When you start a fitness program, you tend to spend most of your time thinking about the physical part — what movements you’re going to do, how much weight you’re going to lift, or how far you’re going to run. But my guest today argues we ignore the mental aspect of our training at our peril. His name is Bobby Maximus. He’s a world-renowned trainer known for his brutal circuit workouts and the author of the new book Maximus Body.
Today on the show Bobby and I dig into the psychology of fitness. We begin by discussing what holds people back from getting started or going further with their goals and how sticking little green dots all over your house can help you surmount those barriers. He then shares why it’s important to manage expectations when beginning a training program and why there are no shortcuts to any goal. We then shift gears and get into Bobby’s training philosophy. He shares how to train to be “ready for everything,” why you need to do strength training before your endurance work, and why recovery is so important in reaching your fitness goals.
We end our conversation with some examples of the “Sunday Sermons” Bobby shares on his website and a discussion of why perspective is important whenever you’re going through a hard time in life.
After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/maximus.
How Bobby went from being bullied to the upper echelon of kickboxing and ultimate fighting
The biggest mindset shifts that people need to make to prioritize fitness
Why we tend to set the bar really low when it comes to our fitness goals
How to nip negative self-talk in the bud
Green light thoughts vs. red light thoughts
The 130-hour rule
How Bobby routinely gets people to do the things they don’t believe they can do
Why Bobby believes in “goal directed training”
Bobby’s favorite workout circuit
The importance of recovery in your workouts and fitness routine
Why there’s no such thing as “overtraining”
Proactive vs. reactive stress management
How to handle periods of extreme stress
How Bobby has dealt with the after-effects of a life-threatening disease
Bobby’s “Sunday Sermons”
The benefits of social media in Bobby’s life
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
The Whole Man: 25 Men Who Cultivated Mind and Body
Brains & Brawn — Tips and Inspiration on Being a Well-Rounded Man
Embrace the Grind
Making Exercise an Unbreakable Habit
How Bad Do You Want It?
Why Every Man Should Be Strong
Thor Bjornsson – Word’s Strongest Man
The Burpee — One Exercise to Rule Them All
Get Stronger by Improving Your Post-Workout Recovery
What Every Man Should Know About Sleep
22 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
How to Manage Your Stress
My interview with Steven Pressfield about the Resistance
Connect With Bobby
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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Recorded with ClearCast.io.
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another addition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. When you start a fitness program, you tend to spend most of your time thinking about the physical part, what movements you’re going to do, how much weight you’re going to lift, or how far you’re going to run. But my guest today argues, we ignore the mental aspect of our training at our peril. His name is Bobby Maximus, he’s a world renowned trainer, known for his brutal circuit workouts and the author of the new book, Maximus Body.
Today on the show Bobby and I dig into the psychology of fitness and begin by discussing what holds people back from getting started or going further with their fitness goals and how sticking little green dots all over your house can help you surmount those barriers.
He then shares why it’s important to manage expectations when beginning a training program and why there are no shortcuts to any goal. We then shift gears and get into Bobby’s training philosophy. He shares how to train to be ready for everything. Why you need to do strength training before your endurance work, and why recovery is so important in reaching your fitness goals.
We ended our conversation with some examples of the Sunday sermons Bobby shares on his website in discussion of why perspective is important when you’re going through a hard time in your life. After the show is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/maximus. And Bobby joins me now via clearcast.io
Alright, Bobby Maximus, welcome to the show.
Bobby Maximus: Hey, thank you very much for having me on. I’m a big fan of what you guys do and I’m excited to get this going.
Brett McKay: Well thanks so much. I’ve been following you on Instagram and on the internet for a while, love what you’re doing. Before we get talking about getting big and strong, and I know a lot of our listeners are probably familiar with the work, let’s talk about your background because it’s pretty interesting. Right now you’re a trainer. You show people how to get big and strong, but that’s not always what you were doing. So how did you get to where you’re Bobby Maximus?
Bobby Maximus: No, and I’ve actually done a lot of things in my life. It’s funny, when I look at myself being in, I guess the strength and conditioning industry, it’s somewhere I never thought I’d be. When I was younger … I’ll say this with a grain of salt, because the bullying topic today, I think is a pretty big one.
I was bullied fairly heavily till I was 15 years old. On bus rides to school kids punched me in the face. More often than not I got my underwear ripped out. It was actually funny, my mom used to wonder why I went through so many underwear, it’s because they were in the garbage from getting wedgied. Kids used to draw on my face with marker. When I was 15, a group of hockey bullies beat me up and broke my collarbone.
