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2015 Year in Review & Goals of 2016

2015 was an excellent year, although odd years pose the challenge of no Olympic Games to watch, it still gave way to an excellent viewership of sports including a Calgary Flames playoff berth, my introduction to MLB via BlueJays bandwagon fever (Joey Bats!) and the Rugby World Cup.

Beyond sports, I was privileged enough to move back to Victoria, the city where I have spent the majority of my twenties and one that I always hoped to return to. It did not disappoint, although I will admit things are much different now that I’m not a student and city actually does extend beyond Gordon Head and Monty’s.

I compiled a video of my GoPro footage taken throughout the year; primarily sporting events and stags, cheers to all those who made it so god damn memorable!

 

2015 Goal Re-cap

Last year I really sought out to quantify my goals; in past experiences I hated the feeling of completing a year without a measurable target and feeling unsure of whether that goal was hit or not. The three main ones of 2015 were:

300 Workouts

It was a tad lofty, I fell short at 196, but still decently proud of this one. As a result of tracking it every day, it was easily my most consistent year of working out and the gains reflected accordingly.

Read 10 Books

Despite reading 25 books in 2014, 2015 was very disappointing year for books, only managing to read 9. I did not prioritize my time and often found myself watching TV shows as a result (less engagement and commitment).

That being said, here are my Top 3:

  1. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
  2. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  3. Abundance by Peter Diamandis
Drink 12 Times

Definitely got the most criticism on this one, but in the end it was definitely the one I am the most proud of. I defined “drinking” as having more than 2 drinks and after all was said and done, finished the year off with 18 nights of drinking. It made the nights mean that much more and allowed me to really focus on health and fitness on the weekends. That being said, December was considered a “free” month, because the holidays are my time of the year to let loose!

 

2016 Goals – Please Hold Me Accountable!

QUANTIFIABLE GOALS

250 Workouts

Despite only garnering 196 in 2015, I did have a few breaks in the year, which I plan to avoid. Additionally, not every gym session is clanging and banging; going to include a lot of mobility workouts to work on imbalances and prevent injuries.

Read 15 Books

Only reading 9 books in 2015 really shook me up, but I have only myself to blame; getting caught up in work and not making time to read. I have now cancelled my Netflix subscription and gratefully welcome any and all book recommendations! (Non-fiction, please)

300 Days of Meditation

2015 was the first year that I took meditation seriously and I can honestly vouch for its impact on everyday life. It’s not an overnight change, nor is it even noticeable (like a gym session); it’s only when you stop that you realize how effective it really is. With the money I am saving by cancelling Netflix, I have now subscribed to the Headspace app for the year.

6 Podcasts (Bi-Monthly)

2015 was the first year of my podcast channel and I cannot thank all those who took the time to listen, those who provided much needed criticism, and of course those six who were brave enough to be interviewed by an amateur! I am going to keep it at the bi-monthly pace and hope to improve my own interview skills this year with the new round of guests.

12 Nights of Drinking

Last year it was 18, this year I’ll be gunning for that 12 number again (December as always is a free month), as the amount I can personally gain when partying and binge drinking is reduced is well worth it. Already off to a good start with Dry January!

LIFESTYLE GOALS

  • Visit ONE new Country
  • Visit ALL of the Gulf Islands
  • Subscribe to a local produce service (Good Food Box)
  • Consume as much local & organic food as possible (~75%)
  • Monitor all expenses on a spreadsheet, put XX in savings
  • Throw a BIG fundraiser

 

 

 

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Episode 6: Harry Jones

The life of a professional athlete and representing Canada on the international stage of rugby.

The 6th and final episode of this year features Harry Jones and his journey from high school rugby champion to representing Canada at both the Rugby World Cup and in the Sevens World Series. Despite his new found celebrity status, he was generous enough to take the time from Dubai to describe his journey so far and the Road to Rio 2016.

Some highlights to look forward to in the show:

  • Pregame rituals and staying dialled in playing for 60,000+ fans
  • Dealing with a debilitating injury (osteitis pubis) and bouncing back after being sidelined for 2 years
  • A play-by-play of the Gold Medal winning try at the 2015 Pan American Games
  • A rundown of the Sevens Series, the Repechage, and Canada’s Road to Rio

 

“It was probably the highlight of my rugby career so far”
– Harry on the Pan Am Games 2015  Gold Medal Winning Try.

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Click HERE for a clip of the clutch last-minute try to clinch gold in Men’s Rugby Sevens at the Pan American Games.

 

Harry’s Answers

Book:
Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Hero to Have Dinner With:
Captain Trevor Greene (read his story here)

Check out Harry on the social channels:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jonesharry3/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harryjones15/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonesharry3

 

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Fall Into Fitness Challenge (Part 1)

Part 1 of a 3 Part Series.

