How do you stay fit when you’re trapped in someone else’s house?
Although Dr. John Berardi lives in Canada, he was caught in Arizona when the quarantine started, and was still there when we recorded today’s show.
Dr. Berardi is an author, Canadian-American entrepreneur and was named one of the 20 smartest coaches in the world as well as among the 100 most influential people in health and fitness.
No matter what life throws at John, he somehow manages to keep himself, his family, and his clients in phenomenal shape.
You’re going to like this one.
On today’s show with Dr. John Berardi, we’re talking about:
- Why the future belongs to the generalist (not the specialist)
- How to preserve your power and adapt your goals as you get older
- Why perfection is the enemy of progress
- Why we should commit to moving every single day
- Setting up your environment to outsmart yourself
- How to identify your origin story, values and purpose
- And tons more…
Let’s go hang out with Dr. Berardi.
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Dr. John Berardi: Change Maker & Adapting Your Goals with Age
Abel: The last 15 years, John has advised Apple, Equinox, Nike, and Titleist, as well as the San Antonio Spurs, Carolina Panthers, US Open champ, Sloane Stephens, and two-division UFC champ, George St-Pierre.
John, thank you so much for coming back on the show.
Thank you for having me back. I appreciate that. It’s great to see you.
Abel: Yeah, it’s wonderful to reconnect. I really respect your work and have for many years.
And one of the coolest things that’s happened over the years actually, since the last time you were on the show, is many health professionals who I respect from many different directions have gotten in touch and just been like,
“That John Berardi is on point. That was a great podcast.”
And so I just want to spread that around. If you are a health coach, professional athlete, pretty much anyone, go and listen to that past interview.
Because, it’s on point.
Yeah. That’s awesome. I appreciate you sharing that, it feels great to hear, and now there’s a little bit of pressure that we have to deliver another amazing episode.
Why The Future Belongs To The Generalist
Abel: Yeah. Well, the stakes are higher than ever, it seems.
But one thing that really stood out while reading your new book, Change Maker, was—let’s see if I can get the quote right here—”In health and fitness the future belongs to the generalist, not the specialist.”
And coming from you, I thought that was especially interesting.
So, maybe you can just start by riffing on that a little bit?
Yeah, totally. This comes from a deeper coaching philosophy that I believe that we’ve taught for years, that quite frankly, we were part of a new movement among health and fitness coaches and professionals, that we call “client-centered”.
And nowadays people have heard of that and they know that they should be practicing that.
But once upon a time—and you know this—people who were personal trainers or strength coaches really believed in a “my way or the highway” approach.
It was very coach-centered.
I went and learned stuff about physiology, and biomechanics, and nutritional physiology and biochemistry.
And so, if you want results you’re going to just do what I say. And if you don’t do what I say, then you’re lazy or you’re not willing to put in the work, and so you don’t deserve it.
And that was a paradigm that I grew up in in the fitness industry.
Usually the people who were coaches were in great shape themselves, so they were just telling you to do what they did themselves.
And so, we’ve learned over the years, borrowing best practices from change psychology and from positive psychology, that if we are going to reach a broader population—like more people who need the help—we need to put the client at the center of this exchange, not the coach.
And the way I’ve often said it is, it’s like if someone were to walk up to you at the gym and be like, “Hey, you are in fantastic shape. I’m curious, after workouts what should someone like me do for post-workout nutrition?”
And so the coach-centered approach is, “Well, I’m going to dump on you everything I know. So, after workouts you’ve depleted your glycogen and your protein synthesis is high, so you’re going to need to take in a post-workout drink that contains these ratios of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and that optimizes your blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
And then the person’s like, “Okay. Cool.”
A client-centered approach sounds more like this, “What do you like to eat after workouts? What kind of workouts do you typically do? What are your goals?”
And then you help bridge the gap between their goals, what they do currently, what they enjoy eating, and what might be a little bit more optimal for them.
So, you nudge them along the path.
So, that’s the idea of client-centered. The notion here is that if we are looking at everything we do as coaches through a client-centered lens, we quickly see that people aren’t looking for a personal trainer or a nutritionist.
They’re looking for someone to help guide broad changes in their lives that lead to them feeling better, lead to them living a better life.
So, they’re not coming to us for squats.
If we’re a personal trainer, they’re coming to feel better in their bodies.
Only a generalist can do that.
Someone who’s deeply specific in biomechanics isn’t going to help someone live a better life.
And let’s say I have a broken knee and they’re going to rehab that knee for the moment, and then that person can be functional and move again.
If we are going to sit in this role of fitness health professional, we need to understand that sleep, stress management, mental health, physical movement and nutrition, all play a part.
And if we can’t at least speak intelligently to all those things, then folks aren’t in the right spot.
Because alternatively, imagine someone goes to a physician and the doc says, “Cholesterol’s high. You’re 40 pounds overweight. Your stress levels are high. You’re not sleeping.”
So, you just run back pain, run the gamut of issues that most people have.
What I just described is not an anomaly. That’s regular.
Then what do they have to do? Do they have to go hire a back specialist? A doc, a nutritionist, someone for physical therapy and someone for personal training?
So, now they have to hire five professionals and then there’s five different facilities they have to go to.
This feels like running a small business, to run your health.
This feels like running a small business, to run your health. @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
You have five employees, five part-time employees, five different workplaces that you have to go to just to lose some weight and get your back feeling better.
That’s crap, no one’s going to do that. But that’s a model we have now.