I decided I never really wanted that to happen again. So of all things, I joined the wrestling team. I absolutely sucked. My first year I lost every match. My second year I won one match out of about 40. Then a strange thing happened, I started to actually get good. I found the weight room. I kept working. I showed up every day. I started to get better. That vaulted me into a university wrestling career.
From there I went on to be second in the world for amateur kickboxing, found myself in the ultimate fighting championship and I was on my way in terms of the physical things. But along the way I always valued education. I always valued the things that my mother and father instilled in me. So I ended up with three university degrees, one bachelor of education, a bachelor of arts and psychology and I also ended up with a bachelor of arts in English. I was a teacher for a short period of time. I also worked as a police officer for five years.
These were all things that I did before really being involved in the strength and conditioning industry. I got here, I think with a much different background than most. Yes, I have a sport background. I was a professional athlete. But I also came in with a completely different educational pedigree than most people have.
Brett McKay: Right. Brains and brawn here. I like that, it’s the complete package. I mean, so how did you make that shift from doing all the stuff that you were doing to becoming a coach? Was there a moment where you were like, “That’s what I need to be doing is coaching other people.”?
Bobby Maximus: Yeah, the biggest thing is I grew up with two parents that we didn’t have a lot growing up. But they always made an effort to help other people. My dad was President of the Lions Club. He used to deliver presents to kids at Christmas, used to do work with homeless people. I’d watch my mom always bend over backwards to try to help people in the community.
So I grew up in an environment where helping others was always highly valued and important. I always knew in some way I wanted to help other people. That’s why I got into teaching. I wanted to work with kids and shape and mold them. It’s why I got into policing, because I really felt that I could make a difference.
Along the way, I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without fitness. If I look back to that scared 15 year old kid that got bullied all the time, fitness is what changed that kid’s life. And it didn’t just change my life physically, it changed my life mentally, psychologically, spiritually.
I’ve realized that through the power of fitness people can make tremendous changes in their lives. They can have better marriages. They can be better fathers. They can be better mothers. They can enjoy things more. They can be better at work. And I realized that’s where my talent was, that that’s where I could really help people and make a difference in this world.
Brett McKay: Alright, so let’s segway into the book. The book’s Maximus Body. Instead of starting off with here are the programs or the circuits you need to do, the first half of the book’s all about the psychology of training and what training can do to us and change us and shape us, make us stronger, our character stronger. But also what we need to do, the mindset shifts that need to take place in order for us to commit.
So in your experience with coaching, I’m sure thousands of people, and just interacting with people online, what do you think are the biggest mindset shifts that people need to make in order to stick with a training program and making fitness a big part of their life?
Bobby Maximus: Number one, hands down, it’s dealing with self-imposed limitations. We all have them. And it’s not just in the gym, it’s in life. There’s a lot of people out there who settle for jobs that they don’t want to be in and they know that they deserve better but they settle. They settle for bad relationships. They settle for the status quo, if you will. And what we all do is we create limits at some point, like, “I’m going to go this far. I’m going to be this successful.” And you never really outdo that, I call it a glass cage that you build around yourself.
The same thing happens in fitness. Someone says, “I want to train for a marathon. I want to finish one.” Well why is your goal just to finish a marathon? Why not have a time goal? The next person sets a time goal of, we’ll say four hours. But who said four hours was ever fast? There’s people who do marathons in 2:03, 2:04, 2:05. There’s 30,000 people a year that qualify for the Boston marathon every year. Why can’t you be one of them?
But we all set the bar really low, according to those self-imposed limitations. And if I can get a person to believe in themselves, to unlock their potential, to see beyond their self-imposed limitations, it can facilitate a tremendous change in them, not only inside the gym, but also outside of the gym.
Another area that really causes people problems, and it’s become so prevalent today. And it makes me angry and sad, I guess at the same time, is the amount of negative self-talk people engage in. I mean the one thing that I truly believe is we were all born with a God-given right, if you will, to love ourselves, to be proud of ourselves no matter who we are or what we do.
Somewhere along the line we learn to be really negative and harsh towards ourselves, and that’s the last thing we need. It’s something that really, really can hold us back. The negative self-talk combined with self-imposed limitations can really prevent us from making progress in any area of life. And especially in the gyms where I see it the most, but like I said, it does cross over to the rest of the world.
Brett McKay: So how you, what do you do with your athletes who come to you and you tell them, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do today and they say, ‘Well I can’t do that.’” How do you break through those self-imposed limitations?
