Tony Robbins

One of the main characteristics of a YOG, is inspiring people. There are not too many people on this planet, dead or alive, who inspire others to the degree and sheer reach of motivational speaker and best selling author Tony Robbins.

Not only does he coach the average Joe to achieve a successful, fulfilling life, he mentors some of the world’s greatest leaders in their chosen field.

His presence is as large as his physical stature, his interior and exterior awareness is off the charts. His understanding of the human psyche is unworldly. Tony Robbins is not just an intelligent man, he is driven, passionate, and even obsessed with using his gifts to improve the lives of others.

Notable fruits of his labor include his best selling books:

Watching how he commands the stage and energizes a room in his recently released documentary I Am Not Your Guru, is truly majestic. 

His Philanthropic efforts are nothing short of admirable. The Anthony Robbins Foundation is positively  impacting millions of lives worldwide.

At 57, Tony Robbins seems like he is just getting warmed up, and judging by the way he takes care of his emotional and physical health, he might be here for another 57 years. Tony Robbins for President!

Can We Go Deeper When Dealing With Depression In Athletes?

This last week after the passing of my friend and former rugby colleague Dan Vickerman has been mournful and reflective. Many articles have come out regarding the implications of suicide and depression among professional athletes, even prompting several fellow rugbymen to step courageously forward  and share their own struggles both during and post career. It also pleases me  to see a number of high profile individuals come together to spark campaigns of support, encouraging sufferers of mental and emotional anguish to speak up seeking help.

However, I can’t help feeling  that many of the points being raised and calls to action in the name of suicide prevention, still fail to address a deeper issue and in my opinion the most important with regards to mental health problems in elite athletes, especially upon retirement.

This is an issue close to my heart, because I am seven years into my retirement after a 12 year professional rugby career. While I am fortunate to say that I have managed to navigate my way around any cause for deep depression, I have certainly stood at the edge of the slippery slope into those depths.

The dark period I refer to occurred shortly after breaking my neck in a professional match in France, from which I was extremely lucky to walk away, but it ended my career and left me with an arduous road to recovery. I was wrought with fear and uncertainty, and immediately felt a loss of identity, causing bouts of depression and anxiety that led to excessive alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism.

061208 - Toulouse v Newport-Gwent Dragons Marc Stcherbina is treated for a neck injury © Huw Evans Picture Agency

061208 – Toulouse v Newport-Gwent Dragons
Marc Stcherbina is treated for a neck injury
© Huw Evans Picture Agency

I was definitely comforted however, by the fact that I had saved enough money, combined with a career ending insurance policy to not have immediate financial concerns. But it was the lack of identity factor that lingered, and which I believe is a deeper, often neglected layer when considering causes of depression for retired athletes.

Athletes are often warned of the potential hardship associated with retiring from sport. Perhaps they are not as readily and forcefully communicated as they could be, but there is by no means an absence of information. From early in my career, I received plenty of advice from various sources about preparing for life after sport, such as the need to consider having a career back up plan and even some form of financial safety net to endure the inevitable decrease in salary. I felt that Rugby organizations and player unions for the most part were considerate of player welfare in terms of physical care, nutrition education, media training and networking opportunities to cultivate business relationships which could become useful both during and post career. I even recall a member of the police department giving a presentation to the team about legal implications and appropriate action when confronted with compromising situations in public bars. Players also had access to sports psychologists to coach them on how to develop their mental skills in order to optimize performance on the field.

But among all the tools provided to the players to ensure we performed and behaved up to expectations while being clever with our finances, in hindsight there was a glaring omission. There was no form of emotional intelligence or self-awareness education, in a unique environment of extremes that can provide great joy and opportunity, yet can also lead you down a dark alley.

Let me explain further…professional sport can develop an unhealthy relationship with the ego. There are not many professions where tens of thousands of people turn up to watch you “work”, children wait for hours just to get your autograph or shake your hand, and you see your face in the newspaper or on TV on a regular basis. Let’s not forget the free products, VIP access, the recognition from strangers, police escorts to games. etc. etc.

It’s quite easy for players to become attached to exterior sources of validation, and even addicted to the hedonistic perks that come with this newfound status and increased wealth. What’s worse, is they also tend to define themselves by it, even developing a sense of entitlement.

I myself battled with this notion throughout my career, which in some ways was my eventual saving grace. What I mean is that I was never completely comfortable with the ego boosting spoils and often didn’t feel deserving of them. While I enjoyed the challenges of building character, pushing my body to the limits and the intense camaraderie forged with team mates in high pressure situations, I was still searching for my purpose, and never fully understood what it meant to play sport for money. Even now I am still transitioning, or in life coaching jargon, searching for my “why”, and I do believe that my self awareness and curiosity about emotional development has made it easier to detach myself from the professional athlete identity, and I have learned to enjoy the journey of reinventing myself.

