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Monday, February 19, 2018 - SO WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Posted by: Nick at 8:49am
So what do you want?

This is a tougher question than you may think at first, and even if you think you have a clear vision for it, you may be falling into the same trap that so many clients I meet and speak with fall into when initially discussing their goals.

What is it that you truly value? Do you value actions or words? Do you respect words or behaviors? Are you a talker or a walker? We have come to be a world of people who like, follow, and respect people based on their words and posts alone, and through these things we can claim to be anything we want.

<1% of people in America are making a million dollars a year, but that doesn't prevent tens of thousands of people from starting and building "millionaire lifestyle" Instagram pages and Twitter profiles, claiming a millionaire level of financial success.

People claim to be fitness models and fashion superstars and post doctored pictures on their profiles without ever having booked a modeling gig, let alone achieved any of their claimed success. People claim to be writers and comedians and post quotes from other peoples accounts, and have never actually put pen to paper to craft their own jokes or creations. We exaggerate, neigh, lie, about who we are and what we have accomplished because doing so is far easier than doing the heavy lifting to actually achieve a level of success on our own.

You see, we live in a society where people think that certain levels of happiness, contentment, achievement, and success are reserved for the people they see on TV, look at in magazines, and follow on Instagram. We feel as though there must be some special pill, or some magic trick, or some weird training schedule that would take an incredible amount of time, money, and access in order to achieve.

It's for these reasons that we take our dreams, our highest aspirations, and our REAL goals and start to compromise them right out of the gate, eventually convincing ourselves that we can't achieve anything truly great, and will instead settle for a modest level of achievement.

You want six-pack abs, but know that it's really hard to get them, so instead you will just take a flat stomach. But that's pretty aggressive too, and seeing as you have that big holiday party coming up in a few weeks, you'll just settle for a flattER stomach instead, problem solved. Right?

You want to get into a rhythm where you are working out six times a week, but that's really hard to do, and with all of the things you have on the schedule, you'll TRY to do six, but will be happy with three, IF you can get them in. Maybe?

You would love to start prepping all of your meals so that you can eat clean food all the time, but that takes a lot of time and energy, and will get pretty boring after a while, so you'll just make an attempt to have some clean food around the house and will just do "the best you can." Isn't that more reasonable?

This language and sense of "realism" is a common issue for most of us. We want great things, but talk ourselves out of them before we even begin! Why do we do this? What is our problem? Why don't we believe in ourselves enough to go after what we really want? Isn't wanting to change and being willing to do the work enough for us? What is so hard about change?

The answer is simple, we are too afraid of failure.

We fear putting expectations on ourselves because we may not live up to them. We don't want to expect greatness from ourselves because we may fall short. We have tried before and been unsuccessful, and don't want to feel that same disappointment again. We have tried and tried and failed and failed, and hate that empty cold feeling of not following through on a goal or want.

So after all of the smoke clears, we are confronted with the sobering fact that we have taught ourselves to avoid wanting great things.

Listen, it's not just you, the world forces you to do this and think this way. It's crazy how much out there is geared towards convincing you that you are "too busy" or "too stressed" to deal with your own health. Hell, 10-minute workouts have become an entire industry where people market videos and plans to people who claim to only have 5 minutes every day to exercise.

We have become masters of convincing ourselves that there simply isn't the time or energy in our lives to do anything other than maintain the status quo. Think of how many times every day you have this conversation, email exchange, or text interaction;

"Hey! How are you?"

"Good. Really busy, but good."

(Listen, I'm not a social scientist or correlational study specialist, but I saw a video on facebook of a cat jumping in and out of a paper bag that had over 12 millions views on it. I'm pretty sure that as long as people are sitting at their desks watching kittens paw at sneaker laces, that there is still spare time left in the world)

Food companies package and prep products to be eaten "on-the-go" because you simply do not have enough time to take care of yourself. When did we get so busy? Are we really so pressed for time and energy that all we can manage every day is 15 jumping jacks and a special K cereal bar before work?

So much of the acceptance movement is rooted in this kind of "internal settling" that we do on a daily basis. People go on and on about how losing weight is really hard (and I challenge that), and rather than pushing themselves to improve and get healthy, come up with blanket statements about how they are "ok with their bodies" instead.

Let me say this before I receive 1000 angry emails; everybody on the planet should love themselves. Everyone should wake up every day loving who they are and owning their situation with a smile on their face, but loving who you are and accepting that there are areas of your life that need work are TOTALLY separate things and need to be understood as such.

It's totally possible to love and respect yourself while simultaneously acknowledging that there are things you could improve on. You don't have to love yourself unconditionally at every moment of the day, I would even say that's an unrealistic thing to expect. Working on improvement is part and parcel to loving and accepting who you are.

