Optimal Performance

OPP 027: Paleo Fx Co-Founder Keith Norris on Ayahuasca

Paleo FX co-founder Keith Norris is on the Optimal Performance Podcast to discuss ayahuasca, self-exploration & personal development, emotional resiliency and creativity.

Image Courtesy of: The Rain Forest Healing Center
Image Courtesy of The Rain Forest Healing Center

First, some background on ayahuasca:

Ayahuasca is a plant-based tea that originated in the upper Amazon region and is used by indigenous tribes and personal development fanatics all over the world to explore the mind, the universe, consciousness and connection. The main active ingredient is DMT – or dimethyltryptamine – and it has been called the spirit molecule. Our guest Keith is an experienced ayahuasca user and he’s taking us on a guided tour of self-exploration and personal development today.

Ayahuasca, as we’ll learn from Keith, is a “catch-all” name for a plant based tea that elicits a psychedelic experience by increasing levels of DMT in the brain. Molecular pharmacology studies have shown that such psychedelics stimulate neurotrophic and transcription factors associated with synaptic plasticity and have a long history of use by humans for their capacity to induce profound modifications in perception, emotion and cognitive processes. [1]

Despite the early assumptions on DMT by the FDA and WHO, both DMT and ayahuasca are being investigated for their “potential role in some other, high level function as an endogenous neuromodulator. Further clinical work may even substantiate its usefulness in therapeutic application, such as an adjunct to psychotherapy, perhaps not by itself, but in a modified form, or in combination with other substances.” [2]

**Consider this our disclaimer…Keith and I are not doctors and this is not medical advise. We’re both searching for the “more” that we know exists within us and in the universe – and we’re sharing our journey with you.**

[Tweet “Making ourselves better from the inside-out. That’s what we’re all here to do. – Keith Norris”]




What you’ll hear from Keith Norris in this episode:

  • The Peruvian plant for learning…
  • DMT, the spirit molecule and connectedness
  • What it’s like inside the “altered state”
  • How the Shaman-led ayahuasca ceremony works
  • WHO should be interested in an ayahuasca experience?
  • Why take this journey inward?
  • “I knew there was something more…”
  • Why a good Shaman is crucial to maximizing your ayahuasca experience
  • It’s LEGAL…(at  least for now)
  • How ayahuasca has helped Keith as a coach, entrepreneur, and person
  • Turning off your internal editor during the creative process
  • Comparing ayahuasca to meditation & floating and how to use them all as tools in your self-exploration toolbox
  • What is the ARXFit training system?
  • Why auto-regulation is key
  • How Keith is preparing for his upcoming ayahuasca ceremony
  • Keith’s Top 3 Tips to #liveoptimal
  • Where to find more of Keith Norris
[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR5J9IC4zRg[/tube] [Tweet “We all have blind spots. It’s about identifying them and working on them. – Keith Norris”]

Links & Resources

Theory2Practice Blog


Efficient Exercise

Paleo f(x)


  1. Bouso JC. “Long-term use of psychedelic drugs is associated with differences in brain structure and personality in humans”. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Jan 31;.
  2. Szára S. “DMT at fifty”. Neuropsychopharmacology. Hung. 2007 Dec 30;9(4):201-5.

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Have a question? A comment? Drop yours below in the comments.


Ayahuasca with Paleo Fx Co-Founder Keith Norris

Ryan: You are listening to the Optimal Performance Podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you’re into biohacking, performance or getting more out of life this is the show for you! For more on building optimal performance check out optimalperformance.com

Alright, happy Thursday all you optimal performers! I’m your host Ryan Munsey and today we’re joined by a very special guest, Mr. Keith Norris. Keith, thanks for hanging out with us!

Keith: Hey man, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Thursday morning than hanging out with Ryan. Talking shop!

Ryan: That’s right, that’s right. So for our listeners, let’s introduce you. You are just an all-around pretty cool guy, so let’s tell everybody what you do. You’re a co-founder and owner of Paleo F(x) you’re a partner in ARXFit, we’ll have to let you explain what that is.

Keith: Yeah, I’ll discuss that in a little bit.

Ryan: If you’ve ever been to a Bulletproof conference they’ve always been out there with some really cool machines. And you’re also a founding member, I believe, with ID Life.

Keith: Yeah, founding member. We were there from the get-go.

Ryan: Alright, very cool. So, we’re gonna talk a lot about your specialties and those things that you’re involved with today. But for our listeners, Keith has quite a bit of experience with ayahuasca so we’re gonna be talking about ayahuasca, DMT, consciousness and we’re gonna get into some really cool stuff. If you’re watching the video there’s some really cool artwork behind Keith and maybe he – he knows some abstract stuff. So, before we really get into it, as always make sure you guys go to optimalperformance.com to see the video version, like I just mentioned, as well as get the show notes and any links and resources to the cool stuff that we’re gonna talk about on today’s episode. Also if you have not done so, please head over to iTunes, leave us a 5* review like this one from cousin burley: ‘Love Natural Stacks and this podcast. Love the diversity of guests, information that you can use and the latest in biohacking and nootropics.’ So thank you cousin burley. Alright Keith, let’s do this.

Keith: Let’s do it!

Ryan: So we’ll save some of the – some of your bio and background stuff for later. Let’s dive right in on this ayahuasca stuff. Some of our listeners may not be familiar with it so, you know, I guess tell us what it is first and we’ll go from there.