Crossing over the 25-year milestone, one slides rather quickly from the youthful and boisterous “mid-twenties” to the apprehensive “late-twenties,” with dreaded thirties a mere few rotations away. As much as we try and look at it like maturation and progression, which it undoubtedly is, few will fool you into saying they are not starkly reminded of their own mortality.

This is NOT a reason to neglect health. In fact, I see it as quite the opposite. Knowing that we are going to die one day is the very reason that motivated this challenge.

The Best Shape of Your Life

Can you think of a moment when you were in the best shape of your life? Unless you were a pro-athlete, I can almost guarantee that this heroic past-self is extremely romanticized. We are all guilty of it, falling into complacency with our desk jobs and relationships, then attempting to run a mile and doubling over halfway; justifying it all with how fit we used to be.

Being in the best shape of your life is subjective to the person, but it’s also only relevant to the now, because that is what we live in. It’s also unattainable, which makes it even more motivating, because I can always be in better shape than my yesterday’s self, if I work at it.

“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”

Kurt Vonnegot

The Challenge

This challenge is formally being issued to anyone who takes the time to read this post (which I sincerely appreciate).

F.I.F. (Fall Into Fitness): Dedicate 3 months to a measured lifestyle change to improve your health and fitness.

Everyone is at different levels of physical fitness, but if we don’t measure them, then we’ll never know where we stand to improve.

Step 1: The Benchmarks

Choose the elements you want to improve, record them, and set your goals for the end of the challenge.

Mine are as follows, with the goals in italics:

Weight
159.6lbs (72.4kg) | 175lbs (79.4kg)

Strength
Bench Press: 185 | 200
Squat: 215 | 300
Deadlift: 305 | 400

Athletics
100m Sprint: 12.7 seconds | 11.5 seconds
Vertical Leap: 24 1/3″ (61.8 cm) | 30″ (76.2cm)
Pull-Ups: 19 | 30
1 mile run: TBD

Step 2: The Plan

Recording Benchmarks are great, but if you don’t draw up a methodical plan, then you are simply planning to fail. I’ve pushed myself hard since February and gotten into the best shape of recent memory. I’ve now reached my ceiling of knowledge and have thus enlisted a pro to get me to that next level–for the continued drive of excellence!

Enter Dan Schafer

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Dan is a strength & conditioning coach with over nine years of experience and a repertoire that includes some impressive top tier athletes from around the country. His philosophy is simple, but effective: the needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.

In other words, the exercises he prescribes his top level athletes (deadlifts, squats, etc) are the same ones he gives his clients pushing seventy. Dan’s a big of fan of the barbell and loves to incorporate Olympic style lifts in many of his training sessions. This very challenge was born out of a conversation between Dan myself about strength and its influence on overall athleticism.

Step 3: Execution

It’s officially the first day of Strengthtember, the goal is laid out, the plan is meticulous, now all that’s left is to start lifting some heavy-ass-weight and chasing that goal!

Stay tuned for Part 2 which will include my detailed training & eating regimen, as well as a progress update!

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Episode 5: Jeff Pluta

How one American teacher left a job in the US to start a school in Nicaragua

I met Jeff by chance during my backpacking trip through Nicaragua. He is without a doubt one of the most interesting and yet humble individuals I’ve had the privilege of crossing paths with. It took a few months to tee up this interview, but Jeff’s story is one worth listening to. An accomplished teacher in Massachusetts, he dabbled on a trip to Central America and was moved. Slowly, but surely, he began the transition. What started out as teaching summers abroad, soon turned into full-time work and now a very successful non-profit (Amped for Education), which is quite literally changing the educational landscape in Nicaragua. It’s inspiring stuff & I highly recommend at the very least checking out his non-profit to see how you can contribute.

 

Jeff’s Answers

Books:
-Zero to One by Peter Thiel
-Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Hero to Have Dinner With:
Geoffrey Canada

Check out Amped for Education on the web:

Website: http://ampedforeducation.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ampedforeducation
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amped4education

 

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Episode 4: Mark Milburn

Athletic performance, starting your own gym, and getting into the best shape of your life.

The fourth episode of the Extraordinary Living Series, features Mark Milburn a UVic graduate who’s run the gauntlet in competitive sports: downhill ski racing, rock climbing, track & field, cycling; as well as modelling for Men’s Health, Abercrombie, Nike, and Calvin Klein. Mark’s interest turned obsession into health and fitness has cumulated into his greatest achievement to date: starting a successful gym in beautiful Victoria, BC (Catalyst Waterfront). A real treat to have him on the show and dive deep into health topics including: workout plans, eating, intermittent fasting, and supplements–just in time for the summer!