Bobby Maximus: The first thing is just by what I’ll call ruthless honesty. I tell them that’s not accepted here. I don’t let people I work with, people I train … I also do corporate training with CEOs and big companies all over the country. One of the things I refuse to allow is negative self-talk. The minute I hear it, I deal with it head-on.
If you think back to any conversation that you’ve been in when somebody starts to bash themselves in a way, a lot of times people who are surrounding them just listen, or they encourage it even worse. So I don’t allow that to happen. I cut it off right away and I help them become aware of that behavior.
The second thing I’ll do is I’ll start to give them exercises. There’s a few key ones that I do to help them deal with self-imposed limitations, but also to deal with negative self-talk. Now to get into this, there’s two basic types of thoughts that go on in your brain, green light thoughts, red light thoughts.
Green light thoughts are positive thoughts. It’s positive self-talk. It’s thoughts that builds confidence. It’s a group of thoughts that help us be successful. Red light thoughts on the other hand, are the I can’t thoughts. I can’t do this. I’m not good enough for this. Those are those manifestations of self-imposed limitations.
Whenever we experience something in life, we think both green and red light thoughts, but we gotta hope the green light thoughts overwhelm the red light thoughts. So what I have people do is take a small green sticker and stick them everywhere. Stick them on the back of your phone. I’m looking at my laptop right now as we record this, I’ve got one on the front of my laptop. Every time I see that green dot, I have to think a positive thought.
What I’m doing is I’m training my mind to think a different way. When I experience a pressure built situation, or a situation where I’m likely to think those red light or negative thoughts, I’ve almost given myself a vaccine, or I’ve almost helped myself before, by thinking these positive thoughts, and then I can win that negotiation between the green and red light thoughts, if you will.
It can be a really, really powerful tool. It sounds hokey. It sounds silly like I’m going to stick a green dot on something and I’m going to think a positive thought. But you’d be surprised the power of mental repetition. Your brain’s a muscle like anything else. If you train it every day, it’ll behave the way you want it to.
The second thing I do is have people wake up every morning and write down five reasons why they’re going to be successful. Again, it seems too good to be true. It seems hokey. It seems easy. But all you do is you wake up and write down five reasons why you’re going to be successful and you’d be shocked at how powerful the effect of these exercises can be over time. Because eventually you start to believe this stuff.
Brett McKay: Yeah, no the green dot thing’s not hokey at all. I know pilots, fighter pilots, there’s this idea they want to stay in condition yellow, which is relaxed, alert, so they’re always head on a swivel when they’re up there. One thing they do to remind themselves, they put a yellow dot somewhere in the cockpit to remind them condition yellow. So it’s the same thing.
Bobby Maximus: Yeah, and the funny thing is, and the reason I say it’s hokey is because we live in a society today, and this is something that drives me crazy, frankly. Where we’ll go to a doctor and we’ll get a prescription. We’ll take a pill. We’ll look for some magic shortcut. We’ll spend thousands of dollars on something we don’t need, and really the answer is as simple as a small green dot, and just to start thinking positive thoughts throughout the day.
Truthfully, we shouldn’t need a green dot. You should think positive thoughts all day anyway. But it’s funny the people that will go for medication, they’ll spend thousands of dollars, they’ll read these books. They’ll try all kinds of other things. But something that is free, easy to do, and doesn’t cost you anything, they refuse to do, because they think it’s silly.
Brett McKay: So let’s talk about … This idea that you wrote about, the Maximus 130 hour rule. I think it hits on a problem that a lot of people have when they start training programs or a fitness program. Again, they have that magical thinking that, “I start this and right away, I’m going to be awesome.” But that’s not how it works.
Bobby Maximus: Well let’s talk about your podcast. You guys have a tremendous amount of downloads. You’ve had a tremendous array of guests. Was it like that day one? No.
Brett McKay: No, it was not.
Bobby Maximus: You had to work at it. And it’s funny, with the podcast thing, because everyone tells me, “Hey Bobby, you should start a podcast.” And they think it’s 30 minutes a week and that’s all you do. But for a lot of these podcasts, I don’t think people realize the amount of work or the time that goes into them, sometimes 20 hours, sometimes 25 hours per podcast.