Think about this; I am going to throw out two different situations for you, and I want you to consider which one creates more of a feeling of happiness, fulfillment, and joy in your body. Ready? Here goes;

Situation 1

You walk into your first day of a yoga class and find that through some happenstance situation, you can complete every pose, series, and progression flawlessly. You move from pose to pose, position to position without so much as a drop of sweat, and are unbothered and unchallenged when the instructor throws out the harder versions of the current poses that are audibly troubling the others in the class.

You are approached by the instructor and a few classmates afterwards and are flooded with praise and questions like "how long have you been practicing," and "how much do you work on that stuff?" And you simply shrug your shoulders and say "I never work at it, it just comes naturally to me."

Your throng of admirers fake enthusiasm for your natural gifts and beginners luck and walk away, and never talk to you again unless it's with the occasional "must be nice," or "wish I could do it that easily."

Situation 2

You go to yoga class for the first time and find it harder than a quadratic equation to complete. You can't even touch your toes let alone flow from one position to the next, and you feel as though the fire in your thighs may meet up with the one in your back and cause you to spontaneously combust at any moment. You pour sweat onto your mat as if you just smoked crystal meth in a sauna, and you leave class feeling more like the you were hit by a truck than experienced spiritual enlightenment.

Over the next few weeks you stay diligent about continuing your practice despite it's difficult and challenging nature, and find that after a month or two you are making real and noticeable progress. Your hands can reach a little further down your thighs and your balancing positions are starting to feel a bit more like you are on solid ground instead of on the deck of a ship in a hurricane.

Finally, after two months, someone from your class approaches you and says; "You know, you are making so much progress and I am really inspired at what you are doing. Keep it up, you're pushing all of us to work harder!"

For most of us, the second situation presents a better feeling of satisfaction and joy, because it's something that we earned instead of being given. Things that are difficult at first tend to be all the more satisfying when we achieve mastery of them, and it's because our own souls don't crave perfection, they crave growth.

It's like flowers. If they were meant to be what they were, you would buy them, stick them in the ground, and walk out every day to see them there, exactly the same as they were yesterday. They would be no variance in blooms, colors, or sizes, and every house on the block would look like a freaky stepford twilight-zone replica of the one before it.

But that's not the case. Flowers start as seeds, and the beauty of them is that after plenty of time, water, and sunlight, eventually bloom into the things that we love to look at, smell, and give to each other so much.

Growth is what inspires us. It's what fuels us. It's what motivates us. And it's only through the struggle that creates real physical or spiritual growth (which I think are as interconnected as anything else), that we achieve any real joy or satisfaction in life. We don't want perfection, because it doesn't exist. We want to set a goal, and feel like we are on the road to accomplishing it.

So the first question we have to ask ourselves before we can start down the path of goal setting and achievement, is simply put, what do we want.

Don't worry about being realistic, or pragmatic, or modest, just figure out what it is that you really want. Let's start there, and to help out, think about it like this;

If you could snap your fingers and make everything in your life perfect, what would change?
Friday, February 16, 2018 - THE POWER OF INTENTION
Posted by: Nick at 5:54am
I spent a good deal of the next few years learning, coaching, training, and competing in the regional grappling circuit (a post for another time), but after years of hard training and with a genetic predisposition to aggressive degenerative disc disease, I would have to leave my passion for martial arts due to the fact that the spinal column in my neck was starting to resemble more of a rickety staircase that a true supportive structure. I was told that I had the option of a spinal fusion (I was 27 at the time), or stopping my BJJ training, and as much as it pained me to do it, I left the mat behind in favor of my overall health.

I would be done with BJJ, but wouldn't coast for long, as I dove back into my career as a trainer with a renewed vigor and excitement. My training career had always taken a backseat to my BJJ training and competition, but the gym I had been working at was about to open a brand new facility that would make it the biggest in the area, and my forced exit from grappling competition came at the same time as the opportunity to renew my passion for training others, and I did so in spades.

I quickly filled up my schedule with clients, bootcamps, and group training sessions. The hours I once spent on a mat covered in sweat were now spent in the gym training others. I would start my day each day at 5:30 am and see clients at a nonstop pace until 6 or 7 at night. My schedule was double, and often times triple booked with clients and classes, and I hardly had a second to myself to breathe, let alone take time off or relax.

I was the one of the most popular trainers in the Baltimore area, and was working 50-60 client hours a week. I was bringing home great money, and with bonuses was well on track to being a six-figure earner within a year. On paper I was a tremendous success, but inside I was miserable.