That’s the quote. The future does belong to the generalist, not in the sense that you’re going to treat back pain and high cholesterol, and prescribe a diet and help someone work out.
But the idea is you have to speak intelligently about these things. You have to be educated on all these things.
And in some cases, if you’re a trainer or a nutritionist, helping with some sleep hygiene will help nudge that person forward. You’re not acting like a sleep doctor.
However, the other thing you can do then when you’re fluent in these disciplines is, if you notice a clinical problem, you go, “Oh, wait. This is a clinical sleep issue.”
And because I’ve done some training in sleep, I know who the sleep experts are and I know who to send this person to.
So, you’re basically like the quarterback of this person’s health team.
So, you’re going to run most of the plays, but once in a while you have to go to the specialist, and you’ll know them if you’ve studied that.
And if you haven’t studied that, you won’t know who to send them to and you won’t be helpful in that role.
So, I really believe this is what the future is moving towards.
The past was a lot about specialization and there’s a bunch of sociocultural reasons for that, but really when we’re talking about helping individuals with their health, you have to be a generalist.
You can start from a specialty, like I did. I have a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry.
But then I realized, “Oh man, I’m not helping people at the level that I could be. I have got to go learn about these other things, too.”
Abel: And that can be fun and reinvigorate your own career when you do so.
I know for me as a musician but also in health, I like to go from a little specialty rabbit hole to rabbit hole. And one thing that I’m super intensely interested in for three to six months might really disappear and I might not do it again for a few years even.
But when you allow yourself to do that, instead of just being really territorial over your specialty, I’ve seen people can really grow in profound ways.
Absolutely. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read David Epstein’s book, Range, yet?
Abel: I haven’t. No.
If you haven’t, it’s incredible. It’s one of the best books that I’ve read in the last few years.
And his thesis is essentially this: We are often pointed to deep specialists because they make great media stories, especially someone who’s been a prodigy.
In the book he uses Tiger Woods in golf as an example, and we often look at chess prodigies. Or someone who’s 4 years old and beating grown men on the golf course.
And these make for great little hooky media stories, but they’re not representative of what it takes for mastery.
And people who have real mastery, people who are inventing things, people who end up being successful in the long haul, generally don’t have deep specialization but they have range.
They have a bunch of weird things that on its face you see these people almost apologizing for, “Well, I spent a few years doing this and then I spent a few years doing this. And I know it feels like I have career ADD.”
And it’s these folks who can draw from the learnings in the different disciplines that they’ve played around with to solve new problems in the discipline that they’re working on now.
So, it’s a really passionate argument, super well-written, for this idea of range, for this idea of maybe career-wise you’ll work in a specific lane, but spending time in all these disparate areas of learning that you can draw from.
Because most of us solve problems through analogy.
Ray Dalio talks about it in his book, Principles.
Wisdom is essentially going, “Ah, another one of those. I’ve seen this kind of thing before over there, never here but over there. And how did we deal with that over there? Oh, maybe we’ll try that here.”
And that’s what a lot of innovation is.
It’s not making something up out of thin air.
It’s just saying, “Oh, I’ve seen that done over there but no one’s ever applied it here.”
The only way you would have seen it over there is if you looked at something that’s not the thing you’re looking at all the time.
I remember when I was an undergrad, I did a paper on the discovery of the double helix in DNA.
And Watson and Crick were the guys who discovered this, and neither of them was a geneticist. They didn’t study genetics.
They studied chemistry and they were in other areas. And so when they came into genetics, they had this fresh take on it.
And they said, “Oh, I saw something like this over in chemistry. Let’s try solving this. Oh, wow,” and then bam they discover the fundamental structure of DNA.
So, I think it’s a super interesting thing.
Most people who read the book who’ve been generalists in their lives or who have disparate passions and stuff, feel so validated because they’re like, “Man, my life is… people make fun of me for being this way.”
But also, I think almost everyone who reads the book loves it, because how many people are really single-minded, and spend their whole lives on one thing as specialists?
Almost no one.
And I love that we’re talking about this, you and I, because I see all your musical instruments in the background.
This is one part of your disparate personality. You know what I mean?
And now we’re talking about health and fitness, and nutrition and career.
And it feels like to the outsider who wants to simplify a person, that those two shouldn’t go together.
But they do and often in beautiful ways, in ways that are more helpful than someone who only focuses on one thing.
Adapting Your Goals As You Get Older
Abel: Oh, absolutely because I get tendinitis and lactic acid build-up in my fingers when I’m doing guitar solos and practicing piano scales.
And I have problems with my vocal cord and opening my jaw in the right way.
And I need to sense that in the same way that I do when I’m out running, or doing push-ups or doing heavy lifts.
I see these things, it’s just like, “Oh, I know what that is,” or, “I know I can do these stretches and open up the shoulder because it’s connected to this and maybe I can run my scale faster and not mess up the next time.”
Those transferable skills are more valuable than people realize.
And one thing that’s so important there that I did learn from music, is that you need to spend especially a lot of your practice time working on your weaknesses, which is pretty easy to say and a nice cliche.
But is it something that you actually do?
Because when you actually go into your workout or your practice, it’s really easy to just get into that groove and do that same thing that you do and not really challenge yourself.
So, one thing I wanted to ask you was, especially because you’ve been operating at a high level, but in different ways over the course of your career.
Let’s just talk about athletics first. How are you adapting yourself and your goals over the years?
Yeah. Lately, what I’ve been doing is Master’s level of track and field.