We know this to be true in every area of life. You don’t wake up a doctor. You don’t wake up a lawyer. You don’t wake up the best player in the NBA, or the NFL. If people understood the work people go through to achieve something in life, it’s remarkable. So why should fitness be any different? We’re bombarded these days with these infomercials that promise four minute abs, four minute shoulders, the five minute solution, the 21 day fix. There’s all these things that promise a quick-fix, but they never, ever, ever work. The gym, fitness is the same as any other area of life, if you want it, you have to work for it. The harder you work, the more successful you’re going to be.
The 130 hour rule is a way of I guess visualizing that. I’ve trained people since I was 21 in various capacities. If you give me anybody five days a week for six months, I can help them make a radical transformation. They want to lose 100 pounds? Good. They want to play a professional sport? Good. They want to be better at their job? Good. I can help them do that, but it takes six months, five days a week. That’s the equivalent of 130 hours. If you put 130 hours in, you’ll improve at something for sure.
The inevitable question is, I want it faster, six months is too long. Can I do it in three months? You can, but now you still have to pay that 130 hour toll, if you will. The price doesn’t go down. So now, instead of training once a day for six months, you’re training twice a day for three months. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: No, that makes, yeah.
Bobby Maximus: You still gotta put in the work. So it’s like a mortgage, you just get higher payments. So take a 15 year mortgage, or 30 year mortgage, doesn’t matter. You’re going to pay somehow though. And there’s no way around it.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Going back to this psychological, helping people psychologically get through their limits. I imagine one thing you do in your gym to show people that their limitations they imposed on themself are self-imposed is that you actually get them to do the thing that they think they can’t do. Right?
Bobby Maximus: Exactly.
Brett McKay: Any examples of that, that you’ve seen over and over again?
Bobby Maximus: Yeah. You know a big one actually is the 2,000 meter row for time. I don’t know how many listeners out there have rowed a 2,000 meter row for time, but it’s difficult. And it’s short enough that you can go super hard, but it’s long enough that you spend some time inside your own brain.
What generally happens for a 2,000 meter row for time, the first 500 is easy, and the last 500 is easy, because whenever you start a journey, or you’re at the end of a journey, it tends to be fairly easy when you’re starting or at the finish line, good. It’s the middle where everybody gives up. Again, not just true inside the gym. That’s true outside of the gym. Starting’s easy, finishing is easy. It’s that middle part where everyone falls apart.
So I give people a 2,000 meter row for time, the standard in the gym for men is seven minutes, the standard for women is eight minutes. And I’m shocked at the people who will just accept the nine minute or a ten minute or a twelve minute 2K. And I force them to do it, and it hurts.
It’s not easy, and they’re forced to face their demons somewhere throughout this effort. But by overcoming their self-imposed limitation by hitting the standard, it builds confidence in every area of the gym, but also outside the gym as well. And I keep coming back to that because I really believe what the gym can do for you in your real life is far more important than just being fit.
Brett McKay: Yeah, it carries over to outside the gym. I’ve seen that in my own life, in my own training. It does carry over. You don’t think you can do something, but you’re able to do it in the gym. You’re like, “Well, I can do that outside as well.”
Bobby Maximus: Well for sure. And it’s funny, I’m actually working with the people at Blender Bottle right now. Which they make the best shaker cup in the world. Every shaker cup you’ll ever see probably is a Blender Bottle shaker cup. I’ve been working with their corporate team, and I’m actually working with their CEO.
It’s funny, because when we started, and this just happened. He could only deadlift 95 pounds. That was a complete psychological, mental roadblock. He was certainly capable of lifting more than 95 pounds, but he just couldn’t bring himself to. Well, just this morning, he dead lifted 285 pounds. And this is within three months. So it’s pretty incredible that someone can triple their old one rep max, that someone can gain that much strength.
Honestly, I would like to tell you it was from some secret deadlift program that will triple your deadlift and you’ll be the strongest person in the universe. But it’s not. That’s just overcoming those self-imposed limitations and gaining that confidence. And now it’s transferred over to every other area of the gym, and arguably business. But things that before were, I can’t, are now an I can.
Brett McKay: I love that. Alright, well let’s get into training. We talked about the psychology of training, what you’re trying to do mentally, emotionally with your athletes. What’s your philosophy towards training? Is it emphasis on strength, endurance, metabolic conditioning, all of the above? Tell us about it, for those who aren’t familiar.
Bobby Maximus: You know, I can simplify that by just saying goal-directed training. When you ask if somebody’s fit, I guess the question I want to ask is fit for what? Or fit compared to who? Fitness is a relative term. So is the winner of the CrossFit Games the fittest person on the planet? Or is it the person that won an Ironman? It’s really task dependent. So everything for me is dependent on a goal.
