2018…What. A. Year.
I think I could say that about any year the past decade, but 2018 takes the cake.
In putting together this article, I tried to pick out the things that not just impacted me the most over the last year, but also that have made the most significant difference in the lives of my clients, and could make a difference in your life as well.
I think it’s true what they say, that as you grow and expand – be it in your business, or just as a person – your struggles and your victories grow with you.
Getting Rhino-Jacked or Dick-Skin Shredded both become harder and more fun.
Building a successful business both becomes more stressful and more exciting.
Fostering great relationships both becomes more heartbreaking and more rewarding.
The more you grow in any one of these areas, the more things you find and experience along the way that help you become better, healthier, and more successful. And in the past year, I’ve found a number of these things; which I want to share with you today.
Heart Rate Variability
I wrote about HRV in more detail here, so I’m not going to go into too much further right now. But what I will say is that it is far and away the one thing from the last year that has the potential to help me improve my health and fitness more than anything.
HRV tracking was something I was resistant to at first (ask my coach) but once I got with it, it changed the game for me when it came to training.
Tracking my heart rate variability has allowed me to become more in tune with my body, learn what hurts my recovery, what helps it, when I can train hard, and when I need to dial it back. As a result, it’s allowed me to shift my lifestyle in a way that has let me train harder, more often, and as a result, likely accelerate my progress.
HRV tracking is still a relatively new tactic, which we don’t know everything about. But I’ve seen and researched enough about it now to know that it can provide a lot of benefits, and is something I’ve started using with my more advanced clients.
Now, speaking of recovery…
There’s a time to push yourself further, and a time to pull back – and the latter outnumbers the former way more often than you think.
The more I’ve learned from working with clients, and experimenting on myself, the more I’m finding there are a ton of benefits to reducing or completing eliminating training frequency occasionally; rather than increasing it.
This is something I see quite often in my fat loss clients, specifically who do crossfit. Somewhere along the way, we got this idea that more exercise was better. And while exercise is good, too much, isn’t.
Exercise is a stress. A calorie deficit is a stress. Combining the two creates a significant stress on the body. And the more prolonged those stresses are, the more your body is going to wear down. Not only the more difficult fat loss becomes, but the more difficult life becomes. Your energy plummets, you get sore, beat up, your sleep becomes shit…this is all your body telling you to tap the damn brakes.
And when you actually listen, and tap those brakes, you’ll find that when you up the intensity again, you can push much harder than you were before.
Nowhere has this become more evident to me than all the traveling I’ve done this year. Traveling itself creates stress – dehydration, typically inflammation, poorer food quality, inconsistent sleep – so I’ve pretty much eliminated training when I travel; or at least significantly reduce it. And what I’ve found when I do this is that I sleep better on the road, my body feels better, and when I come back to training, I can train harder.
Learn when to tap the brakes. The only one giving you a medal for going all-out, all the time, is your ego.
Proper Workout Nutrition
Workout nutrition is a constant debate. Does it matter? How much does it matter? How many hours after training do I lose my gains?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. But, as I talked about in this article, there is an optimal approach if you want to maximize performance, gains, and recovery.
Tension-Stress Training, or TST as I call it, is nothing new. It plays on the concept of muscular tension and metabolic stress: two of the most important mechanisms of muscle growth.
But the reason TST is so great for building muscle is what makes it so great for training in general.
I used to be all about lifting as heavy as I could. Every session. Move the weight by any means possible. And then I reached out to my current coach, and asked him if he had any leg programs I could do – because I realized I needed to train legs more often than I was.
He didn’t just give me one, he wrote me one – for free. And with that, a beautiful, Rhino-Jacked relationship was born.
Instead of focusing on heavy weight all the time, our programs focused on creating as much tension and stress as possible; through controlling the weight and executing what I call Perfect Reps (explosive lift, controlled lowering, with pauses at the top and bottom).
As a result, my physique is miles ahead of where it was last year, my joints don’t ache, my body feels great, and I’ve now passed this style of training to my clients, who, as a result, get better results and rave about how much they love their training programs.
Pre-Workout Dark Chocolate
I picked up this tip from coach, Eugene Teo.