That’s been a really fun thing and also so helpful, I think, for physical health and longevity.
For years I was very interested in bodybuilding.
I competed in bodybuilding and powerlifting at a high level. And I did that and that develops a certain kind of body.
Then when I got to my late 30s, I’m in my late 40s now, but when I got to my late 30s, I was like, “Okay, so spending all this time at the gym is somewhat counter-productive to my goals right now.”
Number one, we have a family and so being like, “Oh, Daddy’s going to go to this place where you can’t go and is actually maybe dangerous for you,” for all these hours in a week, didn’t feel like it was serving that family goal.
And then also, as I was getting older, I’d have new aches and pains related to heavy lifting, mobility issues.
So, I was like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if there was an activity I could do outside that my family could engage in as well, that helped with mobility, that still preserved my strength and power, and also allow me to compete in something?”
Because I feel like humans, fundamentally, at different levels want to compete.
There’s probably standard deviations from the mean, but they want to test themselves in certain capacities.
And that doesn’t mean like competing for a ribbon or a medal, but they want to test themselves.
Abel: They need a challenge. They need a carrot in the future, right?
That’s right. We were just talking about this. We spend the winter in Scottsdale, Arizona
So, half-a-mile outside my door is Camelback Mountain, which is, it’s rated extremely difficult of a hike.
Do people actually enjoy the hike up Camelback? If you go fast.
Actually my wife and I go for time, and we can get up there in 30 minutes or less.
Abel: That’s fast, by the way.
Yeah. Your lungs are burning.
Abel: That’s a good time.
Your legs are burning.
Is it fun? No.
But it feels great when you’re done. What is that?
It’s that fundamental desire to compete. Compete against the mountain or whatever.
So anyway, I was like, “Track is the perfect thing. It’ll allow me to compete in something.”
It’ll allow me to do it with my family, bring the whole family to the track. They could see me being active. They can participate in it.
And also, the drills, like the warm-ups and the skill practice for track is essentially dynamic mobility drills.
It’s what people always tell you to do before weightlifting and no one ever does.
The workout is actually that. It’s not like you can skip that.
And so for me that’s just become the thing that’s been really interesting to me like, “How can I find activities that we can do as a family?”
How can I find activities that we can do as a family? @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
I still want to look good, though. I built a lot of muscle when I was younger.
I still want the muscle. I want to fill out my t-shirts and not buy a whole new wardrobe.
I want to preserve my power, which is one of the things that diminishes with age.
You can keep strength. You can keep conditioning. But power is the thing that diminishes first, as you get older.
So, for me that’s been the new metamorphosis and the new thing that this decade has been about.
I still am in the weight room a couple of days a week. But it’s less of a big part of what I’m doing physically.
And then another part is just what other fun activities, like I mentioned. We’re hiking one or two days a week as our activity, as well.
So, how do we blend the things that we enjoy with things that help with our goals?
And you’re allowed to have whatever goals you want, as diverse as they need to be.
And then also, “How do I include the people that I care about?”
So, that’s what physical stuff’s happening for me right now.
Abel: Yeah, that’s cool. And I can notice from the video that you are a little bit more tan than usual when you are living in Canada.
So, I wanted to ask about that, because I grew up in the north and moved down south.
And my brother went to school at McGill in Canada. So, I spent a bunch of time up there.
But you’ve been healthy in multiple places and I assume your family, as well.
I’m wondering, some people tend to use that as an excuse.
“It’s too hot in Arizona right now in the summer,” or, “It’s too cold in Canada in the winter.”
So, what are some of the adaptations that you have made, or how have you made sure as a family that you don’t fall into the wrong pattern?
Yeah. That’s a great question. I remember I did that when I moved to Canada at first, because I grew up in the States.
When I moved out to Canada, it’s dang cold.
The thing that I learned was the first iteration of my mental evolution.
Well, I started out, “It’s cold in the winter. I’ll just stay inside,” or whatever.
And then I learned, “Oh, wait. No, no, no. Canadians understand, it’s just about the gear that you have.”
If you have the right winter clothes, it doesn’t feel so crappy. Alright, cool.
So, I got the right gear and I’m like, “This is amazing.”
And then the second mental evolution happened. I think the first one permitted it.
The second mental evolution was, “I need stuff to get excited about in the winter. Not just tolerate.”
Like, “Okay. It’s not sucky when I wear the right clothes, but what fun stuff can we do?”
And that started to happen right around the same time we had kids.
So, I was like, “We can do lots of fun, winter activities.”
So for us, we don’t live near mountains in Canada, so we’re not skiers, snowboarders, stuff like that.
But we have snowmobiles, we can build huge snow forts, we can go sledding.
So it becomes this like, “Wow. We get to ski, or snowmobile, and sled and build our forts.”
So when the winter comes, last year we built a snow fort that had multiple chambers, long tunnels connecting them, you know what I mean?
Abel: Yeah, yeah.
That becomes part of the winter thing. The other thing we’re really fortunate, is we have a gym.
We have a detached garage on our property that’s about a 1000 square feet.
And we built out a really functional space there. So as a family, in the winter we’re out there, in the summer we’re out there, in the spring were out there.
Down here right now, I just posted a picture on my Instagram today, it was like 109 yesterday in Scottsdale.
Abel: It gets so hot.
Yeah, it’s real hot.
Abel: You start melting into the pavement.
Yeah, I had to teach the kids like, “Don’t go outside bare feet.”
Because they kept wanting to run outside bare feet.
I’m like, “You will scald.”