If an NBA player comes in the gym, we’ve got one goal, and that is to make them better at basketball. I don’t care about their endurance at that point, or metabolic conditioning. The job is to put a ball through a hoop. If I have an NFL player come in the gym, their goal is to be better at football. If they’re a quarterback, that means throwing the ball further, throwing it harder, throwing it more accurately. If it’s a linebacker, it means being faster, bigger, stronger, making more tackles.
On the far end of the spectrum you could have a person come into the gym and want to lose 150 pounds. I’m not worried about what they can deadlift. I’m not worried about what they can back squat. The goal is to lose 150 pounds. So everything is goal-directed.
That said, I do put a high emphasis on what I call general physical preparedness. Which means being good at everything. You’ve got a good level of strength. You’ve got a good level of endurance. You’ve got a good level of metabolic conditioning. I tend to include all those things. But like I said, everything relates to the goal.
It’s probably the best example I can give you, is do you think the world’s strongest man, Thor Bjornsson won it this year, do you think he cares what he can run a mile in, or what his marathon time is?
Brett McKay: No, no.
Bobby Maximus: No, absolutely not. He’s there to do one thing, and that’s his goal. So everything we do, you come in the gym. We sit you down, I believe fitness is an individual prospect. We come up with your goals and then we write a custom program and deliver custom training to you to accomplish that goal.
Brett McKay: That’s awesome. So let’s say there’s an individual listening who they don’t have a specific fitness modality they’re going for. They don’t want to power lift. They don’t want the endurance. They just want to be like, as you said, prepared for anything. What does programming look like that?
Because whenever you’re training for multiple modalities it can get tricky, right because when you train for endurance you might do so at the expense of strength. If you train for strength, you might do so at the expense of endurance. So how do you balance all that?
Bobby Maximus: By honestly working everything. You know a lot of people are fearful, and I’m glad you brought that up, the strength endurance conundrum, if you will. A lot of people think strength will hurt your endurance or vice versa, but that’s not necessarily true. That’s only true for that Thor Bjornsson fellow, who won the world’s strongest man, who I mentioned. Endurance will hurt his strength, to a degree.
But for normal people, and it’s shocking that actually how high they can get in each area without a detriment, if you will. If you look at some of the winners of the CrossFit Games, we’ve got people who are dead lifting 550 pounds and running a sub five minute mile. Which is incredible. But the key is to pay attention to all areas and ignore none. What often happens, and it’s a key mistake, we gravitate towards what we like, or what we’re good at in the gym, and we ignore things. And those things become areas of weakness.
So in a week, I would have you do an endurance workout. I would have you do a strength workout. I would have you do a circuit workout, or an interval workout that works on metabolic conditioning. I would have you do a workout that works on what I’ll call structural integration mobility. So by engaging in all these things, we can build a well-rounded fitness profile.
Brett McKay: Gotcha. One thing I’ve known you for, and read about that you put out there is your famous circuits for metabolic conditioning, ’cause they’re brutal. I’m curious, are there one or two that are some of your favorites to introduce people, to give them a taste of what kind of things you’re going to have them do?
Bobby Maximus: Yes, one of my absolutely favorites, and it’s one of my favorites because it’s two exercises that people are extremely used to, are the bench press and burpee circuit. What you do is you do a bench press ladder at body weight combined with a burpee ladder. You do 10 bench presses at body weight, one burpee. Nine bench presses at body weight, two burpees. Eight and three. Seven and four. Six and five, and you work yourself all the way till you do one bench press and 10 burpees.
It’s one of my favorites because again, people are used to the exercises. Most people bench press. They consider themselves good at it. And when you throw something cardiovascular like burpees in the mix, it is funny how fast the wheels fall off, if you will. It gives them something that … I’ve come to call it the moment, in the gym.
But it’s that moment during a workout where you realize you bit off more than you can chew, that this is a lot harder than you expected it to be, and you’ve either gotta make a conscious decision whether or not you’re going to persevere and push through that, or you’re just going to quit. That’s a teachable moment. That’s the thing that really allows fitness to transfer to somebody’s life outside the gym.
Brett McKay: And is this a finisher? Is this something you do at an end of a workout? Or would this be a workout?
Bobby Maximus: You know, it depends on your level of fitness. For some people, it’s the workout. For some people, it can be a finisher, because again, when I ask if you’re fit, it’s compared to who? So for somebody like me who’s trained his whole life, who works hard, who’s built his whole life around fitness, for me, that would be more of a finisher. For some people, that might be the hardest workout they’ve ever done.