Show Highlights:

  • The life of a competitive athlete: eating, training, & mindset
  • The challenges and triumphs of starting your own gym
  • Getting into ridiculous shape for the summer

Mark’s Recommendations

Book: The Moral Animal by Robert Wright

Supplements:
-SFH Protein (Whey Protein Isolate)
-3FU3L (Coconut Protein)
-Bionyx HMB (Recovery & Creatine)

Resource: www.examine.com

Check out Mark on the social channels:

Website: http://www.catalystlife.ca
Instagram: https://instagram.com/markpmilburn/

 

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Yerba Mate – The Wonder Drink?

The resurgence of tea in North America has been trending since the early 2000s. The health benefits of all its shades (green, white, black) are irrefutable and its subtle caffeine is adopted by many as a welcome substitute to the afternoon coffee. However, when it comes to mornings, few are willing to part with the full caffeine punch that coffee provides, despite the imminent crash to follow a few hours later.

Enter: Yerba Mate

Hailed as the answer to all your morning tribulations: caffeine levels closer to coffee, but without the acidity; whilst also boasting the feel-good antioxidants and vitamins & minerals of tea.

A quick rundown of caffeine levels in your morning beverages (per 250mL)*:
  1. Brewed Coffee = 163mg
  2. Bulletproof Coffee = 145mg
  3. Yerba Mate = 85mg
  4. Matcha Tea = 70mg
  5. Black Tea = 42mg
  6. Oolong Tea = 37mg
  7. White Tea = 28mg
  8. Green Tea = 25mg

*according to www.caffeineinformer.com

Health Canada suggests a maximum of 400mg of caffeine per day, equivalent to 3 cups (250mL) of brewed coffee (or only one 5-hour energy shot).

Back to Yerba Mate, here is it’s overview as per WebMd:

Mate is used as a stimulant to relieve mental and physical tiredness (fatigue), as well as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is also used for heart-related complaints including heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

Some people use mate to improve mood and depression; to relieve headache and joint pains; to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), and bladder and kidney stones; for weight loss; and as a laxative.

Yerba Mate may seem new to North Americans, but folks in South America (namely Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina) have been drinking it for generations. I first heard of the beverage a couple years ago,  but just this month it’s been mentioned on both the Jay & Dan Podcast and Tim Ferriss’ Reddit AMA.

For myself, I’ve been a religious green tea-drinker since undergrad. The working life, however, presented new challenges of longer hours, monotonous work, and the dreaded “structured” work-week. I dabbled in coffee (still enjoy it once or twice a week), but the crash, sweats, and acidity deter it from a daily ritual. This week, I’ve decided to give Yerba Mate a try; as per Tim Ferriss’ recommended method:

  • 1 cup of brewed Yerba Mate (start with 5 mins, work up to a max 10mins steep time)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (similar to the “Bulletproof” concept & much cleaner than creme & sugar)

I picked up a pack of Guayaki, but if you’re feeling really fancy, I’ve heard good things about Cruz de Malta, both available on Amazon.

So far, it’s been quite pleasant. A much needed kick in the morning that other teas can’t quite provide; but no jitters or emphatic crash. I usually round it off with a mellow cup of green after lunch and stay true to my 2pm caffeine curfew to ensure a quality night’s rest.

What’s you take on morning beverages? Would love to hear your recipes and rituals, send me a Tweet @BearJohal!

 

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Episode 3: Andrew Hall

Starting a non-profit, leaving the corporate game, and designing your own life.

The third episode of the Extraordinary Living Series, features Andrew Hall, UVic BComm graduate and co-Founder of the non-profit Mealshare. After landing a solid consulting job at Deloitte following undergrad, Andrew had the burning desire to do more and gathered the courage to leave a secure job and start a non-profit with Jeremy Bryant and Derek Juno. After only 2 years, Mealshare is currently in over 150 restaurants in Canada and continues to expand across the country.

Show Highlights:

  • What is Mealshare and how did start?
  • Gathering the courage to leave a secure job for a passion project
  • Social entrepreneurship: challenges & rewards

 

Andrew’s Recommendations

Book: Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo
Article: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy
Article: Lessons From my 20s

 

Check out MealShare on the social channels:

Website: http://www.mealshare.ca
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mealshareteam

 

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Episode 2: Connor Meakin

Ultramarathons, optimal performance, and meditation.

The second episode of the Extraordinary Living Series, delves into the world of ultra-distance running and spiritual health with Connor Meakin. Meaks is a stoic dude, of whom I first crossed paths with in our undergraduate days at UVic. After successfully balancing varsity sports and a social life at university; Meaks landed a role with the iconic BC tech firm Hootsuite and now acts as their Community Manager of North America, while still finding time to punish his body through Ultramarathons of over 85 km.

