My guest today is PJ Nestler, a human performance specialist with over a decade of experience training top athletes and fighters for competition. What I love about PJ’s approach is his ability to deconstruct a system, figure out what is not working or working, and then put together a cohesive plan. He gives a wonderful overview on how to approach reaching your fitness goals and how you systematically improve one area of training over another and then put it together. PJ is the Director of Performance at XPT, and I have had the great privilege of not only knowing him as a person but working with him. His knowledge is extensive, he has a deep passion for helping people improve, and he provides a lot of takeaways in this show. Enjoy
Listen to the episode here:
- From Sports Performance to XPT [00:04:40]
- Self Limiting Beliefs [00:09:17]
- Approaching Training: The Athlete and the Regular Person [00:17:47]
- The Spartan Race [00:25:24]
- Teaching Breathwork [00:32:12]
- Dealing with the Unexpected [00:41:20]
- The Science of Programming: High Performance and Primal Training [00:53:17]
- Training for the Military Athlete [01:03:44]
- Diving Deeper into Programming [01:08:06]
- Unconventional Training Methods [01:16:01]
- Ancestral Living and Biohacks [01:31:50]
- Recovery and Rest [01:45:36]
- Work on Yourself [01:51:58]
- Invitation to Change [02:03:43]
Human Performance Specialist for Top Athletes
A lot of people I work with are Type A aggressive. Even the sports that I work mostly with are football, hockey, fighters, and military. Those people are resistant to sit-down-and-talk therapeutics. We have to find ways to overcome those self-limiting beliefs and a lot of that can be done through the process of training. That’s why fitness is such a keystone element for people whether they’re struggling with mental health things, physical health, or cognitive performance goals. Fitness can unlock a lot of that.
You have no idea what operating at 100% feels like because you’ve adapted to being at 60% and that’s what happens with a lot of people. You’re like, “I feel good. I’m normal.” There’s no way you feel good. You don’t know what good feels like. Sometimes you use some of these things as a small tool but a tool becomes a crutch quickly.
Welcome to the show. My guest is PJ Nestler. PJ is a Human Performance Specialist. How that has shown up is he has had over a decade of experience preparing not only top athletes and fighters ready for their competitions but also individuals who are looking to achieve some type of fitness goal in their life. One of the things I appreciate about PJ that’s also unique about him is his ability to deconstruct a problem and a system and then put it back together to make it more effective and efficient for the person to reach their goals.
His curious mind and his interest in performance are what got him in this area. I’m also fortunate to be friends with PJ and work with him. He is XPT’s Director of Performance. A lot of times, we hear the word trainers. Over and over now, we’re seeing people that are in this area of performance and human performance and you realize how thoughtful and intelligent they are. It’s not just about these calories and these mechanics but it’s about excuses, our spiritual practice, and how our day-to-day life is impacting our health and our performance.
One of the things that we talked about that felt important for me is if we want to train one part of our life more than another. I’m always trying to figure it out and I’m falling short every day. Let’s say someone wants to work on their strength, resilience, flexibility, cardio, or skill. We can’t hodgepodge it all together. You’ve got to take 8 to 12 weeks and make that more of the centerpiece of your training. Yes, you’ll do a little bit of this and that.
For example, if you’re working on your strength, you’re going to get some cardio in there and hopefully work on some flexibility. The line share of your attention has to be on the thing that you’re doing because if we don’t, not only do we get nothing done but then we start to digress. This conversation was a great approach to getting started and then taking an honest look at, “What am I doing?” Also, great suggestions on how to organize that better. I appreciate how thoughtful, passionate, and intelligent PJ is and I hope you enjoy.
PJ Nestler, thank you for coming to my house. We haven’t seen each other in a year.
Been a long time.
It’s crazy. You look healthy.
Thank you. I got back from Mexico. I’m a little tan but also training hard.
You’re always tan. Were you training in Mexico? Who trains in Mexico?
I didn’t train in Mexico.
That makes me happy.
I planned on it. I went for a week. I did zero workouts.
That’s important. That’s the whole thing. We can start there. People overtrain. We overdo everything. It’s maybe a part of our nature. Before we get into some nuts and bolts, which I’m excited about. This is a conversation stimulated by you. This is one of the easiest interviews I have to do. Normally, I’m like, “What’s the point of entry?” You’re like, “Let’s talk about this.” I want to get into that. Maybe you could share a little bit of your background so people have a sense of your experience and then we can get down to business.
My background, professionally, is mostly in sports performance. I got into the industry over fifteen years ago training athletes. My goal was to train professional athletes. I fell in love with the training process early in my life being an athlete. I love strength and conditioning. I studied that in college. I did that professionally. I trained athletes at the collegiate level. I then moved to California in 2011 and started training in the private sector. I worked with a lot of athletes of all ages, all levels, as well as other people. We had general fitness and boot camp classes at our facilities as well.
Through that, I also fell in love with the leadership part of it. I began running those facilities, leading young coaches, and educating young coaches, which I realized I had a big passion for. Being able to break down things in systematic ways is something I noticed my brain does well. I found a passion for that. That was probably several years ago now that I started doing mentorships, internships, teaching coaches how to be better coaches, and how to improve athletic performance.
I then got connected with you guys in 2017 with XPT and dove into the education on that. A lot of self-exploration from that point. A lot of stuff inspired by XPT and inspired by you and Laird. Diving deeper outside of athletic performance and into human performance and thinking of ways that we can optimize humans in general and focusing on high performers and then filtering its way down into everyday people. That’s been a lot of what my focus was.
We always feel fortunate to have you and to have the chance to work with you. A lot of times, you’ll see people who are in performance, they can perform themselves and they can even help people perform better. The way your brain works, it’s very unique to find somebody like you who has a level of creativity within it but yet you can go pen to paper and build systems and say, “What’s your 1-year, 2-year, 6-month, or 3-month journey?” It’s very unique. Also, it’s a lot more difficult than people realize to put it all together, step by step. The way you are able to do it is unusual.
Any of that stuff is a complex process but it can be simplified. You learn in school and early in your career the science of training and programming and a lot of people finish there. If you spend the next 10 to 15 years doing it, then you start to blend into the art of programming. You understand that foundation of science and then you can start to figure out the art. That’s where true performance coaches and good trainers are.
They get the basics of the science but they’re not limited to thinking inside that box. They use those principles and then they can start to figure out how you blend it. You’re working with humans and humans are not a textbook. The science is a textbook but humans are not a textbook. Your physiology is not a textbook because there are so many variables. That’s where the art comes into play when you’re trying to improve people’s health or performance or whatever those things are.
For someone reading and maybe they’re interested in this field, you’ve dealt with householders, civilians, and high-performing athletes. I would love to know, from what you’ve seen, when you are working with somebody. Let’s say a person who’s trying to navigate life. They have a job, maybe they have a family, and it’s almost all they can do but they’re committed to the space.
What is the process in getting them to graduate to these upper levels of the athlete even though they’re not living as an athlete or being paid as an athlete? I experienced this myself, that I have a belief system about myself, and about the way my body works. It’s very hard at times to move away from that. Let’s say someone comes to you and they’ve always navigated maybe a few extra pounds and that’s who they are. How do you get in there and get them to reconsider that there’s an open future?
[bctt tweet=”You can overcome self-limiting beliefs by just disproving them.”]
A great point that you made is that belief system. I tend to tackle that first but not necessarily in a therapeutic way. Usually people are resistant to it. If you start by saying, “We’re going to first talk about your self-limiting beliefs,” a lot of people are resistant to that because it feels like therapy. You can overcome self-limiting beliefs also by disproving them.
A lot of people I work with are Type A aggressive. Even the sports that I work mostly with are football, hockey, fighters, and military. Those people are resistant to sit-down-and-talk therapeutics. We have to find ways to overcome those self-limiting beliefs and a lot of that can be done through the process of training. That’s why fitness is such a keystone element for people whether they’re struggling with mental health things, physical health, or cognitive performance goals. Fitness can unlock a lot of that.
That’s where some of the art comes into play, understanding what are these self-limiting beliefs that these people have. How can I give them incremental accomplishments where they don’t realize that they’re changing that? Three months from now, that’s what they’ve done inevitably to get here. Most people have this slow decrement where all you’re doing is adjusting to what’s normal. If you look at the average person’s gains, the average American gains 2 to 4 pounds a year.
When you look at themselves every day, you don’t see that change. It’s not until you see a friend you haven’t seen in three years or a picture of you from five years ago that you go, “What happened?” You’re constantly adjusting the normal. It’s a shift into failure or a shift to low performance where you’re looking at today and today, you’ve gained a little bit more weight but it’s so marginal, you don’t notice it. Tomorrow, you’re only looking at yesterday. You keep doing that over time.
We can inverse that process and also do the same thing towards performance goals where you don’t start to notice that you’re becoming more of a badass or you’re becoming someone who likes fitness. That’s overwhelming for people to say, “I don’t want to be one of those crazy training people that wakes up at 4:00 AM and works out three times a day. That’s not me.” That’s the barrier to entry. It’s slowly finding those things.
There is no one answer because what works for you might be getting up early in the morning and that’s the thing that gives you that little edge of like, “Something’s different about me today. Therefore, I can take the next step toward becoming this person.” What works for you might be the opposite for me. That might be what turns me off. It’s like, “I’m not doing the 4:00 AM thing ever.”
That’s like Laird and me. I’m like, “Who wants to get up in the dark?” Find it offensive. Laird is like, “It’s great. You can get so much done by 6:00.” I’m like, “Yeah, why?”
I’m the same way.
Are you still eating M&M’s or any candies?
It doesn’t look like it.
I go in waves.
I love that. You and James Williams. James Williams is a person that we work with and is a friend. He’s only doing juices all week long. You see him with the weirdest candy on Saturday night watching rom-com. When I found out you had a candy thing, it made me feel better.
The reason I’m not doing it is specifically what we’re talking about. I’m somebody who when I finish dinner, I want this candy. I know that when I want that candy, I also am an extremist. I don’t do anything in between. It’s all or nothing, which works out well for me and a lot of professional endeavors and poorly for me when the thing I choose is candy or alcohol.
It’s understanding that this is the stuff I talk to people about and I’m like, “This is my self-limiting belief. This controls me.” When I finish dinner and there’s candy in the house, I’m going to eat it 100% of the time. I want to force myself to unwire in that process. I’m done. 100%, no candy, nothing. I did it for six weeks. I went to Mexico with my family and ate some desserts, which then led to candy.
Dessert was the entryway to candy.
It was like, “I’m on vacation. Everybody else is doing this. I’ll have this dessert and then I’ll have candy.” I got back and haven’t had any since then.
There’s something to be said for that. You didn’t train. We can’t be hitting the rev limiter. You can’t be pinning everything all the time, like, “I’m going to be spiritual. I’m going to eat clean. I’m going to work.” Give it a break sometimes. In a way, that’s a weird stress bubble around all the things you don’t do, which I find fascinating. Do you ever get a kick out when you’re dealing with your own practice or your own definition of yourself? Do you ever laugh at yourself? You’re there, you can help so many people, and then when you see the places you get caught, it’s that reminder that even when you know, it’s not easy.