Brett McKay: Gotcha. Whenever you’re training strength and endurance, I imagine you have guys do the strength stuff first, and then endurance stuff as the end? So you do all your strength and lifting first, and then run two miles or three miles or whatever afterwards?
Bobby Maximus: Yes, and that’s correct. And that is because when we’re training for strength, it’s important to lift maximal weight. So I want people to be as strong and, I guess as put together as possible for that portion of the workout.
The other thing is, is safety. I don’t think this comes across all the time in what I do. But I am extremely risk averse. I cannot afford to get somebody hurt. For my professional athletes, that could really affect their paycheck or affect their life.
And for my normal people who are just training, listen, if you come in and you train with me and you get hurt, you’re on a shelf for two or three weeks, we’re not going to accomplish your goals, and you’re not going to get anywhere and you’re going to be frustrated and have a difficult time.
So I want to keep you injury free. So I don’t want you lifting weights necessarily in a state of pure exhaustion. Imagine running a mile for time and then trying a max deadlift. That’s a recipe for injury.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that’d suck.
Bobby Maximus: I don’t want that.
Brett McKay: So besides … You know you’ve got these monster circuits in here. They just can thrash you.
Bobby Maximus: Yep.
Brett McKay: But you’re big on recovery as well. ‘Cause I think it’s often overlooked when people train. So what’s your recommendations for, how do you recover your athletes or recover yourself from all this really hard training you’re doing?
Bobby Maximus: Yeah, so everyone who’s listening in out there, listen very carefully. There’s no such thing as over-training. There’s only under-recovery. There’s a cost to everything and you’ve got to pay. So if you want to train every day, you’ve got to pay for it somehow. In terms of recovery, the number one way you can recover is sleep.
I would ask you all out there listening how many hours of sleep you get a night, and if the answer is anything less than eight, you are wrong. You need eight to nine hours of quality sleep a night.
I use a cell phone analogy for people. Now let me ask you a question. If you leave the house in the morning and your cell phone, your iPhone or your Samsung Galaxy or whatever you use is at 10%, how useful is that phone for the entire day?
Brett McKay: It’s not useful at all.
Bobby Maximus: Not at all. In fact, you’re probably shutting it off, putting the battery saver on. You can’t make phone calls. You can’t do text messages. You’re done. It’s a useless tool. On the other hand, you leave the house in the morning and that phone is at 100%, it’s a useful tool all day.
So what people are doing, what they need to understand, I guess is that you’re the cell phone and the bed’s the charger. So if you’re leaving the house on a 10, or 20 or 30% charge every morning, there’s no way you can be effective in any area of your life. If you leave the house on 100% charge, now you’re effective. Now you’re really capable of doing something. You’ve got some real genuine horsepower behind you and you can get work done. So sleep is where it starts.
Then I tell people stress relief and stress management is the next area you want to attack. I’m sure you’ve been through periods of extreme stress. How does everything work? It doesn’t work well. You gain unwanted weight. You lose muscle. You’re miserable. You can’t think straight. So I tell people to do things to address stress. Now there’s, I’ll call it proactive stress management, and reactive stress management.
Proactive is really starting to deal with the things that cause you stress. If you’re in a bad relationship, get out of it. If you’re in a job you hate, leave and do something that you love. If there’s people who stress you out, stay away from them. Those are proactive ways to cut off stress.
Reactive ways to deal with stress are what I call recovery modalities. Get a massage. Have a nap. Have a sauna. Go for a walk every day for a half hour with your favorite playlist and leave your phone in the office. Those are things you can do to help deal with the after effects of stress. But if people can focus on those areas, they’ll make a tremendous improvement.
Brett McKay: Alright, so sleep, and then manage stress. And for that managing stress thing, I imagine the green dot exercise plays a role in that as well, because when you’re talking negative to yourself and you’re down on yourself, that can stress you out. I’m sure … I’ve noticed that whenever I’m negative on myself I just feel stressed out more. But when I’m more positive, things just roll off me and I can handle challenges better.
Bobby Maximus: Well absolutely. And just anecdotally, and some of the people who complain the most are the most stressed and it creates this negative feedback loop, or downward spiral where the more stressed you are, the more negative you become, and the more negative you become the more stressed you become and you never get out of it.
Brett McKay: Yeah. So on sleep, so you get, I’m sure you get eight hours of sleep. What time do you go to bed? What time do you wake up usually?
