Beginner’s mind

Beginner’s mind

It has to go hand in hand in with a beginner’s body. When you’re first starting out, it helps to acknowledge and accept that you’re a beginner. To accept it as your starting point. To have the patience to learn (or to relearn) the exercises and to get the technique dialled in.

To acknowledge that in the long term you’re better off starting with less intensity in your workouts and gradually adding to it. To manage your body, but also to manage your mind and stay disciplined enough to keep showing up. Because very few people enjoy having the figurative shit beat out of them in workouts.

Sure, it’s one thing to make training challenging. Even tough. But for those who are crawling out of each training session, I wonder how long they’re going to keep showing up. Because, and this is a fact, most of us like to keep doing things that we at least remotely enjoy. It’s only for so long that we are going to keep sucking a lollipop with the wrapper on. It just isn’t enjoyable. No matter how much positive thinking we try to twist in it.

Breaking, changing, and learning habits is no different. If we make it too difficult in the beginning and set the bar too high, we’re doomed to give up sooner rather than later. It’s hard to keep showing up if we’re consistently falling short of the high bar goals we set for ourselves.

The better option, for most of us, is to set the bar lower. High enough so we still have to make an effort and grow from the challenge. But low enough that with a bit of stretch we can get over it without falling on our face.

It’s ok to fail occasionally. I’ll even argue that if we want to grow, learn and succeed it’s necessary to fail. But no one likes to fail and fall down all the time. No matter how much into kinky they might be.

Making things easy doesn’t sound very sexy. Especially when all you want to do is to copy what your uber-fit triathlete friend Sandra does. But you’re not Sandra. Well, you might be Sandra. But you’re probably not your uber-fit triathlete friend Sandra. And that’s ok. Start where you’re at. Not where your uber-fit triathlete friend Sandra is.

Prioritising you

Prioritising you

Constantly putting our well-being second, saying yes to more work, worrying about other people’s opinions and not managing stress, recovery and sleep are all going to stand in the way when trying to make a lifestyle change. These are Byzantine and annoyingly multi-faceted situations. Opening them can feel like trying to solve a motor oiled Rubik’s Cube with one arm and closed eyes. And often because of this, nothing gets done about them.

Which then stops people from getting the results they want. Embarking on a lifestyle change safari by only focusing on eating more vegetables and working out is better than nothing. But often about as useful as a coffee cup that can’t go in the dishwasher. I mean, that’s far from a functional everyday crockery.

Anyhow. Sometimes it’s possible to improve the situation with little everyday actions: mindfulness, meditation, time in the nature, having a hobby, keeping a gratitude diary, helping others without expecting nothing in return, (coming up for a breath in the middle of a list…. and let’s go again) or reducing alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, screen time, news.

But often these issues require bigger changes: starting therapy, visiting a sleep clinic, ending a relationship, pushing massive dicks out of our circle of supremacy, or changing careers. Sometimes we have to take decisive action to change how we live our life.

And as complicated as dealing with all this might be, here’s the upside: often when we work on them, the fitness results happen too. We might even end up looking better naked. Whoa.

If stress, sleep and fatigue are bringing you down, I recommend this free online test at This Way Up. You’ll get an actionable help on how to improve the way you feel. For free. And considering how our lives have been affected in the last year and a half, we should all probably do this.

Struggling through

Struggling through

Following rules works well for short-term transformations. Rules give us a straight “do this” path forward. That’s why it’s appealing to sign up for something that gives us a clear plug-and-play approach to losing weight and getting in shape. A strict calorie restricted meal plans fall into this category.

They work well for those who are already successfully doing the basics of healthy eating. And now want to tighten things up briefly to reach a specific short-term goal. All you need is the willpower to do what you’ve been told to do and the results will follow.

Unfortunately, these short-term transformations are often sold as the entry point for people who are just (re)starting their health and fitness journey. The catch is that these rule-based transformations don’t teach us anything, expect how to follow rules.

Our lives don’t give a shit about our diet rules. Stuff happens. Kids get diarrheal just when work wants us to put in more hours because Brian quit. And then our cats get diarrheal too. And somehow the neighbour we barely know gets her head stuck in their outdoor coal oven and screams for our help. Again.

What do we do when we don’t have the time and space to follow the rules? We quit. Because it’s too difficult and too rigid to follow rules when we are just trying to muddle through life.