For others, this is not necessarily the case, especially for the Dan Vickermans of the world, who played on a much bigger stage than me for a decade, exposing him to even greater highs, which can lead to crippling lows when those highs become a thing of the past.

depressed-sportsman

I want to be clear that I am not suggesting this was an underlying reason for Dan Vickerman’s decision to take his own life. Rather, I am theorizing that this may be the case for many high profile athletes and am merely using Dan’s tragic circumstances to raise awareness of these possibilities.

So yes, there needs to be a more concerted effort in creating a safe environment for those suffering from mental illness to talk about their problems, but I am proposing that there should also be an educational component involving emotional intelligence and mindfulness. Where players are introduced to and encouraged to contemplate topics such as:

– Positive and negative aspects of the ego and self esteem.

– Seeking self worth and validation from within and not exterior influences.

– Considering and possibly re-evaluating ones metrics for success.

– The stigma of what it means to be a man in the intensely aggressive contact sport environment.

– The origins and management of fear based thoughts.

– Humility, gratitude and the art of giving.

In the seven professional organizations for which I played, there was not one which properly assessed or provided extensive coaching in the above subjects. Most coaches were well versed in character building, leadership skills and enhancing team culture, but rarely did they communicate lessons about vulnerability, emotional attachment and self-identity, and neither is it necessarily their job.

Just like our physiotherapists and trainers prescribed “prehabilitation” programs to help us avoid physical injuries, why shouldn’t the same be done for the mind?

I believe there are a number of ways organizations can introduce some of the aforementioned topics. For example:

1) Yoga classes – not only is it great for prevention of injury and increased movement potential, but classes which include the spirituality element can start players on a positive path to self awareness, the mind-body connection and the meaning of happiness.

2) Player led discussion groups – one hour per week can be devoted to talking in groups about various topics pertaining to the emotional aspects of being a professional sportsman.

3) Influential Guest Speakers – Several motivational speakers were invited to talk to my various teams throughout my career, but it was almost always in an effort to inspire us to win the big important game that weekend or pull us out of a form slump. Why not have leaders in philosophy and/or mental health address the team?

4) Book or podcast of the week – why not have players taking turns in recommending their favorite audiobook, podcast episode, or even just movie scene which provides insight into mastering our thoughts and emotions (perhaps combine it with point #2). My life turned around when my teammate Xavier Rush recommended I read “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and set me on a relentless crusade for self-growth. With regards to regulating our thoughts and emotions surrounding fame, fortune and happiness I also recommend the following, to name just a few:

– The Consolation Of Philosophy by Boethius

– The subtle art of not giving a f#*k

– Tim Ferriss podcast episode 221

5) Meditation – This is becoming increasingly mainstream, with many leaders in business acknowledging regular meditation practice as a key to their success. Professional Rugby can be a highly stressful vocation, therefore calming the mind and achieving clarity should be just as important for athletes as lifting weights, and will also benefit the process of approaching retirement and beyond.

6) Volunteer work – It is wonderful that teams can be seen devoting their time for various charity work within the community, such as visiting the local children’s hospital or attending fundraising events. But I feel it would be even more beneficial for the player’s personal growth if they tried to also give back with total anonymity, rather than under the guise of a celebrity, or just fulfilling an obligation as a contracted player.

By incorporating such practices into the team’s regular playing and training schedule, the issue of mental health management will be seen as more “normal”, and hopefully will result in players being less reluctant to express their own struggles. Furthermore, it will cultivate a more informed, empathetic audience upon receipt of those difficult, vulnerable confessions.

Another huge factor that I haven’t addressed and should not be discounted, is the correlation between head injuries and depression. However, I will save that can of worms for another discussion and give it the proper attention it deserves.

The passing of Dan Vickerman has left us all in a state of shock, sadness and in search for answers. We must not let the death of Dan, and the many before him under similar circumstances be in vein. Let us keep discussing, but more importantly implement measures that empower our elite athletes to take control over, and comfortably communicate their thoughts  from a stable place, rather than letting it become a desperate plea of hopelessness, or in my young, fallen friend and colleague’s case, irrevocably worse.

How A Training Journal Saved My Neck

Ok, so the title may be a little misleading in the hopes of getting your attention, but there is an element of accuracy to it and a great sentiment behind it. So let me explain…

During my professional rugby career, I was required to train hard and often. My weekdays were mainly spent doing speed work on the track, strength training in the gym, or skill work on the field.

It was the norm that we used training diaries or journals to log the results of the activities prescribed by our Athletic Trainer, especially from our weight training program.

I found using a diary both helpful and a hindrance, and my commitment to writing down my performance after each exercise was inconsistent. While it was handy having previous scores written down as a reminder of where I was and a what to improve upon, I didn’t always remember to keep track, or on some occasions bring my diary to the gym at all!