Bobby Maximus: You know right now I’m going to bed at 9 o’clock at night and I’m waking up at 5:30 in the morning. 5:30 is far earlier than I want to wake up, but as I said, I’m training the corporate team here, and the employees at Blender Bottle, and that’s the time they could train before work. So I’ve had to adjust my schedule. But it wasn’t hard. I used to go to bed at 10 or 11 and wake up at 7 or 8. I just adjusted my schedule forward.
A lot of people say they can’t do that. They can, and I did it because I know how important sleep is to me. And what’s the worst thing that could happen, I miss a basketball game? I miss a hockey game? I miss my show? Well fortunately in this day and age we have something called DVR and you can just tape it and watch it the next day.
Brett McKay: Right. Well speaking of stress and those really high-stress situations. There will be … I’m sure, like you said, all of us have experienced times in our life where it’s really, really, really stressful. I’m talking you get a major sickness, family member gets sickness, you get laid off, etc. You’ve experienced that first hand.
What do you do to keep training and keep doing the things that you know makes your body feel good, makes your mind feel good? How do you manage those big, really stressful events in your life?
Bobby Maximus: You know, the first thing is, and I’m going to relate this to fitness because fitness is so important to me, is it comes down to how bad you want something. It’s funny, but when people really want something they’ll figure out a way to make it work.
So the first thing I do is when I’m in a period of extreme stress, I always put fitness first. Fitness is my anchor. I am in the gym an hour to two hours a day, every day. My slogan, my tagline is, every damn day. That’s my anchor. That’s where it all starts. And it’s stress relieving for me. When I train, I feel better.
Even on days I don’t want to train, I will show up at the gym and just sit there. ‘Cause again, it’s my anchor, it’s my safe place. It is … I am so thankful for working out and training because I think it has, it’s built a platform on which I live my life. So I always pay homage to that and pay respect to it and I show up.
But beyond that, in periods of high-stress, I always make sure to make time for myself. That may be just an hour walk in the afternoon without my phone, with a good playlist. It may be meditating. It may be going for a massage. It may be having a sauna. But I really, really strive to take care of myself during those stressful periods. That’s one of the things I think we forget when we are in periods of high-stress, we cut back on sleep and our self-care goes down the toilet. And we always have to make sure we have to care for our bodies.
Kind of like a car. What happens if you drive your car hard every day and you never get the oil changed, never get the tires aligned, what’s going to happen to it? It’s going to fall apart. And your body will fall apart. So always make time for that self-care.
Brett McKay: I don’t know if you want to talk about it. You mentioned earlier, before we got on the interview that you contracted some sort of bacterial disease where it almost killed you.
Bobby Maximus: Yep.
Brett McKay: And you’re still dealing … Thankfully you survived. But you’re still dealing with the after effects. How do you not let that get to you? ‘Cause I imagine that could be really frustrating, it’s like, “Okay, I beat the worst of it, but now I’m still dealing with this thing months later. I should be done with it.”
Bobby Maximus: Yeah, and you know what it comes down to for me? It comes down to perspective. So the disease I had was colostrum difficile. It’s a pretty bad stomach bacteria. Symptoms can range from mild diarrhea to death. One in five actually die from it. It’s really really bad.
There’s actually a comedian named Tig, there’s a documentary on Netflix about her that she talks about it, in and out of the hospital that’ll shed a lot of insight. But for me, I lost 40 pounds in a month. I was bedridden for a month. Almost had to get my colon removed. I ended up with an umbilical hernia from stomach spasms. It was a really, really bad deal.
But as bad as things got, I always had a faith that things would get better. And honestly, life’s not easy. The world is always going to throw some kind of bullshit at you. You know, there’s always something that the world’s going to do to try to knock you down.
I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been through a divorce. I’ve been through the death of my dad when I was 20 years old. I’ve been through illnesses myself. I had what was supposed to be a career-ending injury at one point. What I’ve learned through all this is to stay positive. Because things will get better.
As bad as you think things are, somebody’s always got it worse. It’s important to remember that, to be grateful for what you have and to keep persevering because that’s what it really comes down to.
Brett McKay: Green dot. Gotta keep the green dot there.
Bobby Maximus: That’s exactly what it is. Honestly, it’s just the power of positive thinking. Like I said, as bad as you think it is, it can always get worse. So be grateful what you have and keep pushing. And you can’t let anything get in the way of your goals.