Keith: Yeah, well essentially it’s a – it’s a plant that’s used for um, learning purposes and this was primarily used in the upper Amazon, right, so and particularly Peru is where this is found most and where the culture is found most. And most of the – well I’ll just say that the shaman that I work with are all Peruvian-trained shaman. I, you know, whenever I talk about ayahuasca to people I’m very, very quick to say that it’s not a ha-ha experience at all. I mean it’s, it is a very, very hardcore experience. It is one of the – mentally and emotionally one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life and maybe even physically because it was so mentally and emotionally tough. It is definitely not to be done for weekend kicks, I can just say that. I’ve done – let’s just say I’m pretty well experienced with a lot of different things and this particular substance is on just another level, another realm of experience. What it is – physically what it is, it’s the ayahuasca vine that is processed and mashed and combined with any of a number of indigenous leaves of companion plants. And together this mixture, of course the native people that know it, you know, the biochemistry behind what was going on, but the vine actually contains an MAO inhibitor that allows the DMT that is within the leaves to be expressed and not – so MAO degrades the DMT within the body. So if you have an MAO inhibitor it allows the DMT that’s in the leaves to naturally free flow within the body. So it is a powerful experience, it lasts up to – mine, the ceremonies that I’ve done have lasted 7, 8 hours.

Ryan: Wow.

Keith: So it’s a – it’s a long time to be in an altered state. And altered state I would say I’m using that very loosely. It’s – it’s another, you’re in another realm.

Ryan: So let’s – before we have you explain to us what that other realm is like to the best of your ability, let’s go back and you mentioned that the MAO inhibitor that’s in these leaves allows for the increase in DMT in our bodies. DMT being dimethyltryptamine?

Keith: Yes.

Ryan: Which is sometimes called ‘the spirit molecule’?

Keith: Yes.

Ryan: Okay. So now, when we have elevated levels of that in our body after drinking – and this is made into basically a tea, right?

Keith: Yeah it’s a – you could think of it as almost a molasses consistency, you know, and it depends on – it depends on, you know, the mix, what exactly is in the mix because there’s not one recipe for ayahuasca. I mean ayahuasca’s a general term, the drink always contains the vine. Always. That vine is particular to any mix you’re gonna drink but then there is, you know, each shaman has his own brew, if you will, of what he combined, the leaves that he will combine with it. So, and they all have a purpose, it’s not willy-nilly. So I will just say that ayahuasca’s a blanket term for a number of different concoctions.

Ryan: Almost like nootropics is a blanket term for –

Keith: Yes! Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Ryan: So, so put us in that altered state with you. What are you experiencing, feeling, seeing, thinking?

Keith: Yeah, I, you know, I tell people that in the ceremonies and within each ceremony I personally – everybody’s trip is different, everybody has a different route. There’s really no common thread between one person’s experience compared to the next. I mean there are some common visuals that people will see. People will see snakes is a common visual for whatever reason and there’s, you know, there’s theories as to why that is but snakes of all kinds like, you know, pythons, kind of other-worldly snakes and I saw that, too. It wasn’t a big theme for any of my ceremonies but I did, you know, see that and that’s a common thread. Another common thread is seeing geometric shapes or geometric shapes that are definitely supposed to be a message. So it’s not a geometric shape that you’re just looking at because it looks cool, but it’s almost like this voice is telling you to concentrate on it because it’s giving you a message even though you can’t comprehend that message at the time. And that’s another common theme is receiving information by many different paths and information that you can’t understand but that you – it’s very hard to put this in language. But you know that it’s almost as if your DNA is being changed, that, you know, this information is being imparted into you and you don’t know exactly what it is but you’re paying attention to it and you’re feeling it change you inside. And we were having – we were having dinner last night with a person who came in for a ceremony that we’re gonna be doing this weekend and, you know, I was talking to her and I was like – you know this – I can sound like a kook in about 1 minute talking about this to people who aren’t otherwise experienced with it because, you know, the things you see during these ceremonies, the things you experience. If you’re not, you know, plugged in to that type of experience, if you don’t lean that way, if you don’t speak in that language, if you don’t, you know, believe in that it can, you know, that person relaying that information can sound like a complete kook! In a hurry!

Ryan: Well, I can tell you you’re in a safe place. Our listeners do lean that way; we are interested in this stuff so you don’t have to worry about sounding like a kook to us.

Keith: Okay.

Ryan: So, I guess tell us a little bit about some of these ceremonies. Are they large groups? Small groups? Can it vary?

Keith: Yeah, it’s – the people who I retreat with, usually the group is between – the group of participants is between, you know, 12 or 15. There are 3 shaman who work as a team and let me tell you what, these people are amazing. And it, you know, when I first went into this I kind of thought: ‘Eh, shaman, that’s kind of woo,’ you know, I’m kind of like, I just didn’t give it the credence that I now have for them. I mean they, because they are tripping, too. You know, they take the drink, the ayahuasca right along with you and so, you know, a human being is a human being, they’ve got stuff that they’ve gotta take care of, too, while they’re taking care of, you know, 12 to 15 other people at the same time, while they’re keeping the ceremony going. And they sing icaros the entire 7 or 8 hours. I mean, they are on!

Ryan: What is that?