Abel: Seriously, yeah.
“It won’t be good for you.”
So then what we do is, we just do our family physical activity first thing in the morning, and then again in the evening.
So our youngest is three, she jumps in a carrier with me, so I’ll do an hour walk with her in the carrier, the boys who are five and seven, will go for a bike ride with us.
Why Commit to Moving Every Day
We do it when it’s cooler. And so to your point, it’s really about making some commitment to moving every single day.
Obviously, perfection is the enemy of progress. @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
You might not be able to do the perfect thing every day, but we can do something every day.
And that’s really our goal.
And right now in the time of COVID-19 or whatever, we’re not going to the gym, it’s 110 here in Scottsdale. We’re finding other ways.
At Precision Nutrition, they just published an article that Craig Weller, who’s the head of programming there, and I have talked about for years.
But the idea is, he calls them, “trigger workouts”.
So, it’s like conventionally what you might do if you go to the gym for strength training, is you’d go and you do a couple hundred good reps, broken up over sets during a concentrated hour long period.
Okay, well, what if you don’t want to do it that way, or what if you want to reverse the pattern?
The pattern of working out is, you do this one thing for an hour and the rest of the day you sit.
What if you broke that up and you did 20 mini workouts throughout the day?
What if you put a couple of kettlebells in locations that in your house that you would trip over, and when you walk by them you do 20 kettlebell swings? Or cleans or presses, or whatever.
And so we’ve been playing around with that. What if we just do 20 mini workouts every day?
What if every time me or the kids has to pass a specific portion in the house, we have to do 10 push ups?
Not as penalty, but we get to do 10 push ups.
And so the idea of it is triggering activity in your course of your daily wanderings.
And so we’ve been playing around with that right now. Now that we’re quarantined and not really doing much except for walking around the neighborhood, or going for a socially distanced hike, we’re just around the house collecting that physical activity over the 24 hours rather than in a one hour concentrated period.
Abel: Yeah. I am such a fan of that, and it’s one of the things that gets me through long recording days.
Because sometimes I’ll do five – eight interviews in a day, or even more than that, so it can be just non-stop.
But during those little breaks, I’ll go outside, get fresh air, let the sun hit my eyes and my skin, and start to relax just a little bit, get some blood flowing.
And then I have a pull-up bar over there, kettlebell back there, kettlebells all over the upstairs, and then even just a few push ups.
But I feel like the trickiest, at least for me with those micro mini workouts, is that you can’t have too high of a commitment, or it’s like,
“I’m not going to do swings with the 70 pound kettlebell for a mini workout, but I might do some pulls with it, or I might do something a little bit less aggressive.”
That’s right. Yes.
Abel: And so you have to find your own way of doing it, is what I’m trying to say.
That’s it, yeah, yeah. You shouldn’t accumulate 20 super intense mini workouts in the day, that will wear you down.
One person even asked like, “Well, doesn’t that suck, to have to take that many showers a day?”
And I’m like, “No, if you’re having many showers a day, you’re doing it all wrong.”
That’s like the test. It’s like the talking test with your walking, if you want to stay in your fat burning zone, you should be able to talk to your neighbor.
It’s kind of like, if you want to do these right, you shouldn’t be having to shower after it. I think that’s a really good test.
You might glisten a tiny bit, but that’s fine, you don’t need a shower after glisten.
But I totally agree, yeah, you’re not cranking it, you’re just accumulating.
And the way that I think about it is just reps, how many reps would you normally do in an intense workout?
If you do 15 sets of exercises, 10 reps, you’re accumulating 150 good reps in a hour-long workout.
Okay cool, could you get those 150 spread over the day, right?
You probably double that, you probably could quadruple that.
But if you quadruple it, they can’t be as intense.
So, I love how you’re talking about doing it too, and even getting the sun on your skin, that’s how we had it set up ’til it was 110 out here, ours were just in the little backyard and we would hit the backyard every day, and that’s the double dose of healthiness.
Abel: It is and you might not like it right away, or you’re going to be like, “Why am I doing this? This seems stupid.”
But after you do it a few times and you build that habit, and your body and your mind learns to expect the pay off at the end, then it’s a lot easier to do it.
And you know why you’re doing it, because you feel so much better even if you just get that little bit of heart rate elevation and the blood flowing.
And you get into a different mental state, or at least I do, and that’s very important no matter what you’re doing throughout the day.
And I think it’s abnormal the way that most people do it, to your point, where you’re concentrating doing this incredible workout and then you’re just sitting around for the rest of the day.
Not anyone’s fault, by the way, that’s literally the way that our culture and society, business and all these corporations have been built, or at least the way that they used to be.
What is the “New Normal?”
Abel: But we find ourselves now, whether we like it or not, with this huge reset button.
So, how are you seeing our way of maybe adapting to what’s coming, or what does health and fitness look like in the future to you?
Yeah. I don’t know. I’m not super optimistic that things are going to massively change.
And I’m willing to be proven wrong, I’m excited to be proven wrong.
I liken what I think people will do next. The analogy, as we talked about earlier, I look toward is, I used to compete in bodybuilding.
And what happens when you get ready for a bodybuilding contest?
Well, you know it’s going to be on a certain date.
So, you back calculate 12-16 weeks. And at that 12-16 week point, you ramp up your exercise and you start eating very, very little.
And you tough it out because you know you have a contest, you know at the end of the 16 weeks there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
So, you diet really hard, you restrict most of the foods you enjoy eating, you eat less than normal.
