The importance of rest days, taking the time to reflect, and spinning hook kicks

Happy Monday,

We all know the importance of hard work in reaching our goals. Without the sweat, stress, and struggle, we won’t make progress.

What is generally underrepresented in the growth equation is the importance of rest.

Put simply: hard work plus rest = growth.

This holds true when it comes to both our fitness and non-fitness-related goals. It’s so important that you take at least one or two days off of intense training or work every week to help your body and mind recover.

For some people, the rest part of the equation is easy to do. Others  feel like they’re going backward if they’re not pushing hard, so rest becomes more challenging.

If you’re the latter (and I can relate), the key is to treat your rest and recovery days as a crucial part of the long-term growth process.

Without adequate rest, you put your body at risk for injury and overtraining.

Rest isn’t only important for body recovery; it’s also important for your mind.

Super-focused training is mentally exhausting, so our minds need a break from training as well. This is why regularly taking a day or two off to do something completely non-work-related is so key to avoiding burnout.

When it comes to fitness, rest days don’t have to mean that you don’t do anything active all day. I’m happiest when I’m moving, which is why my rest days usually include active rest day activities like skateboarding, biking, swimming, stretching, and long walks.

You can take active rest days for your mind, too, choosing to use your days off to read, learn something new, or connect with other like-minded people.

Active rest days can be a fun break and energize you for your upcoming week of training and work. More importantly, they’ll help you avoid injury and burnout so you can keep pursuing your goals for years to come.

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Five books that altered my world view, re-learning to think like a kid, and band assisted pull-ups

Happy Monday,

Books have been some of my biggest teachers in life.

I’ve always loved to read and usually have anywhere from three to six books ranging from non-fiction science-based books to autobiographies to science fiction or literary fiction all going at once.

I like to have a mix of audiobooks, Kindle books, and “real” books — I feel like I get something different out of each type.

These five books have changed my worldview in recent years and are some of my favorites:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

This is the book that started it all for me. Dweck’s differentiation between a growth mindset (the belief that your efforts make a difference and that inborn talent isn’t everything) and a fixed mindset (the belief that inborn talent is all that matters) opened my eyes to the possibility that hard work and effort is more important in the long run than talent. This change in mindset may seem simple, but it’s had a profound impact on my life (and by showing the book’s success, the lives of many others).

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard

George Leonard was a writer who wrote extensively about human potential, an aikido practitioner, and one of my favorite authors. Mastery is my favorite book of his. It’s full of inspirational and actionable advice on how anyone can attain a higher level of excellence and follow the path to mastery.

Way of the Champion:  Lessons from Sun Tzu’s the Art of War and Other Tao Wisdom for Sports & Life by Jerry Lynch and Chungliang Huang

The lessons of martial artists and warriors can be applied successfully to everyone. The authors show us how we can learn courage, confidence, leadership skills, and more through the lessons of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey

Most people understand how important exercise is for the body and overall health. In this fascinating book, Ratey shows us just how important exercise is for the brain as well. From stress prevention to addressing depression to anxiety to preventing Alzheimer’s, exercise is our best defense.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

Most of us are told that we should pick a specialty and start early and that specialists triumph over  generalists. Epstein argues the opposite, suggesting that people who find their path late and juggle many interests are often more creative, more agile, and end up making a bigger impact on their field. As someone who has bounced around in my career (and life) quite a bit, I really loved this book.

[[What books should I add to this list? If you have any good ones, please feel free to reply to this email and let me know!]] 

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On working with coaches and mentors, our daily focus quota, and handstands

Happy Monday,

When I started learning to handstand over seven years ago, I could barely hold myself up against a wall. At the time, the advanced hand balancing skills I’m working on today seemed lightyears away.

I didn’t grow up doing gymnastics and don’t have a typical gymnast’s build. So I’m by no means a natural, and my progress over the years has been slow. But I’ve stuck with my training through the ups and downs, and am immensely proud of all the progress I’ve made.

Of course, none of this would have been possible if I had tried to learn handstands all on my own. Learning from others is a key part of getting better at anything.

Finding great coaches and mentors to learn from is one of the greatest joys of life; it’s also not easy to do.

I’ve been lucky in my handstand journey to have found a handful of incredibly skilled teachers that have helped push me to levels that wouldn’t have been possible without their knowledge and encouragement.

I’ve also learned a lot about working with coaches and mentors along the way.

One lesson I’ve learned is that some of the most talented people may not be the best teachers. In my experience as an adult learning new skills, it’s best to work with people who themselves have struggled to learn the skill they’re teaching — as opposed to working with people to whom the learning came seamlessly to.

As you get more skilled at your craft, whether it’s handstands, music, writing, or growing a business, it can become more difficult to find coaches and mentors that can keep pushing your potential. This is a normal albeit frustrating part of getting better at anything.

It’s also common to outgrow your coaches as you improve. This shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing but as a positive sign of growth. Each coach or mentor can represent a chapter in your learning journey.

The most important thing is to keep learning, no matter where you’re at in your journey.

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A simple way to reframe challenges, HIIT workouts, and the Center for the Science of Human Potential

When you discover that you can’t do something, rather than feeling resigned that you’ll never be able to do it, try the reframe “I can’t do it… yet.”

You can do this with any of your fitness or non-fitness-related goals. For example:

I can’t do double unders… yet.

I can’t do a handstand… yet.

I can’t run a 5k, write a book, live my dream lifestyle… yet.

This reframe gives you room to grow and helps get rid of that feeling that a challenge is impossible.