Keith: So icaros are Peruvian songs that they sing and they set a vibrary tempo for the entire group with their rhythm and, you know, and the words of the songs. It’s mostly Peruvian. And there are times when an individual shaman will be working face-to-face with a participant who may be going through a very, very difficult time and he, this shaman will be singing a certain icaro for that person’s needs. And so you may have 3 different icaros going on at the same time in different parts of the circle but it’s like each union is a union of their own. So you might have 3 crossing but at the same time they are also very cognizant of what the other shaman is doing, so it’s almost like the most badass, you know, 3-piece rock band you could ever imagine because they’re playing off of each other and they’re playing individ- I mean, it’s an amazing experience. I can’t recommend it enough if you feel so called to that. And I tell people all the time: ‘If someone has to talk you into doing this, you are not ready for it.’ I mean you have to be drug yourself, you almost have to be, you know, really, really, really yearning to be able to go through it all and get everything you can out of it. But I would never try to talk somebody into doing it.

Ryan: That kind of goes right into one of the questions I wanted to ask you. And, you know, there’s – I’ve heard reports that, you know, there can be physical illness.

Keith: Oh yeah.

Ryan: So, with all of that being said, why would you quote-unquote torture yourself?

Keith: Yeah.

Ryan: With an experience like this. I mean as you said in the very beginning this isn’t a ha-ha altered state, it’s a hardcore – it is a journey inward. So tell us why, at least for you, why are you pursuing that?

Keith: You know, anything that’s worth-while takes a lot of struggle and a lot of sacrifice, right? So I’ve explained this to people like, you know, I’ve played football for many years and every year, no matter at what level I was, there was that time during the summer where it was camp and it sucked. I loved the game, I absolutely loved playing the game, but that period of time sucked. Nobody liked it but we all knew that we had to go through it, I mean, you had to harden yourself for the sport and part of that required you to go through, you know, this month-long process of just drudgery. It’s kind of the same with ayahuasca. I mean, if you really, really are passionate about finding yourself and diving deeper and going, you know, kind of making yourself a better person from the inside out is essentially, if you get down to the root that’s what everybody is there to do. And they may be – and they may be there because they’re being held back by something, maybe they had some kind of trauma in their life that they’re trying to rectify, maybe they have a, you know, a drug addiction, maybe – and it could be a number of different things that they’re trying to cleanse and get rid of. For me, you know, I didn’t have any addictions per se, you know, I was taking [unclear 00:14:24] but I knew there was something more and there’s something more to me than my day-to-day existence and my day-to-day of being an entrepreneur, a coach and this that and the other, which I love and I’m very, very passionate about but I think I can be better at those endeavors if I really dive deep into myself and kind of find out what makes me tick. You know, what are – because there are things that hold me back. I might not even be – I might not even know about it.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: And that’s one thing ayahuasca will do, it will show you your limitations. It will find your limitations and you will come face-to-face with them and you’ll have to battle them. And yes, it can be physically, you know, people throw up, people shit themselves, I mean, you know, most of the time they can get up, you know, get to the bathroom or whatever, the little port-o-potties they have set up, but sometimes not. I mean, sometimes there’s accidents and those – those barriers come down very, very quick, I can tell you. You would think, you know, a lot of people go in, they’re like: ‘I don’t wanna throw up in front of somebody,’ but that barrier comes down so fast. That’s like the last thing anybody worries about once you get into the ceremony.

Ryan: So where do you actually do one of these ceremonies? Are you out in the woods? Is it – ?

Keith: Yeah! Yeah, it’s better – now they can be done anywhere, you know, obviously weather permitting, it’s better outdoors. I mean, you want to be – it’s at night because the, you know, the atmosphere lends a lot to your experience. But, you know, they can be done indoors. I think, you know, what’s really important whether you’re doing these indoors, outdoors or, you know, every shaman has a method and a way that works for him. That’s what’s important. That you find a shaman that really knows what he’s doing, and believe me I frickin’ did due diligence. I am [laughs] – I am not a person that just goes willy-nilly, especially with something like this. There’s no way that I could feel comfortable totally releasing without knowing that I had a guide that knew what the hell was going on, right? There’s – I could just not do it, it’s just not me.

Ryan: Right, and that’s a very great point. So, how does, like how could our listeners find a shaman or place near them? Is there a way to do that and maybe – ?

Keith: Yes. Okay, so there’s, on the U.S. side there are – ayahuasca is not yet, I will say, illegal. But, you know, it’s just a matter of time. We’re in the U.S., it’s gonna be, you know, as this becomes more popular it’s – somebody’s gonna put the brakes on it, it’s gonna become illegal. Right now the shaman are very, very cognizant of that so they fly under the radar, right. So they don’t, you know, you’re not gonna go to a website and see if they – it’s just not gonna happen.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: So, it’s very, very much word of mouth. And that’s – that’s about the best I can tell you, it’s word –

Ryan: Okay.

Keith: And these aren’t – these aren’t people who are given to entrepreneurship, right, they’re doing this because they love it. Not that there’s anything wrong with entrepreneurship, lord knows, I am huge proponent of entrepreneurship, but they’re just – that’s just not them. They are very content just being under the radar, living the ceremonies and that’s, you know, as long as you’re doing that that’s fine. Which means all of their clientele comes word of mouth.

Ryan: Got ya’.

Keith: Yeah.

Ryan: Now, you talked about earlier kind of exploring yourself and, you know, I have a mentor who has taught us, you know, as a coach that you can’t give what you don’t have. So I really like your approach to –

Keith: Absolutely.

Ryan: – these ceremonies, to try to – the more issues that we can figure out, you know, in our own life and with others, then the more we can help other people. So, specifically for you and with your experiences with ayahuasca, what have you been able to learn on the – on the after side of these that has helped you?

Keith: Yeah.

Ryan: As a coach or a person.