The few moments I got to myself during the day were not spent working out at all. In fact they were most often spent sitting around bitching about how busy I was or how much I had to do that day. I rarely had time to work out myself, and had little to no time to spend at home with my wife in our last childless years. My wife Erin, a full-time healthcare management professional, had also taken up figure competition, and would win her IFBB pro card in just her second show. I would see her in the evenings when she was training, but between her competition schedule and my working, we were rarely together at home.

I was once again uninspired, unchallenged, and in desperate need of a challenge, and it was at that point that my good friend and mentor Billy would call me up and tell me about an event just a few weeks away.

Billy and a group of his client's friends had all signed up to run a Tough Mudder, and invited me to join in with them. With four weeks until the event I was hardly in what someone would call fighting shape, but not one to back down from a challenge and being in desperate need of a goal, I agreed and signed up that very day.

I once again resumed training like a maniac, leaving work to run outside and taking any opportunity I had to train with pull-ups, push-ups, and plyometrics to be ready for the big day! When race day came I felt a similar feeling wash over me, the same I had felt before the marathon, or before a BJJ competition, or any other challenge I had laid out for myself. We ran the course and had the time of our lives, and I have returned to run that race once a year since.

It was at this point that I was faced with the reality that when inspired and working towards a goal, I was almost unstoppable. And while it seemed to be second nature to attack goals with a voracious and unstoppable energy, up until my 16th birthday I was a fairly unmotivated guy! I was out of shape, depressed, and far from driven. So what had happened to turn me from a teenage couch potato into an adult goal crusher? The answer was simple, I learned to have intention.

I realized that when I had a goal in front of me that I was motivated to achieve, I would accomplish it at any cost. I would come up with game plans, create schedules, do research, and otherwise do everything in my power to make sure I accomplished my goals as quickly and efficiently as possible.

When I wasn't engaged however, I found it hard to accomplish even the most menial of tasks. I would float, unmoved and unmotivated, until a new challenge or obstacle got it my way, and like a retired bullfighter thrust back into the arena, would once again get to work accomplishing something.

I realized this in my personal and professional life as well. When I was distracted with a goal in another area of my life, I would ultimately let the other areas go unnoticed or neglected. This is why my training business hovered at the same spot for so many year before booming, why my physical conditioning would drop off when super focused on running my business, and how my wife and I would go days without really talking when both were busy.

It wasn't until a few years ago that it hit me, what if I set goals for EVERYTHING in my life, not just one or two things? I sat down and drew out what I felt to be all of the pertinent areas of my life where I could set intention and goals, and proceeded to write down lofty goals for each area. I took any sense of practicality and "realistic" thinking (otherwise known as self-doubt) and figured out exactly what I wanted for each area of my life.

And then, as if by magic, I became laser-guided. I"m not exaggerating either, almost overnight I transformed from someone who was super-engaged at work and then completely aloof at home, or completely obsessed with training and unbothered by professional development, to someone who had expectations and intentions for every situation he was in on a day-to-day basis!

I took all of the lessons I had learned over my years of goal setting and challenge, paired them with the knowledge I gained from the things I had done wrong or missed, and came up with a way to set goals and intentions that when employed correctly can help anyone to be a higher functioning and more effective version of themselves.

This is not to say that I"ve got it all figured out, not by a long shot. I like that to think that all of us, myself included, are like the Boston highway system, in that we are always under construction, and are a constantly evolving project (eat that beantown, BOOM).

I"m just a guy with a lot of years of experience, who has done lots of introspection, and who has studied the people with the most success to figure out what works, what doesn't, and how we can all create a life that we are not only happy with, but excited to live each and every day.

So here is the stuff that I've figured out that works. This is the stuff that's gotten me to 32 and will (god-willing) get me to tomorrow. I want to share all of this with you, because I know that you, just like I did, have the ability to grab the controls, pull up the nose, and get your life back to cruising altitude.
Monday, February 12, 2018 - HERE'S MY STORY PART 2
Posted by: Nick at 7:25am
Joe Decker was a guy who I had read about before in Men’s Fitness, and a whole host of other publications. He had previously set (and still holds) the Guinness Book record for fitness, rightfully carrying the title of “World’s Fittest Man,” after finishing a 24-hour fitness challenge that would make the ultramarathons he had previously completed look like child’s play. He was a living legend, and one of the mentally-toughest men the world had ever known.

I became very interested in reading about Joe, and even bought his book at the local Barnes and Noble and read his life story. A former overweight guy himself, Joe had gotten fed up with his physique in a similar capacity to how I had, and decided to change things up. I was blown away at how closely our paths had mirrored each other, and took comfort in knowing that this guy, who got started just like I did, had gone on to do incredible things in fitness. I made it a goal of mine to one day work out with the guy, but never actually thought it would come through.