There’s actually this whole theory, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this, but whenever you find your true calling, what you’re really meant to do, it’s almost like the world starts throwing obstacles in your way. It’s a common theme you’ll hear amongst the most successful business people, the most successful athletes that when they found their thing, the world rises up and tries to stop them. It’s almost like a test to make you earn it.
Brett McKay: Right. Steven Pressfield, the writer calls it the resistance. So one thing you’re famous for I’ve seen on your Instagram account are these things called your Sunday sermons. What sort of topics do you hit in these things? And have there been any in particular that have resonated with a lot of people?
Bobby Maximus: You know, the Sunday sermons, they tend to be inspirational things that extend way beyond the gym. Yes, I am a fitness personality. Yes, I do care about the gym. Yes, I take selfies of myself and lift weights and do all those things. But what I’m far more interested in is helping people develop a life outside the gym. Like I said before and I’ll say it again, I want people to be better fathers, better mothers, be better at their lives and enjoy themselves more.
So the sermons tend to be philosophical one-liners that can help inspire people. One of my favorites is, always bet on yourself. Be confident in yourself. Always believe in yourself. Another one, you didn’t wake up to be mediocre. It’s a reminder that you didn’t wake up to just do the status quo. Extend yourself. Push yourself to your limits. Be the very best version of you that you can be.
Another one that I like, because I do believe in being a better person is, be the person you want to be around. Lead by example. Treat others the way you want to be treated. So those are the things that I write about, and then I try to teach people about in a paragraph, or two paragraph statement afterwards.
Brett McKay: Alright. And people can see those on your Instagram account. What’s your Instagram handle?
Bobby Maximus: It’s @bobbymaximus, they can go there. They can also go to my website bobbymaximus.com and I always put the sermons on there. I think it’s important to be reminded of these things on a day-to-day basis, if you will. And sometimes as funny as it sounds, there’s a lot of negatives about social media.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of trolls out there. There’s a lot of bullying. There’s a lot of negatives. But there’s also a lot of positives, because there are days myself where I’m unmotivated or I have a difficult time moving and I read something on Instagram, or I read something on Twitter that really inspires me and helps motivate me, and I’m grateful for it. And I want to do that for other people.
Brett McKay: Right, yeah. That’s one thing you talk about in the book, an important part of ensuring your success with your training is surround yourself with people who are also striving after the same goals, so you can provide some mutual support.
Bobby Maximus: Well yeah, and I always say, you become who you hang around. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You can get that through Instagram. You can be inspired by people. Like I said, I’m grateful to have been inspired by people on Instagram, and I’m also grateful and honored to be able to inspire other people. Really, that’s what I want to do. At the end of the day, I want to make a difference in somebody’s life.
How do I get paid? Well what really pays me is I guess that spiritual or emotional feeling that when someone writes me an email and says, “Hey, thank you for posting that. That really made a difference to me.” Or, “I’ve decided to be a better dad.” Or, “I’ve decided to give up alcohol.” You start to get messages like that and see the effect you have on people, and it’s quite remarkable. And that’s what gets me up every morning, and that’s what makes me sleep easy every night.
Brett McKay: Well Bobby, this has been a great conversation. So they can follow you on Instagram. We mentioned the website. Where can they get more information about the book, Maximus Body?
Bobby Maximus: Yeah, the book itself, if you just go to Google and Google Maximus Body, there will be a bunch of ways that it can pop up that you can buy it. It’s on Google Play. It’s on iBooks. It’s on Amazon. I think Amazon is the one most people use, and it’s available in your local bookstore. You can get it on electronic and paperback now. So it’s something that’s certainly recommended to pick up. Like I said, it’s a lot more than just a fitness book. It’s something that can help you change your life and I believe in it.
Brett McKay: Alright, Bobby Maximus, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Bobby Maximus: Thank you.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Bobby Maximus. His new book is Maximus Body. It’s available on Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. You can find more information about his work at bobbymaximus.com, or follow him on Instagram @bobbymaximus. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/maximus where you can find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well that wraps up another addition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com. And if you’re looking to get started with a fitness program and have had trouble sticking with it, check out The Strenuous Life, it’s a program we developed to help you put into action the things we’ve been talking about on the podcast or writing on the website for the past 10 years.
strenuouslife.co you can get signed up to get notifications when our next enrollment goes up. Had a lot of guys who’ve done the program who for the first time in their life stuck with a fitness goal for longer than three months. Guys losing weight, getting stronger, it’s fantastic. Check it out at strenuouslife.co. As always, thank you for your continued support. Until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.
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