Keith: Yeah. You know, one of the – one of the things that I learned, ’cause you do learn a lot about your vocation, even though the teaching goes way, way, way deeper than that you do have moments where you’re dealing with more day-to-day issues, right? So, one of the things that was – that was brought to me was the realization that, you know, coaching and training is as much, if not more so, art that it is science.

Ryan: Okay.

Keith: I mean, we would all agree that there is science to strength and conditioning and that’s, you know, that is there. But there is so much of this that’s art. That is, there’s so much of this that is individually driven because, you know, Ryan your training is gonna be different than mine, we’re gonna respond different. You know, even though we might be training for the same event we’re gonna have to attack it in different ways, and we might start with a template that’s pretty much universal but the higher – at the higher levels we’re gonna have to tweak it to our individual abilities and our limitations. And there’s no science behind that, I mean that is coaching, that is coach’s eye, that’s experience, that’s a coach being able to feel what his client’s doing. And I think I had, in my training I had always believed that and I thought that but I was maybe stymieing it a lot of ways thinking that whatever tweaks I made for individuals I had to have some kind of a scientific back-up for why I was doing that or, and this was maybe subconsciously I was thinking this. Like maybe I was slowed down, like my gut tells me one thing but, you know, can I verify that with some science? Can I, you know. And one thing that the ayahuasca showed me was, like, dude you’ve got, you know, everybody has a gift, this is your gift and you are not fully exploiting it by holding yourself back like that. You’ve gotta trust your gut, you’ve done this forever, this is your gift. It’s almost like – like Stevie Ray Vaughan being held in a – let me, hold on, that sounded very [laughs] – I am not the Stevie Ray Vaughan of training, let me just say that. But, it would be like Stevie Ray Vaughan trying to, you know, trying to quantify what he was doing with a guitar, and you can’t do that. I mean, you have to just – if you’ve got a talent, you’ve gotta blow and go and trust yourself and trust your judgment. So that was made, like, readily apparent to me so now, you know, I don’t have that limitation, it’s not like I just go willy-nilly but that little bit of hurdle has been taken away now. And now I – now I don’t have to justify my decisions with a scientific backing, I can just say and feel confident in it, you know what? My gut tells me, something tells me that this is needed at this point and at this juncture. And I can feel confident in that. So that was one of the things. So yeah, you find, you know, many, many things that are – that are very, very deep and I would call that like a surface level realization, right, that was pretty much a surface level realization but it did help me. But there’s, I mean, you’ll deal with issues that are so deep you don’t even realize they’re issues.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: You know, it’s – and I tell people it’s like, you know, my shoulder’s kind of achy but the real problem if I trace it back and I go to a good practitioner is coming from my left hip, right, and so it’s that kind of thing, I think that I have this issue but in reality it’s 5 layers deeper. And that’s where the ayahuasca is gonna go and you’re not prepared for that. And that – and you have to deal with it and that’s – so that’s where the tough stuff comes in. ‘Cause you go in thinking: ‘Alright, I’ve got an issue with my dad’, you know, ‘My dad is the issue and this is what I’m gonna be dealing with during ayahuasca’. Your dad may not ever come up, but I can guarantee you 5 layers’ underneath that is gonna come up. And you’ll realize later: ‘Oh, that was the true problem, that it manifested through my relationship with my dad.’

Ryan: Right.

Keith: And, you know, so it’s those kind of things. It’ll totally catch you off guard, that’s for sure.

Ryan: What about with creativity? So, with DMT being the spirit molecule I know, like, Joe Rogan is a big proponent of ayahuasca. Have you found that it helps with the creative process?

Keith: Yeah in the – totally, in the way that, like I just talked about a little while ago where it kind of takes the hurdles away, right? So I can trust myself and trust those creative decisions. And not have that internal editor running in my mind. And that’s, you know, that’s a tough hurdle because, you know, I’m – and a lot of people are perfectionists, right, so you want to make sure that the decision you make is the right decision but, you know, you can kinda get caught in that – that vortex of not trusting yourself.

Ryan: That’s very, like, Seth Godin, where you can be, as a creator of anything you’re very self-conscious and you’re very scared that hey, I’ve created this thing, now I’m putting it out there, will it be accepted, will it be, you know, will it work, will it help.

Keith: Yeah. Is it right? Is it correct? And it’s, you know, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go back and, you know, there’s a time and a place to go back and check yourself to make sure hey, am I making the right decisions, am I doing, you know, am I doing the right thing but at the time you are creating that is not the time to have the editor pop up and, yeah.

Ryan: Right. Okay, cool. So, I guess, for people who maybe haven’t experienced ayahuasca but have meditated or gone floating, if you’ve done those things can you compare it to either of those?

Keith: Yeah, it’s within the spectrum but in a whole different realm. I mean, I do lots of floating. I’m lucky enough to live here in Austin, I have access to some really, really high-end float tanks. But it is – and meditation, too, I can’t say I’m the best meditator, I’m a little too twitchy and a little too fidgety for it. Trying to get better but, you know, hey, that’s in trying to deal with my personality so my version of meditating is a high volume workout where I’m just kind of zoned in and there’s nothing else going on but me. So that’s my form of meditating. Um, but yeah.

Ryan: I can relate to that.