If you can’t do something you want to be able to do, you likely just haven’t put in enough time or effort to get there yet. The more challenging the goal, the harder you’ll have to work for it.

It all starts with a growth mindset. From there, it takes the right goal-setting techniques, developing and cultivating grit, and embracing failure as part of the process.

You’re not there… yet.

Wherever you’re at, keep going.

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Why you shouldn’t rely on motivation alone, the mental benefits of being terrible at something, and middle split flexibility

Happy Monday,

It’s hard to feel motivated all the time. Even the people we think of as the most motivated — the top athletes, entrepreneurs, and change-makers — don’t always look forward to their daily grind.

The biggest difference between high achievers and everyone else is that they don’t rely on in-the-moment motivation to keep them going. Instead, they get clear on their deeper values — their “why” — then tie their motivation to those values.

The unscientific term for this is called stacking motivations — finding multiple motivators to keep you going even when you feel like doing just about anything else.

For example, if you’re having trouble feeling motivated to work out, dig deep to think about all the reasons you do want to exercise regularly, like:

  • Keeping your immune system healthy (deeper value: long-term physical health)
  • Learning a new skill or sport (deeper value: lifelong learning)
  • Better cognitive performance (deeper value: long-term brain health)

Try making a written list for any areas of your life that are important to you (I.e., health, career, relationships, etc.). That way, you’ll have something to remind you of your “why” any time you’re not feeling motivated at the moment.

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On comparing yourself to others, creating psychological flexibility, and a beach-friendly workout

Happy Monday,

When I first started boxing, I constantly compared myself to others who were more skilled than I was.

I’d envy their head movement, their footwork, their combinations, and I’d endlessly beat myself up for not being as good as them.

I never took into account that most of the people I was judging myself against had been training for years, if not a decade or more.

It simply made no sense for me to compare myself to them.

Yet, I know I’m not alone in comparing my own journey to others’.

How often do you scroll Instagram and wonder why you can’t be as strong, skilled, or athletically gifted as your favorite sports hero? Or as business savvy as your favorite entrepreneur?

This is an unfortunate habit most of us have ingrained in us from a young age.

While it can be helpful to see examples and get inspired by others who have accomplished awe-worthy things, comparing our journeys to theirs makes no sense.

You are on your journey, and other people are on theirs. Most of the time, you have no idea what they’ve gone through to get where they are today.

Stay on your path, and learn to trust the process. Your learning and growth will happen with time.

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On strategies to help you stay on top of your game, life as school, and handstands

Happy Monday,

I get asked a lot about what strategies I use to help me recover well and perform my best.

Although I believe there’s no one approach that works for everyone, here are some of my go-to strategies that help me stay on top of my game:

Move I work out six days a week pretty much without fail. Even on my days off, I take long walks with my dog or leisurely bike rides.

Research consistently shows that regular exercise helps to put us in a better mood, lowers feelings of depression and anxiety, helps us think better and be more creative, increases our ability to focus and learn, and can even increase feelings of hope and optimism.

If you need workout ideas, there are thousands of free workouts here.

Treat food as fuel — Food is a powerful healing tool and fuel for workouts and life. I don’t follow any particular diet, but I do try and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods and lots of fruits and veggies.

I really believe that food should be individualized.  What works for me might not work for you, so the best thing you can do is learn to listen to your body.

Sleep — There is so much research coming out about the importance of sleep; it helps with workout recovery, mental performance, immune health, longevity, the list goes on. If I get less than six hours, I basically feel like I’m hungover. I try my best to get seven to nine hours most days.

Learn — I’m always learning something new, including reading books, taking courses, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Learning is one of my favorite activities and the main way I keep trying to grow and evolve as an athlete and human being.

Get outside — Anyone who knows me knows I spend 99% of my day outside. Fresh air and sunshine really help keep my mood up. I prefer outdoor workouts over indoor ones as well because you get double the benefits.

Play — There’s a lot of emphasis on self-care these days, especially during COVID. But in my opinion, there’s not enough emphasis on simply having fun. Try and carve out a little time each day for fun, whether this means playing a board game with your family, playing tennis, or even just watching a funny movie.

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On making time for fun, naming the “blah” we’ve all been feeling, and jiu jitsu

Happy Monday,

When I started skateboarding a few months ago, it wasn’t because I had big dreams to ollie a trash can or skate the bowls at the world-famous Venice Beach skatepark.

I was simply looking for a low-key activity I could do to get outside, move my body, and get out of my head.

The same is true when I shoot baskets at my local basketball court. When I practice my layups and free throw shots, I’m not trying to become the next Michael Jordan. In fact, I rarely even keep track of how many shots go in. My ultimate goal isn’t to be the best, but to use it as a way to take a break, get some fresh air, and mostly, have some fun.

(Both of these are perfect active rest day activities, by the way, as are activities like going for an easy hike, biking around town, and leisurely swimming.)

Because, while having big dreams and challenging long-term goals is great (I have lots, and encourage you to have lots, too), it’s also nice to have hobbies and activities that are low pressure and just plain fun.

That’s what skateboarding and shooting baskets are for me. I use them as a way to get some fresh air and low-grade movement, to get into flow, and to stop thinking so dang much.

For you, this might mean dancing to your favorite song. Or playing with your kids (human or furry kids) at the park. Or playing tennis/soccer/ping pong/frisbee with friends.

The activity itself doesn’t matter; the goal is to have something goal-less where you can relax, get out of your head, and have a little fun.

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