So when a fitness center opened up a few miles from my parent’s house managed by the one and only World’s Fittest Man, I knew I had to work there. I interviewed and wouldn’t hear back for two weeks, but I was eventually given a job working for one of my heroes, Joe Decker.

Joe and I became fast friends, and I would get pumped when my shifts overlapped with his time at the gym. I knew that if we were there together there was a good chance that I would get an opportunity to work out with him, or pick his brain about stuff, or just listen to him talk about races he had run, competitions he had competed in, or simply his taste in cigars or tequila.

When Joe invited me to join him and his then girlfriend (now wife) Nicole on a long run one Saturday morning, I happily obliged, and trudged behind them for 6 miles. I had been a serious runner during my initial weight loss in high school, and kept up my road work during college, but these two ran like Kenyans, and after a six mile run with them, Joe turned around with a big smile on his face and said something that would change my life;

“Shit Nick, if you trained for a little bit seriously you could run the Baltimore marathon in a few months! Sign up this week!”

I registered that afternoon, without thinking, or reconsidering, or even worrying about if I could run that far. Up until that point six miles was the farthest I had ever ran, but after completing it, and imagining how great it would be to continue to push the envelope, I was sold. I had 10 weeks to build up to a marathon, and I got right to work.

I ran four days a week, keeping the runs during the week shorter (3-6 miles) with long runs on the weekends. It was late September, which meant Saturday morning long runs were beautiful and temperate. I would run along the towpath by the C&O canal, which is a dirt running and biking trail between the canal and the potomac river that goes from Georgetown in Washington DC all the way into Virginia. On the weekends it was largely populated by runners, walkers, bikers, and hikers, and despite being somewhat crowded was still a welcome respite from running in suburban neighborhoods and on the shoulders of major roadways.

I wouldn’t even bring music, I would simply allow the symphony of my surroundings to accompany my thoughts and meditations while I ran. It was the first time I had really listened to myself think in a long time, and the solitude of the open trail gave me an incredible forum to ponder, meditate, and make plans. I would do eventually build up the ability to run 18 miles at a time without stopping, and had never been happier.

I found this time incredibly therapeutic, and would often look forward to my early saturday morning runs the same way people looked forward to thanksgiving dinner or christmas morning. It gave me time to think and meditate, not to mention the fact that I was also accomplishing something that few people would ever do, let alone at the age of 19.

The day before the race my mom and I drove up to Baltimore to register for the race, and decided to check out a few schools in the area beforehand. It was at this point that I got my first look at Towson University, and decided that day that this was where I wanted to re-initiate my college experience. I would apply and be accepted shortly after that visit.

Race day came like so many Saturday mornings before, and I shot out of bed with a flash. I would complete the race in 4 hours and 36 minutes, a reasonable time for a first timer who went out WAY too fast in the first half. I started falling apart around mile 16, but would connect with my then-girlfriend's brother at mile 19, who was running the half marathon at the same time. He would put a hand under my arm, stuff a bunch of sweet tarts in my mouth, and guide me through the rest of the race. To this day I recognize that without his help I probably wouldn’t have finished, but we got it done.

I cried immediately after finishing, half out of fatigue, the other half from the realization that I had just done something spectacular. Up to that point in my life the most significant thing I had accomplished athletically was a divisional medal in summer swim league, and that could be largely chalked up to a lack of competition.

By that evening my legs locked up like plaster casts, my hips and calves screamed with exhaustion, and the pain level I felt in my body after almost five hours of running on city streets was tantamount to being thrown from a bus, and I had never been happier.

I still remember laying on the couch that evening at my parent’s house, racked with pain and smothered in blankets, watching Ohio State come from behind to crush my former alma mater Purdue while eating two pizzas and a gallon of ice cream. I was ravenously hungry, deliriously tired, and insanely sore.

And I had never been happier.

A few months later, I started once again as a college student and resumed my academic career at Towson University. Located in suburban Baltimore, it was only a shade under an hour from Bethesda, making it far enough away that I wasn’t living at home, and close enough that I still felt as though I was a part of the East Coast culture I had grown up around and so thoroughly enjoyed.

I would eventually leave my Bethesda-based jobs in order to spend all of my time on campus at Towson, and would apply and get hired as a trainer at the rec center on campus. I was once again energized and engaged in the fitness and wellness world, and with my boss Susan, I found another relationship with someone who took me under their wing and helped me along on my fitness journey.

Susan would become a big-sister to me while working at Towson, and it was working for her that I truly dove back into hardcore training. I cleaned up my diet and started drinking less. I worked out at least once a day, trained clients, ran bootcamps, played club lacrosse, and even programmed and ran lifting competitions at the campus gym, all while being a full-time student.