So, even if you were eating foods that you like, being in a calorie deficit causes cravings itself.
So, you could just be eating ice cream, and hamburgers and a calorie deficit, and still you feel crappy, but you’re like,
“Cool. But the contest will be on this day. I’ll look amazing.”
And then everyone’s best intention is, “Oh, well, after the contest, I’ll reverse diet,” what people call it.
“So I’ll add a couple of hundred calories a week, slowly add back up so I don’t gain too much,” but no one does that. No one reverse diets after a hard show.
They just eat everything, and their appetite is so crazy high because the restriction that’s been happening.
It’s physical. It’s a physiological phenomenon and a psychological one. And they gain 30 pounds in two or three weeks.
Abel: Yeah. Or even a weekend I’ve heard, 25, 30 pounds in a weekend.
Totally. And that’s people of normal size. I competed in the Mr. USA Bodybuilding Competition in 1995.
So a lot of these guys are 250 or whatever. Those guys could gain 60 pounds in one or two weeks.
And so I’m like, “This is what humans want to be, is the people who can just add things slowly in until they get back to a new steady state.”
Who humans mostly are, is once the contest is over, we just binge.
So, most of me feels like that’s what’s going to happen.
So when restrictions are lifted, when people aren’t asked to social distance, when businesses are allowed to open, I feel like we’ll do the bodybuilding contest diet equivalent.
People will just rush out in an orgiastic feast of activity, because they’ve been socially isolated.
They haven’t been able to go to restaurants. They haven’t been able to have the freedoms to do the things that they’re used to doing.
And the logical consequence is, “Well, we should do this in the safest possible way. We want to do this in the safest possible way.”
We won’t do this in the safest possible way. We’re just going to rush out into the world and try and make it as normal as it used to be, because that will feel right to us.
I feel like there’s a very collective breath-holding right now. @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
It’s like, “I’m going to hold my breath until this is all over and then I’ll exhale.”
And it’s not lasted long enough to force us to be a new way. Two months isn’t much.
We can hold breath for two months. We can hold on to normal in our brains for two months.
If this lasted a year, I think people would start fundamentally changing their expectations from the world, their way of being.
I just think it’s too short to fundamentally change. It’s a contest diet. It’s not even as long as a contest diet.
Again, I’m happy to be proven wrong, but what I know about human psychology suggests to me that when we feel like we’re allowed to do all the things we used to do, we are going to do them plus some extra percent, because we haven’t been able to do them.
With that said, when we talk about, let’s say gyms, for example, there may be some changes in what’s being offered.
But think of the interesting consequences. Let’s say 25% of the gyms in your town close.
Well, that means that all the people who are going to come back out and exercise can only go to three quarters of the spaces they used to.
So, I think gyms are going to be more crowded, not because more people are exercising, but because there may be fewer than them.
And that will set another interesting thing in place. You know what I mean?
Like what will be the knock on effects of that? So I don’t know.
I don’t have a crystal ball here, but I think people are going to try and get back to normal as fast as possible.
And maybe they’ll forget some of the things that happened during this time, because everyone’s saying it when they greet each other, “Weird times, isn’t it?”
But I think what you were hinting at is, “Man, maybe not so weird, actually. Maybe this is how people lived for most of human history, not so regimented, not so scheduled, not so determined by the structures that tell us how to be,” right?
So, maybe it’s not so weird times, but I don’t know that people will be like,
“I learned some really important lessons and I’m going to be different in the world now.”
How To Adapt Your Goals During Major Life Changes
Abel: Yeah. That’s a good point.
Well, one thing that might have some answers in it that I really wanted to ask you, because you’ve worked with so many elite level athletes, and one thing that you see happen that’s similar to what you were just talking about after competition, is after this person’s retired or their career is over and in that performance part, or really the competition part is over.
You either see them completely fall off the wagon, gain a bunch of weight and just be completely unathletic and maybe die early, or you see them live forever and stay in shape into their 90s.
And that’s not everybody, obviously, that’s the exception. But how do we trend toward that?
Right. Yeah. It’s a good question.
I was thinking about this actually the last few days, because I don’t know if you’ve seen or heard of The Last Dance documentary.
Abel: I did.
Yeah. Okay. So the Chicago Bulls from the ’90s were often considered one of the greatest sports franchises ever.
had Michael Jordan, who everyone knows, and Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. And it was a really unique collection of people.
And so during their last season together, a documentary filmmaking crew had access to them, and they hadn’t put anything together from that and that was 1997.
So, here we are 20 some years later and they release a 10-part documentary about that season, highlighting the figures.
And it’s a fascinating documentary, maybe one of the best sports documentaries that’s ever been made.
And one of the many things running through my brain was, they’re interviewing some of these athletes now who are 20 years, sometimes more past their prime, and some of them look phenomenal and some of them look not so good.
And so obviously part of that can be attributed to genetics.
You can thank your parents for that, and they can thank their parents, and you go all the way back to when your gene line started, right?
And the other thing is obviously some choices that people have made since then.
And in some interesting way, I think we all have to face the same challenge.
We might not have to be pro athletes who are retiring, but you and I before we started recording talked about changes in stages of life, and I think that’s really what we’re talking about, right?
You were in the athlete stage of your life. It wasn’t a mini death per se, but you changed a stage.
And now who are you going to be in this new stage?
And so I think it’s a question we all have to answer for ourselves.
As new stages, like a new move, a new relationship, having children, children moving out, a new career, all of these things are triggers for a choice.