When I talked to your friend, Kerri Walsh, we did an interview on Instagram. I remember her talking about, as an athlete, you have to do the thing that’s hard. What we all attribute that to is hard work and working out. That’s easy for me. For an athlete, that’s easy. It’s easy to show up and train hard. Maybe it’s the corrective exercise, the mobility routine, the breath, or the nutrition. That’s the thing that’s hard for you.
While fitness is a hard thing for most people, we wear it like a badge of honor. I can show up and do burpees in a plate carrier and workout till I feel like I’m going to throw up. It’s challenging but that’s honestly my comfort zone. Another reason with the candy thing is I’m like, “There’s no reason I can’t eat that. It’s not impacting me. I’m not gaining weight.” I get all of my markers and I can rationalize that forever.
The reality is it’s a behavior that’s not leading me towards the goals that I want ultimately and it’s a controlling thing that I rationalize and therefore don’t try to change. Part of the reason I do those things is to let me lean heavily into this thing that is challenging for me to prove to myself that I can and not be a hypocrite. Also, to learn about the challenges because that’ll help me when I talk to other people when their challenge is fitness, nutrition, or the things that come a little easier to me. That’s something I liked that she said about doing the hard thing doesn’t necessarily mean the hard workout.
It isn’t. For me, the same thing. I have exercises that I’ve committed to do for the next 30 days. It’s so stupid, I’m already dreading it. I’m going to go lay on the floor and do exercises for my hips and IT bands. Secretly, I’d rather go pedal up this hill or go bang iron. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because I’m not good at it. Maybe that’s it. The metrics are different. I’m not like, “I feel this.” It’s a great point.
What do you see as the difference between people who are doing everyday fitness and athletes? Forget you’re training for an event and maybe you have a natural talent of sorts. A lot of athletes you’ll see, it’s like, “That guy moves quickly.” They have certain things physically that make them different. What do you see on the internal that seems to show up over and over as some of the big differences between an athlete and a person who is coming in to train to be fit?
In terms of the types of training that they’re doing?
No. More about the mental or emotional approach to something hard or uncomfortable. Do you see something different there showing up? Is the CEO or the entrepreneur who started a business and can slog pretty similar to a high-level athlete?
They’re more similar than they think but the challenges are different. The challenge you run into with most of the regular people is they don’t have the thing to train for. It’s the motivation and the accountability of a lot of them doing fitness to do fitness and that gets boring and hard for a lot of people because there’s no end in sight and there’s nothing to train for. Because you’re just doing fitness, you rarely are seeing much difference because you’re just doing a bunch of stuff. Whereas the harder part with the athlete is getting them to understand that they’re human first.
A lot of times, we stack athletics as the goal. Performance coaches do this all the time. If you come to me and I increase your vertical jump and your sprint, I’ve done what I need to do. If I haven’t made you a more robust and resilient athlete for the long term, maybe it’s injury prevention, maybe it’s your nutrition, maybe it’s your mental health. You have a two-year NFL career and you flake out, who cares I got you that increased vertical jump for the combine?
A lot of times, when we look at athletes, it’s approaching as a human first. Everybody is a human first and we have to optimize that human as best we can and fix those foundations of health. Those will help build a bigger base to the pyramid so we can build higher and then we can stack athletic performance on top. A lot of times, we don’t have the time to do that. That’s where the art comes in, a little bit of the athletic mix with the human and how can we balance those things to get you to your endpoint. The executive or the general person often is either challenged because they don’t have something to go for.
Probably the majority of people are doing fitness. For me, it’s summer and the days are longer. I’ve been riding more on a bike and doing different things because of the weather. I don’t have anything to train for, except for sanity and health. I live with somebody who’s always prepared in case there’s a swell appearing.
It’s interesting. We’re in such different headspace. He doesn’t know when it’s going to happen and he’s ready all the time. I’m like, “I’ll try to make little benchmarks.” What do you say to people or some creative ideas on how not just to be training for the sake of training. If you’re a parent to a small child, especially a female, that can be hard to build something in like you’re going to do a race but maybe you have some ideas about that.
Setting a training goal is one of the best things you can do and it doesn’t matter if it’s an actual event. Events are phenomenal because it gives you a training thing. It can be an event in my head, “I’m going to run one mile. I have never run a mile. I’ve never done a pull-up so I’m going to do a pull-up. That’s my goal. 6 or 8 weeks from now, I’m going to do a pull-up.” Therefore, I can slightly adapt my training to fit that. What that does is it gives you accountability because you have a goal in mind.
The goal has to be something you care about but you have to find a way to make it something you care about. Maybe that pull-up doesn’t mean anything to you but being a strong mother does because you’re super weak, overweight, and you’re worried that keeping up with your three kids is going to be impossible. Maybe that pull-up to you signifies that you’re probably going to have to lose weight to do it and you’re going to have to get stronger to do it. Therefore, that’s that goal and it means something to me.
I then can structure my training around that. When I show up to the gym and I don’t want to do it, even if you’re doing twenty-minute workouts, those twenty-minute workouts can be more focused. After 3 or 4 weeks, you see some difference. Maybe you’re a little closer to that pull-up or you’ve lost five pounds so therefore you’re closer and that’s what builds that momentum. The problem people run into when they’re just doing fitness is it’s okay to be in a maintenance thing where it’s like, “I want to maintain where I’m at.” Also, that’s an easy way to lose motivation.
Maintenance is comfort. If I’m maintaining my physical health because I’m okay with everything I’m at, but what I’m also saying is, “I’m comfortable here.” Comfort is the antithesis of growth. You always have to chase some growth but it doesn’t have to be extreme because maybe the growth is outside of the fitness area and you’re like, “This is one check mark on my parenting, my business, and all these other things. That’s where I’m going to lean heavily into. I need to maintain these things.” Even if you’re maintaining by having some simple goal for this time period, it could be this 6 or 8 weeks, it allows you to see progress.
I work with a lot of executive people that come out and I teach them XPT stuff and then they go home and they send me their workouts and I consult with them. All of them are doing the same thing. They all want to be a little bit better conditioned and a little bit better endurance because they might want to do a triathlon or a half marathon at some point. They want to be better at golf. They all have some kind of pain they’re suffering with. They all are not super happy with their body composition so they want to build a little muscle and lose a little fat. They try to do all those things.
They also are fathers running businesses and doing all these things. They send me their schedules and I go, “You’re just doing a whole bunch of stuff. What you do every day for fitness is you get in your car and you drive for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or however long this workout is, and then you pull back into your house. You do that every single day. You always end up at the same end spot because you’re just driving around.”
The other inverse of that is, “This one morning, I woke up and I needed to drive to Malibu.” I put in my GPS and I found the most efficient path. I had a goal in mind. In that hour and a half that I drove, I ended up in Malibu versus the hour and a half that someone else drove was driving in circles. It depends on where that goal is. If I set that small goal, it gives me something to train and strive for. It gives me progress along the way. It can change. It can be something different every three months.
You also live by what you preach. You and Mark Roberts have an event coming up in September 2022. You guys have done other things together. Maybe you can share what you set as a goal. You’re fit. What’s been interesting for me is to watch you experiment. Remember when you did the food thing with Dan, all of a sudden you gained a ton of weight and then lost weight.
There’s all this unpeeling thing that you were doing trying to navigate things. Also, watching you for several years, I’ve seen you put yourself in a lot of challenges, different adventures, and experimenting yourself. You also live this. Maybe you could share what you’re doing in September. I don’t want to say knuckleheads but sometimes when I hear you guys putting yourself through, I’m like, “Why?” It’s great
Mark and I have an awesome relationship but also a dangerous relationship because we’re enough of a sounding board. Any point that one of us is slightly reserved, the other one is like, “We could push a little further.” That’s an interesting point because I was in the same space that everybody else was that I work with. I wasn’t training for any goal. I was suffering from some injuries. I was working a ton and overwhelmed with my work stuff. I’m working hard on my relationship. That’s a big priority for me.
My fitness was like, “Go in the gym and do stuff.” I was like, “I’m going to do it for this week because I don’t want to write a training program because it takes me so long I overthink it. I don’t want to write my own training program so I’m going to do stuff.” A week goes by and another week and all of a sudden, six months have gone by and I’m super bored with my workouts. Every day I walk into the gym, I go, “I don’t feel like making something up today. I only have 45 minutes.” It was very demotivating.
I had a few friends and we got together and did a Spartan Race randomly for fun and I was like, “This is awesome.” I love training together with people and doing hard stuff. I want to find something else to do. Mark and I found The Tactical Games, which is a super intense version of a Spartan Race but it also has shooting. The cool part about that is it’s not just fitness, it requires a skill. Shooting under stress is a skill that is new to Mark and me.
We had been training during COVID, finding new things to be interested in. We started doing a lot of firearms training. When we found The Tactical Games, I was like, “Let’s do this. Let’s sign up for this.” I’m fortunate because I love the training process. That’s why I’m a coach. I love the journey. It’s not just about the end thing. For me, it’s almost more about all of the planning and all of the training. How can we optimize our equipment? How can we learn more? Mark and I are obsessed with this thing. Nobody’s going to care if I get first place at this event. For me, I’m approaching it like this is a world championship event because it’s fun. It gives me something to train for.
You’re also unlocking mysteries. You’re on a scavenger hunt all the time when you’re doing this and putting together and building clues and doing that. When you go to these events, do you get a little nervous?
Not really. The only nervousness I get is that I’m not going to perform the way I would. I get a little bit of performance anxiety with stuff like that. Even in the Spartan Race, I hold myself to a high standard and I tell myself that everyone else is holding me to that standard because I’m the performance guy. If I’m struggling and in my mind, I’m like, “What if I have to give up?” I’ve had a bad hip injury and I haven’t been able to run for a long time.
I was worried about the Spartan Race. That was the most running I was going to be doing. I was like, “What if my hips start to bug me? I know I’m going to be stupid because I don’t want to look like the weak one who’s going to start walking. I’m going to push through it. Therefore, I’ll go six weeks back in my rehab.” That was in my head the whole time. I was worried about what everyone else thought about me, which is something I’m working on personally.
[bctt tweet=”Humans are not textbooks.”]
I hold myself to a standard that I don’t think other people do but I think they do because I’m the performance coach. I think of it when I come here. If I go to a pool workout with people, I’m like, “I’m the performance director for XPT. I should be a master in water training.” I haven’t done pool training in a long time. Since the pandemic, I haven’t been doing it as often. When I want to get together with Mark for a pool workout, I’m like, “He’s probably going to have an expectation of me to be at a different level.”
Also, Mark is very good in the pool on top of it. I always tell people, “If you want to learn how to do it, ask me because I can’t muscle it.” I have figured out the way to do it and do it the smartest way because I can put my head through it. All those guys can put their heads through it. It is something that if you haven’t done in a while, it’ll get you.
Everyone in their own ways feels that way. For me, living in this environment with talented and tough people around me all the time, there was a part of me that was like, “You’re going to have to unplug from that a little bit. Otherwise, you won’t be able to continue.” I don’t want to say I stay in my lane inspired by them. I get pulled into their lane sometimes. It’s almost taking the pressure off and being like, “I’m not as strong as them,” or, “I’m not as young.”
There is an interesting thing. Sometimes people go, “You do that so you must be good.” You’re like, “In some things and in some things, I’m not very good.” I feel that way all the time. I never feel athletic. I never feel like a good athlete. It’s an interesting thing. I appreciate you saying that. A lot of times, that feeling that you’re saying people have on every different level prevents them from even trying.