The better, more flexible and sustainable option is to learn principles. A framework that doesn’t give us all the answers forces us to learn by trying, struggling, failing, and eventually learning what works, for us. When we put in the struggle, we build knowledge and resiliency to adjust our eating and training based on what life throws at us. Even if it’s double headed plastic forks aimed at our forehead.

Moving away from zero

Moving away from zero

We don’t need fitter people. We need more fit people. There are plenty of fitness professionals who cater to those already fit. To those who have established a strength training habit. I am more interested in helping someone to move from zero weekly strength workouts to doing two a week. As far as my limited understanding in colour coded population graphs and maths goes, that’s a shitload of people.

Imagine for a moment that 1% of those non-training people would make strength training a weekly habit. How much healthier would the world be? What would it do to the economy if people would age with vigour, take less sick days and need fewer healthcare services? What would it do to our individual happiness?

But allow me to dream. What about going from 1% to 2%? I. can’t. even.

We know from science that the older we get the more important strength training is for our autonomy and functional longevity. Even if someone is already active in other ways, strength training twice a week takes our physical health and resiliency to withstand life’s scissor kicks up another notch or three.

Unless your job involves manual labour, you work in a barn equipped with the hippest tech of the late 1800s, or spend considerate time free-climbing mountains (and let’s face it, neither you nor me fit into those categories), it’s hard to replicate the benefits of strength training without actually doing it. And, if you haven’t started yet, the best time to start is now.

So, if you are currently not doing strength training, or doing it once a week or less and scrambling with consistency, I’d like to hear from you. What do you struggle with it? Why? What would make it easier for you to show up twice a week?

If you used to train, but stopped, what made you stop? Why? What would help you get started again with strength training?

And if you’ve struggled in the past, but have now been consistently doing strength training twice a week for over six months, I’d like to hear from you too. What helped you make the shift?

Please share with me either publicly on social media or privately at joonas(at) Let’s start a conversation. I hope we can both learn something.

It’s a cage

It’s a cage

Are you chasing a number on the scale because it’s what you used to weigh in high school? Do you step on the scale each morning to determine your self-value for the day ahead?

You already know how your relationship is with the scale. When used with detachment, the scale can be a dutiful servant. But when we tie our identity to the number in front of us, the scale becomes the master and makes us its slave.

Is the scale adding value to your life, or working against you? It’s not uncommon to make the number on a scale an oppressing part of our identity. It’s not uncommon to switch the cage of carrying extra weight and being unfit to another cage, the scale.

All you can do with a scale is to watch the number. You can’t directly control it. Yes, it can provide focus to see whether the things you’re working on are indeed working. But, I’d argue it’s the worst number to focus on. Especially if you can’t look at the number objectively.

Ditch the scale. Pick another number and wrap your identity around that. Focus on actions you can control, not the outcome.

Getting in the daily steps. Having balanced meals. Training three days a week. Then stack these actions on top of each other. If you must focus on an outcome, see how your clothes are fitting over time.

When you have ten to twenty weekly or daily actions you can tick off, the weight will come down. And it will happen whether or not you step on the scale.

The Reasons Will Vary

The Reasons Will Vary

Most of us have something we know we should probably do, but just can’t make it into a habit. Training, eating vegetables, drinking water, getting in the daily steps, meditation, running our hands through the soft Saharan sand, whatever.

Years ago my friends were trying to convince me of the benefits of cold exposure. Specifically, cold showers and ice baths. The upsides of cold exposure read like à la carte menu at an all mighty healer’s restaurant: reduces chronic pain, inflammation and eases aching muscles, and improves sleep. I’m sure there was more. Most of it came down to improving performance or some other super athletic endeavour. And I was not sold. None of that really means anything to me.

I gave cold showers a half-hearted attempt. Probably lasting all of two days. But it was too fucking uncomfortable. None of the benefits meant enough for me to lean into that uncomfortable feeling and keep going. So, I quit. And felt quite good about it. Warm, even.

Not for me.

Fast forward to early this year. Another expert talking about the benefits of cold. Yawn. But unlike most of the others, he didn’t froth over the performance enhancing aspects of it. No, instead he focused on how effective cold exposure is in reducing stress. Now I was listening. He had me convinced within three minutes.

He was explaining the benefits in a way that spoke directly to what I was struggling with, stress. And I’ve been proudly hooked on cold ever since. A big deal for someone who grew up near the Artic Circle and has been avoiding cold for the last 15 years.