The obvious benefits of using a training diary became apparent to me when I broke my neck playing rugby. After a successful surgery, I faced a long, hard road to recovery, and little did I know that the humble training diary would become my best friend during this difficult period.

keeping-a-training-journal_02

Stepping Stones

When the fusion of my fractured C4/C5 vertebrae was strong enough, it was time to embark on my neck rehabilitation. I suffered extensive nerve damage to my right arm also, which now resembled that of a 6 year old child due to the muscle atrophy which had occurred.

Despite the risks and my new infantile physique, I was determined to play rugby again. At 32 years old however, I knew that I would have to cross my ‘t’s and dot my ‘i’s if I was to return to the field while I was still young enough to perform.

So I made myself a training diary, which included a “Goals” section in the back of the book, and the first thing I wrote in the diary was my long term goal – “MAKE STARTING TEAM FOR FIRST GAME OF NEXT SEASON”. That gave me 9 months.

I would then set a series of shorter range goals as stepping stones to the Long term goal. This was important not only as an indicator of whether I was on the right track, but makes the long term goal seem less overwhelming. If you’re climbing a mountain, it can be too daunting and discouraging to keep looking at the summit, so setting your sights on each base camp will seem more achievable and hence more motivating.

looking-up-at-the-mountain

Keeping your discipline

When trains become derailed it can have disastrous consequences. This was my mindset when it came to sticking to my rehab program. The programs that my neck specialist and Strength and Conditioning Coach gave me were the train tracks which were laid down for me, and my training diary would ensure that I stayed on the tracks, otherwise my life was in danger if I attempted to take the field again with an under-strengthened neck, shoulder and arm.

This sentiment helped me remain disciplined and focused. Disciplined to remember my diary. Disciplined to stick to my program and write down my scores. Disciplined to review my performance and assess the achievement of my short term goals.

When you write down your performance in a training diary, you now become accountable to yourself, and the numbers don’t lie. The great US Olympic track sprinter Michael Johnson says in his book Slaying The Dragon that he ensures he doesn’t “blur the edges” of his training program. If it says do 10 reps, you must do 10 reps, not 9.

michael-johnson-victory

Listen to your body through your diary

Just as it is important to be strict and work hard to achieve your goals, it is equally important to be aware of any signs of overtraining, and take measures to prevent any illness or injury as a result.

Your training diary can provide valuable information about any plateaus in performances, which are prime indicators that overtraining may be occurring, in which case a reassessment of the training program may be necessary.

In my training diary, I also include a scale of how I am feeling before and after training, and be sure to make a comment of things like muscle soreness, lack of energy, quality of sleep etc. which can all be valuable indicators that I need to back off.

overtraining-in-fitness-800x534-1160x665

What kind of diary?

Your diary can be as simple or elaborate, as large or small as you want. A simple blank notebook is better than nothing. I recommend however using a diary that has a clearly set out format making it easier to write down info and clearer to read and compare when you review sessions.

Some people don’t mind having a large and bulky all-in-one folder with compartments in which programs and other information can be kept. Others prefer a more discreet pocket sized version which more easily transported and less obnoxious. Bear in mind though that these can easily be misplaced, so I tend to go for something in the middle.

To ensure that I get in and out of the gym in a timely fashion, I like to fill in as much of the session as possible in my diary before the workout, especially if I am transferring info from a separate training program.

There are some good training diary apps out there too which obviously negate the need for pen which is desirable. I recommend JEFIT Workout and Fitlist apps.

However, I like to keep it old school with a paper booklet and pen for a few reasons, but mainly to limit the use of my phone and temptation to be distracted by apps, texts and emails which can deter the quality of my workout. So unless you’re a doctor on call or an Instagram influencer, leave the phone in the car and grab your training journal and pen to optimize the quality of your session.  Where can you find a good diary you ask? You can order the very diary I used for my neck injury rehab and still use myself and give to my clients today. Just click the link below to order.

diary example for blog post

Laird Hamilton

Put simply, Laird Hamilton is the result of successfully gene splicing the DNA of Captain America and Aquaman. At 52 years of age, he is still more handsome, fitter, fearless and just downright manlier than 99% of all of us!

Laird is known for his big wave surfing and innovation of various ocean riding crafts and techniques, but is now carving out a successful career for himself as a Health & Fitness guru, teaming up with his Pro Volleyball playing wife Gabby Reece.

He’s an inventor, trailblazer and wonderful role model for his 3 kids, not to mention the millions of us who strive to live a clean and kick ass life. He is also the inspiration for us to bring back the short shorts, so watch this space…

NORTH SHORE, Laird Hamilton, 1987. ©Universal

NORTH SHORE, Laird Hamilton, 1987. ©Universal

Add A Cleanse To Your New Years Resolutions

It may not have been included on the checklist of the previous Yog Blog article, but it certainly would be a good idea to add a detoxifying cleanse on your “to do” list, and one in particular which will have a huge impact on your health, is a colon cleanse.

