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Perfection isn’t Required, Why Intense Training Might be Counterproductive, and the Importance of Mental Reframing for Challenging Workouts: Joovv AMA with Dr. John Berardi

Joovv AMA with Dr. John Berardi

When Olympic athletes compete, most of us watch in awe of their performance.  But sometimes we forget about the unheralded trainers that have helped these athletes prepare for years behind closed doors.  One of those trainers, John Berardi, PhD, has helped his athletes collect over 30 medals in the last 3 Olympics alone.  What’s better, 15 of them were gold.  Pretty impressive, right?  

So who is this John Berardi?  He’s the founder of Precision Nutrition, the world’s largest online nutrition coaching company. He's an advisor to Apple, Equinox, Nike, and Titleist and was recently selected as one of the 20 smartest coaches in the world by Livestrong.com. And over the last 5 years, his team has helped over 30,000 people get in the best shape of their lives through their renowned Precision Nutrition Personal Coaching Program.

We were honored when John agreed to participate in a Joovv AMA.  So without further ado, here are his answers to your questions…

What is the one fitness activity that you hate doing the most, but yields the best results?  

None, really. I've been working out for 25 years now. And one important lesson I've learned is that there's absolutely no reason to choose activities, exercises, workout environments, etc. that I hate.

Sure, some exercises - like heavy squats or low-rest interval sprints - are challenging. So it's those exercises that benefit from a mental reframe. Because it's the challenging nature of them that helps you become more resilient, change, and grow.

So I don't hate any fitness activities because I choose the ones that I enjoy most. And I make sure that even the most challenging ones are seen as important growth opportunities.

If I opened up your fridge right now, what would I see?

There are 6 people in our house (my wife, myself, and our 4 children) so you'd see a pretty stocked appliance.

Here's what's inside:

Top shelf: lots of kale, cabbage, mixed greens, spinach, basil, and other greens.

2nd shelf: 3 dozen eggs, 2-3 egg white cartons, multigrain bavarian bread, pickles, sauerkraut.

3rd shelf: defrosting steaks, chicken thighs, ground beef, or ham, applesauce, and yogurt.

Crispers: full to the brim with fresh fruits and veggies, including a few potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Lowest tray: chicken bacon and pork bacon, cheese, and dried Italian sausage.

Doors: various cold medications (someone's always sick), fish oil, almond milk, nut butter, and a few condiments.

What 3 supplements can you not afford to live without?

For the kids, liquid multi-vitamin, fish oil, probiotics, and kid's greens powder.

For the adults, protein powder, greens powder, fish oil, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and a multivitamin

You recently authored a piece about the 11 things you've learned coaching elite athletes. What 3 stand out the most?

Over the last 20 years, I've worked with A LOT of professional athletes and teams. During this time, I've learned many important lessons. Among the 11 I detailed in the article you mentioned, these 3 jump out first:

1) Shape the client's environment and you can get great results without requiring them to engage in some heroic, individual project of personal change.

2) Perfection isn’t required for elite athletes. Or for “regular” people.  For most people, aiming to get 80% of your meals on-point is an effective goal.

3) Intense training and strict eating almost always messes up your body. That's okay for a little while. But carry on too long and you're in trouble.

For more explanation of these, and the other 8 lessons, folks can check out the original article here: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/coaching-elite-and-professional-athletes

Have you used red light therapy?  If so, were you happy with the results?

I have not. But I'm always open to trying new health interventions and recovery practices, as long as they're evidence-based.

What is something you like (or enjoy) that most people would be surprised to learn?

My oldest (6-year old) daughter and I are part of a drum circle . We have African drums (djembe) and absolutely love playing them. I think there's something very primal and resonant about this form of music, as well as this form of connection between people playing in a drum circle.

I also compete in masters' level track and field, having recently placed 3rd in the 100m and 4th in the 200m at the Canadian National Championships.

Your article about the 22 lessons from Precision Nutrition's biggest weight loss success stories was such a great read. What are your 2-3 favorites?

We recently updated the piece to include 35 interesting lessons. So it's hard to narrow them down. Yet these few definitely resonate with me.

1) Ignore mainstream advice. Instead of following that stuff, find trustworthy people who've had long-term success and copy them.

2) Focus on the healthy movement, eating, and lifestyle things you find joyful and do more of those.

3) Even if you're the go-to person for health and fitness for others, enter into your own transformation with "beginner's mind".

For more explanation of these, and the other 32 lessons shared by our most successful clients, folks can check out the original article here: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/35-ways-to-transform-your-body

Starting over at 22 , knowing everything you know now, what would you do differently?

I'd encourage that 22-year-old to focus LESS on trying to impress other people with how much he knows. To stop trying so hard to convince others he has his sh*t together.

And I'd suggest he spend more time humbling himself before mentors and teachers. To ask more questions, admit his ignorance more often, and constantly mine for truth and wisdom.

It's hard to listen, learn, and grow if you spend too much time talking, posturing, and worrying what other people think.

What person(s) of influence are you closely following right now?

None, really. Most of my time and energy goes into 3 things: My family, my own health and fitness, and Precision Nutrition (my company). So I don't really have much time for other things like following experts, celebrities, etc.

If you could put a billboard anywhere, what would it say and where would you put it?

In the digital age, I wouldn't put a billboard anywhere. I'd make a viral video so more people around the world could access it. And in that video, I'd share an idea that's transformed how I see both good things and bad things in my life.

The idea is: Maybe life isn't happening TO you. Maybe it's happening FOR you. And, if that were true, the right thing to ask of any given situation is: "How can I use this to make me stronger, wiser, more capable, and more resilient? How can this thing, today, better prepare me for tomorrow?"

(Insert William)

Thanks for submitting your questions for John!  And thanks again to John Berardi for being a part of the Joovv AMA family!  Also, don't forget to check out John’s company, Precision Nutrition, when you get a chance.

If you missed the chance to submit your question for this AMA, stay tuned for the next one.  We'll let you know in advance on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.