They ask you to choose. And not intentionally choosing is also a choice.
And so, “Who will I be? What is my goal in this new phase? How am I going to bring the best practices from the last phase into this one? Or how will I adopt some new one into this new phase?”
These are all things we have to think about.
This is really top of mind for me, because in late 2017, I sold Precision Nutrition, it’s what I had done for almost my entire career, because prior to that I was an eternal student.
And it was a very positive thing but it went away.
And then that big huge thing dominating most of my life and a lot of my identity, was gone.
And so it was like a process of becoming really intentional about who I will be in this new phase, you know?
And that’s everything from, how will I exercise and eat, to how will I spend my days, to how will I interact with my family, to how will I interact with other professionals?
Will I work in health and fitness again or not?
That’s what the book you held up earlier, Change Maker, was about, actually. It was about me capturing everything that I think I learned in 30 years in health and fitness, putting that down, giving that to the industry, and then saying,
“I may never work in this field again, I’m not sure. But here you go, I think I might be done with this and maybe on to other things.”
So, that’s a high level view, and this is how I am in the world, and I always feel the need to apologize for it a little bit.
I think you can’t enter into a question like, “How should you exercise after your career is over as an athlete?”, without talking about the mental philosophy first, and then get into the tactics.
So, it’s like you have got to get your head right, and then we can talk about what to do.
And for a lot of athletes because I’ve worked with loads, the way for them to stay healthy, if you want to call it that, after athletics, is often just a simple departure from what they used to do.
You’ve talked to people.
If you were a competitive rower at the Olympic level, don’t think rowing is going to be the thing that keeps you in shape after you retire, you know what I mean?
If you were a competitive sprinter, you may never sprint again.
So, what other activities can you find that are different enough from the thing you used to do, so that you’re not making these comparisons to how you used to be.
Because there’s nothing that feels worse than going to the track and getting slower every time.
And you’re getting slower intentionally because you’re retiring from your sport.
But when you’re slow and you see people you used to be beating.
And then one day a high school girl passes you, you’re like, “Alright, this isn’t what… ”
It doesn’t feel good. My ego takes a blow.
So it’s often, “What activity can I do that’s a real departure?”
And I think these departures are critical, and I’ll give you an example.
Setting Up Your Environment To Outsmart Yourself
After I sold PN and we did a proper transition out of my roles, I realized that for many years, my routine looked like this:
I’d wake up, I’d go out to the kitchen, start prepping lunches for the kids, help Amanda get the kids ready for school.
She would drive them to school. I would turn on the teapot, sit on the counter, take some deep breaths, do whatever, meditation, get my tea when it was ready, walk this path to my office.
You’re talking about 10 years of walking the same path through my house every Monday through Friday, it’s a well worn path.
Now, you sell your company, what are you inevitably going to do every day? The same thing.
After the kids leave and you do your thing, and you grab your tea, you’re going to pad that same path to your computer, but now something’s going to be different.
Like this Precision Nutrition thing isn’t going to need you anymore. So how am I going to stay out of that? Because that’s not my thing.
We were always a remote company so we used Slack as a way of communicating with each other, which is a group, chat rooms and stuff.
And I was like, “I know I’ll sit there, there’ll be no tasks for me. I’ll just be bothering people in Slack.”
Because that’s the habit. What you’d be doing is just running a program that you have grooved for so long.
So I’m like, “I have to do something different enough.”
So what I started doing was, after I had the tea, I would go to the gym.
So I’m like, “I’m going to walk a totally different path so that I don’t find myself in the same path going, ‘How did I even get to this computer? How did I even get on Slack today?’”
And I think that’s for me like a bit of an illustration or analogy for what we have to do when we go through these transitions, from sport to not sport, from old relationship to new relationship, parent to kids moved away.
We have to think, “There are grooves in my life that I’m going to be stuck in unless I create a different routine.”
There are grooves in my life that I’m going to be stuck in unless I create a different routine. @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
And that routine isn’t some huge thing. It’s literally the footsteps that you take and the path you walk through your current life.
It could be the hallway you walk down.
Change the hallway you walk down and maybe you end up walking to a totally different place in your life.
Abel: Yeah. And sometimes, I’ll just add on to that with something that recently happened.
We turn our internet off at night most of the time, and we just do it manually, we could set it up automatically but we do it manually.
And so a lot of times in the morning I’ll wake up, and I’ll grab a device or something, boot it up and there’s no internet and I’m like,
“Oh, I don’t want to be here anyway.”
Yes, that’s such a perfect example.
We start becoming self-aware at a certain point in your life and you watch yourself be the way you’re being.
And I remember watching myself one day, and this is just such a simple story, but I take Creatine in my tea every morning.
And so you do that long enough. And every day you go out, and you start making the tea, you’re not thinking about it, and you grab the Creatine, you put it down.
So one day you run out of Creatine, and it literally takes me five days of swiping at the non-existent Creatine bottle before I realize, “It’s not there, dummy!” You know?
Abel: Right. Yeah.
And then if you take a week of not grabbing the Creatine, when you order new Creatine, you forget to grab it.
This is just how, I always say that humans are so cute and adorable in the way that we are. And not in a patronizing way.
We just have these little things. It’s like, we constantly have to figure out ways to dance with the little tricks our brains are playing on ourselves.
So it’s like a game of “outsmart yourself” all the time.
And so yeah, you’re grabbing the device and you’re like, “Why isn’t this internet working? What the heck? Oh, wait, I turned the internet off now. Oh, on purpose. Okay, things are fine. This is how I want to be.”