Show Highlights:

  • SXSW in Austin, Texas
  • Getting started with distance running
  • Mental stamina and performance
  • Born to Run and minimalist shoes
  • Meditation, getting into it; daily routines
  • Books & nutritional supplements

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

-Zen Proverb

 

Connor’s Top Books

1. Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts (also one of my personal favourites!)

2. The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen

3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion - Robert Cialdini


Connor’s Supplements of Choice

1. Ginger

2. Turmeric

Guided Meditation Links

1. Meditation Society of Australia [Bear: The one I use]

2. Chopra Guided Meditation

3. UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Centre

4. Binaural Beats

 

Check out Meaks on the social channels:

Blog/Website: http://www.connormeaks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ConnorMeaks
Instagram: https://instagram.com/connormeaks/

 

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THREE Ways to Increase Performance Now

This post is inspired by my most recent read, an excellent and concise book on our most vital organ, the brain. Brain Rules by John Medina is a guide to understanding your brain and striving towards using it better in work, school, and life; based on a set of 12 principles:

  1. Survival
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep
  4. Stress
  5. Wiring
  6. Attention
  7. Memory
  8. Sensory Integration
  9. Vision
  10. Music
  11. Gender
  12. Exploration

Although every rule is worth delving into, I would like to share my three biggest takeaways. Having put these into practice myself, I can attest to these tips, which will almost certainly increase your performance immediately.

1. EXERCISE – make time to get active!

In my opinion the most salient of Medina’s Brain Rules: Exercise Boosts Brain Power.

The science is sound, thousands of published and peer reviewed studies all supporting the claim. Proteins called BDNF are created during exercise and essentially supercharge your brain–who doesn’t want that?

FACT: Exercise aids ALL areas of Executive Function

  • concentration
  • impulse control
  • foresight
  • problem solving

I’m fortunate enough to be able to exercise during my lunchbreak, the mid-day pump provides me with an excellent boost to power through the afternoon. Making time whenever you can to get moving daily will pay dividends, whether it’s a morning jog,  evening sports, a standing desk–or all of the above.

 

2. SLEEP – proper sleep schedule and the magic of naps

We all know sleep is important, but it is still incredibly unknown in the grand scheme of things. As Medina points out; despite centuries of research, we still do not conclusively know why we do it.

We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping and studies show that the time isn’t so much for recovery, as most people assume, but rather to review events from the day and imprint them onto our memory.  This new research makes the concept of pulling an all-nighter before a big exam rather counter-intuitive. Get those 8 hours in every night.

FACT: A 26-minute nap improved a pilot’s performance by more than 34% (NASA Study)

The findings behind the effectiveness of naps are staggering; there literally isn’t a stimulant on the market that can come close to boosting cognitive performance by 34%. Unfortunately, most companies aren’t quite ready to let employees nap for 20 minutes at 2:00pm, despite the proven benefits in productivity. If you can’t nap in a bed, try finding a quiet space like a car or boardroom and laying back for 20 minutes. Your brain wants to nap, so it’s better to embrace the lethargy than continually fight it, it will reward you with increased performance.

Also, check out this article coffee naps which are taking the silicon valley by storm.

 

3. Attention – multi-tasking is a myth

Your brain is not capable of multi-tasking, you are literally switching between tasks and in doing so, depleting brain power and reducing productivity. Medina presents several case studies pointing to the same conclusion: you will be more productive by setting 10 minutes of focused time on a task, then you will by multi-tasking on that task for an hour. Use this to your advantage; there are plentiful programs (like TimeDoser for Chrome) which will allot work time and break time, allowing you to dedicate your focus to one task.
Hint: try spurts of going offline to get things done!

FACT: Our attention span is 10-minutes

This is extremely relevant for professors, instructors, or anyone giving a presentation. Simply put, you need to do something emotionally relevant every 10 minutes to maintain your audiences attention. Yes, it is more work, but it’s far better than speaking for an hour and only having the introduction remembered.

We don’t pay attention to boring things–we pay attention to things like emotions, threats, and sex.

 

A nice infographic (check out brainrules.net for more information):

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Episode 1: Ryker Gamble

YouTube success, constant travel, and building a business with your best friends.

The premiere episode of the Extraordinary Living series! Graced with the presence of an old university pal, Ryker Gamble, who has gained success both as an esteemed DJ in Vancouver, as well as a social entrepreneur with the lifestyle brand High On Life. What started as a dance video gone viral, has now grown into a wildly popular YouTube channel, exceeding 100K subscribers and taking the trio across the globe.

For more on High On Life, check out the following links:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/sundayfundayz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sundayfundayz

Media Kit: http://sundayfundayz.com/HighOnLifeMediaKit.pdf

Unlocking Human Potential