I was eating with a woman named Byron Katie and she said, “When have you ever had a thought that wasn’t about you?” In a way, when you can look at yourself and be like, “That’s far out.” We were talking about kids. She said, “Remember, their favorite thing to talk about is themselves.” As a parent, if you could drill into that and be like, “How are you? How was your day?” Not ask a bunch of questions because they don’t like that. It’s about you. She said, conversely, we all do that. It’s interesting.
You said something about in this next challenge you’re doing, you’re going to have to downregulate. You’re moving and then shooting a gun. Let’s jump right in there. You’ve been doing some homework and investigating yourself. For the XPT business, one of the things was simple breathwork protocol that works to immediately down-regulate. Whether people are in a stressful situation, getting in the ice, or in some kind of environment, maybe we can start there.
We’ve been teaching breathwork with XPT and I’ve been teaching breathwork with XVT for over five years. I’ve noticed the more various applications I start to see, the more I simplify the process. We have an intro workout breathing protocol that you use to down-regulate when you’re working out. We have a protocol we use when people get in the ice bath. We have all these other protocols for stressful situations.
This happened when Mark and I went out to Hawaii and we were working with a special forces group out there where we had a short time to try to teach them a bunch of things. I said, “How can I condense all of this into something really simple?” What I found is I was applying those same things to a situation that I struggle with that I’ll talk about, which is much more on the emotional control side than it is physical but it’s the same principle.
When we think about downregulating, what that means for people who don’t know that term is stress spikes up our nervous system, and our whole body spikes up and we want to try to bring that back down sometimes. There’s a reason it spikes up and it’s good for certain circumstances. If I’m trying to recover from a workout and I need to do another intense thing, I want to bring it down to recover as much as I can before that next spike.
If I’m in a stressful situation that is emotional or psychological stress, I want to bring it down because the only reason it’s spiking is to prepare me for the physical stress that’s not going to come. The ice bath is another good example where it’s a combination of both. It’s physical stress that creates psychological and emotional stress. When we talk about down-regulating, what we’re trying to do is bring the nervous system down.
A lot of what I earlier found in breathing is people give all these low-intensity breathwork protocols. Long and slow breathing is a good way to bring the nervous system down. The challenge is it’s like somebody telling you to calm down when you’re all hyped up. There’s such an imbalance between those things that I find that we need to ramp our way back down. I like to meet the nervous system where it’s at and then slowly stage your way down to the slow breathing versus me coming to you and you’re having a panic attack and saying, “Breathe slowly. Exhale for five seconds.” There’s no way you’re going to be able to do that in that state of stress.
We’ll use exercise first because it’s the simplest. In exercise, we’re doing this high-intensity activity. I give people three cues. The first one is to get control of the breath. Imagine you did twenty burpees or you sprinted up a hill. You’re breathing erratically. You have no control. Get control of your breath. We’ll tell people to take big, fast breaths through the mouth or breathe like they’re breathing through a straw depending on how intense the thing is.
The ice bath is to breathe through the straw because they don’t need that air. At the intense exercise, you need to move the air. There’ll be slight differences in how you apply this thing but the principles are the same. Get control of your breath. For simplicity purposes, we’ll say five big breaths in and out through the mouth. What you’re doing is you’re meeting the nervous system where it’s at. It’s at this high intensity, let’s meet it there.
You’re then allowing us to take the next step. The next step is getting nasal. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. It’s still probably going to be fast. In this exercise context, you finished a minute on the assault bike or twenty burpees. You are still breathing fast and you still need to breathe fast to balance out your blood gases but we want to get in the nose to trigger all of those benefits. In the nose and out the mouth. We call that power breathing at XPT. It’s one of our best methods because it’s applicable to so many things.
For this purpose, getting control was those five mouth breaths. Get nasal is going to be six, in the nose and out the mouth. Slow it down is the last principle and we’ll go 5, 6, and 7. People like things that are simple to implement. That’s going to be in the nose. You can slow down both sides, the inhale and the exhale. Usually, I start by slowing the exhale. Take a big breath in and with each one, slow the exhale a little bit further until you can start to slowly inhale two. I try to make it simple so you don’t get stuck in, “How long should the exhale be? How much of this?” Get control, get nasal, and slow it down. Those are the three stages.
If it’s emotional, like the ice, we’ve seen this a million times. I’ll say to people, “Why don’t you get in? Try to focus for seven seconds.” We know it’s cold. It’s like, “It’s cold.” “No kidding. You’re in a thing of water with a tub filled with ice.” I always find it interesting when people are like, “It’s hot. It’s hard. It’s cold.”
That’s why we’re doing it.
It’s even life. Parenting is hard. Once you’ve established what it is, whatever the it, what do you want to do? A lot of times, when people are getting in the ice, I go, “Seven. You may not get there. It doesn’t matter.” I go, “Plus, in water. It’s hard to take a deep breath.” See if you can slow it down. You said using the straw, I appreciate that because it does automatically slow it down. It brings the breath deeper. Is there anything else you say or it’s those same three instructions and that’s for all the scenarios?
Lately, I’ve been using those same three instructions for the ice bath. The difference is how you apply them.
It has to happen quickly too.
I don’t give a breath count for the get control part. You may skip that. Some people get in and they have control. They don’t need to breathe fast. That’s for the people that are freaking out and hyperventilating their brains. They’re in the process of saying, “I can’t do it.” For those people, get controlled, breathe through a straw. Once they do that, it gets them some off that thought process, it gets them off of the, “It’s so cold. My feet hurt.”
One thing to focus on is as soon as they have that, get nasal, and then it’s in the nose and out the mouth. That may be one breath. Slow it down maybe taking that from that 1-second exhale you were doing to a 2-second exhale. Eventually, getting to the seven-second exhales and now they have something to focus on. By the time they’ve gotten that, the quicker they can go through those three steps, the more control they have.
You were in Mexico with your family. You’re in a relationship. You don’t have children yet. I was visiting with a friend of mine. There’s a comedian named Tom Papa. He did bake me bread, by the way. I will say this, Laird was fasting and then I came home with baked bread. I was like, “I can eat this somewhere else.” You have to have a piece when somebody makes you bread. Your child is going to come into the room and, for both of us, it was our teenage daughters. He has daughters as well.
You have this whole self checklist, “I’m going to be cool. I’m going to leave them alone. I’m not going to react if they’re not friendly.” You do the whole thing. You gave yourself a game plan because you need it. They’re in the room and there are three interactions. Before you know it, you’re doing exactly the opposite, you’re flipping out and you’re like, “I can’t believe you’re so rude.” You’re doing all the stuff that you said that you were going to have a game plan.
I wonder, when we’re unexpected, we can’t see it coming. Granted, you can see that coming but there’s something about situations. The reason I say you have a family and you’re in a relationship, how do you work this into you’re tired, you’re a busy person, you do a lot of things, and you make it look easy? You have a wonderful partner.
Let’s say something happens and it catches you by that surprise, that trigger, that non-objective place that we live, that place where our heart is also. We can approach so many things because we have a little bit of objectivity to them. It’s that window. You’re in Mexico. I don’t know if you’re with your family, your mother, or whoever. What happens? Where do you go? How do you use this when they catch you? Did they catch you?
Absolutely. I’ll give two answers to this because I don’t have the solution for the exact moment. My relationship has been a huge challenge for me and I approach it the same way I approach all these other things. What I noticed is I’m extremely emotionally resilient most of the time with most emotions. I’m not quick to excitement and joy. I’m not quick to fear a lot of those things. I’m able to think rationally. I don’t panic. I don’t have a strong fear response in a lot of situations.
The one emotion as men that we typically are quick to is anger. When I have issues in my relationship when I feel like something’s been unfair to me or whatever it is, I can be quick to anger. Often, I don’t make the right decision at that moment. What I’ve noticed and where this has been super effective for me is I have a hard time letting go of that anger after it’s been triggered because I know I’m right about the situation so I’m stuck on that.
It’s always the best.
A significant thing for me happened when Perla and I got into a big argument about nothing. She went to walk the dog and I was sitting there thinking about all of the things I was going to say when she got back because I was right in the situation. I was being attacked for no reason and all this stuff. I was able to make the conscious choice at that point.
I was able to predict what was going to happen when she came back and I responded the way I thought I was going to respond. I went into my office, I sat on the floor, and I did this exact breathing protocol. I did a much more intense version of the first get control part because what I was looking for was a way to stimulate my nervous system to get me to be able to let go.
You beat it out of yourself. It’s like when you get tired a little bit, you take the piss out of it.
When you’re angry and you want to go punch a heavy bag and you feel better or do an intense workout. In this context, it’s also the same for a pain response. If you stub your toe, you don’t sit there and go, “Ahh.” A lot of people will hop up and down. If you bang your thumb, you shake it out. I ate something too hot and it was burning my tongue and I was slapping my face.
That response that I’m doing is sending another intense signal to my nervous system, which is starting to blunt that pain response. I did that same exact protocol but I did probably closer to 30 seconds of those big, fast, and intense breaths, enough to get me that adrenaline stimulation. I did probably another 30 seconds of the in the nose and out the mouth where I was slowing it down. That was probably a three-minute protocol that I did.
It was able to completely shift my state and get me to the point where when she walked back through the door, I walked up and gave her a hug. I said, “I understand why you’re responding the way that you’re responding to the situation.” I was able to do all the things that I practiced doing that in that state of anger, I’m not able to do. Something happened in Mexico, the same thing. I responded poorly in this situation. Quickly after, I was able to come back and apologize. In that context, I was wrong. I made a mistake. I was able to recognize the mistake.
For the first one, you were right?
For the first one, I was definitely right for the record. The point is never who’s right or wrong. When you’re going for that, you’re in trouble.
What you’re saying is you shortened the window of how long you lived in that space. You are able to correct the response and that practice shows up. You said something important. We’re never going to react correctly. I only know two people living that react appropriately all the time and they’re a bit older than I am. It takes life’s experience. It’s remembering that too. We’re trying but no one is. If you’re human and you care, it’s part of it.
As you’re making that choice, everything you do is training. If every single time your daughter walks through and you want to do this, you react poorly, you get mad about it, and then you hold on to it for the rest of the night, you’ve trained your body that that’s the response. If you now still react poorly but, at that moment, are like, “I’m going to separate. I’ll do this breathing thing. I’ll calm myself down. I come back immediately afterward and I talk about it and I bring this back down.” It’s a different outcome.
The more you do that, all of a sudden, in that same context, you don’t have to do that breath protocol because you’ve trained your thought processes. You’ve trained a lot of things to react differently. You’re getting closer and closer to the way you want to respond. The challenge is we’re talking about an extreme stimulus. If I were to train you for something, I wouldn’t train you at that threshold. I would find a way to break it way down and then give you success over time in these simple ways.
If I were to say, “I’m going to train you to be the best at doing an ice bath,” the best way to do it wouldn’t be to stick you in a 30-degree ice bath for five minutes and say, “Deal with it.” I would teach you the breadth protocols outside of the ice bath and then put you in a 60-degree tub and then in a 55-degree and then give you success and do it for 30 seconds. The same way we do at experiences, we tell people, “Do a couple of breaths.” The next time you come, you can do a little more. It’s finding ways to stage those things so that you build success.