My academics improved as well, and I carved myself a track inside of my psychology degree that would me help to better understand motivation, goal setting, and success mindsets, all with the intention of being a trainer after college.

I built myself up to a solid 210 pounds while in school, following bodybuilder-style training and nutrition protocols, and even boasted a deadlift of over 500 pounds (which would win my weight class in several campus lifting contests). I interviewed for several fitness jobs as a senior and was given an opportunity by a high-end fitness center near Towson to become a full-time personal trainer. I had never been more excited either.

I accepted the position, and after walking across the graduation stage on a Tuesday afternoon to receive my diploma, I woke up at 4 AM the next morning to start work as a full-time fitness professional.

Working as a trainer after college started off great; I was knee deep in what I wanted to be doing, and got to work around and with some incredible people. Within a year I had built a solid book of business and was starting to develop a name for myself as a successful trainer. This business success however came at a cost, and the cost was once again my lifestyle.

I was still training like a bodybuilder, and was eating like one as well, the only problem being that the bodybuilder I was eating for was easily 60-70 pounds bigger than me! I would routinely train with easy bodypart splits, working chest one day, back the next, shoulders on another day, always skipping legs and often NEVER doing cardio. I was eating a ton of crap as well, having cheat meals during the week, and then the entire weekend long.

I knew something had to change, and that I had to engage myself into something outside of work to get my sanity, and my physique, back. I had started boxing and dabbling in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu during my initial weight loss as a teenager, and though that it could be a fun way to get back into some kind of competitive activity. I found a local gym and signed up right away, and became obsessed almost as quickly as I had as a younger man starting running.
Friday, February 9, 2018 - HERE'S MY STORY (PART 1)
Posted by: Nick at 6:48am
People who have known me for under 10 years have no idea that I was once an incredibly unhealthy person. Ever since I was 17 I have been in good shape and have taken my diet, training, and lifestyle seriously. Even in college when weekends (and who am I kidding, some weekdays too) were spent downing cases of the cheapest beer we could find, I would still be the first one up and in the gym the next morning to get back on track after our evening of drunken debauchery.

But for people who have known me since childhood, the fact that I was a chunky and awkward kid is not only well-known, but often joked about and referenced (it's amazing why I don't like looking at childhood photo albums, I mean who doesn't like being reminded that they had a pack of hot dogs for a belly at age 10?) when talking about my career choice as an adult. After all, I was voted "Next American Idol" by my senior class, not most athletic or best looking.

Simply put, I was an out-of-shape and painfully awkward kid for most of my time growing up. My pastimes outside of eating our fridge bare and watching terribly formulaic action movies were limited to musical theater, stand-up comedy, and martial arts, all of which you can imagine made me QUITE the stud in elementary and middle school. I was the only kid I knew who could recite Marx brothers scenes and explain the difference between a musical and opera at age 9, and fitness and nutrition couldn't have been more off my radar.

While most kids were outside playing on recreational soccer, basketball, and baseball teams, by the time I was 13 my only real passions were for watching TV with my hand in a bag of pretzels and wildly professing my love to different girls in my school, hoping they would see past my chubby and awkward facade and would reciprocate my enormous affection (spoiler, they didn't). All of this created a tremendous amount of anxiety and depression in my mind, and I saw several therapists growing up to deal with those issues, but I found little success as I wasn't addressing the real problems at hand and the things that were ACTUALLY holding me back.

I continued along this path, eating like I was going to the electric chair and mocking workout enthusiasts for most of my childhood and early teen years. I would do the occasional push-up or convince my parents to let me attend a martial arts class here and there, but I was incapable of establishing any kind of a healthy routine in favor of lounging, relaxing, and eating. I continued to underachieve academically, experience issues with depression and anxiety, and more or less live a quietly sad life until later on in high school.

It wasn't until I experienced my first real heartbreak that I was able to snap out of the unfortunate situation I had been living in and find the path to real wellness, and while it was a painful experience at the time, it started me down a path where I would eventually find my calling, my purpose, and true and complete fulfillment.

I started dating my first real girlfriend at 15. She was a year older, had her driver's license, was an incredible singer, and I spent most of my time at her side. I was teenage kid with love in his eyes, and it made me blind to everything else in my life. And as storybook as our love seemed in my mind, it would soon come to a crashing halt.

I don't want to get into all of the messy details of young love, highschool heartache, and having your heart broken by your first love, but suffice it to say that my breakup story trumps anyone's. Here goes;

I had my girlfriend break up with me.

I had my girlfriend break up with me on my 16th birthday.

I had my girlfriend break up with me on my 16th birthday at dinner, at a restaurant.