If I had a dollar for every time people said that they were ‘on a diet but not seeing results’ I would be – well richer than I am now. Analogies are my go to so here is one: When it is time for an oil change you cannot just keep adding oil in your car year after year because you are mixing new with old and this simply will not make for a vehicle running at its optimal best. Our bodies work the same. Simply going on a diet or changing the way you eat is just not enough. You need to clean your pipes first.

Man Sitting On Bed And Feeling Unwell

Humans can carry up to 40 extra pounds of toxic build up in their colon alone. This not only puts a dampener on that summer body but more importantly is a breeding ground for disease. A colon cleanse is simple and just takes dedication, a few inexpensive ingredients and 10 days out of your year and I recommend doing it once a year.

Below are two different recipes. The first is for a single serving of the master cleanse lemonade. The second will make 6 servings.

#1 (single serving):

2 Tablespoons of organic lemon Juice (about 1/2 a Lemon)

2 Tablespoons of Organic grade B maple syrup or agave

1/10 Teaspoon Cayenne pepper powder

Ten ounces of filtered water

#2 (60 oz. daily serving):

60 ounces of filtered water

12 Tablespoons of organic grade B maple syrup

12 Tablespoons of organic lemon juice

1/2 Teaspoon cayenne pepper powder

healthy-colon-toxic-colon

There are a couple important things to remember when preparing the lemonade.

For one, the lemon juice must be fresh squeezed and organic.

Also, the maple syrup must be grade B maple syrup, not the sugar filled syrup that gets drenched on pancakes!

The cayenne pepper helps to break up mucus and increases healthy blood flow. It is also a good source of B and C vitamins.

While you are cleansing, drink 1 teaspoon of unrefined non-iodized sea salt in a small glass of water to help flush out your system. Do this first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed.

The most common question is whether you can eat any solid food whilst cleansing. The answer is ideally no but some people struggle to get through the entire 10 days. If you absolutely must eat a little bit then stick to light foods like salads and vegetables or drink one green juice per day. Absolutely no meat, dairy or gluten.

After day 10 incorporate fresh squeezed orange juice and light meals. Stay away from meat, dairy and gluten for 3 days after the cleanse so that you don’t jump straight back into stressing the digestive system.

retro surfers

Some herbs that you can add to your nutrition plan once you are finished the cleanse are:

– Psyllium – which is a soluble fiber that is found in many over-the-counter products for keeping the digestive system regular.

– Flaxseed – This herb seed is also a bulk-forming fiber that works by adding mass to waste matter in the intestines, helping to ease bowel movements

Good luck! Actually good dedication! You are going to need it!

BF

(Dr. Bruce Fulford D.A, C.N, Ph.D is a leading expert in Alphabiotics and certified clinical nutritionist. For more info about his work visit Alphabioticbalance.com)

 

Your New Year Checklist For Dominating 2017

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here’s a checklist of the 11 top things to do right now to help ensure you make the most of 2017, and set you up for a future of success and YOGness.

  1. Download a time management app

For most of us, many hours went to waste in 2016 due to poor time management. As our lives get busier and more distractions emerge around us, we develop an even greater propensity to procrastinate or misspend our precious time.

Having an organizer that can help you plan and complete your daily “to do” list is a valuable productivity tool.

There are many apps out there for this purpose, but I like to use the Wunderlist app which allows you to set tasks and sub tasks within projects and sorts them into a daily or even weekly to do list while sending you reminder notifications.

wunderlist-eg

2. Buy a large water bottle

There is no doubt about the necessity of water for survival, so it should be no surprise either that there are countless benefits of water to our health, function and even maintaining a youthful appearance. After all, we are comprised of up to 80% water.

The minimum recommended intake of H2O for adult males is 2.7 liters, and we normally get 20% of that through food. It can be difficult to remember to drink the other 80% we need, so investing in a large stainless steel or glass bottle to carry with you everywhere is my recommendation.

Treat yourself to a 40oz stainless steel bottle from Mobot, which also doubles as a foam roller, and aim to drink two full bottles per day to meet your minimum requirement.

If you want to take your health to the next level, then invest in an alkalizing water filter. Our friends at Life Ionizer will sort you right out.

mbot-thumb

3. Buy a group fitness membership

I know, the fitness kick from January 1st vibe is so cliché, but no harm in playing along. Problem is, so many people buy new gym memberships, or commit to finally using the one they already have, then inevitably end up just donating money monthly to their respective fitness boxes as soon as February rolls around as life becomes hectic again.

This is partly why I recommend a group fitness membership instead. Your motivation is likely to remain higher in an environment where other people are contributing to the overall energy and a good trainer is keeping you honest while sweating safely. The social aspect and sense of community in group sessions is also likely to keep you wanting to come back for more.

