I am in the best shape of my life and for the past few years I have worked in the heart of startup-land (Silicon Valley).
When I first jumped into this wild world of fast-paced entrepreneurism I promised myself that I would stand for the possibility of being in incredible shape while also being an awesome entrepreneur & businessman.
What follows is my real-life approach, practice & strategies that empower me to stay in incredible shape year-round while building a successful business.
A few notes before we begin:
* All of these strategies work no matter your profession, career, or place in life. In other words: you do not need to be an entrepreneur.
* I am all natural - NO steroids, drugs, crazy supplements, or extreme diet.
* I am NOT a professional athlete or a competitive bodybuilder. I do occasionally model for fun, but it is NOT how I make my living.
TLDR: skip to the bottom & read the "Key-Takeaway"
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My secret strategies for being in incredible shape while working as an Entrepreneur in Silicon Valley:
Get a fitness coach. There are many reasons the top entrepreneurs, athletes & artists have coaches for various areas of life. Two main reasons: accountability & modeling. Accountability is key to follow-through. Modeling what has already been proven successful leads to rapid learning & growth. It wasn't until I got a fitness coach that I finally learned the last missing piece (my eating strategy) that unleashed the body I have now. Special note: if your fitness coach isn't personally demonstrating the level of fitness you desire or does not have clients demonstrating it you are wasting your time & money.
Do as much work, work-email & work-chat as possible on a cardio machine or while walking outside. This is low-intensity and should be at a speed that allows you to easily read, type & work. Walk outside or on a treadmill with the incline cranked up, master the stairmaster, gyrate on an elliptical machine, or pedal along on a stationary bike while you work away on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It may seem difficult at first, but stick with it for a few days and it will become second nature.
Take as many phone calls as possible while walking. Invest in a headset and you can take notes on your phone as you walk. I can't stand people who talk on the phone at the gym on the cardio machines so unless you have home equipment be kind and do this outside. It's an easy way to make sure you get some actual daylight too.
Take as many in-person meetings as possible while walking. Most people meet & eat (or drink). I meet & move. Ideas and solutions to problems seem to flow much better this way as well. Plus it's a great excuse to get outside of the office and get some fresh air with colleagues, friends, family & mentors.
Optimize your work-space environment for movement. Invest in a FitDesk with the desk extensions. This transformed my home-office. Once you get used to it you can literally crush work and crush your daily calorie burn. I even find I think and work much more optimally while using this amazing machine. Something about moving your body moves your mind. It looks nerdy as hell, but your body & health will thank you (your intimate partner will likely thank your FitDesk as well 😜). Also, doing video conferences on this is hilarious. Fellow participants will wonder why you are bobbing away as you're speaking & listening.
Get your office (home & professional) a pull-up bar. It's an awesome break to rep out a few of these and charge up your body/mind. Or go crazy and see how many you can do in a workday (my current record is 400 pull-ups in a day--done during a 2-3 hour work conference call). Pull-up challenges with colleagues are fun too! [Get some fitness bands if you need assistance doing pull-ups.]
Have a physical training practice or hobby that you LOVE & invest in it 3-5 times per week. Seriously. Do something physical that you actually love that fills you with joy. This is the key to sustainability. If you hate your physical training its only a matter of time before your willpower wears out & you quit. Play a favorite sport, partake in fun group exercise classes that excite you, workout with a partner who motivates you, etc. Whatever genuiniely empowers YOU! I happen to love bodybuilding & yoga. Those are my main two go-to weekly physical disciplines. I also do a fair amount of hiking and rollerblading. But anything that moves your body & lights you up works.
Always prioritize your physical practice. Do it first thing in the day or schedule it in your calendar like a meeting you cannot miss. It doesn't matter your preferred form of exercise. What matters is doing it regularly. Most entrepreneurs (and most people in general) have an endless amount of work that will continue to pile up. Don't kid yourself into thinking that you will have energy or time to exercise when you "finish" your work.
Weigh yourself daily & log it. First thing upon rising immediately after using the restroom. Just like in business: "What gets measured, gets managed." Whether it's revenue targets or your fitness just by the simple act of monitoring you will stay fit. I log my weight in MyFitnessPal (MFP) along with my body-fat every single day (here is my weight scale & fat-monitor which syncs with MFP wirelessly). Over time this simple daily habit will empower you to intimately know what behavior increases your fitness & what behavior doesn't.
Mindful eating practice. Log what you eat. Also known as food journaling. Do this every day. Every meal. Every snack & beverage. I use MyFitnessPal to log all my food--follow my profile here if you want to know what I eat every day. I estimate when eating out and measure on a food scale at home. Same principle as above. What gets measured gets attention. Most people over-eat. And it does not matter how healthy you are eating if you are eating too much. When you are working in a fast-paced environment it is easy to not even notice how much you are actually eating. Overeating is the number one reason people don't look they way they want to. If you are out of shape your eating strategy should be your main focus. Many people foolishly believe they can outwork their eating. This is not possible. For over a decade I thought I could out-exercise my eating (and I ate pretty damn healthy). Then when I finally started tracking my food I lost ~30lbs, got a six-pack, and have stayed in epic shape for over 3.5 years to date. This sounds more difficult than it is. At first it's annoying, then it becomes easy like brushing your teeth. If I could only recommend one fitness strategy this is it. It's the master-key to my personal fitness. I have one other master-key to fitness, but most people aren't ready for it.