But it’s great because if you don’t set the environment, telling yourself not to go on the internet in the morning doesn’t work, because you’re on it before you even choose.
This is how I think we have to be with all aspects of our life, with our fitness, with our relationships, with our work.
How intentional can I be?
And then once I set the philosophical intention, how can I create the environment to support that?
Once I set the philosophical intention, how can I create the environment to support that? @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
How To Identify Your Origin Story, Values & Purpose
Abel: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t believe it, but we’re almost out of time.
So, before we go, why don’t we talk about Change Maker a little bit, and also the other stuff, now that you have this whole new career that you’re looking at, and you have all this other stuff in the rearview mirror.
I’m curious about what you’re looking at in the future?
Yeah. Change Maker, again, is just simply me saying, “How can I most authentically capture the things that I learned over the last 30 years, running a business that eventually sold for close to $200 Million, and coached 200,000 people and certified 150,000 professionals?”
So, I think we created a special thing, and recognized as that pretty universally in the field. How could I share everything that I learned in an authentic way?
And that’s what made it really hard to write, because it’s easy to write cliches and things that you’ve heard before.
It’s hard to evaluate every single thing that’s tripping out of your mouth and say, “Do I really believe this? Or is this what I think people would say in this moment, in this part of the book?”
And so it took me two years to do that culling process. Actually, it took 15 people.
There’s this process I use called “thinking aloud” and I describe it in the book, where you simply can’t know if your work’s good enough.
It’s in the space between you and other people, that you find out where good ideas live.
It’s in the space between you and other people, that you find out where good ideas live. @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
You ultimately have to be the decider.
You’re the curator of your creations, but without playing in that space between you and others, you just never know if things are good enough.
So, I brought 15 people together, I gave them all a Google document version of the book, the best version that I had done, and I had them do this thinking aloud process. Which isn’t an editing process.
What I have them do is just say what they’re thinking, and feeling and reacting to, in the margins of the document.
And so it’s like, “This joke is great, this joke is terrible. I don’t think you really meant to say this. I don’t get this at all.”
It’s not a time to be polite, and it’s not a time to find grammar errors.
It’s a time to react as a authentic human would to work. But so I can hear it, so I can make it better.
So, it took two years and all of that, but the gist of it is, how can you navigate a life that has work in it?
Health and fitness people are my people, so I wrote the examples for them, but it’s really a universally applicable book.
How do you view career? How do you identify your unique abilities, your values, your purpose?
And even your origin story? What made you? What radioactive spider bit you and turned you into that thing that you have the potential to be right now?
And then we go through “business,” what does that mean? What does that look like in the context of your own unique abilities, and values and purpose?
“Coaching”, and that almost is a fetishized word to me nowadays.
What I really mean is, how do you be with other people effectively?
Whether you’re parenting, whether you’re doing leadership, or whether you’re coaching clients, it’s all the same thing.
How do I be effective with other people?
And then there’s education, how do you look at education?
And then my favorite part is reputation.
How do you build a reputation so that when you walk in the room, people are happy to see you? @ChangeMakerFit Click To Tweet
People want to work with you, people want to do business with you.
And so it’s everything I’ve learned there.
And I’m incredibly proud of the book. It was hard. It was hard to do, because I wanted it to be excellent. And it’s done extremely well.
It’s actually Tuesday, the 5th, was its sixth month anniversary of being born into the world.
We’ve sold over 50,000 copies now.
We’ve got almost all five star reviews. We have no one or two star reviews on Amazon. So it’s just, it’s done really well.
And for me the metric though, wasn’t sales or whatever. It was, am I going to create something that’ll bring real value to the people who go through it?
And I say “go through it,” because as you see, it’s not just a read-before-bed book, there’s activities, there’s worksheets, there’s scripts.
This is a do-the-work book. You’re going to answer questions, and you’re going to do some deep dives, and you’re going to fill out some things.
And you’re going to practice some stuff on friends and family. And that’s how you’re going to get something out of this book.
So, without going on and on too much about it, I’d love anyone who works in health and fitness to check it out.
And even folks who don’t work in health and fitness but are searching for some way to really leverage who they are uniquely, and bring something out in the world for other people, to figure out how to do that effectively.
Where to Find John Berardi
Abel: Totally. What’s the best place to find you and your book, John?
So, the book is everywhere, so you can get it on the Amazons and those kinds of places.
Also, we created a new business around it called, the Change Maker Academy.
And so that has all the listings for where you can get the book and the other things that we’re going to be offering down the line.
So, changemakeracademy.com, or again, for the book, Amazons and all the other places where you buy books, you can find it there.
You can also find me at JohnBerardi.com. And I’m on Instagram @drjohnberardi, on Twitter @ChangeMakerFit, and on Facebook, as well.
Abel: Awesome stuff. Well, I highly recommend it. I have taken some high level extremely expensive courses and classes in the past.
And I can say that you get your bargain with this book. Because you’ll get some work done.
If you follow it, you go through it, and you go through the things that you recommend, John, there’s a lot of work that you can do on yourself and on your business, and where you want to go.
And we all could do a little bit more of that work, I think, if we’re honest with ourselves.
Take a step back and be like, “Why am I here again?”
Maybe we should all shut the internet off, too.
Yeah, totally. Yeah, as I talk about in the book, my way of doing that was Thinking Fridays. I would block off Fridays.
