The CEO of Palantir Has a Unique Strategy for Staying in Shape

Alex Karp draws on endurance tenets he picked up in Norway

A picture of Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir, whose workout routine for staying in shape involves slow cross-country skiing
The billionaire entrepreneur has a fascinating week-to-week approach to his fitness.

Alex Karp has a residence in Palo Alto, which makes sense, considering he’s the Stanford-educated, billionaire founder of a software behemoth.

But the Palantir CEO lives in Grafton County, New Hampshire, near the White Mountains, which allows him instant and infinite access to miles of wintry trails. According to a recent micro-interview with Axios Finish Line, he cross-country skis just about every single day.

Karp has been called a “wellness fanatic” over the years, with previous profiles focusing on his flirtations with swimming, meditation and tai chi (he even kept swords in his office), but he appears to have stumbled into something sustainable with the cross-country skiing.

Even more unique than the activity of choice, though, is Karp’s approach to it. Of the five-plus hours a week he skis, the overwhelming majority of that time he is moving as slowly as possible.

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“To run like a deer, you have to spend 90% of your time running like a snail,” Karp told Axios, adding, “[Go] at the slowest pace a human can run for as many hours as you can afford.”

Huh? In an age of quick-hit, HIIT workouts, this philosophy feels counterintuitive. But Karp is adopting credos he learned from Norwegains (who have brought home quite a few Olympic medals in cross-country skiing), and tapping into the science of Zone 2 cardio — gentle, or so-called lazy workouts that access only 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.

The heart doesn’t have to pump that hard, but it’s certainly pumping for a long time. That’s where endurance magic happens — building out a really strong base for the athlete. Karp has the right idea: “And then once, preferably twice, a week, you’re doing [speed] intervals,” so that “when you race, you’re by far the fastest in the world.”

It’s refreshing to hear about a techpreneur adopting a fitness routine that’s offbeat, yet ultimately validated. (Wellness habits among this lot tend to veer intro the unproven and controversial.) Zone 2 training, spliced with shorter “sprint” workouts, is a fantastic way to get and stay in shape. It sounds like Karp switches to running in the warmer months, and still dabbles in tai chi, resistance band training and stretching, all worthy pursuits in their own right.

Other boons here? The amount of time he’s spending outside, particularly in the darkest and coldest months of the year. Getting up early and getting outside often were one longevity expert’s top recommendation for living to 100. And take note, too, of how patient Karp has been with this process. “I became very disciplined about training this way,” he said. “I saw results after 18 months — and especially huge results after 36 months.” That aligns perfectly with our recent endorsement of 1,000-day calendars.

Whether you’ve got a barn in New Hampshire or an apartment in New York, try to start making time for longer, gentler exercise patterns. There may not be a medal in your future (or a billion-dollar net worth), but you’ll reap the biggest reward of all: a long, healthy, happy life.

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