Real life doesn’t work like that.
You’re going to fail in a lot of those contexts. For me, I still look at those as successes. It’s like, “I didn’t respond how I wanted to at the moment. Instead of something that could have been a 24-hour argument, it was a 15-minute thing.
[bctt tweet=”You can’t biohack your way to your end goal if you don’t have the foundation.”]
I hate to say it, it’s messy. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to not show our best selves. People around us admire us if we’re able to say sorry. We forget that. Laird has taught me that. We think we’re supposed to be right. What we don’t realize is that we’re also building trust and respect. When you can come to somebody and go, “I blew that. I’m sorry.” There’s a different level of connection. I tell my kids that if we can learn the lessons and do it, that’s more valuable than always hitting the bull’s eye because it’s a different level.
There’s nothing worse. I had to apologize to Brody. I picked her up. She’s at an age where she’s not driving. It’s a pain because they’re highly social, “Take me here.” After even 30 seconds, it’s like, “Thanks for letting me know.” In the middle of the day, it’s like, “Can you pick me up here?” It’s traffic. She opens the car door, “Can we go to Starbucks and get a green tea?” It set off this whole thing of like, “This kid’s not going to have friends. She doesn’t know how to work hard.” That’s not true. She has straight A’s in school.
They think everything is DoorDash to them. I did her whole history. She said to me, “Why are you reacting so strongly?” I had a choice right then. Instead, I rejiggered it and then I said, “I apologize. I’m reacting to what I think this attitude represents in the long term and it’s not appropriate and I’m sorry.”
She was like, “It’s okay. I understand. Based on the history of our other daughters, maybe you’re more gun shy.” She goes, “You don’t have to apologize.” I go, “I do. Because I’m asking you to be accountable, I need to be accountable.” It was one of those things where I realized I needed to apologize. I was like, “Damn it.” She let me off the hook. I want to say that. Even your kids will let you off the hook. They’ll be like, “Cool. No problem.”
Speaking of that, since it’s the things that we can’t predict, you talk about how you’ve been looking at how you approach training for people who are in complex events whether it’s fighters or military. How are you ready for the unexpected? You know, “I’m going to be deployed.” “My fight date is on this date but is the guy going to punch me? Is he going to kick me? Is he going to choke me out?” What’s happening? Something that you’ve been looking at is training for the variables you don’t know.
This applies to the context we talked about earlier with most people because there’s not a true objective. If I’m training you for the NFL Combine, I know exactly what you have to do. I know the exact tests. I know how they’re going to be run. Every step of it is measured. I can measure you now and I can go, “Here’s what you need to do. Here’s where you’re at.” I’ll create a plan to get us as close as possible. That’s not how most people work.
Even MMA fighters are defined to some stance but there are still a lot more very a lot of variables. The military is even more complex because you have no clue what they’re going to need to do. What people do is they take a backward approach. When they think the task might be complex and unknown, therefore, they create the training to mimic that which is backward.
How do most people approach The Tactical Games? We don’t know what we’re going to have to do. We know we’re going to have to shoot. We know we’re going to have to do a bunch of hard stuff. We might have to run four miles or we might have to pick up the sandbag that’s 300 pounds. One of those is a long endurance thing and one of those is a strength thing. Those are conflicting things in training. How do we train for all of that? There are a whole bunch of other variables.
What most people do is mix all this stuff together. What you end up with is maybe you got a little bit better at some of them. The more complex the task or the more unknown, the simpler the training process becomes. You start to simplify things way down. We talked about that human approach. You think about, “What does this person have as a human?” When I say human, I mean general health and general capabilities.
As an athlete or a performer, we look at the full spectrum of what you have that are the biggest limitations. If I know that you might need a little bit of all of that, then I’ll look at what are the most limiting factors. Your weaknesses will typically be the things you shy away from. I could probably even ask you, “What types of training do you enjoy?” You’ll say, “I love sprint training. I love heavy lifting.” I go, “Okay. I already know what we need to do. If I measure you and all these things, I guarantee you, you’re probably not super mobile and you probably don’t have great endurance.” We’ll tailor it towards that end of the spectrum.
Are you looking at me right now?
No. That’s me.
Running couldn’t be a bigger weakness for me because I hate it.
That’s always tough. You first start doing the discovery of somebody. A fighter, to look at them, one would think that their buckets are pretty even. They probably have good endurance. They have speed. They have some amount of power. On something like that where they’re pretty tuned up, how do you navigate that?
It comes down to prioritizing which ones you want to get better. For example, it may be individual to that fighter. The challenge with athletes is sometimes they’ve become the best athlete because they’re so good at that one thing. The challenge with coaches is always, how much do you focus on their weaknesses versus sharpening their strengths? There are a lot of examples of fighters who were not good at certain things but they were so good at the things they did.
If you can create that environment for them to be in that moment, then they can be successful.
Let’s say we needed them to be more balanced for whatever reason. There’s no way to accomplish all of those things, the speed, the power, the strength, and the endurance, all of those variables. That’s what most people do in their training. If we take this out of athletes, “I want to get a little bit more fit. I want to lose some weight. I want to build some muscle. I want to feel better. I want to move better. I want to play better golf.”
You’ve got ten goals in your training and you’re training three days a week for 45 minutes. Dan Gardner always uses the analogy, “If you chase two rabbits, you catch none.” It comes back to simplifying that down and then choosing a goal for this one time knowing that you’re going to build all those other things slightly.
Let’s say this next four weeks, I’m going to focus on endurance. I’m going to do the things that are endurance-focused. My running is going to be a little bit more volume focused and therefore I’m going to let go of the speed because I don’t care about my times. I care about the volume. My strength training is going to be the same. I want to build endurance so I’m going to be working in the 15 to 30 rep range.
Maybe I start with fifteen reps. Next week, instead of adding more weight, I add two reps. I keep building. I don’t care about the weight at all. I’m going to keep building reps and building reps so I build the volume. This is where the art of programming comes in. As we look at those things and say, “If you have a goal in mind and we have eight weeks, let’s do four weeks of that. The next four weeks, we’re going to focus on power.”
You can keep some of those changes inside the physiology as you move forward for the next four weeks.
Absolutely. In the science of programming, you start to learn which things are best to prioritize at different times to keep them. A simple way to think of it is, let’s say I want to maintain qualities. I’m pretty strong and I want to maintain my strength while I focus on building endurance. This is the phase I’m in right now.
I did a phase that was focused on strength. I was doing a lot of heavy lifting to build my strength. I need strength for The Tactical Games but endurance is much more important. I’m back to a more endurance phase but I don’t want to lose the strength that I built. Strength and power are the things that you lose the quickest.
Are those the things that leave us the quickest?
They’re hard to keep. They’re too much load on the system. To keep extra mass or size or to be that explosive, your body’s so smart that it’s like, “That takes a lot of energy. Ditch it.” Now that you’re doing the endurance, how do you bring the strength in?
I touch on the strength and the power once per day. I have three main training days that are weight-room-focused, strength, and conditioning. I have two other days that are more running and endurance stuff. I’ll give you an example. In my Monday workout, I have a bunch of more volume-based exercises and I have pull-ups, heavy pull-ups, three sets, and 5 to 7 reps. If I do more than seven reps, it’s too light, I need to go heavier because I’m trying to get strength stimulus in that pattern.
The other workout that I did was deadlifts. I do heavy deadlifts with the barbell, five reps. If I can do eight reps, it’s not heavy enough to get a strength adaptation. I’m not looking for twelve reps. I’m doing that on every other exercise. With those things, I’m sending enough input into my nerves. I chose compound movements that give me a lot of bang for my buck. I have one other one on Friday. I have three movements that are strength focused and it’s enough that I give a little bit of that stimulus. That should maintain my strength and all the endurance work I’m doing. All this stuff overlaps a little bit.
It’s movement. At some point, we always remember how we are going to apply it. That’s on you. One thing I’m curious about is when you’re about to do a run or you’re in your endurance phase and it’s the part that maybe you don’t like or you don’t think it’s your strength. What is the internal dialogue to just not get through it but that you’re navigating it?
To do the parts I don’t like?
The two things for me that are most successful, one is setting the event. I know I have to run.
You’re going to have to show up.
I’m going to show up with Mark. I know Mark is going to be ready. I know he’s going to push himself. The other two friends I’m doing it with, they’re all training. I don’t want to be the weak link. If I show up and they say, “Put on this rucksack and all this gear and then run three miles.” Before this training program, I hadn’t run three miles in ten years. That’s going to be miserable. That’s enough for me at least once a week to get in there and do it.
Do you listen to music or anything when you run? Does it vary?
Music or podcasts.
A podcast is mellow enough.
My running is mild because I was coming up from a hip injury.
It came from running and rucking. I wasn’t doing any of those things. I probably went way too fast like I tend to. Mark and I were like, “Let’s put a 60-pound pack on and walk for six hours.” When we started doing a lot more rucking and then I started slowly running, I started getting this hip pain within the first half mile of running or by mile two of rucking. It would feel like it was grinding in there and then it would go further and further. By the time I’d finished a 6 or 7-mile ruck, it was so inflamed. It wasn’t an injury. I know this isn’t good. I know if I keep doing what I’m doing, it will be bad.
I saw a few PTs. I didn’t get much help from it. I saw one guy who’s a friend of mine and I started doing the program he gave me, which was a mix of some good strength training and mobility work that I hated and the running was slow. I did five weeks of this training. The running I did was 30 seconds of light jogging. It was a three-minute interval. It was 30 seconds of jogging and 2.5 minutes of walking. I did ten reps of that.
You get the body used to the load but then you’re not too long. This is the stuff that most people are dealing with. You don’t need to be in a competition. That might be a good time to do your training alone. You’re doing your homework. You’re staying true. You don’t have someone next to you. I would imagine when you were doing that, you were taking that time and doing it right. Not everything was a competition.
I avoided any other running or rucking during that. Mark and I wanted to go do this and I was like,
“We’re not doing it.”
Don’t play with Mark when you’re hurt.
I want to do this long-term. I want to be able to come back and do that. If you and I go do this five-mile ruck, it’d be fun but I’m going to pay the price for four more weeks. I did that once a week, sometimes twice a week with that running, as well as all my rehab exercises. The point for me that I learned a long time ago with my back when I had those fractures in my spine, I remember my PT, I was struggling like, “It’s hard for me to work all these exercises in with my training.” He goes, “The workouts I give you, why in your mind is that different from training?” I was like, “Training, in my mind, had to be hard and intense.”
I was training jiu jitsu at the time so he had to prepare me for jujitsu and he’s like, “Isn’t rehabbing your lower back preparing you for jiu jitsu? Therefore, this is training for jiu jitsu, it’s just not the same.” That was my mindset with the running. The first few weeks, I did the same thing. I then started slowly adding mileage. Same intervals but let’s see if I can get a little more distance this time, meaning I’m running a little faster and walking a little faster.
I then started adding more running and less walking to that interval. I went fifteen seconds each time. I got to the point where I was doing 2 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. Now in this new program, I have a few where I do 5 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. I’m excited. I get up and I go for a run and I come back and I’m like, “Perla, I ran almost two miles.” My time is garbage. My pace is garbage. I’m like, “I ran two miles.”