Eat your calories. Do not drink anything with calories in it. Calorie dense beverage consumption is one of the most common forms of over-eating, but most people aren't even aware of it. Many beverages have the equivalent calories of an entire meal. Only drink beverages that are calorie free. Don't take protein powder or have protein drinks unless you actually have trouble eating enough real food to get your protein. Your hunger levels will vastly decrease by only eating (chewing) your calories.
Eat at home as much as possible and bring your own food to work. This is a tough one for most people. Like many Silicon Valley companies I get free meals and snacks at work. When I empower myself to eat food I've brought or personally prepared the chances of over-eating & over-snacking go down dramatically. I also get invited to eat out frequently. I almost always counter-offer with a walk & talk or hike. I do my best to save my eating out for rare & special events (this also saves a ton of money).
Do whatever you can to make sure your company has the healthiest snacks, beverages & catering (this is what my company actually does as a business service). If the strategy above is unrealistic for you this is the next best approach. We are all products of our environment. You will eat what is around you. This same principle applies to the food you have at home. Design your spaces for optimal wellness. Save your willpower for your work & other worthy endeavors.
Follow the 80/20 food rule. 80% or more of your food (calories) should be as healthy as possible (organic, lots of veggies, etc.). Consciously design each plate this way. My favorite way is to load the entire surface of the plate with greens and then put meats/grains/starch/etc. on top. This empowers me to eat a lot of volume without overeating. A basket-ball size worth of salad is literally only ~100 calories. 20% of your food-calories can be whatever your little heart desires. I personally believe in sweets & desserts in moderation to avoid binging.
Watch the sauce & dressings. Most sauces & salad dressings are packed full of an incredible amount of calories. You're only fooling yourself and your fitness if you are eating a ton of veggies, salad, lean meats, etc and then drenching it in a high calorie sauce. I make my own dressing with stevia & apple cider vinegar. I also use reduced sugar ketchup and/or mustard, both only have ~5kcal/serving. Also, most grocery stores now have an amazing selection of ultra low calorie & incredible tasting sauces & dressings if you take the time to look.
Fill up on fiber. Both soluble & insoluble. I aim to get 45g/day or more. This keeps me feeling full and is great for your intestinal health. Easy sources include most greens, bran (if you are not gluten-free), oatmeal, & more.
Drink plenty of water. Keeps you feeling full which minimizes overeating. Plus good hydration does wonders for your overall health & feelings of well-being.
Give up the cheat-day. For years I followed the cheat-day paradigm thinking that if I ate super healthy 6 out 7 days then on day 7 I could go wild. If you are anything like me you can completely destroy all your good eating for the week and negate any exercise with one cheat day. I can easily eat 5,000-10,000+ calories in one day. I didn't discover this until I started logging my food and then I instantly knew why I could never seem to get those elusive abs despite literally eating chicken & vegetables only for 85%+ of my weekly meals. Unless you are severely dieting & restricting your calories it's probably better to forego a weekly cheat-day. My experience is that these food binges naturally happen without any planning (Thanksgiving & other holidays, birthdays, emotional-breakdowns, etc.). The less overall times food-binges happen per year the more fit you will be year-round.
Be a fitness food nomad. If you drive & travel a lot for business meetings like I do invest in some ice-packs and a cooler tote and bring your food, snacks & drinks with you. This minimizes the chances of having to stop someplace to eat/drink unhealthy stuff and reduces the possibility of over-eating because you got too hungry.
Get proper sleep. This is different for everyone, but you will know when you are well-slept versus under-slept. Well-slept equals stable moods, solid energy to work & exercise, good health, etc. Under-slept equals emotional roller-coaster, constant tiredness, regular over-eating, sickness, etc. Know how many hours you personally need & make sure you get it.
Make your social media & app addiction feed your fitness. I have a rule that I have to spend at least 80% of my social media & app time while moving (stationary cardio machine or walking). Most of us are addicted to social media & our apps--it's designed to be; so why not use the leverage of a bad habit to empower your fitness?
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Abs are made in the kitchen. In other words, 80% or more of your aesthetic physical fitness (aka how your body “looks”) is based on how you eat.
I am somewhat beating a dead horse here as I eluded to this above under mindful eating. Nonetheless, I’ve found I cannot harp on this enough.
I am most often asked what my exercise routine is (especially what I do for abs/core).
Or I am asked what supplements (magic pills) I take to get ripped & shredded.
Up until about 3.5 years ago I used to be one of the people who thought they could just workout a ton & take some supplements and achieve the body I always dreamed of.
For over 10 years I worked out 7-days a week for 2–3 hours a day. I tried taking every workout supplement known to man. And still I never achieved the body I wanted . . .
Then I learned how to optimize my eating and by god I got the body I always wished for!
Even more awesome, it only took ~3-months once I learned how to eat!
Now I spend way less time working out and way less money on supplements.
Truly looking like you are in amazing shape is almost always & predominantly due to one’s overall eating habits.
Having a 6-pack & visible abs is a function of having low body-fat.
It doesn’t matter how awesome your ab muscles are if you can’t see them under the belly-fat.
Managing body-fat levels is something you do through food, not exercise.
You don’t have to be on a crazy extreme diet but you do need to have an eating strategy that actually works for you personally (meaning you enjoy it) & gives you the body you desire.
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I truly believe everybody & every "body" can be in amazing physical shape year-round. It is just a matter of strategically designing your daily life & work habits to support & empower this possibility.
These are my fitness strategies. Give them a shot and see which ones work well for you!
If you have any other awesome fitness strategies & habits that others could benefit from please leave them in the comments! I love learning from my brilliant readers & will add them here after vetting them personally!