Trying Vs. Regrets: Part One of My First Jiu-Jitsu Competition

I started crying on the way to my first jiu-jitsu tournament. It was the first time I was competing in the sport, and although it was an unofficial competition — a no-gi rollathon held at a local gym, nothing that will go on my record as a jiu-jitsu athlete — I was unbelievably nervous. While …

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How to Shorten Your Learning Curve in Any Craft

  “Oof.” I let out an involuntary noise as my opponent, a nameless guy at least fifty pounds heavier than me, slams my legs down, baseball slides his hips to the opposite side, and pins me to the mat. The last of the air in my chest releases as he does so. Since starting jiu-jitsu …

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The Surprising Truth About Reaching Your Goals (it’s Not About Big Gains)

Recently, at my jiu-jitsu academy, the instructor began the class like this:

“I know you all want to be great. You want to make progress, fast. But always aiming for big gains is a mistake. They’re not going to happen very often. Instead, aim to get one percent better — every single day.”

And he’s right. When working toward any goal, we rarely make big leaps overnight. Instead, we should expect our progress to add up little by little over time.

Of course, this is easy to tell others and hard to practice ourselves. Each time I step onto the jiu-jitsu mat, I’m secretly hoping for a breakthrough. Instead, I have to remind myself that pushing myself just a little harder every day will eventually result in significant long-term progress.

Whether your goal is to become a better artist, musician, writer, or jiu-jitsu athlete, your focus should be less on the big gains and more on small, daily, incremental progress. Here are three things to pay attention to when trying to get better at any craft:

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5 Universal Life Lessons from Jiu-Jitsu

Three months ago, after years of not understanding what the hype was about, I turned up at my first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. I quickly became hooked. I’m not alone in my experience — people who train jiu-jitsu often become fanatics about it. Many end up training for years, decades even, — a feat that’s nearly …

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The Five Stages of Learning and How to Apply Them to Any Skill

  “A certain naïveté is prerequisite to all learning. A certain optimism is prerequisite to all action.” — George Leonard Beginning a new learning journey can be exciting. Beginnings are full of hope and possibilities. Starting something new can give us a glimpse of what could be if we stick with something long enough to see it through. …

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My Jiu-Jitsu Journey: Part One

Many of you may know this, but I didn’t start getting into fitness until the end of college. Since then, I’ve constantly pushed the limits of what I previously believed was possible for my talent and ability level. Along the way, I’ve transformed from someone who hated exercise and couldn’t do a single push-up to …

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When it Comes to Exercise, More Isn’t Always Better

The other day, I posted a screenshot of my Oura ring data on social media. I do this sometimes to be transparent and show that as a fitness coach, I follow my own advice. I’d had a reasonably active day, skateboarding, playing basketball, and running sprints, not to mention taking my dog on several walks. …

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How Your Mindset Can Impact Your Fitness Journey

How Your Mindset Can Impact Your Fitness Journey

Think about the last time you tried something new on your health and fitness journey and struggled with it.

Did the struggle make you feel hopeless? Did you consider giving up (“I’ll never be good at this, so I might as well not even try”)?

Or did encountering the struggle give you a boost of motivation (“I won’t let this thing beat me. I’ll keep trying until I get it”)?

If you responded the first way, you most likely have what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success calls a fixed mindset. In this way of thinking, effort is seen as a bad thing. If you have to put effort into something, that means you’re imperfect. Having to work hard is a defect. If you don’t succeed, or you’re not the very best, everything feels pointless — your efforts wasted. ⁣

The alternative, a growth mindset, means that you’re focused on overall growth, not just one specific outcome. ⁣

You run to get better at running, not just to win a single race. You train to become stronger and more well-rounded, not just to get one PR. You challenge yourself to try new things and grow as an athlete over time.

With a growth mindset, your effort is never wasted because you’re never focused solely on results. Effort is worthwhile regardless of the outcome. Putting in effort is meaningful because in trying, you allow yourself to take a chance and go all-in, even if you don’t end up where you expected you would.

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The Minimalist’s Bodyweight Strength Workout

The Minimalist's Bodyweight Strength Workout

There’s a common misconception among people looking to get stronger and fitter that you need to lift heavy weights to build strength.

I’ve been a personal trainer for over ten years, and I can tell you that this just isn’t true. Although weights can be one way to get stronger, you don’t need to be constantly adding plates to the barbell to build strength and power.

If you want a high-level example of this, just look at gymnasts. Gymnasts have some of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any athletes, and they rely mostly on their own bodyweight to build their Herculean levels of strength.

In my own training, I rarely use weights. When I do, I never lift heavy. For years, my workouts have consisted of variations of pull-ups, push-ups, single-leg squats, sprints, and plyometrics — and I’m pretty strong, especially as someone who never identified as an athlete growing up. My clients’ workouts are similar. The main reason I’ll add weights to their workouts is for variety, not because they need weights to build strength and fitness.

Bodyweight exercises have several notable benefits:

  • They’re functional, better mimicking real-life movements than machine exercises
  • They help prevent injuries and are easier on your body over a lifetime of workouts
  • They’re portable — you can do bodyweight exercises whether you’re in a hotel room, nearby park, or your tiny apartment

For those of us who like to keep life simple, bodyweight workouts also act as the perfect minimalist workout. 

There’s so much you can do using your own bodyweight, and if you have access to a pull-up bar and a couple of resistance bands, you have enough to challenge yourself for a lifetime of workouts.

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5 Life Lessons I Learned From Getting Punched in the Face

I started boxing four years ago, right before my 31st birthday. It was a long time coming.

I’ve wanted to box ever since I was a kid. There’s something that fascinates me about the sport: I love the training, the journey, the sweat, and the inevitable tears. I love the griminess of boxing gyms. Maybe more than anything, I love that it brings together misfits of all ages.

And let’s be honest, it feels really good to hit something hard.

When I first stepped into my local boxing gym, my coach told me something I’d never forget: that this sport would change me. “It will wear you down,” he assured me, “and it’s up to you to build yourself back up. No one can do that for you.”

Maybe this is why so many people sign up for boxing classes but don’t stick around for more than a few months at most. In order to grow, you first have to be open to change. Most people would rather stick to the safety of their comfort zone than step into the unknown.

I, on the other hand, was ready for change. I wanted the entire forced transformation that boxing offered. I had reached a place of stagnation in my life and was desperate for a way out. So I learned the basics, awkwardly at first. If you think learning to box is easy, you’re in for a rude awakening. There’s much more to it than just hitting something (or someone) hard.

For the first few years, I wasn’t very good. I was clumsy and regularly tripped over my own feet. I got punched in the face a lot. I began sparring a few times a week, and although I kept coming back, I wanted to quit after nearly every session. More often than not, I would walk out of the gym with tears streaming down my face. But I kept showing up. I signed up for my first amateur boxing match and (barely) lost. I kept going. Covid put a wrench in my plans, but I kept training nonetheless.

I’ve learned many lessons so far on my boxing journey. All of them apply not just to boxing but all of life. Here are a few that stand out.

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