You’re doing it.
I didn’t stop. I have no pain right now. That’s where I’m at with that.
What’s important too is to be able to recognize the successes within because we’re all in different places. Also, not compare ourselves from before, like, “I used to run.” You weren’t able to run and then you were doing 30-second intervals and now you’re doing two miles. This is a success. If you have a military athlete and they’re going off into this unknown, let’s say you work on the weaknesses and the organisms as prepared as it can be, is there also an added emotional layer that you add? You’re talking about life and death. Is there a bigger breathing conversation? Is it just your training all the organisms pretty similarly?
Breathing is a huge part of it. I wouldn’t say it’s bigger because it’s as important for the athlete or the general person. In theory, they should be a little bit more interested in it because they see the application. Fortunately, when Mark and I go and work with a lot of the military we work with, they’re elite special forces. By the time we talk to them, they’ve already been doing the stuff we’re talking about and they’re very open to talking about it.
If you have a person that I’ve been consulting with who is just getting ready for BUD/S training, they’re usually young. It’s like working with an athlete. The only athletes who care about mobility training are the 30-plus-year-old athletes that know they’ve got all the injuries and they want to add a few years to their career. The 19-year-old athlete doesn’t do a lot of mobility training, generally speaking, because they haven’t been beaten up yet.
It’s the balance of the universe somehow. You’re all explosive and dynamic and you’re 19. You then get life’s experience and you start adding mobility and other things. If you’re open to it, then you’ve got longevity. It is always interesting how it’s the same story whether we start now or we go back 30 years. With athletes, it’s just what they do.
[bctt tweet=”Thinking of the long-term approach is how you’ll be more successful.”]
To your point about the one thing about the mental side with the military, which also applies to everyday people, there has to be an element of building that mental resilience, and that can come from a lot of different things. We talked about this in one of the principles when you and I are talking about things. A simple thing in training is this balance between high performance and what I call more primal stuff.
I am high performance, meaning every set and every rep is dialed in. I track every weight. I want to know that everything is making those marginal improvements. There’s a big benefit to that. That’s one of the best ways to see success in a certain physical thing. That’s how we train athletes. They have a goal in mind and we make sure everything’s measured.
I was thinking about primal training. I’m like, “Yeah.”
Half the time I come up here, you go, “Laird, tell PJ what you did yesterday.” It’s like, “Let’s swing this kettlebell for an hour just because I can. Let’s pick up this heavy log and see how far I can run with it.” There’s such a huge benefit to that end of the spectrum as well because many people get stuck in the sets and reps and time. As soon as you say, “Get on the assault bike and go.” For how long? How hard? Just go. You’re removing the standard.
For the military, that’s a big part of it. In Special Forces selection, that’s a big part of what they do. There are certain standards you have to meet and then there are certain times that it’s like, “Give your best effort.” We’ll determine if that best effort was good enough for what we’re looking for. Part of that is because of what you have to deal with in that environment. There are not going to be those defined variables.
Laird always says, “In the ocean, there’s no raft. There’s no timeout.” It is fascinating. He has a belief that bonking is not something in nature. It’s when people go, “They bonked.” If you were being chased or doing something in nature, he questions whether you would bonk.
What do you mean by bonking?
When runners, marathoners, or bikers gas out. They bonk. They’re done. He’s like, “I don’t know if you were in nature in your primal way if you would be allowed to bonk.” He’s like, “That’s some luxury.” You have a belief that I agree with that. Why is it important to hit all the aspects of training endurance, strength, speed, and power? How could one incorporate that into a program? We talked about it a bit but maybe we could visit that a little more.
The simple way to do it is to pick a block of time, 3 to 6 weeks. Three weeks is usually short for most people. I’d even say you could go 4 to 8 weeks unless you’re super fit. Three weeks is fine if you lose focus and you’d like to change things up. It’s anywhere in that 3 to 8-week range. Choose a single goal for that. You can touch on the other things that you like but make sure that you don’t end up with this mix of stuff that’s like, “I do circuit training every day and some of it is strength and some of it is muscle building. I’m not doing enough of that to improve any of those things.”
Understand that all of these will bleed over. If you work on building muscle for the next eight weeks, you’ll also get a little stronger and you’ll also get a little better conditioned if you’re doing this stuff intelligently. If you try to get stronger, conditioned, and build muscle, if you’re untrained, you’ll get a little bit better at all those and then you’ll plateau and you will never change. You’ll do that for the next ten years and you’ll never be much stronger and fitter. You’ll be in the spot that most of these people are in.
Choose a section of time and pick a singular focus. Use the 80/20 rule. 80% of your training should be focused on that. The other 20% can be touching on those other things that you want to maintain or it can be anything that you’d like to do. That also applies to the high performance versus primal stuff. Probably somewhere 70% to 80% of your training should be well structured and planned or at least have some semblance of structure. I won’t say well structured.
We don’t have all day to train. You also need to be in touch with things like, “How am I doing?” You need to have a gauge.
70% of it is some sort of structure to it. The other 30% can be, “I want to push myself mentally really hard,” or, “I want to do something fun.” You could punch a heavy bag because you like punching heavy bags. If you do that every day, you’re only going to get better at punching a heavy bag. If you apply that 80/20 rule to it and then change the goal the next time. If you want to build muscle for three months, build muscle for three months and then force yourself to focus on, “How can I fit everything into this one goal?” It’s not, “I also want to run a marathon.”
If you’re going to run a half marathon at the end but your goal is to build muscle, build muscle and go run the marathon. You can’t train for both of those things at the same time and get effective at both. You either need to focus on running the half marathon and that’s your goal or say, “I do want to run a half marathon but my biggest goal is building muscle. I’m going to focus on building muscle. I’m still going to run the half marathon because I’m just going to do it.” It would be the same outcome when you ran that half marathon where you’d be a little better at it as if you had just tried to do a whole bunch of things and hoped that a little bit of half marathon training was going to be enough to help you.
This is forever. I want to say that for people because they think, “It’s a place. You land. You’re there.” What you’re talking about also is for all of us all the time, no matter what elite level or someone trying to make it happen. You need to do this throughout your entire training life. It doesn’t go away. In a way, how do we embrace these attitudes and be like, “This is how it is.” Instead of, “I feel like people give up and they give up also because it becomes not fun. It’s not creative.”
You and Mark are great examples. You can write programs all day long but you also add fun, challenge, creativity, and different elements into your own lives because that’s the only way. I want to remind people that you don’t get to that set weight or you did that one marathon and then it’s fixed. It’s forever.
Thinking of that long-term approach is how you’ll be more successful. A lot of people think of the next three months. If you look at where you would be five years from now, if you kept doing this mix of stuff, I’ll give an example for me. I didn’t want to write a training program. This week, I’m just going to do whatever. I did that for eight months. Eight months later, I was the same as I was eight months before.
I still had the same nagging injuries. I wasn’t much stronger and fitter. I was just doing things. If I did that for five years, I’d be right where I was although I’d probably be slightly worse because you get that slow decrement of, “If it’s not fun and if I’m not training for something, then it’s going to be a little easier today. I’m not going to push as hard today.” That keeps building over time.
The inverse of that is if you just did three months each time. If you don’t know how to choose programs, you can go to a different place. Go do CrossFit for three months. When you’re done with that, go do endurance training. Go to a place and learn how to run and go run that half marathon for three months. When you’re done with that, go learn Olympic weightlifting for three months. Whatever those things are, you’ll get much better at those things and then you’ll see how they start to stack on top of each other.
Eventually, you get to the point where you can be like, “I like these different things. I’m going to do a little more of this this month.” I had to give up jujitsu because I get injured a lot in jujitsu and I want to train for The Tactical Games, do all the other stuff I’m doing, and go surfing. What I was doing before was I’d surf once every other week. I’d do jujitsu once or twice a week.
None of the things were becoming the focus. I had paused my jujitsu membership for a little while I was traveling. I would talk to some friends and I’d watch jujitsu videos and be like, “I want to go back and do that.” If I do that I’ll train 2 or 3 days a week. There’s no way I can train jiu jitsu three days a week and do the training I’m doing for The Tactical Games and have success. I was like, “Until I finish the tactical games, I’m not going back to jiu jitsu.”
There’s something to be said when we make those decisions. When we make the right one, we know, like, “This was the right one.” We get out of that pocket of being tortured and knowing we’re not doing anything. We go, “I love that. I’m good at it. I like to keep doing it. I’m going to hit the pause.” When we do that, we know it’s the right thing and it liberates you. You’re like, “I don’t have to be the guy that does jiu jitsu twice a week. I can be anything I want.” There’s something when we offload those things that we’re good at too once in a while and move into those phases.
Let’s talk a little bit about you. You talked about unconventional training methods. How do you put a framework around that? How do you systematize that? How to incorporate all different types of movements, different movement planes, and types of load in your training? This could be a challenge for most people who know about training. We like to move in certain planes. We do that well. You’re talking about how we organize what feels like an unorganized or unconventional training method.
Kyler, who works with XPT, is helping build a lot of the programming for XPT gyms. We’ve spent months in the weeds trying to figure out how we systemize the thing that we always tell people who had experiences? People come to experience this and I always give a talk about, “You’ve got to get outside of this training modality where we make fitness that goal.” Trainers are the worst at this. You come to me and you say, “I want to be more fit. I want to be better at X, Y, and Z to build some strength.” I go, “Okay, cool. We want to get your squat to this. We want you to run a mile at this pace. All of a sudden, everything shifts where those are now the goals.
You’re a squatter. “What do you do?” “I squat.”
It’s like, “I deadlifted this much. I did this on my AMRAP.” I’m like, “Who gives a crap?” It’s cool if those excite you to keep you motivated in training. If that becomes the goal, what happens is people then start to give up on being better at moving or they push through certain injuries because they want to lift more weight or they want to run a faster time.
The same thing with exercises, we’ve adapted exercises because we said, “People used to get strong by climbing trees, crawling, dragging heavy things, and they would build strength that way.” Now we don’t do that in life. We have gyms. What’s the most efficient way to do this thing in a gym? We have these big metal things we put on a bar. Therefore, what’s the most efficient way to move that bar against gravity? We’ve adapted all of this exercise based on, what’s the most efficient way to move a bar against gravity?
The challenge is that’s not how we move in life and sport. When you run on a field, you’re not moving directly up and down against gravity. You’re exerting force into the ground to move at different angles to jump and twist. You’re doing those things together. If I’m playing football, I jump, twist, and reach. All of those things are happening at the same time. In the weight room, you would injure yourself if you tried to do that altogether.
What we’ve been struggling with is people get this focus on fitness and they ruin their resilience because they get good at the things that they’re good at and most of that is working out in this linear, sagittal plane. We run on treadmills. We run on ellipticals. We do lunges and squats. All of this stuff is so weight-room-focused that it doesn’t necessarily transfer. Some of that will transfer. It’s good to build a foundation. If that’s all you ever do, you end up not being very resilient.
We see this a lot. Nothing against CrossFit. CrossFit did a phenomenal job of taking people from what was unfunctional like going to the gym, running on the treadmill, and then doing machines and then introducing them to more functional stuff like Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, and jumping on boxes. If you take CrossFit and you look at that, it’s very linear-focused.