I had my girlfriend break up with me on my 16th birthday at dinner, at a restaurant, with my entire family at the table, before we even ordered appetizers.

Brutal, I know.

I was completely destroyed. The next few weeks were the very stereotypical teenage breakup stages. Sobbing, anger, rage, frustration, more sobbing, and ultimately complete despair. I stopped giving school any effort (the little I had given it previously seemed too much to bear). I lashed out at the people trying to comfort me, and clung to and threw myself at the people who could only make it worse. Long story short (I know, it's already long), I experience a depression like nothing I had ever known before, and it was terrible, and if I didn't wake up soon, things would go from bad to worse.

I took an assessment of where I stood at that point in time, and it wasn't very good. I was 16 (remember, it was my birthday recently), almost failing out of school completely, terribly out of shape, with only a small group of close friends that I had all but totally alienated over the past year. I was alone, depressed, and mentally was going to a lot of very dark places.

I don't know if I ever really decided on attempting suicide, but the thought did cross my mind on more than one occasion. I was like so many other people experiencing depression , not sure if there was any hope for me, feeling like I would never get out of this rut, and ultimately overwhelmed by how far I would have to go to get back to a place where I could call myself successful.

This was in 2000, and anyone who was around then knows that 2000 was all about Brad Pitt, especially in the movie Fight Club. The movie was the runaway hit of the year, and all anyone could ever talk about was how incredibly chiseled Brad Pitt had gotten for the role. I can remember seeing that movie and thinking how cool it would be to look like that, and how much confidence I would have if I was rocking hard, tasty, washboard abs under my shirts, and that if I could get in HALF of the shape Brad was in in that movie, I would maybe be able to be a little more proud of myself.

I remember noting that towards the end of the movie, Brad Pitt fought a guy who was muscular and lean, but not necessarily as ripped and toned as Pitt's character himself. I remembered thinking, "man, if I could get in THAT kind of shape I would be pumped." Looking back, I laugh at how I was checking myself and my expectations already.

The next day I woke up, threw on the only running shoes I had (which had been reserved previously for lawn mowing and walking the dog), and headed down to the family treadmill in the basement. The only gym clothes I owned were a pair of Gap brand mesh shorts and a series of rock band t-shirts, but I threw them on as if they were a super bowl jersey to get started. I traipsed through three miles in half an hour that morning, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I would lose almost 50 pounds between that spring and the start of my junior year of high school. I became a fitness lunatic, running anywhere from 3-7 miles a day, hitting the gym whenever possible, and voraciously tearing through any fitness or exercise publication I could get my hands on. I hoarded copies of Men's Fitness and Flex the same way some people collect rare gems. I changed the way I ate and drank, and to this day I have not had a real soda since I was 16 years old. In short, I overhauled my life, and it payed off.

That summer, I ran the snack bar at my local pool, and I would shut down the stand to bang out a circuit of push-ups, jump rope, and sit-ups, or to go run a few miles in between adult swim sessions, or to simply jump in the pool and tread water with a diving brick to get a quick calorie burn in.

I lived to see the scale go down on almost a daily basis, and I loved the feeling or reaching a new personal best, or accomplishing a new fitness or health milestone. I was obsessed, and I had never been happier.

This was an amazing time for me, but the focus I had on improvement and progression did not come without a price. My obsession with my body and physique often times made me come off like, simply put, a jerk. My friends weren't necessarily supportive of my new healthy lifestyle, and in fairness I was less than facilitating of unhealthy activities. I was forced to create a lot of new relationships and form new friendships, but it was a challenging time nonetheless.

This would be my first exposure to how the people around me would accept, or challenge, healthy changes I made in my life. Sure I was being a bit overbearing in my newfound sense of health, but nonetheless, it's crazy to see in hindsight how many people I attracted, as well as pushed away, simply by wanting something more from my life and my body.

Largely due to the fact that I was now incredibly conscious of my diet and intake, I abstained from drinking and drug use during high school, which you can imagine didn't necessarily garner a lot of party or hangout invites from classmates and peers. I also dated a girl who attended another school, so my interactions were largely solitary, especially my senior year of high school. I would spend most of my free time running, lifting weights, reading anything health related I could get my hands on, or otherwise learning and doing as much as I could to become the fittest person possible. I ended high school with a 3.0 GPA, better friendships and relationships, a far better relationship with my parents and family.

I attended Purdue University my freshman year of college after visiting a friend who swam there on the varsity team. It was an awesome campus layout with nice dorms and a great fitness center for the students, so needless to say I was sold after visiting as a senior in High School. I showed up for classes at the end of August, and like most other college freshman, I was neck-deep in drinking the kool-aid and pumped to be a brand new student at a major university. I attended all my classes with near-perfect attendance and started off doing very well. I would wake up early, go to class, have breakfast with my roommate, and then hit the gym before studying and relaxing until bedtime. Weekends were spent with my friend's swim teammates at tailgates and football games, and I was having a blast.