Keith: Right, yeah I think a lot of people can. In – and as an aside, I don’t think meditation has to be sitting lotus-style on the floor and, you know, as long as you’re getting to that place, a quiet mind, I think you’re on the right path.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: But yeah, floating is for me um, calming, yes. It’s, I would say, a higher level of calm than, obviously than, you know, the working out form of meditation. But the ayahuasca was definitely not a calm mind scenario, I mean there was a lot going on in my mind during that time. It wasn’t calming, per se. There were periods that were very, very peaceful and kinda chill, but those were few and far between. Most of the time it was either wrestling with the – wrestling with something or that feeling, like I said before, that you’re at – that you’re given information, that you’re having the download. Or it was just other-world frickin’ trippy. [laughs]

Ryan: [laughs]

Keith: That’s about the best way I can, best way I can put it.

Ryan: So let me ask you this. If – obviously, you know, even if our listeners or somebody lived in a place where they have access to a great float facility or if they found a shaman, we’re not gonna do ayahuasca every weekend and –

Keith: Oh, no.

Ryan: – we’re not gonna float every week.

Keith: Yeah.

Ryan: How would you set those up on, like, a – like a monthly or yearly usage thing? How many times or how would you kind of use them each as a tool in the toolbox for personal development?

Keith: So if we’re talking, you know, if we’re talking ayahuasca, it’s kind of – and the shaman will tell you – when you’re called back, you’ll come back. So there’s – there’s really not a definite timeline, right? So it’s been 6 months since my last ceremony, roughly. And I’m getting ready to dive into another one this weekend. It’s a little bit different set-up this weekend, it’s not quite as intense as the last one. But I feel ready and I feel calm and as I look back over my notes that I wrote after each experience – one thing I try to do is journal after each experience and get out as much as I could on paper so that I could – so I could relive it and go back and try to figure out what all this stuff meant. And I’ve been reading that stuff over the last 6 months and it just – I don’t know how to say it, the time seemed right, I felt called again. Some people will go through an experience, and even though it might be a fine experi- it might not be, you know, utterly bad, that they just don’t feel called. They just don’t, you know, that’s just not there. They’re spirit is just not called back to it. For whatever reason. You know, maybe they learned whatever lesson they need for the next 20 years and they’re good. So – so that’s on the ayahuasca side of things, you know, if you’re called to it, you know, do it. Floating, I am lucky enough to be able to float whenever I want. Whenever I want generally translates into about once every 2 weeks, just because I’m a busy guy. I would love to do it once a week but, you know, the reality is I’m busy and time slips away and next thing I know 10 days have gone by and it, you know. But I, you know, if I were better about it and I were a better manager of my time during the day and I put more emphasis onto relaxation instead of busting ass, like I should but, you know, I would do it once a week. Definitely. I think there’s definite benefit. And every time that I float, I’m always like: ‘Why in the hell did I wait so long between floats?’ Every time I do that. And, you know, meditation, God, I think you could – I mean daily, multiple times a day you could do that and you would be better off for it. You know, the Tim Ferriss saying of, you know, if you don’t think you have 5 minutes a day to meditate, you need to meditate for 20 minutes.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: And I totally, not that I express that myself because I’m one of those people that’s like I don’t have 5 minutes and I need to carve out that time.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: So, yeah, you know, we’re all on the path where none of us are perfect. I know where my blind spots are, I know where some of them are. I’ll find some more this weekend I’m sure. But, you know, that’s one of mine is just not making time for that kind of stuff because I still in my monkey brain think that I need to be doing to accomplish. You know, I’m still – I’m still at my core the driven entrepreneur and the driven entrepreneur is very, very hard for them to back off for 20 minutes and so quote-unquote nothing.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: Although it’s anything but nothing. And I – and I get it and preach, trying to preach to myself right now even as we’re having this discussion.

Ryan: Yeah, and I think part of that is understanding how you tick, how your brain works and your personality. And, you know, for – for people like you and I, that may be one of the reasons that we gravitate towards that hour-long high-volume workout because we can physically be moving and getting rid of some of that energy but our mind can go to that space and be empty and we can let things kind of happen.

Keith: Yeah, yeah. That’s totally – I mean, when I – I’ll get into discussion, you know, on the science side of this and see and especially the circles I run in lean a little bit towards the hit side of things and we’ll have those discussions. And, you know, it’s funny that the hit people will say, you know: ‘You’re the high-volume guy.’ And the bodybuilders will go: ‘Oh, you’re the hit guy, the low-volume guy.’ Kind of like in this gray in-between zone where nobody gets what I do but they’re [laughs].

Ryan: Right.

Keith: But yeah, I mean, that’s a lot of my volume comes from just, you know, getting the weight set and then just mind evaporating. Now am I getting the most benefit to my body by doing that? You know, is that a – is that a return on time investment physically? It may not be, but I’ll tell you what, it sure does it for my brain.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: So I’ll take that, I’ll take that time investment.

Ryan: Right. So, since we’re going down that road, talk to us a little bit about the ARX project and involvement that you have there.

Keith: Sure, yeah.

Ryan: And tell our listeners how would you explain that.

Keith: Yeah, you know it’s kind of funny that, you know, I’m not the most expressive person verbally. And I somehow have been tasked with both explaining ARXFit and ayahuasca verbally, both of which are [laughs] – are kind of impossible to explain verbally but I’ll give it my best shot.

Ryan: Okay.

Keith: So, ARXFit is adaptive resistance exercise. Okay so it’s a motor-driven – it’s a motor-driven device and a proprietary transmission system that allows for a very, very smooth transition between the concentric and eccentric of any exercise. And any exercise in this case being any compound exercise, so anything from squats, you know, bench press, deadlifts, rows, anything like that we can accomplish on these machines. Imagine if you had a completely matched to your strength curve set of bands and/or chains for any exercise. And that you are maximized in your force output through the entire range of motion of whatever exercise we’re talking about. Perfectly matched. And perfectly matched on the eccentric such that, you know, you would be automatically you would have 40% more weight loaded on the eccentric and you would lower that weight and if, you know, your strength curves would perfectly follow. That is what adaptive resistance exercise is and that’s what we accomplish with the ARXFit equipment.