I recommend places like Training Mate, Soul Cycle or even sign up for a team in a semi-competitive sports league like mixed flag football or ultimate Frisbee. This way, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re also letting down others by choosing to stay home overdosing on ESPN instead of lacing up the trainers for the real deal.

training-mate-01-600x450

4. Block out 1 weekend per month for a road trip

I am speaking mostly for Angelenos, but the vast majority of major cities around the world have great weekend or day trip destinations within a few hours drive, or at the most, a 60 minute flight.

Getting away from the rat race is important not only for achieving balance, but also enriching our character, and it need not be any more than loading up the car with a tent and surfboards, or hiking shoes and a picnic basket.

If taking a domestic flight from LAX is a bit steep, then a road trip to any of California’s great National Parks such as The Sequoias, Big Bear, or Joshua Tree should be high priority.

Don’t feel like driving? Take the train down to San Diego for an overnighter, or maybe just to San Clemente for a Sunday Funday.

cali-road-trip-1

5. Prepare for Yoga and meditation

This may seem like two checklist items, but these go hand in hand. If you’re not convinced about the benefits of yoga for your daily life, refer to our article about Yoga for YOGs HERE.

In L.A.,  yoga studios are as prolific as plastic surgery, but if I had to choose, Yoga Works normally provides a great experience for all levels in several locations, and there are often good deals on Groupon to help give you the extra push to sign up.

While Yoga helps quieten our minds and center our energy, it isn’t enough to rely on as your sole dose of meditation. Seeking more meditation practice will help you dominate 2017 and execute all aspects of your life at a high frequency.

Guided meditation sources are popping up everywhere, and the Headspace app is leading the charge. Start with just 5 mins per day and build up to as long as you’re comfortable with.

headspace-cartoon

6. Simplify your HQ

Over time, we accumulate lots of stuff, especially over a whole year if we don’t de-clutter regularly. When we have more stuff, we have more stuff to manage which can be overwhelming and stressful. Start with your home. Clear your bedroom of objects you simply don’t need to free up some space. For inspiration, watch “Minimalism” on Netflix immediately. If you have a home office, aim for a completely object and paper free desk. Downsize your wardrobe by donating any clothes to Goodwill that you haven’t worn in a year. Watch the documentary “The True Cost” for extra motivation.

You can also spring clean your phone by deleting contacts, unused apps and social media followers or “friends” . Go through these lists and unfriend/unfollow anybody you don’t know well or doesn’t have a positive influence on your life. You’ll be surprised how liberating this can be.

cluttered-desk

7. Create a “live life to the fullest” reminder

I shared my most recent and powerful “life’s short” trigger in our last article How I really feel about turning 40. It could be a quote that you frame and hang in your bathroom where you’ll see it first thing every morning, or even make it your smart phone wall paper. By constantly reminding yourself that you have one chance at this life, and time is ticking away ever so quickly, it will hopefully allow you to eradicate your fear based thoughts and go out to chase your dreams.

carpe-wrist

8. Get rid of your TV

I know this may sound a little extreme, but your television set is often the source of many non-redeemable hours of life disappearing into a black hole of waste. The way I look at it, ridding yourself of your TV is similar to taking junk food out of your fridge. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it. I prefer to have a Netflix account on my laptop, which is similar to having a corner store where you can still buy junk food, but you’ll only make the trip if you can be bothered or have something you really want to eat.

Don’t get me wrong, a little entertainment media is a good way to help us switch off our brains after a stressful day or provide some much needed laughs. Just try to be disciplined and avoid binge watching consecutive seasons of popular fictional shows for hours on end, and make an effort to balance it out with uplifting and educational documentaries.

no-more-tv

  1. Buy an Audible account

Read more books this year. And if you’re like me, whose only time to read is bedtime which normally lasts 5 minutes before falling asleep, then audiobooks are for you. Audiobooks can be handy when stuck in traffic on the way to work, cooking your evening meal, or even working out at the gym.

For a reasonable monthly fee of $15, an Audible account offers discounts and 1 credit for any purchase per month, which can accumulate up to 6 credits at any time.

audiobook-headphones

10. Put a nutrition plan in place

We all say we’re going to eat healthier this year, but how many of us even devise a plan, let alone stick to it?

Improving our nutrition will also require some education on better food choices and also meal preparation. It’s a constant, fulfilling practice. For education, there are many great documentaries out there such as Food Matters, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Sugar Coated to put you on the right path.

Too busy to prepare and cook your own healthy meals? Meal delivery services can be an excellent way to ensure you’re putting the right stuff in your body to suit your lifestyle.

I like Fresh n’ Lean which delivers pre-cooked, vacuum packaged goodies using organic, vegan ingredients that you can simply heat up on the stove. Stack.com also has a useful list of meal services for you athletes out there.

The best way to put you on the right nutrition path however is consult a reputable nutrition specialist. If you’re in Los Angeles, Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Bruce Fulford with prescribe the right diet according to your metabolic type.

fresh-n-lean

11.  Create a work vs play diary

Did 2016 seem like all work while your friends were all out doing cool, fun stuff? Or was last year fairly unproductive overall due to your social FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?

