46:13 Sitting kills.
Charlie Engle: 46:15 No doubt. Look, I don’t claim that running … People look for absolutes. To say that running is absolutely healthy for everyone, that would also be an idiotic statement. You have to find what that thing is for you and do it. Whatever it is, physical activity, walking, yoga, something, just get out there and get it done. Hydration is the other thing, which apparently I’m not well hydrated today. But I think that that’s the other big thing that people miss, is that they forget the one key ingredient that we’re all made of and maybe don’t drink quite enough.
Dr. Gundry: 47:00 Going to all these exotic locations and spending huge amounts of time with it, do you ever feel like it’s taking you away from more important things?
Charlie Engle: 47:10 Yes. I write freely about it in my book in the sense that my kids … It’s really not a running book. It’s a life book. My kids, who are both in their 20s, two boys. We’re very honest in our family. They sat down with me a while back in some just family time and said, “We like who you are. We’re proud of you for what you’ve done. But we actually wish you’d been around more when we were kids.” I do say to them that I understand, and that they’re right. But there’s also the … I think some parents forget that giving your entire life over to your children, all of it, and having your singular focus be raising those kids is not a sustainable … I mean I guess it is maybe the definition of sustainable, but who wants just sustainable? My kids now are traveling in China and they’re going, they’ll get on a bus or a plane or something and they’ll spend their money on experiences and not on things. Hopefully it’s been a balance.
Dr. Gundry: 48:25 All right. Because my new book, The Longevity Paradox, is out and on the New York Times Bestseller list, and thank you everybody. I ask everybody on the program, what’s one thing that our listeners can do for a healthier, longer life? I think we’ve kind of talked about that, but one thing.
Charlie Engle: 48:43 Hydration. I know I just said it a moment ago but I’m actually going to hammer that. If I want to make an addendum, sleep. I was one of those people who thought I was special for a long time. “I only need four or five hours of sleep. I function at a higher level than other people.” Right?
Dr. Gundry: 49:03 Right.
Charlie Engle: 49:03 When I made a commitment about five years ago, is how long it took to make sure I got my eight hours of sleep every night, it changed everything. It allowed for good nutrition. You can take all the great supplements and you can do [inaudible 00:49:18] all of that you want. If you’re getting lousy sleep and you’re not hydrated, it doesn’t give your body a chance to even use that. Right?
Dr. Gundry: 49:26 You’re absolutely right.
Charlie Engle: 49:27 You’re the expert.
Dr. Gundry: 49:27 No, you’re absolutely right. We had Arianna Huffington a few months ago on. Who-
Charlie Engle: 49:32 I saw that one.
Dr. Gundry: 49:32 Who really thought she could get away with four and five hours until she broke her face on a desk, just [crosstalk 00:49:40]
Charlie Engle: 49:40 High succeeding people have a very high opinion of themselves. I’ve-
Dr. Gundry: 49:44 “I don’t need that.”
Charlie Engle: 49:46 Right. “I don’t need that. That’s for lesser people or people who need sleep.” We all need it. We will function better during our awake times, hours, when we get good sleep. Thanks for asking that.
Dr. Gundry: 49:59 All right. Yeah, that’s great advice. All right, Charlie. It’s been great to have you on the podcast today. How do people find you? How do they support your trek?
Charlie Engle: 50:10 Thank you for that. Yeah just, I’m super simple. CharlieEngle.com. All my social media is just my name, Charlie Engle. This latest project, which links to everything else, is just 5point8project.com.
Dr. Gundry: 50:26 5point8project.com.
Charlie Engle: 50:28 Yeah.
Dr. Gundry: 50:28 So on that note, that’s it for the Dr. Gundry Podcast this week. Thanks for joining us. See you on Everest.
Dr. Gundry: 50:36 Let’s get to this week’s review of the week. Ashrom84 writes, “Love your show. I’ve read the Plant Paradox and am currently working on Longevity. So I’m so thankful for my and my family’s sake that I found you. We are living in a very confusing time. As a nurse, I know that most medical professionals have absolutely no clue when it comes to nutrition and what is right and wrong, good or bad. I’m glad the word is getting out and people are being saved. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Dr. Gundry: 51:09 Well, this is why I do this. Because quite frankly as we hear from a number of my esteemed guests, many of whom are physicians, that most doctors working as hard as they do, have not been trained in nutrition, do not have time to learn in nutrition. As good as they are at what they do, food is so important in turning your life around. That’s why I do what I do and see patients every day to learn from you. This is what keeps me going. So thank you.
Dr. Gundry: 51:42 If you’d like me to read your review, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes. If you’re listening on your mobile device, take a screenshot, share your favorite takeaway and add a tag me in your Insta Stories. I’ll make sure to re-share them in mine.
Dr. Gundry: 52:02 Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch each episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast, you could always find me on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrGundry because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.