Ryan: I’m glad you mentioned bands and chains because in the strength world we always talk about those as being accommodating resistance and being able to match the strength curve so I was gonna ask, you know, is – is that basically the same thing?

Keith: It is except that it’s perfectly matched.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: Right, so for instance, I still use bands. I don’t use chains so much because the ARXFit kind of negates the needs for change – need for chains. But I still like, for instance, yesterday I did trap bar deadlifts banded. And the reason I did them banded was I wanted a very, very high force production in a quick movement, in a ballistic movement. And the only way to really accomplish that at that speed is with bands.

Ryan: That was – I was gonna ask you that, I mean, can you use – I have been able to experience the ARXFit and I guess for people who haven’t seen it or experienced it it’s almost like, I guess, how would you describe what it looks like? It’s like a cable set-up and –

Keith: Yeah it’s a –

Ryan: It’s like you said, it’s attached to a motor.

Keith: Yeah, you know, and I hate to – I hate to bring up the competition but it looks kind of like a Bowflex if you didn’t know any better, right? And you walked in. One of the versions of the machines, you know, would give one the impression that oh, that’s a Bowflex kind of thing.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: So that will give your listeners an idea of how the set-up is. Now we do have other models that are, have a bigger footprint and are a little bit beefier and I would consider those models that would, you know, that would end up in a D1 strength and conditioning room or what we use at Efficient Exercise, we use those machines as well.

Ryan: We’ll put a –

Keith: The premise is the same.

Ryan: Yeah. We’ll put a picture of, you know, maybe you send us one that you like best and we’ll put a picture on the blog at optimalperformance.com so when people check out the video version of this they can see, you know, what that looks like.

Keith: Sure, yeah. And if you have, you’ll have links I’m sure and so.

Ryan: Yeah, we’ll have links back so people can learn more about it. So, I guess that was my question then was, you know, with what you were saying about the trap bar. Obviously we can match strength curve so we can work on force production but if we wanted to train rate of force production you’re still saying maybe free weights with bands?

Keith: Yeah. And I’m, you know, even though I’m a huge proponent of ARXFit because I think it fits into a certain niche that we – that we don’t currently have the ability to train super effectively. And believe me, I’ve done my time with chains and bands so I love, you know, I love working that way but, you know, let’s face it, that’s a – that’s a motherfucker to set up. I mean, it’s time intensive and, you know, with these machines the advantage is I can roll one client after another onto these machines with very, very little set-up. And set-up being just long enough to log them in to the – to the bio-tracking computer. That’s the set-up. And I might change the speed a little bit depending on limb length. But that’s the set-up. I mean, I don’t have to change anything. And we’re talking about, you know, the difference between somebody’s grandma and me getting on the machine. I mean, it’s that – it’s that adaptive. So, and much like ayahuasca, you have to actually experience it to really know what, you know, what we’re talking about. You know, when I first partnered with Mark Alexander about 6 years ago and I – I came in and, you know, he at that point it was one of the first beta models that they were looking at and I’m looking at this YouTube clip and I’m going: ‘What in the hell is going on here?’ And I know strength and conditioning.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: You know, and I was trying to decipher what was going on and I kinda got it a little bit but obviously I was, you know, I was dubious. I was the guy that was like, you know, there’s machines are pretty much useless, you know, maybe in a rehab situation or whatever but I, you know, I’m the barbell guy, right? But when I actually got on the machine, the first time I got on the machine the light bulb went off, it’s like I immediately got what could be done with this machine. And – and I tell people: ‘It’s a tool.’ It is, you know, it is – houses aren’t built with a hammer alone. You know, and same thing with strength and conditioning, you know, swole body, an athletic body is not built with one tool alone. You have to be smart and mix and match tools as there need be. And there’s no bad tools, there’s certainly bad application, right, but there’s no bad tool. So I look at it as just a – as a badass tool that I have access to. And I use it that way.

Ryan: Yeah, I really love that approach and that thought process towards everything but, you know, this in particular.

Keith: Yeah.

Ryan: I’ve, like I said, I’ve gotten to use it. I would equate it to, like, the ultimate application of constant tension.

Keith: Yes, yes. Yeah.

Ryan: And it’s incredibly exhausting.

Keith: Yeah.

Ryan: You know, it’s the most fatiguing set or 40 seconds or 5 reps that you’ll ever do. And it makes me think that it’s a perfect tool if somebody were interested in, like, the Body by Science approach. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.

Keith: Oh yeah. Yeah, I’m real- I’m very, very good friends with Doug.

Ryan: Okay.

Keith: And yeah, it would be the, you know, the perfect tool. In fact, a lot of our clients come to us because, you know, they’ve come through the Body by Science route and they know what we do. Now we’re not, you know, we’re not a facility that is a straight-up super slow or high-intensity training facility because we mix and match everything. You know, we’re a hodge-podge of things. You know, I tell people when they come in: ‘There’s gonna be 2 constants. Number 1 you’re gonna make improvement. Number 2 this workout is gonna be 30 minutes.’ And, you know, those are the 2 constants. After that, everybody’s workout is gonna be frickin’ different. You know, depending on what your goals are. You may be heavily, heavily, heavily on the ARX and that may, that may, you know, take 20 minutes of your workout, which sounds god-awful. You know, you’ve been on the ARX so it’s intense.