(sidenote: if you’re a trainer or coach, and not following Eugene, you are doing yourself and your clients a massive disservice)
Dark chocolate is high in polyphenols: a class of micronutrients rich in antioxidants. Polyphenols have been shown to be very beneficial for treating chronic conditions such as digestive issues, neurodegenerative issues, cardiovascular diseases, and more.
The specific benefit that the polyphenols in dark chocolate have is they stimulate the production of nitric oxide, or NO2 (the same thing that certain substances in pre-workout supplements are meant to stimulate). NO2 promotes vasodilation – a widening of the blood vessels – that leads to better blood flow, and thus better pumps during your workout.
Not only that, but other compounds found in dark chocolate – like theobromine – have been shown to have certain neuroprotective effects, such as memory retention and cognitive improvement.
So while none of this is overly significant, there are enough benefits (and I can say I’ve noticed enough of these benefits) to say that having some pre-workout dark chocolate can make a difference.
Aim to use 30-50g of 85% or darker chocolate prior to your workout and see if you notice a difference.
Technically, this started in 2017, but I didn’t write about it, so here we are.
Back in the summer of 2016, I got my testosterone levels checked for the first time. They were in the mid-500s, which, according to the laughably large scale that is considered “normal” fell right about in the middle.
Yes, my numbers were on the lower end for a then 28-year old who ate pretty well, strength trained regularly, and who my doctor said was in better physical condition than 99.9% of the people he sees…but it was still “normal.” So I didn’t do anything about it. I was normal.
But I didn’t feel normal. I was depressed pretty regularly, fatigued, low energy, slept terribly, struggled to maintain a good physique more so than I used to, found little energy and ambition for workouts or even work, even excitement for sex was inconsistent…I felt like shit most of the time.
So I dug deeper. I talked to friends and colleagues who were undergoing testosterone therapy. I read Jay Campbell and Jim Brown’s fantastic book, The Testosterone Optimization Therapy Bible, and came to find that even though your testosterone level may be “normal” that doesn’t mean it’s optimal for you.
What’s more important, are your symptoms. And that is highly individual. Someone like me may feel like shit at 500, while someone else may feel great.
I felt like shit. So I sought help from a medical professional (always, always, always refer to a doctor), and have been on testosterone therapy for over a year now.
And I feel incredible. My depression has been minimal and manageable, I have less anxiety, more energy, training has been so much better, I sleep better, libido is through the roof, and in general, I just feel a million and a half times better than I did a year ago.
I’ve had a lot of men ask me about testosterone therapy. But I can only talk about my experience, and the best recommendation I can give is read the TOT Bible, and consult with your medical professional.
If you feel you may be suffering from low T, don’t brush it off. It indeed is a quality of life-changer.
And if you really need convincing beyond that, how does more better, more frequent sex sound?
Good? Thought so.
I vowed to read more this year…and I did. Not nearly as much as I would have liked, but hey, I bought more books than ever before. So that’s something at least.
But I did read some great books; two of which I recommend you read as well.
The first is Models, by my favorite author Mark Manson.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, looking at the cover, “A pick-up book!?” And that’s what I thought too. To be honest, had I seen this book in passing at the store (do bookstores still exist?) I wouldn’t have given it a second glance. However, it was recommended by a close friend, and was written by one of my favorite authors. So I gave it a chance.
Models is a book about making yourself more attractive to women, yes, but more so about making yourself more attractive to the right woman – while becoming a better man in general.
Models addresses two things that I’ve often found myself struggling with, in any relationship, not just romantic ones: vulnerability and authenticity. It’s a book that opened my eyes to a lot of things, and one I recommend everyone check out.
The next book was Lost Connections, recommended to me by a friend after a particularly difficult period earlier in the year.
Lost Connections explores the idea that the cause of depression is because we are missing a particular connection in our lives: be that a relationship, friendship, strain with loved ones, not feeling like you have a purpose, or community…and that the best treatment of depression is fixing these connections that we’re missing. The author, Johann Hari, goes extremely deep into exploring these different connections, interviewing several professionals, and people who suffered from depression and have addressed it by focusing on creating these lost connections. It’s a fascinating and brilliant read.
Macros & Nutritional Awareness
I feel like 2018 was the year of the “Macro Coach” (that’s not a fucking thing, by the way).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been counting macros since 2012. So I’m a trendsetter, apparently.