The work:play ratio can be difficult to manage, especially if you have kids or you’re trying to get that business off the ground. It can also be challenging staying totally present when engaged in either of the two, for fear of the other one suffering.

So it can be useful to not only schedule your leisure time, but evaluate it at the end of the day. Simply keep a diary where you rate your work productivity and quality of social activities and the reason for the rating. You will soon see whether the time is being misused. Setting goals for your work and play time will then give you more control over your quality of life.

play-vs-work-balance

 

Okay there you have it, well done for sticking it out up to this point, this tells me you’re keen for a good start to a big year. This checklist could have gone on, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. You should have a great basis here to use the month of January to get your shit together to start 2017 on the right foot, and maintain these good habits throughout the year and beyond.

Now go get ‘em Tiger!!

 

M

 

 

 

How I Really Feel About Turning 40

I’ll be honest, in recent years when birthday time rolls around, I hadn’t thought too much about getting older… until now. In reality, it shouldn’t feel much different to this time last year. But the numerical yearly value attached to my time on this Earth has a powerful effect on perception as it ticks over into a new decade. And the perception seems to be universal, which influences my perception even more, especially when the most commonly asked question to me over the past three weeks has been “so how do you feel about turning 40?”

There’s a side of me that wants to respond with “like the last ounce of my youth has just disappeared”, or “like a kidless, wifeless, lonely old guy”, or even “like I’m now officially losing the race against time”, because that’s what I think people expect to hear, and deep down might even want to hear to make themselves feel better.

race-against-time

But these are just projections which society has imposed upon me. They are common perceptions of many men in the same stage of their life as me right now. So instead of answering the afore mentioned question with any of these self loathing, pessimistic phrases, I reply, proudly and with confidence, “I feel great!”

And this is the truth. When I think about how I actually feel, and not how I should feel based on societal norms, I feel…great. Fantastic in fact.

“Why?” you may ask with a hint of skepticism. For several reasons, which I will list for you in point form:

– I am the most knowledgeable I have ever been in my life.

– I feel in the best physical shape and health of my life, due largely to my accumulated understanding of how to avoid and manage injury, optimize recovery, train efficiently, eat properly and apply an advanced understanding of my own psychology, especially relating to motivation and discipline.

– I have over two decades under my belt of learning from my romantic relationships, and 3 decades of professional relationships.

– I am the most self aware I’ve ever been, and the closest I’ve ever been to mastering the power of living in, and appreciating the present moment, rather than focusing on the past or future, neither of which exist.

– I am more committed than ever to surrounding myself with good people, and avoiding or eradicating those from my life who don’t serve as a positive or uplifting influence.

– I am far more advanced than my younger years with regards to knowing my purpose and eradicating my ego from decisions or feelings about…well…everything.

marc-10I’ve come a long way…

Of course, there are obvious physiological challenges we all experience as we pass a certain age, such as metabolism slowing down, muscle and joint pain lingering longer after intense exercise, and skin losing it’s elasticity hence youthful appearance. Therefore it is important to accept that it requires harder work and discipline to minimize such effects of aging. Embrace it, and revel in the satisfaction of not allowing the aging process to take hold and beat you down.

Further to this point, I have noticed myself occasionally slip into a self-deprecating and defeatist approach to aging. For example I might say things like “I was able to do that back in the day”, “take it easy on me (on the rugby field) I’m getting old”, or “my back is so stiff today after training, that’s aging for you”.

The mind can be very impressionable, and the more we talk this way, the mind-body connection kicks in, and the older we will look and feel.

So…I will commit from now on to refraining from using such negative language, and instead speak in a way that elevates myself and doesn’t consist of making excuses or playing victim. For me it is way more satisfying to overcome the challenges of getting older than simply giving in to them.

marathon-w-dmacYep, life gets tougher on the body, but so what?!

Turning 40 has also exposed just how much time has passed, and passed quickly, especially when my celebrations have reunited me with long time friends after many years of absence. It is yet another reminder to live life to the fullest and maximize the remaining time I have.

Moving forward, I’d like to be frequently reminded to stay on the path to living to the max. I stumbled across a tool that really resonates with me when watching a TED talk by Tim Urban. He showed a slide where the life of an 80 year old was represented by a grid of small boxes, where each box represented a week.

I took the liberty of creating my own grid and filling in the boxes that have already expired. It’s a mind bender to see an entire lifetime (assuming I live to age 90) represented on just one sheet of paper. I have stuck it on my wall and will continue to color in each box at the end of that week until I die. It’s kind of like my version of having “Carpe Diem” tattooed on my wrist or ankle.

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So gents, what I’m essentially saying, is that while it’s important to accept and embrace the aging process, using it as an excuse for not working hard to be the best version of yourself is no bueno, and quite frankly, unYOGish.