Ryan: Yeah!

Keith: Or, you know, the ARX may be the quote-unquote finisher for the day. And we may be doing a lot of body weight stuff, a lot of barbell, dumbbell stuff. You know, a lot of band work, a lot of other things. But it depends on the person, you know, the person that presents and that person’s goals and where they are that day because everybody’s, you know, I’m a big believer in auto-regulation, too. I mean I cannot predict where you’re gonna be 3 days from now with any degree of accuracy.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: Unless I could – unless I can put you in a bubble and control your feeding and sleep and treat you like a lab rat I cannot predict that. I’m gonna have to figure that out as soon as you come in. Hopefully.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Keith: Which is another application of the ARXFit, by the way, is I do have – I do have instantaneous feedback and so I know what you’re capable and I know what you’re doing in the moment. And I pair those 2 together and figure out what, who I’m, who is it that I’m dealing with today.

Ryan: Yeah, and that kind of bring a scientific quantification ability to the art of strength coaching that you were talking about earlier.

Keith: Yeah, it’s a great mix of science and art, you know. And it’s – I think my issues in the past were trying to lean too hard on the science and try to back up what my gut was telling me with some study that I was trying to pull from my – my files and my little pea brain, and that was slowing me down. And I’m not saying that now I just go willy-nilly with whatever, I mean there’s still that, you know, I’ve been in this gig for 40 years now. Either as a – either as a coach or an athlete myself, so I’ve seen a lot, I mean, I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve just been around this stuff for so long, you know, god, by osmosis even an idiot would pick up some stuff after 4 years, right?

Ryan: Right.

Keith: So um, yeah, so, you know, I would just say I trust myself more now than I ever have before on that, on those issues.

Ryan: Very cool. So, let’s as you one more question about ayahuasca.

Keith: Sure!

Ryan: Because you have this ceremony this weekend, what are you doing mentally, physically to prepare for this?

Keith: Yeah, so I – again we were having dinner last night the girl, this will be her first ceremony and she’s asking me, you know: ‘Hey, are you nervous or whatever after having – ‘, you know, because she knows a lot about, you know, what my last ceremonies were like and they were pretty tough. I mean, there was nothing easy about them, they were tough ceremonies. And I equated it to – to that moment in the locker room before you walk through the tunnel and get on the field it’s, I mean, there is that nervousness, yeah, you’re nervous but you’re excited at the same time. I mean, you wanna get it on. I mean, it’s, but you, I mean, there is that bit of nervous, you know, am I totally prepared? Do I know, you know, do I have everything in my head that I need to know? Do I, you know, did I watch enough film? Did I – duh-duh-duh-duh – all these questions in your, you know, you’re trying to answer in your mind right before you step on the field. It kind of feels like that. It’s kind of like, you know, the – it’s kind of like in the locker room ready to go out. You’re in this state of calm because you don’t want to burn a lot of, through a lot of adrenaline but yet you’re still, you know, it’s game day. You know, you’re ready to get it on. In a spiritual sense, I guess. If I could put it that way. Because it is a, you know, during the ceremonies you are, I don’t want to say incapacitated, but it’s not like you’re flailing around or anything like that, you’re pretty much laid back, a lot of people are seated lotus position. I can’t get in a lotus position so I just kinda chill. You know, either sitting in a chair or, you know, kinda laid back. Um, but yeah, so food-wise, you know, I always eat pretty clean. I don’t eat a lot of junk food but if, you know, if I did if I were going into a ceremony I would try to clear out, you know, just the physical shit out of your life. I mean you just, you wanna go in with a clean body. You know, I – I’m not a heavy drinker but I do, you know, I do enjoy my bourbon and beer but, you know, I’ll cut back on that. I’ve cut back on that this week. And, you know, coming out of the ceremony I probably won’t do anything like that for about another week following. And the shaman will tell you that, you know, it’s no judgments on anything, no judgments on recreational drugs or alcohol, but you just don’t want competing forces or vibes within your body at that time. Just let the ayahuasca have your body and then, you know, you go back to whatever afterwards. Whatever you feel, you know, you need and you feel called to. But just give the ayahuasca this clean vessel for this moment of time, and that’s kind of how I look at it. I’ll give it a clean vessel for it to go in and go to work.

Ryan: Okay. Cool. So, Keith this has been awesome. I can’t wait to hear your answers to the next question. This is the close that we have for everybody.

Keith: Oh, yeah.

Ryan: Your top 3 tips to live optimal.

Keith: Top 3 tips. You know, I try to live this every day. And when I think about it, number 1 I wake up with a burning passion. I mean, you know, it sounds corny, it sounds flippant, it sounds like stuff coming out of an entrepreneur’s mouth to earn a book, but really. I mean, I wake up with this passion every morning that I want to change the world. I mean I, and I have a passion for that. And that’s backed by – that’s backed by love. And, you know, it’s not an erotic kind of love, but it’s a love for humanity, it’s a, it is a – which, by the way, is something I’m able to speak much more openly about since I have done, you know, some ayahuasca. But I don’t mind telling people I love them, right? And it’s, you know, coming up from a very conservative background in the South, it was just kinda: ‘You don’t tell another dude you love him, man,’ that’s just not –

Ryan: Right, right.