Mondays and Tuesdays were for creative work. Wednesdays and Thursdays were for all the meetings that inevitably come up when you have a business.
And then Fridays were Thinking Fridays, and that was where I would do exercises like this.
I would find believable experts who could coach me on new decisions or how to seize opportunities or deal with challenges.
And so yeah, I agree. Nowadays, there’s a bit of a fetishization on action-taking, you go to a seminar and at the very end people are like, “So what I need you to do is go home and take action, because unless you take action blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Action takers are the people.”
I actually think you need to think first for a minute. Because blind action-taking can just run you into brick walls all day long.
What you want to do is take correct action. And that means having a thoughtful plan to begin with.
And you and I are going to head nod at this because we’re both biased towards time and reflection, trying to be thoughtful and intentional.
But the people who are like, “I don’t know about that,” are the ones who need this most.
They’re the ones who have to realize that, it’s having a strategy, a direction,
“I want to head in this direction. This is my goal, this is what I want to accomplish. Okay, now I’m going to be a mad crazy action taker, but first point me in the right direction.”
Abel: Right. Well, John, we need your work more than ever. Thank you so much for coming on the show, man.
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Thank you to everyone who’s listened, or watched, or however you’re consuming this.
I really appreciate you spending time with us today.
Before You Go…
Here’s a note that just came in from Kevin. He says…
“Hey Abel, I’ve been a listener to your podcast for years. I’m glad you were able to overcome your health issues.
My shipment came today, and I can’t believe how good the Collagen Cocoa tastes. Truly amazing! I wasn’t ready for it to be in such a big container though, hahaha.
Thank you for the Mega Omegas, Future Greens, and Vitamin D Stack, as well. I’ll also be trying your Adrenal stack for the first time.
Thanks again, since I believe in your cause and will continue to support both you and Alyson through Wild Superfoods. Keep up the great content and stay healthy! Be safe out there!
Thanks again from an extremely satisfied customer,
Hey, Kevin, man, thank you for the kind words.
And you know what, you’re not the only one who’s written in with some really wonderful things to say about what we’ve been doing with Wild Superfoods.
It’s taken us a really long time. We used up pretty much all of our savings to get to where we are now, but we’re so proud of the products that we have out, and Collagen Cocoa is one of our newest ones, and so many people who’ve got in touch and they’re just like, “I can’t believe how good this tastes.”
It tastes good enough that Alyson has made some brownies using it as an ingredient. We’re coming up with a whole bunch of just different desserts.
One of the things I like to do is just throw it into a bit of plain, full-fat, Greek-style yogurt. If you put a little bit of that Collagen Cocoa in there, whooo, it’s a whole different game, and of course, a lot of us already know how good collagen is for us, especially from a clean source, and these cows are raised on pasture as nature intended.
So we’re really happy to be able to offer this.
And one of the other things that you brought up, Kevin, is that with Wild Superfoods, we err on the side of having big containers that are full of nutrients, full of food.
You know, a lot of times when you order something or you get it at the store, it’s like the bag of chips effect, where you just get this tiny little amount in the bottom, and a lot of supplement companies will do that. That’s not what we do.
When you order, especially Future Greens and Collagen Cocoa, you get a big, generous serving of the stuff that’ll last you a while, and we’re really proud of the way that it taste, and also how it shows up in your results in the way that you feel.
Alyson, myself, our family, our friends, and now some of our customers have been taking Wild Superfoods for coming up on maybe even more than two years now, which is really exciting.
But like I said, these are brand new: Collagen Cocoa, Adrenal Stack, Fizzy C, and Vitamin C Stack. So I really encourage those of you who are here in the U.S. to go to wildsuperfoods.com to check those out.
And we’re always running promotions and big discounts on our Subscribe and Save options, on our bundles, and on our 3-pack and 6-packs. So a lot of times you don’t even need a special code, just go to wildsuperfoods.com to load up on those health boosting goodies.
Right now one of the best deals we have going on is our Ultimate Daily Bundle, especially when you select the Subscribe & Save option, you’ll save over $125 off your purchase each month.
And I would encourage you to check out, first, if you haven’t tried anything, Collagen Cocoa, Future Greens, and Fizzy C.
And also, you know, the capsules are very convenient as well, so we have options for those as well.
And just one quick note, for those of you who are out there on the carnivore-type diet or you’re doing one of the more extreme versions of Keto, one of the things that I encourage when I’m working with people is for you to not give up a lot of your vegetables.
You don’t want to completely cut them out, unless you’re doing an elimination diet and you’re working on some auto-immune issues.
There are so many benefits from getting your greens in and getting a bit of fruit, as well.
So, Future Greens is a really easy and convenient option if you’re cutting down on your veggie intake and want to still get the boost of nutrients and energy.
And if you’re looking for group coaching or you’d like to interact personally with me, we have a few options for you, international or stateside, it doesn’t matter, go to FatBurningTribe.com to check out our group coaching and membership community.
And then also, especially if you’re on Patreon, you can join our new group chat and group channel called The Wild Guild by signing up with us on Patreon, they’re all hooked in together. If you don’t know what that is, that’s cool. Just go to patreon.com/abeljames. A-B-E-L James. Look up Abel James on Patreon.
Before I ramble on too long, mostly, I just encourage any of you who are out there, don’t be shy, get in touch. I do my best to get back to every single one of you. Obviously, easier said than done, but it’s been so great to be back in touch with so many of you and to meet so many of you for the very first time. We are here to help.
What did you think of this interview with Dr. John Berardi? Drop a comment below!