Find your own trigger that reminds you how incredibly short life is, and to be the best version of you which is capable of squeezing every last drop out of the rest of your life.

Saving Lives Through Facial Hair

I lost my grandfather to prostate cancer. I was 18 years old at the time. When you’re 18 you believe you’ll live forever. Common worries of a healthy 18 year old include passing a driver’s license test,who they’re taking to the prom and which college they’ll get into. Being diagnosed with cancer is generally not on the list.

Seeing how much physical and emotional pain my Gramps suffered during his final weeks have forever haunted me. And now that I am well beyond my teenage years, my “it will never happen to me attitude” is increasingly waning, especially after learning that 5 -10% of prostate cancer diagnoses are hereditary.

So in an effort to keep the big “C” at bay, I do my utmost to choose sound lifestyle habits, fueled by a career in Health and Fitness, and also do my part to promote and contribute to organizations that are leading the way in funding research and practices for the treatment of prostate cancer.

One such organization at the top of my list is The Movember Foundation.

What started as a fun idea to bring the moustache back into fashion and raise money doing so by two mates (Travis Garone and Luke Slattery) in Australia, has now turned into a global phenomenon raising USD $710 million and funding 1,200 men’s health projects since it’s humble beginnings.

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A constant concern of mine with charities is whether the donation money actually reaches its intended area of need. The great thing about the Movember Foundation is that they address these and similar concerns of its donors and claim to have ultimate control over the funding of the projects they invest in.

I urge you to play your part this Movember. If you are follicularly challenged of the upper lip, then participate in one of the many great Movember events on the calendar for the rest of the month or even host your own event.

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If you’re in the Los Angeles area, look no further than the event I’m hosting through my company Rugby Method, which involves an outdoor bootcamp style group fitness session, followed by a tackle bag challenge for a chance to win some great prizes, while getting some aggression out and reversing the regret of eating/drinking so much over Thanksgiving.

YOG tours – Zion National Park

Spontaneous trips are often the most rewarding experiences. One of the reasons for this is that you don’t allow yourself to build unrealistic expectations the way you would with a planned trip, which almost always leads to disappointment.

Living in Los Angeles lends itself to exploring a myriad of wonders. Within a 7 hour road trip, you can venture to some of the most exciting, and most beautiful destinations in America.

My most recent YOG tour was a quick 3 day jaunt to Zion National Park in Utah. A buddy of mine was invited by his work colleague, who had managed to secure permits to hike the Narrows from top to bottom. These permits are hard to come by, particular this time of year, so when I was asked on Tuesday if I wanted to tag along on the Thursday, I simply couldn’t refuse.

After some gnarly traffic leaving LA and a few pit stops including In & Out burger in Vegas, we reached the small town of Hurricane just outside Zion around midnight and bunked down for the night in a cheap roadside motel.

The plan was to get to the park early on Friday morning, get our permits and take the shuttle for an hour up to Chamberlain’s Ranch. From there the hike is 16 miles down into the canyon along the Virgin River and through the Narrows, stopping halfway and camping overnight.

Before we even arrived at the park however, the shuttle bus company called us to say that it would not be possible to take the shuttle up because heavy rains the previous night had made the road impassable.

The next best option was to hike the Narrows from the bottom up. As much of the hike requires walking through the river riddled with bowling ball sized rocks, we rented special shoes, wetsuit socks and walking stick from the Zion Adventure Company.

We then jumped on the free shuttle bus, enjoyed the spectacular views of the surrounding red rock formations, and jumped off at the 7th and final stop - Temple of Sinawava, then set off on our exciting journey

After a mile walk along the river, we entered the famous Narrows, and it was nothing short of magical. The sheer vertical walls on either side rose 300 – 400ft high. Sections of the Narrows were a symphony of darker shaded sections mingled with bright gold and red blocks lit up by slivers on sunshine sneaking their way into openings of the gorge.

Traversing through the river, with some sections as deep as chest height, added to the overwhelming connection to the surrounding raw and natural beauty. It was blatantly evident why this hike was recently rated by National Geographic as #5 top adventures in the United States.

Hiking the Narrows does not come without potential peril. Hikers and tourists are extensively warned by park authorities about the prospect of flash floods. Rain showers from storms upriver can cause flash floods in the canyon without it raining over the canyon itself. There are segments of the Narrows, including one called Wall Street, where there is no high ground and extremely dangerous should a flash flood strike.

We considered this when deciding whether we should camp in the Narrows or not that night, but the weather was sunny and the forecast said no rain until possibly the next day in the afternoon, so we continued on past the heavily populated bottom section and up into the serenity where small campsites began occupying the river banks.

After 5 hours of hiking, we set up camp at site No.8 of 12 and crashed about 9pm in anticipation of a 4:45am rise to get back down to the Narrows. At around 1am, there was an unexpected flash of lightning and a crack of thunder overhead. Soon, the star riddled sky was replaced with angry thunder clouds, resulting in 4 hours of heavy rain, and consequently a very uneasy feeling which led to very little sleep.