Keith: But I’m very, but I – I really feel that. I feel that person-to-person and I feel that for groups of people, so I truly want to change their lives. So I have that love backing behind the passion. That I really want to change the world. And I think the other thing is, is I’m not as emotionally fragile as I was before, too, you know. And I think that emotional and toughness don’t necessarily – or kind of, there’s a juxtaposition there or maybe some people don’t understand that. But, you know, people, there’s gonna be people who don’t get what you’re trying to do. It’s not that they’re bad people, they’re just not at your level yet or they just haven’t advanced to that level. They don’t understand what you’re trying to do. Maybe they’re dubious of that love and passion part of it and they’re a little standoffish or whatever. That used to kind of set me back or make me feel bad or make me question myself or, you know, all of these other things and which would in turn dampen my passion and kind of make me more standoffish to people. I’m a natural introvert, so this is kinda hard for me to get over.

Ryan: Right.

Keith: But, you know, I have that now, that emotional toughness to where, you know, I kind of, I don’t let it get to me. I still love you. You might not really love me back yet, it’s ’cause you don’t know me, bro! [laughs] But, you know, I – so those 3 things together keep me motoring along. And I think if you’re not in an endeavor to where you wake up passionate and love what you do – and look, I’m not saying that I wake up, I mean I have tough times. Being an entrepreneur is frickin’ hard. You know, you’re gonna have tough weeks. You’re gonna have tough moments. You’re gonna have, you know, all of these obstacles are gonna constantly come up. Constantly. But at the end of the day if you can back out from all that minutia and, you know, and juggling the finances and, you know, trying to convince people who don’t wanna be convinced that what you’re trying to – if you can back up from all of that and still have that love and passion then, I mean, you’re good to go. You have found your niche if you can do that. So, I would say those are my – those are my big ones. And to have a badass cup of coffee, right, first thing in the morning. I mean, that’s, maybe that’s number 4.

Ryan: What kind of coffee do you drink?

Keith: You know what? There’s a Cuvee and Stumptown here in Austin are local roasters and I’m big, big supporters of their stuff, so, a little shout-out to them. Little local guys here in Austin but, yeah. In fact, it’s what I’m drinking right now.

Ryan: Okay. I’ve got a trip down there in about 2 weeks, so I may have to see if I can stock up on stuff.

Keith: Absolutely! Yeah, yeah. Hit me up when you come down, we’ll go float, too.

Ryan: When I came this – I was there this summer, I actually got to check out, I think it’s Zero Gravity.

Keith: Absolutely, that’s it. Yeah, Kevin Johnson at Zero Gravity.

Ryan: I just wanted to stay in the chair. I didn’t even want to get in the float tank! [laughs]

Keith: Yeah, that massage chair is –

Ryan: Yeah, it’s got the waterfall and, like, the green lasers and, yeah. That was awesome.

Keith: Yeah. So, Kevin’s a cool guy. His wife Carol is very, very cool. Yeah, they run a top-notch operation there. I always tell people: ‘If your first float is at Zero Gravity, that’s like your first dive experience being in the Caribbean,’ right? I mean, you just, what are you gonna do after that? I mean.

Ryan: Yeah, you’re not going to Myrtle Beach.

Keith: Yeah, you’re spoiled. I mean, you’re just spoiled after that.

Ryan: Right. Keith, where can our listeners get more of you?

Keith: Well, probably the easiest place is my blog ‘Theory to Practice’. Which, the URL is ancestralmomentum.com and I realize that that is a marketing faux pas times 10 but, you know, marketing is probably one of my [laughs] probably one of my worst attributes. So, there’s a long story as to how that came about, but if you google ‘Theory to Practice’ and ‘Keith Norris’ it’ll take you right there.

Ryan: And we’ll have a link to that on the blog version of this as well.

Keith: Yeah, that’s probably the best place to get at with me. You know, some of the other sites, Paleo F(x). You won’t see a whole lot of me there but you’ll see a lot of my creative outlet and my wife’s creative outlet at Paleo F(x). Efficient Exercise. And just how that’s, just how that’s spelled, just Google that, that’ll come right up. ARXFit, A-R-X-F-I-T, is our proprietary equipment.

Ryan: Alright.

Keith: And everything else you can get right off of my site. Yeah, so I guess that’s it.

Ryan: Okay. I realized as we were, you know, we’re coming up on the end of our time we haven’t even talked about Paleo F(x) and I mean that’s – that’s huge!

Keith: Yeah, that’s –

Ryan: So maybe as it gets closer to the event next year we’ll get you back on.

Keith: Oh right on, yeah!

Ryan: And we’ll talk about, you know, some upcoming stuff there.

Keith: It’s a super cool event, man. I, obviously I’m biased but that event is just, it has grown into such a – from starting off as a labor of love and now turning into, you know, it’s the largest paleo event in the world now.

Ryan: Yeah.

Keith: I mean, it’s really taken off. It’s a fun, fun time. People of all walks of life who are under the umbrella with the – with the knowledge that they have the power to change their lives through nutrition and exercise. And that’s essentially it. So yeah, we, it’s a big tent event. People come there to network and to hang out in Austin in the spring, it’s a – it’s a beautiful time.

Ryan: It sounds great.

Keith: Yeah.

Ryan: Well, Keith, thank you so much for hanging out with us. This has been a blast.

Keith: Right on.

Ryan: For all of our listeners, make sure you guys go to optimalperformance.com to see the blog version of this, the video, get all the links that we talked about. And make sure you head on over to iTunes, leave us a 5* review. And thank you guys for listening, we’ll see you next Thursday!

Keith: Right on! Thanks!

Ben Hebert

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