The fitness industry loves to argue about what the best nutritional approach is. I’m actually pretty sure most trainers and coaches are just professional internet arguers…
The truth is, there are a lot of different approaches that work to help people lose fat and build muscle.
And which approach that is, is dependent on the person.
Now, I truly believe – and have the evidence from hundreds of clients to back it up – that when someone actually takes the time to learn how to count and track them, that a macro-approach is the best way to help them achieve their physique goals.
However, I also agree with those who say that counting macros is not a sustainable approach for most, and ultimately my goal is not to have clients count macros forever if they don’t want to.
But – and this is a huge, round, redonkulous but – counting macros addresses the number one issue most people have when it comes to nutrition:
The biggest problem I’ve seen with the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with is simply a huge lack of awareness when it comes to how much food they’re actually eating.
And the best way to address this lack of awareness is to have them physically see what the food they eat is made of, how many calories they should be eating, and how many calories they actually are eating.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a client who didn’t say at one point, something to the effect of: “Wow…I didn’t realize how much protein/carbs/fat/calories was in X.”
Because here’s the thing anti-macro counters either don’t tell you, or are too naive to know: Counting macros is the single best tool to help you eat intuitively for the rest of your life.
Counting macros teaches you pretty much everything you need to know about how to eat and maintain your results/physique without counting.
Counting macros gives you an awareness and insight about food that you really can’t get any other way.
The biggest knock on counting macros is that it’s challenging and time-consuming. And you are 100% correct – it can be. How challenging and time-consuming is relative to the person (and more specifically, the effort they actually put in).
But good things take time. And great things take longer.
And when done consistently – not perfectly – counting macros works great.
Coaching & Mentorship
There’s no medal or award handed out for accomplishing on your own, what you can accomplish in half the time with some help.
I’ve always had coaches and mentors because I’ve always understood the value in learning from those who are where I want to be; who have walked the walk.
But 2018 has made me realize all the more the importance of coaching and mentorship.
Coaching and mentorship is an investment. It only becomes a cost when you don’t do what the person you’re paying to teach you, is trying to teach you. And I know this because I’ve wasted money on coaches and mentors because I didn’t do what they told me I should be doing.
I always struggle to say I wouldn’t be where I am today without my coaches and mentors because I still had to do the work. But, they gave me things I couldn’t give myself. They gave me focus, direction, clarity, and most importantly, they gave me accountability.
And that is the benefit of coaching and mentorship. Yes, you’re paying for knowledge. But I can honestly say 75% of everything my coaches have told me I either knew, or could learn myself.
So yes, there is some knowledge you get from coaches and mentors. But more importantly, you’re paying for someone to ensure you’re going in the right direction, on the right path, focusing on the right actions, and the accountability to tell you when you’re not.
You’re paying for speed of results; for someone to help you get where you want to go faster than you could have on your own. And while I have taken all the actions to get where I am today, were it not for investing in the above, I don’t know if I would have been able to stick with it long enough to get where I am now.
Special shout out and thanks to my coaches and mentors, Alex Mullan, Eric Bach, John Romaniello, and Vince Del Monte.
Some real big things coming in 2019 ;)
In 2018 I set the intention to improve the relationships I had in my life, and go deeper with the people who were most important to me. To quote one of Vince’s podcasts, “I’d rather go 100 levels deep with 1 person, than 1 level deep with 100 people.”
And other than still being in search of my Queen, I’m happy to say it was an incredible year for relationships.
People who started the year as friends, mere acquaintances, or people I didn’t even know at all, have become best friends and family. I’ve created more relationships this year, both business and personal, than I think I had in the previous 29 years combined.
Which for a shy, introverted, former fat kid who lives in what everyone says is the middle of nowhere, I am pretty proud of.
A focus on creating deep, meaningful relationships, with the type of people I want to surround myself with, has been life-changing. And it’s only been a year of focusing on that. I can’t wait to see what another year brings.
Surrounding yourself with people who you can connect with on a level much deeper than your favorite sports team or TV show, I believe, is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your happiness, and quality of life. It will challenge you, help you grow, show you how to be selfless, and teach you how to become a better human – something I think we all need to continuously work on.
These are just some of the things I took away from this year. To put everything into an article would take too much of my time, and too much of yours. And we have much more important things to do – to make 2019 our biggest, best, most chiseled year ever.
Thanks for reading, and for being here.