All those flash flood warnings had now become very real in my head. I imagined getting up in the morning and seeing a raging river, rendering the path back to civilization unhikeable. This would mean possibly having to stay another night waiting for the river to calm down and we were very light on food as it were.

Scenes of the movie “Into the Wild” kept playing over in my head where the main character is forced to eat poisonous berries after being trapped by a rise in water levels. All of a sudden, shit got real!

When the rain cleared, we went down to the river to check it out and were immediately comforted by a relatively tranquil scene, similar to yesterday. The river didn’t seem to have risen much at all, and flowing at a normal rate, making my “Into the Wild” visions rather silly and obsolete.

We didn’t want to take any chances however, packing up and leaving promptly having learned that weather forecasts weren’t entirely accurate in Zion National Park.

The hike down was not as user friendly as the day before, with the water having turned a murky color due to the rain, making it much harder to navigate the uneven bottom of the river.

Nonetheless, we reached the bottom unscathed to find a drastic reduction in the normal number of tourists thanks to a sign indicating that the Narrows had been closed due to heavy rain and imminent flash floods.

Good thing we didn’t hang around too long to take photos in the sketchy sections...although I WAS wearing my Budgy Smugglers, which I’m sure would have kicked me into Baywatch mode should the need have arisen.

Overall it was an amazing experience, and one I recommend everybody add to their bucket list, regardless of where they live.

Here are my tips for anybody keen to hike the Narrows based on my trip:

1. Don't leave L.A. after 2pm.

A no brainer for Angelenos, but if you're on vacation and deciding to take a road trip from LA, try to leave between the hours of 10am and 2pm, or better yet at sparrow's fart in the morning (6am) to avoid spending a fifth of your trip crawling in bumper to bumper. Another alternative is to fly to Vegas and rent a car from there, which should only take you another 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

2. Apply early for a permit well in advance

If you decide to hike the Narrows from the top down, you will require a permit, which is possible to book two months in advance. You'll want to jump on it immediately as they get snapped up pretty quickly, especially in the warmer months. You'll also want to reserve one of 12 camp sites located along the upper portion of the hike. Visit Zion’s online Wilderness Reservation System for more info and reservations. I recommend snapping up Campsite #8, which is set further back from the river next to a cool cave for extra shelter.

3. Don't always believe the weather forecast

It's very important to check the weather, especially for any rain which may increase the risk of flash floods. Even if no rain is forecast, be prepared for some anyway, as passing storms can whip up out of nowhere in the region.

4. Bring/Rent the appropriate gear

You'll get wet often, sometimes up to chest height, so be sure to wear quick drying material instead of cotton. You won't regret paying $37 to pay for a day & a half worth of river walking shoes, socks and walking stick. Be sure to get snug fitting shoe and sock sizes though, otherwise lots of annoying pebbles and other debris will make their way in. The stick is also essential in providing extra stability as you negotiate the rocky river bottom, while also providing a good way of checking water depth. The good people at Zion Adventure Company sorted us right out!

5. Take more provisions than usual

If planning on camping overnight, like it or not, there is a chance of flash floods spoiling the party and requiring you to wait it out another night for the river to die down. Don't make the same mistake as us and leave a whole bag of snacks in the car accidentally! Also, take plenty of water and drink it often. Hiking in a river can trick you into thinking that you are not becoming as dehydrated as you actually are! If you don't fancy the weight of extra H2O, REI has a great selection of water filters you can use in the river.

6. Empty yourself before the hike

Just a heads up that this excursion demands a "leave it how you found it" policy, which means you must bring everything back out of the Narrows you took in, including your solid excrement. I recommend a quick coffee at the cafe next to the park visitor center and a visit to the restroom shortly after for your best chance of avoiding having to carry your poop in the special bags provided by the permitting office.

7. Don't watch 'Into The Wild' beforehand

Watching this movie before going into the Narrows is like watching Jaws before scuba diving. I haven't seen it for a couple of years and visions of the film even kept me awake in my tent for hours. Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but then again, I'm certainly no Bear Grylls...

 

Tony Hawk

You may think that riding around on a skateboard all day at age 48 is more childish than Yoggish, but when you’re Tony Hawk, it’s okay because you basically ARE skateboarding.

“The Birdman” is widely considered as one of the most successful and influential pioneers of the sport. He has invented maneuvers, created his own top selling video game starring himself, and even had theme park rides named after him.

As a philanthropist, he launched a foundation which has donated several millions to underprivileged communities to build skate and recreation parks. His philanthropy also includes founding the charity “Athletes For Hope” with a dozen other famous pro athletes which aims to inspire volunteer work in local communities.

He is also one of the coolest dads out there, and can often be seen goofing around and traveling the world with his kids. Thanks for the inspiration Tony, and welcome to the YOG Hall Of Fame!

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