Plus, the competition element. I don’t care what anyone tells me. I love the community aspect and the diversity. The problem for me was the competition aspect creates an environment where now you’re going to do stuff that’s not going to be good for you.
You can get hurt easily.
That’s the problem. I appreciate all the dynamics that it does have but that was the only thing. I’ll bite that hook in one second. I’ll kill myself to not be the last person.
I have to avoid going to those types of classes because even though I know better, I don’t want to be the last one.
I’ll bite the hook, whatever it takes.
We had a crossfitter. He used to be a college athlete then got into CrossFit. A great CrossFit athlete and extremely fit. We brought him as an athlete for our XPT video shoot. When we had him do certain movements, rotational movement patterns, and things that seem basic to me, he struggled with them. He learned them quickly because he’s an athlete.
When I introduced them to him, I was like, “You can’t move like that?” He kept saying, “I haven’t done this kind of stuff. This brings me back to college basketball days.” I was like, “That’s because you used to be an athlete. Now you’re a fitness person. If I had you to go play basketball right now, you’d probably blow a knee or an ankle.” People would go, “How’s that possible? He’s so strong. He’s so athletic. He’s so fit.” He’s trained in this narrow focus.
Kyler and I have been working to figure out how we can create a system where people can get out of this and they can train from the beginning to be resilient. They don’t just do the fitness to get fit but they can get more fit while they’re also training their body to be more resilient in life and all these activities.
What does that look like?
There are a few ways you can do it. Number one, it’s starting to incorporate different movement patterns. We’ve got to get out of this linear plane. There’s a simple way for people to think about it. Even with most trainers, 95% of their stuff is linear because it’s easy. It’s easy for me to do the exercises that are going to target specific muscles.
The client wants that too, that’s the other thing. Usually, you can lift more weight in that plane. You’re usually naturally good at it. The client is happy. Who wants to use just your body, standing on one leg, sweating, shaking, and not being able to even do it on one side? I can crush it on my one side and on the other, I can barely do it.
They want the muscle burn as well. They want the sweat and the burn. they don’t want to feel like they’re learning a skill.
Movement is a skill. Do a 3 to 1 ratio or 1 to 3 ratio. For every three linear-based exercises that you do, incorporate one exercise that breaks out of that straightforward and backward plane and it can be simple. It can be lateral lunges. That’s a start. Lunges are a great thing because you can do them on every plane. You can do it at 45 degrees, lateral or rotational. You can rotate your torso as you go into a lunge. That’s a great place to start. Those need to be simple though at the beginning because the challenge is that you have to move well to do those things.
If you don’t, and then you start saying, “Let me throw this 90-degree rotational hop into my Metcon workout,” you’re probably going to blow your ACL because you haven’t built the resilience and the movement quality to do that. You can do it in your warmups. Think about when you do a warm-up. What do you do? You probably do jump jacks, squats, and push-ups. If you warm up at all, where you walk on the treadmill or do lunges, how many of those things are you rotating or moving side to side? Do some shuffles. I would even challenge you to say make your whole warmup non-linear.
I like that too because you’re not fatigued yet and to your point about getting hurt, it’s an opportunity for people to dip their toe in. You’re not loaded with any weight but you aren’t fatigued and then there’s a transition into maybe loaded movement. You need to make sure you’re protected. I appreciate that. I’m going to use that myself. Thank you.
That’s a great way. That’s exactly the point. If you did that in your warm-ups every day and you went and did your normal workouts, you’re getting a whole bunch of more movement, but you’re also building the capacity to then maybe be able to load those movements later. Your body’s going to start to build resilience so you start to get a little stronger and you don’t have to regress all your workouts. You can still go get that burn and go get the sweat, and then start to incorporate it into the workout but maybe it’s unloaded.
For that 1 exercise in your 10-exercise circuit, you do a phenomenal job of this with the High X workouts we do. When you’re going to do that more complex thing, maybe that’s not the heavy thing. Do the heavy squat to press because that’s when you know it’s easier. When you do the rotational lunge, that’s bodyweight you. You do a bunch of those and build some volume, then maybe you get to the point where that movement can now be loaded and you do a new complex one that’s going to be bodyweight only. That’s one of the things that I like to do.
The other side is unconventional loading, which is great to build resilience. That can be as simple as grabbing things. It can even be objects that are normal. Let’s say it’s you’re doing dumbbell lunges. Hold one of them. Now you’re already creating this different thing. Unconventional means for you. If you’ve been doing all dumbbell training, unconventional loading means holding one dumbbell instead of two. You’ve now changed it completely and therefore it’s unconventional. There are also unconventional things like sandbags and stuff like that that are also great because they change the way your body has to respond to those. Grab a sandbag, put it on your shoulder, and do all your normal stuff.
If someone doesn’t have a sandbag, if you have a pet, get a large bag of pet food. It’s mushy and weird. It will do the job.
It’s about challenging the body in ways that you’re going to have to face in life or other things. One of the things that I started incorporating was sandbag pickups but what I would do is I would stand with my feet in a different position like an awkward position. I wouldn’t even start in a normal way. Every time I would walk up to the sandbag the way that you would walk up to pick up a duffel bag off the ground.
Nobody goes over to a duffel bag, places their feet under their hips, bends at the knees, hinges the hips, braces the core, grabs it, and deadlifts it off the ground. You’re in a rush. You run over, you bend at the waist, you twist your spine, you’re in this rotated spine, you pick it up, but that’s when people get hurt too. It turns out that Reece packed eighteen pairs of shoes in that duffle bag and this is a 60-pound bag that you thought was twenty and now you blow out your back.
[bctt tweet=”You always have to chase some growth.”]
What I was doing with a light sandbag as part of my warmup was I had a twenty-pound sandbag. I was putting it on the ground to the side, bending over in a non-good pattern, slowly picking it up, and then putting down the other side and changing my stance. For me that was building resilience to my spine so that when I do have to twist and grab something, I’m not going to blow my back out because all the training I’ve done has been in this super rigid, super locked in braced position, which is good for moving weighed against gravity but not good when I have to bend over and pick up my 10-year-old niece who happens to weigh 80 pounds that I didn’t know.
She’ll wiggle on top of it. She’ll throw around and do whatever. The other thing for me when I hear you talk about this is for us to understand the value in spending time doing that as well because somehow we only equate the value in, “I burned this many calories.” “I sweated this much,” and, “I lifted this much.” It incorporates the value of these unconventional ways of training and how that supports us in the long run and that it is time well spent. Laird is good at that. I’m less good at that but being around someone that does stuff that you’re like, “That’s weird,” and then you watch them overall though and they perform better.
I had this conversation with someone and I was talking about what I believe in when it comes to fitness. I did a workout that was bodybuilding focused at a gym. It was barbell squats and barbell deadlifts. Afterward, I said, “Everybody loves the workout that was in my group.” I was like, “I hated it.” We were having this conversation, “Don’t we think it’s a good entry point for people? If you’re doing nothing, isn’t this a good way to train?” I understand that argument, but I think back to when I was a 15-year-old kid. I followed what the meathead bodybuilders at the gym did because those were the big guys that I followed.
I also had an athletic trainer who used to tell me that I should be doing these pistol squats. Athletes don’t train like this. I was like, “These dudes are jacked. You’re not. I’m going to listen to these guys.” If I didn’t have those two choices. I probably also wouldn’t have two fractures in my back and this torn-up shoulder because I’ve made the wrong choice for a long time. The challenge is that a lot of people see that as, “l can either be big and jacked or I can be this functional guy who has long hair, a goatee, and balances on BOSU balls.”
The reality is if you look at athletes, most athletes don’t train that way but they also happen to be big and jacked. They’ve got genetics. When you’re sprinting, throwing, jumping, lifting, and doing all those things, you also can be functional for your sport and you can be jacked as a side product but most people chase body aesthetics and they give up function for it and you don’t have to. You can train to be more functional and get the aesthetic stuff as a side effect of that.
If you’re a female reading, you cannot be afraid of banging or moving some weight around. “I don’t want to get too big,” is ridiculous. We won’t get into that. Finally, in the last training section, you’ve been looking at the way we’ve lived biologically, and ancestrally, and then now we have all this biohacking and fitness tech.
Personally, I always say that the hacks are good when you’re trying to do all the right things and then they’re a little bonus. It’s like the E on my Electric Assist when I’m going up the hill. I feel like we went through a period of time where it was hacking everything. We thought we could hack at all. I’m curious as you look at it deeper, what keeps showing up for you?
The other side of that is sometimes even the way we’re living and to know ourselves, even our emotional selves around food around certain things because it’s so important to know about our biology and the way that we’ve lived. It explains so much. When the food is in front of me, why do I want to eat it all? That is completely natural.
Why do I feel anxious? That’s part of being a human being. I’m also a little bit miserable because I sat at my desk. You do a ton of work sitting on the phone on the computer working. It’s like, “It’s no surprise if you had an eight-hour day sitting at your desk and you don’t feel great physically, emotionally, and everything.” That part for me has always felt important because it gave me another level of awareness. It’s because I’m not living in my natural self.
I live with somebody who is always fighting to be in their natural self like, “Why are we not outside? Why are we wearing shoes? Why do we have so much clothing on? Why are we not out having fun and all these things?” I’m like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’ve got stuff to do.” You’ve been looking at this, not juxtaposition but there’s a little bit of a dichotomy between these two, between ancestral living and hacks, all the measuring and all this stuff.
We started diving into a lot because that high performance versus primal stuff is similar. There’s this high-performance measured scientific approach to things and then there’s the pick-up something heavy and doing the thing for a long time. There are benefits to both and you need to be able to use both. It’s the same, as we look at lifestyle but the difference is, to your point, you can’t biohack your way to the end goal if you don’t have the foundation.
I almost look at the ancestral living stuff as your foundation. When I said, “Treat the human first,” if you’re not getting those things then you might be able to put a band-aid on it but the foundation is always going to be the issue. With ancestral living, Laird is a perfect example. It’s getting sunlight, getting exposed to hot and cold, doing hard physical activity, eating natural foods, being barefoot, and it’s getting up and moving. It’s understanding things from an evolutionary perspective and I always regress to that first because it helps me understand the why.
Why is it so bad for our life to sit in a chair all the time? It’s because our biology was designed from this evolutionary perspective and then our lifestyle adapted on top of it. Our body didn’t adapt to that lifestyle, it does, which is why we’re fat, sick, and weak but in general, our biology has not evolved to meet this lifestyle. If we understand that as a premise, it helps us to set that as a foundation first and look at the areas that we’re missing, and then you can add the biohacks or whatever those things are on top.
It’s like what we say with nutrition and supplementation. You can take all the supplements in the world. You will not be healthy and you will not have performance improvements if your diet sucks. That’s the same across the board. As we always look at anything, if you look at mental health, you look at depression and anxiety. You look at how some people are treating that. Everybody takes medication. Some people need that if you’ve gone too far.
I remember having a conversation about this chemical imbalance and that somebody was stuck in this self-limiting belief of, “I need this because I have a chemical imbalance.” I appreciate that. Your doctor told you that but maybe you have that chemical imbalance because you spent the last twenty years not getting sunlight, having crappy relationships, eating a poor diet, and not getting exercise so maybe you’ve gone too far where working out might not fix it and you do need medication but that medication is that biohack.