But after football season ended, and because I didn't drink or party, I found myself once again on the outside of the social scene. My friend was in season with the swim-team, so my main social crutch was kicked out from under me, and the rest of my friends were in entrenched in their newfound fraternity obligations. I was in a familiar place; lonely, bored, and out of the loop. So I did the only thing I knew how to do, and got to work in the gym.

I treated my second semester at Purdue more like a training camp than a school session, working out twice a day and often times going on weekends and playing pickup basketball until the rec closed at midnight. I was once again depressed and lonely, and found the only fulfillment I would know there in the basement of the student fitness center. Knowing from experience that this was a road that led nowhere positive, I knew that a change needed to be made, and did what I thought was best.

I would leave Purdue after my freshman year, with the intention of transferring somewhere closer to home after taking a semester off of school altogether. I hated feeling as if I was being left behind or "losing time," but I knew that I had to make a change, and the universe would soon cement that belief in an amazing way.

My semester off proved to be very beneficial in the end. I got to witness my younger brother's senior season playing football and wrestling (my brother was an athletic stud, and would go on to play football at Harvard and become a hall of famer at our high school), and I got a job at a local restaurant where I got to meet and hang out with some great people. I would also go through a break up with my high school girlfriend at that time, as that relationship had gotten to the point where we were no longer adding to each other's lives.

But the most incredible thing about that time off was a chance encounter with a fitness legend that would start shaping my love of growth, challenge, and mindset.

More on Monday, thanks for reading
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - THE RED PILL LIFESTYLE
Posted by: Nick at 10:51am
Like any kid from my generation, I can vividly remember sitting in a movie theater as a high school student and watching "The Matrix" for the first time, and having my mind blown. It was not only a great movie, but inspired an entire group of people to start looking up randomly and proclaiming that they "know kung-fu" in their best Keanu Reeves voice.

For those unfamiliar with the film, Keanu plays Neo, a man trapped in a future world where people are kept in comatose states and wired to experience virtual-reality lives while being grown and harvested by futuristic alien robots (bear with me here). Lawrence Fishburn plays Morpheus, the leader of the resistance against the robots, who in an iconic movie scene sits down with Neo and explains both the reality of his existence, as well as his options going forward.

He explains that the world as he knows it is an illusion projected in the minds of people to give them the illusion that they are alive. He shows that while the projected reality that people experience on a daily basis is seemingly real, the actual reality is that people are trapped in a slave-like existence that they are not even aware of, and that one by one they need to be woken up to fight back against their robot overlords.

He then offers Neo two pills, one blue, and one red, and says the following;

"Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I'm offering is the truth, nothing more. Follow me."

Neo takes the red pill, and becomes part of the resistance.

I think the reason that this scene has been so stuck in my memory is that, for most of us, we make a similar decision on a daily basis. Every day we wake up and immediately enter into behavior that either addresses the world around us and our present situation, or works to distract, block, or drown out the things that worry and upset us.

We smoke cigarettes to cope with stress. Sure we know they kill us, but for right now it's easier than quitting and we can't handle that kind of added stress anyway.

We skip exercising in order to get to work earlier to deal with the mountain of unanswered emails and inbox assignments because we are totally overwhelmed and simply can't take the time to take care of ourselves. Even though we feel better when we exercise, things are so crazy that we can't take a moment away to proactively care for ourselves, despite how good we may feel afterwards.

We eat meals on the go that are fattening and full of chemicals because we don't want to prep or plan our own meals in advance. Meal planning seems complicated and expensive and who needs all of that additional hassle when eating drive-thru fare is easier and cheaper anyway, right?

We come home in the evenings and drown our worries, thoughts, and sorrows in glasses of wine and pints of ice cream because, well, fuck it. Why not?

We do things on a daily basis that intentionally distract us from our feelings, concerns, stressors, and problems, because in our short-term minds we feel that pushing them aside and masking them with consumption, distraction, and lies that we can deal with them when we have more time or energy.

And just like those sleeping bodies in the Matrix, we plug ourselves in, close our eyes, and become unaware to the real world around us. We falsely believe that we cannot handle anything else on our plates right now, and changing our thoughts or behaviors is simply too much work for the present moment, or that changing is simply too hard and we should just accept our lives the way they are; imperfect, unsatisfying, and incomplete.

But what if someone came along and offered you a pill, a red pill perhaps, that you could take and instantly see the world and your existence the way it really is, would you take it?

