physical training

Run Free: The Paradox of Cultivating True Freedom

Run free.

I've been thinking about freedom & liberation a lot lately.

It's a dense & complex subject. In yogic philosophy it is referred to as Moksha, or freedom from ignorance.

Freedom is one of my highest personal values. In all its infinite forms. Freedom to choose the people we spend our time & energy with. Freedom to choose our work -- what we put our physical, mental, emotional & spiritual energy into. Freedom to express ourselves with power & authenticity.

Ultimately, what I want & choose daily is freedom to live a life that has heart & meaning.

But how can we have this freedom & liberation if we do not know ourselves?

Self-knowledge is the key to liberation. Without it we are lost to ourselves and lost to the world.

And in both cases we are left useless. Useless to ourselves because we are chained to a life that doesn't reflect our true inner desires & values. And in turn we are useless to others because if we cannot serve & lead our Self then how can we ever do that with lasting impact for others?

The answer is we cannot.

Nonetheless, self-knowledge is an ever unfolding lifelong process. It is not something you achieve and then you never have to work on it again. It is an integral part of our daily quest.

And here is the kicker:

If we truly want to cultivate self-knowledge & self-actualization. If we truly want to be free. Then we must create & hold ourselves to empowering boundaries & restraints. This is the paradox of true freedom.


It seems so paradoxical that we must have boundaries & restraints to achieve true freedom & liberation. But that is the lay of life. It is constantly brimming with paradox.

We must choose physical activity & emotional development over sloth & hatred. Laziness & unchecked darker emotions are easy. Choosing & cultivating physical & emotional fitness requires restraint from the easy path & boundaries that call forth our highest selves.

How easy is it to lash back in anger when someone says or does something that doesn't sit well with us?

How much easier is it so sit on the couch and watch some TV versus getting out of the house to take a hike, hit the gym or even take a walk around the neighborhood?

Furthermore, it takes powerful boundaries to choose health-affirming substances to put into our bodies & minds in a world that is constantly programming & encouraging us through all media channels to poison ourselves with information, food, alcohol & drugs.

Over-consuming is not freedom when you are left with a body that is too heavy & lacking energy, a mind that is screaming in anxiety, a fearful heart & a dwindling spirit.

We must actively pursue self-study, meditation & prayer. For these to occur we must create containers in which they can flourish. This takes vigilant effort in a world addicted to information & convenience.

It requires a powerful stand to turn within when we live in a world that is constantly pulling for our outward focus. Yet we must do it if we are to grow our mental & spiritual capacity.

Powerful boundaries & restraints that are consciously & proactively built into our life to foster ever deepening self-knowledge will set us free.

Self-dominion is the true path to freedom, liberation & self-actualization.

As we find our Self. We find our place in the world. As we serve our Self. We serve the world & its people.

And that is freedom running at full speed.

Some of my current constraints, restraints & boundaries that empower my true freedom:

  • Food Journaling: I log my food every day for everything I consume and have been doing so since September of 2013. How it empowers my freedom:

    • It encourages me to be mindful of what and how much I am eating while still allowing me to enjoy all foods (including ice cream, cookies, pizza, etc.)

    • This practice has lead me to be in the best shape of my life year-round. Being able to take my shirt off and feel good in body is one of the most liberating feelings.

    • This constraint frees me from using food like a drug (which I did for most of my life) and it keeps me from abusing my body with over-consumption.

    • Feel free to add me as a friend on MyFitnessPal if you want to see what I eat (my food diary is public).

  • Meditation: I have been meditating every day and have been since April of 2015 without missing single a day. How it empowers my freedom:

    • Meditation has been used throughout all time and all civilizations to cultivate self-knowledge. It is one of the tried & true paths to Self liberation. More on meditation here.

    • My meditation practice is the foundation & platform upon which I build my entire life. Each day of meditation makes the foundation a little wider and a little deeper.  You can't build a skyscraper that reaches the stars without an incredibly strong foundation. In truth, you can't even build a solid & reliable 1-story house without a foundation.