All of those things are not necessarily going to fix the problem. If we look back at the root of it, so many of those things can be avoided by applying those principles and making sure that you apply those first and then you can add these hacks on top of it. I see this a lot with technology because I look at a lot of fitness technology now in the companies that I work with. You see this constant evolution of fitness technology.
I had an abundance of fitness technology companies that reached out to me constantly wanting to implement this thing into XPT. I’m like, “Why?” People make technology because they can, not necessarily because they should with a lot of stuff and then we don’t look at the secondary and tertiary effects that are going to happen from that. After we’re like, “We could do this,” and then we start to rationalize what it’s going to do versus the other way around. Kyler and I were talking about this with technology.
What if we take the approach of, “Here’s a big problem that we have. How can technology help us with that?” Versus, “We can measure this thing so we should measure it and then convince people that it’s important to measure it.” How many people use every fitness tech out there that is not healthy? How many things do you need to tell you that you don’t drink enough water, you eat crap, you don’t sleep, you drink too much alcohol and you don’t exercise? Do you need the newest app to tell you that?
This is the thing for me too, which is the ability to have a relationship with yourself. I can tell when I didn’t have a good night’s sleep. I’ll be almost getting a headache and I go, “You, idiot. You’re dehydrated or you’re stressed out.” Maybe I’m close to my cycle. Whatever it is. I also think that part of that is let’s not have something tell us about ourselves. It’s the same when you get your athletes or other clients to explore their nutritional life.
I can’t tell you how it’s going to make you feel if you eat more vegetables and animal protein. Only you can tell me that. It’s trying to also remind people. I don’t know why it’s such a scary thought of, “How do I feel?” “How does this make me feel?” “What do I need to do for me?” That continues to change. That’s the other thing. You don’t get the answers and be like, “I’m at 2,200 calories or 2,500.” You might be at 3,200. At certain times of the year, it might be 2,800. Who knows?
That’s the other part of what you’re saying. Be organized enough so you can get it done for real but then we have to keep these natural elements where we’re asking ourselves, “How does that make me feel?” Not, “My heart rate variability…” I’ve worn some wearables, I’m telling you alert, and Laird and I talked about this a lot when you wake up and it’s like, “Don’t train hard.” You feel great and there are days where it’s like, “Get after it,” and you’re freaking bone tired. Sometimes I’m like, “Really?”
I noticed that a lot with my athletes as well. There’s also a psychological component to performance when you see something that tells you, “You’re not ready to train,” and then you have to convince yourself, “I am ready to train.” There’s a benefit to those things that a lot of people are not self-aware.
I agree with this. Maybe if it’s a part when you’re entering and it gives you excitement, it gives you the thing to check in and gives you the reminder, it’s freaking great. It was like Galpin talking about his dad eating for his blood type. He goes, “A guy eating more vegetables and drinking more and getting to bed early and you’re eating for your blood type. It’s fantastic.” I agree with that but once you move into a deeper practice, a movement, hopefully, you are a little bit in tune with these things.
That’s what the goal should be.
Let’s get some monitors and we don’t need them.
If you’re going to wear that metric, tracker or whatever it is and start to figure out, “I don’t know how I feel. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I’m only operating at 50% every night that I drink.” That’s what I’ve heard a lot from people wearing a WHOOP band or a ring to bed and they’re like, “Do you know what I noticed? Even when I had that one glass of wine, my sleep was always garbage.” Intuitively, you probably knew that but now you’re seeing that and therefore, you can quit BSing yourself and now you can’t rationalize having that glass of wine on a Thursday night. You can still have it, but do you know the impact of what it’s going to do?
Do you still need the band to tell you every time that’s having an impact? No, because you’ve seen the impact that it has but maybe it was a tool for a short time to allow you to understand and be more aware of your body. I did the testing with Dan. It was earth-shattering what I found out about myself through that testing. I don’t do a test every three months. That’s a great point but I was able to figure it out. One of the things Dan said is, “You have no idea what operating at 100% feels because you’ve adapted to being at 60%.”
That’s what happens with a lot of people. You’re like, “I feel good. I feel normal.” There’s no way you feel good, you don’t know what good feels like. Sometimes you use some of these things as a small tool but a tool becomes a crutch quickly. More often than not, I see people who are obsessed with biohacking in general. It doesn’t need to be these trackers.
That almost becomes their fitness life.
It’s all about, “Hacking is the fastest way to do this.”
They talk about it at dinner. I want to stab them with my dinner fork.
You and I definitely know people like that. The other thing too, I was talking with Paulie about this and a lot of people are looking at how we can make exercise easier? How can we make this easier? How can we make everything easier so that people do it? Paulie was completely echoing the conversation I was having because we were talking about Web3 and how it’s going to turn fitness into gamification and things will become a video game with fitness. I was like, “Is that going to solve people’s problems? Maybe they’ll exercise more, but they’re not learning that exercise can be hard and doing the hard thing is the right approach.” That’s what fitness and sport teach a lot of people.
Let’s say I have this person who’s super unfit, they love playing video games, they don’t eat well, and they’re that couch potato that does that stuff. All of a sudden, we’ve developed a video game that’s physically interactive. You’re running on a treadmill and you’re doing these things. You’ll get a little bit more fitness but what you’re learning is that we have to make this fun and amusing for you. Where are you going to struggle? It’s every other area of your life.
You’re not going to make positive decisions with food, because that’s now hard. It’s hard to say no to Taco Bell and to eat the kale salad at first. You haven’t learned that doing the hard thing and leaning to this discomfort was the solution for you. We’ve simplified and we do this in every area of life. We’ve done it with convenience, we’ve done it with kids, we’ve tried to make school less hard for them and we try to give everyone a medal for participation.
We see how well that’s worked out.
All of that stuff seems good.
It’s because now you can’t even have a conversation and someone is unraveling about a thought that you’re conveying to somebody.
Which was hard to predict, because we didn’t look at the secondary and tertiary effects. We said, “How can we make this easier? People are busy. Let’s make a window where they can drive up and get their food. That should be great. People will be more efficient at work.” That’s not what happened. Everybody got fatter and we found ways like, “Driving here is hard. Why don’t we deliver it to their house?”
We find all these things and we do this in every area of our lives. We try to make things easier thinking that that is going to improve the outcomes. Most of the time, it does not. Most of the time, people adapt to that and then they go lower and lower. When you teach people ways to biohack everything, inevitably, what you’re saying is, “Here’s a shortcut. Here’s a cheat.” I see this with the, “Get the twenty-minute workout that’s as effective as sixty,” and now it’s like, “Get the six-minute workout. It’s as effective as the twenty.” No. It’s not as effective. If it was, everybody would do that.
The reality is, your body was designed ancestrally to be moving for way more than six minutes a day. If you’re only working out for six minutes, whatever you’re measuring what’s effective, let’s say it was calories burned. That’s not the only goal. Five years from now you might find out the limitations you created in your life because you did the six-minute workout instead of the 45-minute. The challenge we run into is we misplaced the goal and then people don’t learn that hard work and discomfort were the paths. That’s what the ancestral living stuff is all about.
Unfortunately, it was built in for us before trying to get food and shelter so we had it built in and now we have to consciously seek it out. Who the hell wants to do that?
Nobody. You’re designed biologically not to, that’s why it’s uncomfortable.
It’s a great thing that we don’t live that way. What about those suits?
That’s what I was talking about with the twenty-minute workout.
[bctt tweet=”Power breathing at XPT is one of our best methods because it’s applicable to many things.”]
That’s what I wanted to know. I have friends. I’m almost done. I want to ask you quickly and this is a selfish question as somebody who’s trained a lot and eats. I’m decently on it, let’s say. Laird and I talk about how sometimes, it’s valuing or honoring rest because sometimes I feel I’m in an inflammatory state. You can feel everything is inflamed and beat up and tired. Those are the days you’re like, “I’ll either do stretches or only sauna,” or things like that.
We were talking about honoring unconventional movements and things. When I say this, I mean at work, in your relationship, and all of it. It’s a certain amount of work and stress to be conscious enough of the importance. We talked a lot about XPT, active recovery, participating in your recovery, and resting, which doesn’t mean you say laying on the couch. It’s your day off. It could be in a sauna, take a nice easy swim or do your stretches. This has been something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. How much starts becoming too much?
People struggle with this more than probably anything else. They struggle with it from both ends of the spectrum. Step one, you have to figure out where you are and what type of person you are. People like you and I know that we are going to always rationalize that more work is going to be better. The rest is hard for us. Therefore, we need to make sure that we’ve prioritized that and focused on that because that’s what’s hard for us. Let’s start with that end of the spectrum.
I feel guilty. I feel weird. I’m like, “What the hell? You’re not doing anything.”
The hardest part is that you’re trying to be productive in so many areas that for you a rest day is like, “Because I’m not training today, I’ve got so much more time to focus on this. I’m going to write this new thing, and I’m going to do all this work. This can be the hardest day of work mentally.” That’s the hard part people try to balance. They don’t look at stress as stress. It’s like physical training is separate from work training. Work training is separate from other things. It’s difficult to balance all of those things and that’s one of the areas I run into on the weekends where very quickly your weekend can be all doing chores and stuff.
It’s like, “I’m not working today, but I’m working. I’m going to work out and do chores all day long.” What I try to do is I’m going to stack all that on Saturdays. I’m going to train. I’m going to do some work that I have leftover from the week. Instead of doing those chores on Sunday, Saturday is going to suck but I’m going to hammer all those things and on Sunday, I’m not going to do anything. Except for, I’m going to work on my relationship. I’m going to do fun things with Perla that are low intensity that is going to help me recover mentally, emotionally, physically, and all of that stuff. That’s a big thing.
The other end of the spectrum is because rest and sleep and all of that are becoming so much more popular, you have to earn those things. There are a lot of people I know that find it easy to wake up and go, “I was going to train today but sleep is important. I’m going to sleep until 11:00 because I need to get sleep,” or, “I’m not going to work out today. I’m going to do a sauna because it’s active recovery,” and you end up doing five saunas a week for recovery but you haven’t trained hard.
There are definitely ways to rationalize both of those things. Having the self-awareness to know where you’re at and what your tendencies are and then you have to force yourself to lean into the one that’s hard and celebrate it. I celebrate when I take a rest day like I accomplished a hard workout. When I do this intense workout, I’m like, “I crushed it today.” When I want to work out but I take it easy and I find things to do that will help me recover.
Mark and I are training for this event and it has a lot of skill components. The day before was a rest day for me. I’m not good at that so what I did was practice the skill. It’s not intense. It was low intensity. I’m going to go out and move around so I can recover my body a little bit but it keeps my mind somewhat stimulated with, “I’m going to practice the skill but,” not practice the skill like run around and make it intense. I’m just going to do some repetitions to build this skill so it is active recovery but it gives me something to do and then I check that off like, “I did that.” I did 45 minutes of that. That’s a big step in the right direction.
It’s going to help me in the long term versus what I want to do. I had to test out some equipment for striking stuff and I easily was going to turn that into a 30-minute heavy bag session, but I was like, “No. Remember, this is a recovery day.” It’s definitely challenging to figure out where that is but you have to plan it like everything else and celebrate it. If that’s the hardest thing for you to do, then you need to work on it like the other people are working on, “How do I make this work out into something that I want to do?”