So, look into the habits that you can’t do with consistency. See if you can find reasons and benefits that you might have missed before. Benefits that speak directly to something that you struggle with. Then, use that as your motivation. To keep going when the shit gets uncomfortable.

“It” might be the best thing in the world. But the best for who? For some? Sure. But if we don’t need the promised results, there is no amount of reasoning to convince us to try whatever the best thing in the world is. No matter how brilliant it might be. Sure, putting vaseline behind my ears might improve my hearing, but I don’t want to hear any better. I made that up so please don’t try it. And if you do, and it does work, I’d like to get some credit for it.

If we don’t believe the efforts are worth the results, there is nothing someone else can do to change our mind. The reasons and results have to be specific enough that they ease our most painful and persistent struggles.

The secret

The secret

Show up. Even when you don’t feel like it.

Lean in. Especially when it feels overwhelmingly difficult.

Do the work. But also learn to rest without guilt.

Struggle. Then grow from it.

And accept that all of this will probably take longer than you’d like.

As much as you want

As much as you want

This could be the only thing you’ll ever need to improve your diet. But first, let’s make few assumptions about the way you currently eat.

Let’s assume you’re already eating a relatively healthy, wholefoods diet. You don’t need to be a clean (terrible term to describe eating, but bear with me here) eating tupperware robot. Not even close. But most of the foods you currently eat are considered healthy by most people. The kinds of foods that make you feel like each forkful is giving your organs a warm hug. Got it? Ok. Let’s also assume you’re already evenly spacing your meals throughout the day to avoid raging hunger at meal times.

What if instead of focusing on calories, portion sizes, or chewing slowly (all of which I sometimes recommend), you’d do something completely different? What if you’d simply focus on eating as much as you want? Not until you feel 80% full (as I often also recommend), but as much as you want.

Most of us are used to eating with some sort of guidelines and rulebook in our head. They are part of the baggage we collect as we grow. Advice and comments from well (or not-so-well) meaning parents, friends and experts that we have stored deep in our brain.We are afraid to let go of them as we think we would lose all self-control and wake up one day weighing 25kg more than we did yesterday.

It’s scary because ‘eat as much as you want’ doesn’t come with a thick rulebook. Yet, at it’s core, eating is suppose to be intuitive. We are not born with these weird, self-depriving eating rules that can make each meal time an epic battle of willpower between our stomach, brain and heart.

But slowly building up the courage to throw out the rulebook is the true freedom. The holy grail of intuitive eating. Returning your focus on how you feel while eating allows you to pay more attention to the actual enjoyment of food. The way it’s meant to be.

And yes, you’ll be wise to focus on healthier diet and meal times first. But once those two aspects are covered, try giving yourself the freedom to eat as much as you like. See where it takes you.

Dig deeper

Dig deeper

When asked what do they want, most people say they want to be stronger, fitter and healthier. And, although they don’t always say it, they want to look better naked. Fair enough. Nothing new here.

But all of that is just adjectives. Dust on the surface. Words we’ve conditioned ourselves to say. The stereotypical answer that gives us a quick way out of an uncomfortable situation.

It’s because of this rehearsed, meaningless answer that many people cannot reach that stronger, fitter and healthier version of themselves. They don’t want to lean into the uncomfortable feeling behind those words. Yet it’s exactly where we need to go to discover our true motivations.

What would it mean to become a stronger, fitter and healthier version of yourself? More freedom? A sense of achievement? Self-actualisation? More status?

What would it allow you to do that your current version can’t do? Self-transcendence? Access to somewhere or some place? A connection with someone or some place?

What would it allow you to feel? Hope? Belonging? Confidence? Power? Control?

And then, once you’ve gone under the surface, it’s time to dig deeper. Why is it that you want what you just discovered? You can go really deep in here. And yes, initially it’ll probably be as enjoyable as trying to glue together a pile of sawdust. But if you really want what you say you want, it’s worth the effort.

It’s fine to want to become stronger, fitter and healthier. But it’s often only after we blow off the dust and dig really deep that we realise what our true motivations are.

It’s a trap!

It’s a trap!

We all struggle. It’s how we approach struggle that determines our long-term results with the things that matter to us.

Feeling sorry for ourselves during struggle is a trap. It is our mind looking for an excuse to stop trying. It’s asking for our permission to quit. It wants us to give up and move on. But struggle is not something to feel disappointed about.

Struggling and failing are part of the learning process. They are signs we’re challenging our current self while trying to reach towards the next, ideally better and healthier, version of ourselves.

Start again.