  • Sobriety: I have been sober from marijuana & other harder drugs since February of 2013 and sober from alcohol since September of 2014. How it empowers my freedom:

    • For over a decade I was a slave to alcohol. My entire life revolved around the consumption of it. This led to even deeper enslavement to marijuana, adderrall & worse for over 5-years. During my addiction I thought I was free, but in truth I was chained to a life that required substances for me to be even be remotely happy or excited about life.

    • It took me a few years to remember how to have fun without drugs & alcohol but I finally woke up! And I feel like a kid again! As a child everything was magical and I had so much fun living life with a sense of wonder and I didn't need any drugs to get into that blissful state. I've rediscovered that super-power and I'm literally constantly high on life! This is ultimate freedom to me!

    • Vibing with my sobriety & high on life existence...? Here's a live video I filmed recently about it!

  • Physical Training: I am predominantly a bodybuilder & yogi but I also walk, hike, bike, rollerblade & trampoline weekly along with other forms of movement (swimming, frisbee, fitness classes, massage, etc.). How this empowers my freedom:

    • This is self-knowledge at the primal level. Knowing your body is knowing your Self. This daily practice removes ignorance & encourages connection to Self.

    • Training my body trains my mind, emotions and even my spirit. Being fit in all major life areas is a high form of liberation.

  • Reading/Listening: Every day I read & listen to empowering knowledge. How this empowers my freedom:

    • You are what you consume. If you consume empowering material you become empowered. If you consume garbage your life becomes garbage.

    • This practice is one of my major keys that keeps me constantly healing, growing & transforming.

  • Creating/Sharing In Service: Everyday I try to create something that will empower another life. Whether it's a blog post, a video, Facebook update, Instagram or creating an experience in-person with someone I always try to live from the guiding question: "Is what I am doing empowering & of service to others?" How this empowers my freedom:

    • Being of service in a way that I am authentically & personally passionate about is easily one of the best ways to get high on life for me. Each time I do it I am filled with an incredible energy & sense of satisfaction that I cannot seem to get any other way.

Alchemical Opportunity For The Reader:

What are the constraints, restraints & boundaries that you can proactively create & cultivate in your life now to truly give you the life of freedom you desire & deserve?

Leave me a comment below, send me an email or tweet me with your answer!

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒


  1. Originally this was an Instagram post that ended up being too long so I only posted part of it. It was inspired by one of my amazing yoga teachers, Hana Raftery, after receiving her class/teaching focused on Moksha on Independence Day (July 4th).
  2. Photos by Noelle Johnson.


    How To Be An Ultra Fit Entrepreneur

    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"

     + + +

    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.

    My trusty  steed , always ready-to-ride & get work done!

    My trusty steed, always ready-to-ride & get work done!

    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.

    If you don't get a big goofy grin on your face because you love your go-to form of physical training then you are doing the wrong thing...

    If you don't get a big goofy grin on your face because you love your go-to form of physical training then you are doing the wrong thing...

    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.

    Logging my calories, body-weight & body-fat daily has empowered me to stay well under 10% body-fat (i.e. six-pack) year round.

    Logging my calories, body-weight & body-fat daily has empowered me to stay well under 10% body-fat (i.e. six-pack) year round.

    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?

    The app I am addicted to,  MyFitnessPal , displaying body-weight log since September 2013 & body-fat log since June 2015.

    The app I am addicted to, MyFitnessPal, displaying body-weight log since September 2013 & body-fat log since June 2015.

    + + +


    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. 

    On the left is me 30lbs heavier working out 7-days a week 2-3 hours per day . . . Then I learned how to use food to empower my fitness & the guy on the right finally appeared.

    On the left is me 30lbs heavier working out 7-days a week 2-3 hours per day . . . Then I learned how to use food to empower my fitness & the guy on the right finally appeared.

    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.

    + + +

    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!

    In alchemy & service,

    Justin David Carl 🌒