The other component of that for me, and I will say that the females, a little bit more than males it’s self-kindness. Within that, sometimes, you’ve got to earn everything, you’re going to work and you’re going to do all these things, but also learning to be supple, soft and showing yourself that softness doesn’t make you less disciplined or less get it done in everything else you do. You get these Type-Aers who will grind it out until the end, I wanted to bring that up.
Finally, PJ, I have to ask you, and this has nothing to do with training. The years I’ve known you, and when I first met you, you were a bachelor. You’re a scary bachelor. You have a dynamic mother. You always got the idea of, “That’s going to be a tough pill to fill.” You have a lot of discernment. You probably had a big laundry list of what you wanted to not be a bachelor. I was like, “PJ’s going to be a bachelor for a super long time.”
I was for sixteen years.
It’s an interesting blend. You’re a smart person who’s physical, goal-oriented, and organized. You have a lot. There’s a lot going on. You’ve met somebody and you’re in this relationship. What I’m curious about is how there are a lot of people out there who wonder, “Am I going to meet my person?” With COVID and online dating, it seems even maybe a few more obstacles are in the way. What I’m curious about is one, how did you recognize, “This is someone I have a chance to be with?” I didn’t know you were looking. It didn’t feel like you were overly looking. It seemed like you were checking it out.
To answer your question directly, the biggest thing that allowed me was that I started doing a lot of work on myself. That is the reason that Perla and I are together.
Going along, you’re organized, “I’ve got it together. I tell other people how to move and go. I have some answers,” how did you recognize, “Maybe I need to do something and work on myself.”
It started with my need for optimizing everything. I was like, “I want to accomplish so much. I know that there are areas of my life that I need somebody to help me with.” I reached out to a therapist who worked with a lot of men. I was also struggling at the time. Way before XPT, I was working at a place where I felt like I had so much ambition but everybody around me was accepting mediocrity and it made me feel crazy because I was like, “Am I wrong for wanting this more out of my life? How do I connect with these people?”
I felt super isolated, which is why I left and started my own business. When I found XPT, I was like, “This is my tribe. These people want more out of everything in their life,” and that’s why I jumped in headfirst. That’s why I started seeking this person out originally because I was like, “I need help. I need help with figuring this out.” It’s making me cynical and judgmental. It was affecting relationships. Also, I had many girls that I went on first dates with who said that they were intimidated by me because they felt like they were in an interview. I didn’t have time for people who weren’t passionate about things.
I was always asking questions like what are your biggest passions? What are your biggest fears? All of this stuff didn’t feel like a first date. It was good for me because I was also trying to thin the herd. If you can’t tell me what your biggest passion is, and what your goals are in life, you and I are not going to have much in common. Unfortunately, I felt crazy because that’s 80% of the population and 80% of the dating pool. I was like, “Something’s wrong here.”
I started talking to a therapist and I was also thinking, there’s got to be thought processes that I have that are not helping me to get to where I want to be so let’s start unpacking those things. Vulnerability became a big thing that I was learning more about. At the time, I was also wanting to be a better leader and work on being more empathetic as a leader.
A lot of that stuff started helping me to identify what are the behaviors that I’ve been doing thus far in my life that are getting me these results. We have all these things we rationalize for ourselves. There are so many things that are normal that we then say, “It’s normal to do this.” I used to date 2 or 3 women at the same time. Until I figure out that one of them is the one that I want to be with, I’ll play the field.
You were always honest if I recall.
Part of that was me pushing away relationships. I don’t have to commit because I have these three things. There was a lot of that stuff that happened so I had to start looking at these things that were normal or were okay and saying, “Eventually, I do want to get married. What I’ve been doing up to this point has not brought me the person that I’m looking to spend time with or a relationship that is interesting to me. Therefore, let me start changing the way I approach relationships or dating and see if that changes the outcome.”
That’s what I started doing for a little while. Every first date I went on there were times I would go on a first date with somebody and be like, “I don’t know. I’m not super into this and maybe I don’t need to get my car washed or do this.” I was like, “If you’re not 100% into this first date, don’t go. If you even think that if you don’t approach this first date, as it could potentially be the last first date you ever go on, don’t go. That’s how you are in the rest of your life so don’t approach this with this mediocre half-ass attitude.”
I started applying that to my dating life. I was fortunate when I met Perla. I met her as a friend through XPT and she was part of my mentorship program but we connected through that same thing. We were seeking more. It’s that same passion of, “We wanted to help people find that.” She came to XPT because she’s like, “I don’t want just being a trainer. I want to help people outside of what they do in the gym. Three hours a week, doing fitness with me is not enough and we hadn’t had this conversation.” I said, “I don’t want to sell my own thing to you but I think you’d like XPT. The stuff that we’re teaching is that next level of how you can help people outside of fitness in the gym.” That’s how we built that connection.
The reason we became so close is I was able to be vulnerable with her about the work I was doing on myself. She was recently divorced and was also looking at the same thing. I’ve had a failed marriage and a bunch of relationships. I kept having the same outcome. That was the first time she took the approach of, “What am I doing that’s creating this outcome?”
We were both in that same area of our lives, which allowed us to connect on that. That’s the biggest thing that we continue to connect on. We have a lot of differences in our hobbies and all that but the one thing that is core to who we are is we both are committed to being the best version of ourselves and showing up that way in all areas of our life. Therefore, we challenge each other to do that in different ways so that was a long-winded way of explaining that.
I’m curious, though. What is the thing that surprises you if you had a belief about what relationships are versus what they can be now that you’re in a flourishing relationship?
A lot of my belief was what I will not be willing to deal with. If you ask me, I don’t deal with this. I don’t put up with that. Here’s the status bar, you have to check off. It was a defense mechanism for me to not be in a relationship because nobody would hit all those things. As soon as you do one of those things you’re like, “Nah. You’re not the one for me.” I created this false idea of what the mate or ideal partner for me had to be and therefore no one could ever stack up to it so I can continuously not be in a relationship.
For me, it was identifying that all of these were more about fixing the things that I had issues with than trying to force fit somebody into these other areas and seeing that maybe it’s my action that forces this thing. Let’s say I don’t want to deal with somebody who’s controlling. Anything that feels a little bit controlling is something I’m not going to put up with. Maybe the way that I act forces people to feel like they need to be a little bit more controlling because I’m so independent that I will push them away. As soon as you try to reconnect, I look at it as controlling and I push it away further.
I was thinking. I was going to almost say somebody who’s needy. From when I first met you to now, the emotional distance that you always had to all situations if a person was prone to be needy, it would accelerate that and be like, “I’m trying to get in your shorts.” You’re like, “I’m observing.” I can tell. I always joke that I had a list of all the things. I was 25 when I met Laird but I thought highly of myself in the way of, “I would never be with a guy who has been married and I definitely wouldn’t be with a guy who had a kid.”
The gods were like, “Are you so freaking special?” It’s what the doctor ordered because it was like, “Oh no to be in a relationship. What are you willing to navigate?” It’s interesting. I appreciate you sharing that. I have compassion that it’s hard to meet somebody even though relationships are wonderful and there are so many things and they don’t have to be heavy lifting all the time.
You are going to go through things, that’s for sure. I appreciate that because as somebody who you are organized and thoughtful and in that there’s a sternness that can be a little scary. It’s reminding people that it is out there but it probably does start first from us, from within us and then the person has the opportunity to show up.
That’s exactly the point. Perla and I met two years before we started dating. We’re engaged now but we would have never done that as if we had met at that point in our lives and that was our only interaction because she was at a different point and I was at a different point. I wouldn’t have been able to connect with her if I hadn’t been doing the work with myself and that applies to everything we’ve talked about.
Self-awareness and ownership. Ownership of all those things is how you’ll be able to have success in your fitness and in all these other areas. It’s also the willingness to lean into the discomfort. I struggled to apply a lot of those things to my relationship, but I approach it very much the same way that I approach these other things, which is, “I’ve got to lean into the uncomfortable conversations. I’ve got to be willing to look at myself and push those buttons that are challenging and do the hard thing.” The hard thing for me is relationships.
That’s what I want to ask you about. I was like, “He’s ready.” Honestly, it’s the reminder that we can show people our ugly stuff and they’ll love us and we still have a chance to work on it. I want to say that. I’ve shown Laird some crappy parts of myself and he’s like, “Okay.” We’re all so scared that somebody won’t love us or accept us. It’s quite the contrary. PJ, I’m going to see you soon. I’m excited about that. People can find you, PJ Nestler.
You have a lot of information that you are giving. Finally going into summer. Here we are, people. Any last invitation you want to make for someone who’s like, “I’m ready. I’m going to change my lifestyle habits. Summer’s motivating me. Long days. I’ve got to wear shorts. I’ve got to wear a bathing suit.” What invitation would you like to put out to them or the first place to start? The bathing suit in the short thing gets emotional and then winter comes and it doesn’t work anymore. Is it the why? Would be if someone’s reading this and they go, “I can definitely do it better,” wherever they are.
The advice that I give a lot of people is to start winning the majority of the votes. That’s something that comes with a lot of habit change but that goes with everything. You don’t have to be perfect. If you want to be better in fitness, be better more than 50% of the time. The next week, it can be 55%. The next week, it can be 57% but start making the decisions. That doesn’t mean just fitness, it means people need to understand that every single action, thought and behavior is driving you towards an outcome. Whether that’s being somebody who loses weight and your only goal is to lose weight.
Everything you do, the way you sleep, the way you think about yourself, and the way you talk to other people, every single decision that you make is either going to help or hinder that process. It doesn’t all have to be perfect but you have to win the majority of those conversations. Start winning the majority. Don’t worry about perfection but start winning the majority of those and approach every situation like that. You can celebrate the wins that one time that you chose to change. You had a different meal or you said no to that cocktail or you went to bed early that night.
If you fail the next two, but you won four of them, you’re still winning the majority and then you can start to build on that momentum. That’s what I’ve been telling a lot of people because it applies to every situation. My relationship is a good one. Start winning the majority of those conversations. Not winning versus Perla but winning together in the outcomes. That will start the momentum toward success.
PJ, it is an honor to know you and it’s an honor also to get the chance to work with you all these years. Thank you and thanks for coming up. I’m so sorry that you’re going now to go see Mark.
Thank you for having me. We’ll see what kind of shape I’m in after Mark.
What trouble are the two of you going to get into? Thank you.
Thank you very much.
That wraps it up for this episode. Make sure to follow us on Spotify for free episodes and subscribe to the Gabby Reece Show on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow me at @GabbyReece on Instagram and Twitter. Aloha.
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About PJ Nestler
Coach PJ Nestler, a human performance specialist with over a decade of experience preparing top athletes for competition. His life mission is to help athletes and coaches realize their true potential. With a passion for sports and a commitment to excellence, PJ has become a leader in sports performance training. He has trained dozens of athletes from the NFL, NHL and MLB and has worked extensively with over 100 fighters, including multiple Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champions and Top 10 ranked UFC fighters. Through the application of his progressive training philosophy and unique approach to every situation, Coach PJ continues to raise the bar for fitness professionals. He has emerged as a sought-after expert in human performance and trainer education. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him on the XPT team, as the new Director of Performance!