What if you could snap your fingers and immediately stop being blind to all of the things you have blocked out or ignored over the past weeks, months, years, or decades, and instantly have the strength and ability to deal with them rather than ignoring them, would you do it?

What if I told you right this minute that you have the ability to stop living a life that is purely unsatisfactory and that you can start creating an existence that is everything that you want and redeeming and motivating on a daily basis, would you believe me?

Well for those who are brave enough, bold enough, and motivated enough, this can be your reality, and that red pill is sitting in front of you right this minute, waiting for you to swallow. It may be hard to hard to take, and it may seem jarring at first, but I promise you that you have the ability to do it.

For some of you, these posts will be a reminder of why you are living the way that you're living and doing the things that you're doing. You'll skim through with relative ease (I don't use too many big words I don't think), and you'll occasionally smile or nod when you read something that affirms your current healthy lifestyle or practice. To you I am thankful, because you are one of the people who are continually working on their own progress and lifestyle, and it's people like you who will help to lift up and help others looking to change their lives, and I welcome you.

But for others, these posts may go down like a broccoli and sandpaper milkshake; rough, off-putting, abrasive, and ultimately hard to take. What I offer here is a game plan to living in an intentional capacity and putting value and effort into every aspect of your life, and no longer floating through with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears.

So for those of you who are attempting to change your current situation, I congratulate you on taking the first step towards creating a life that you can be truly proud of. I am here to help and offer a solution, because everything you'll read here is something that I have personally experience, used, practices, or developed in my own life and the lives of my clients, and know that if you give it your best, can incorporate into your own life.

The Red Pill Lifestyle is all about putting stock in yourself and investing your time, energy, and passion into making a life that you are proud of. It's about not turning a blind eye to the things that bother, aggravate, and depress you, rather confronting them head on and digging in to locate and kill the root of the problem. It's about putting it all on the table and addressing everything, no matter how hard, how emotional, of how arduous the process may seem.

In short, it's about setting intention and creating a new existence, one that you are constantly proud of.

I don't know all of the answers, and I don't claim to be a psychotherapist, doctor, or highly educated nutritionist who can cure you of all of your ills, and by no means do I want to replace or sidestep any of those people. There are plenty of things in life (and you may find some during this process), that should be handled and fleshed out by a licensed professional, and I am a huge advocate of involving those people in your journey, but that's not what this is.

I am the guy who has been through it, goes through it, and has found and created ways to question the things that hurt or harm us, challenge the ways of living that distract or derail us, and identify the things that slow or prevent us from living the lives that we so want to live. I am the person who has seen these very thoughts and concepts in action, both in myself, and in others, and know how sweet the reward for doing the work can be when you pour yourself into it, push through adversity, and create true happiness and contentment through the practices written about here.

So regardless of who you are, what you're dealing with, or how long or short your path may be, I welcome you. I am here to help and show you how to create real lasting change, and I am excited to take this journey with you.

And as Morpheus would say;

"Let's see how deep the rabbit hole goes."
Thursday, January 28, 2016 - SUMMIT CLIP
Posted by: Nick at 5:54pm
A little clip from our last summit!
Monday, January 25, 2016 - SUGAR IS THE SECRET!
Posted by: Nick at 10:25am
Whaddup !!!!

So after being bombarded by the snowstorm and stuck inside for two days, I found myself in a bit of a YouTube wormhole....

Do you know what I mean? When you start doing something really important and then you blink and it's been three hours and you are doing something completely unrelated? Yeah, one of those.

Well that happened to me, and what I was doing was watching videos of street food vendors in China making cotton candy.

Yep, you heard me right. But these people weren't just college kids standing in front of a cart at Disney World apathetically handing out globs of spun sugar to screaming kids while listening to their iPhone buds, these guys were ARTISTS! Check out what their product looks like;

Sure, it looks cool, but there was something so much bigger going on. These vendors were taking something that to so many people would seem boring, monotonous, and insignificant, and turning it into an activity that was engaging, meditative, and beautiful.

Think of the power you could have if you used that same focus and passion to change the way you worked, or exercised, or LIVED!!!!! Think of how different your life could be if you focused your energies on making everything in your life something that you found joy in pouring your heart and soul into! How would you see the world if everything you did was a chance to make something beautiful??

​Well guess what, you have that chance! You have the ability to get out of bed each day and pour your heart and soul into your fitness, your nutrition, your family, your job, and your relationships. You have the opportunity EVERY SINGLE MORNING to make that your life, but will you take it??

Look, I'll bet that this guy made a lot of shitty looking flowers before he got really good at making these, so don't let stumbles and past failures slow you down! Wake up today and figure out how you can start making everything in your life a work of art!

You CAN do it, and trust me, it's worth it.

Make it a GREAT day!