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SYNG

Five Life Lessons My Coach Taught Me

ALI

Last month I crossed 500 days of training milestone, while raising my one rep deadlift max to an all-new 300lb. To set the record straight and avoid the ire of fitness elite, I do Crossfit on alternate days of the week.

(Spoiler: Completing x-days has never been and never was the objective. It happens to be a point of reflection.)

Only on retrospection, I realised the life-changing impact my coach (personal trainer) had made, which got me typing up this essay in an effort to share my journey of messy to sassy.

By any stretch of imagination — if — in the process, this 1000 word circuit motivates one more person, triggering a domino effect, I would brandish it a victory.

With that said, I believe you can’t convince someone into habitual training and fitness. Motivation for choosing a healthier path has to come from a voice within. For others, like myself, who can’t take a hint, having one’s body punch them in the face is reason enough.

Black-eye later.

The calling card came early 2015 disguised in shoulder and neck pain. A consequence of long hours at my desk doing client work I no longer enjoyed and the lack of inertia-destabilising physical activity.

Sagar (My Coach/PT)

Knowing I had let the problem drift beyond my steering capacity, it was time to seek help.

The world conspired and I found myself standing face-to-face with Sagar (my Coach/PT).

At first, Sagar ignored my offer reading my laid-back disposition for lack of motivation.

Only after constant begging, pleading and requests did Sagar give me a chance, taking the helm of my wavering ship.

And you’ll see why this detail is relevant in lesson four.

What happened next can only be put in the realm of stratosphere shattering.

Except we’re talking about getting my ass handed to me and there’s no sign of stratosphere or an inspiring visual of SpaceX rocket levitating into space, only balls and their shattering.


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→1. Embrace Shortcomings Not Shortcuts

On day one, instead of lifting weights or having me crank into a Jean-Claud Van Damme epic splits (Watch clip), Sagar put me through his “try-out” routine.

By undergoing a series of tests aimed at understanding my physical limitations, strength, stamina, mobility, and pain points, Sagar, like a patient physics professor, calibrated to my state.

The trial reacquainted me with what being “normal” should feel like.

Post initial assessment, we talked fitness goals, objectives, and the bigger picture. Did I want to be a powerlifter, bodybuilder, athlete or just stay in shape?

With being fit and healthy on priority, in the absence of aesthetics, Sagar drew a roadmap for the year ahead geared towards my fitness goals. This programme entailed rebuilding from the ground up.

Little had I known what Sagar had in mind.

We spent the first six months in the studio without ever touching a machine, working only on technique, form, breathing, posture and strengthening the core. Correct walking and running movements using the body’s natural elastic were introduced. Who knew?

Throughout, there was focus on process and wellness as a way of life. And over time, conversations shifted from rehabilitation to how can this became a way of life?

We did it by reframing the role and place fitness should have in one’s life, banishing an afterthought approach.

I learned to look my weaknesses square in the eye and turn them into strengths. Pull-ups anyone?


→2. Show Up No Matter What

Each class would begin by Sagar conversing and gauging my mental state. Knowing my lack of discipline and inherit lazy nature, Sagar got inventive and reframed my goals.

“Just show up to the gym and leave the rest to me,” or being the reassuring voice over my shoulder, “do your-today’s-best”.

Not realising, at the time, Sagar had disciplined me by breaking down a fitness mountain into a habit-inducing five-pound dumbbell.

“80 percent of success is showing up”―Woody Allen

I wouldn’t be lying if I told you the first few months were tough and sometimes boring simply because I was performing repetitive movements, training muscle memory.

I learned, the hard way, fitness isn’t just lifting weights and sweating it out running aimlessly.

By putting in the work and showing up day by day I had not only inched my way physically but become mentally stronger and habitual to the newfangled practice.

In your face fight-or-flight response.


→3. Aim Higher But Celebrate Small Wins

Without sounding like a squat rack, six months in, biomechanics, kinesthetics, mobility, nutrition, hydration, cross-functional, mobility and grunts became familiar sounds. As a rule of thumb, I refrain from speaking in mind-numbing fitness code.

How would “Joey” say this?

Underpinned by wellness as the cause and effect we had gone from doing basic movements, correct warm up and cool down, single exercises to completing a circuit. Cardiovascular and overall muscular strength and stamina had seen tremendous progress. Insert Zen-master proportions of epic patience here.

Finishing a workout for the first time was a big deal.

On these rare occasions Sagar would pull out his notes and walk me through progress made, reaffirming my belief system by celebrating different stages on the progress bar.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once the belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen”―Muhammed Ali


→4. Respect People’s Time And Your Own

“I don’t get/have time to workout” or “Next week is when I start” or “I’m busy with work all day” or “I’m asexual” or “(insert reason for not taking action here)” and so on with the time excuse parade.

“Action expresses priorities.”―Mahatma Gandhi

If you don’t respect your own time no-one else will. Flake one too many times and find yourself chopped from Sagar’s training calendar. He’d do it without flinching irrespective of your bank balance, popularity or place in government.


Let’s take a moment and address the “busy” right now.

We’re often caught up doing things we don’t like, dropping a yes when it should be a steer-clear no or “busy” exercising people-pleasing. Of the finite time we all have on earth, every second, minute and hour spent doing shit you don’t want is a slice of what you could have been doing instead.

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”―John Wooden

Kissing that cute girl from yoga class at the party is what your night would have entailed had you not signed up for “How to Pet Your Lonely Cat” the previous evening to help save your friend’s depleting relationship with the cat lady. You don’t even have a cat.


→5. Magic Happens Past Your Comfort Zone

Christoph Niemann has the perfect analogy. You’re trainer is interpreting an effortless workout for lack of trying. That being said, as humans, we seek out paths of least resistance.

Watching obscure Eastern European television depicting cats in dresses on failing to fetch the remote at arm’s length ring a bell? Thinking too far ahead being the nagging cousin.

The world of Product Design thrives on lazy. Designers dumb down the steps taken by a user to get the job done. Effortlessly push a Facebook or Twitter button on signup (*seen next on SQUAD) or buy something using Apple Pay or a Paypal checkout on Pornhub.

Coming back now.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried…” ―Theodore Roosevelt

Pushing past your comfort zone has to be the most important lesson to come out of training. The regret of not doing anything, for years, knowing my body craved the attention will always be motivation to keep pushing.

Categories
GQ SYNG

What’s the Indian rope trick have in common with picking up girls?

Senior Designer, Brand Designer, Experience Designer, Art Director, Creative Director, Branding, Brand Consultant, Brand Strategy, Brand Architecture, Brand Engagement, Brand Experience Design, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Freelance Designer, Freelance Graphic Designer, Freelance Web Designer, Packaging Designer, Poster Design, Album Cover Design, Branded Environment Design, Environmental Graphics, Signage & Wayfinding, Logo Design, Brandmark, Brand Identity, Brand Driver, Brand Positioning, Naming, Verbal Branding, Visual Driver, Brand Guidelines, Book Cover Design, Editorial Design, Lookbook Design, Communication Design, Copywriter, Blogger, Brand Design Studio, Toronto, Downtown Toronto, New York, New York City, NYC, TDOT, GQ

For many years, people from across the world have travelled to Indian shores to witness a fakir climb miraculously his way up a rope that disappears into the thin sky above. Only to reappear minutes later from behind the crowd to everyone’s shock and loud applause.

Indian men, ever since, have developed a natural knack for a putting on a show. The only rational equivalent, for the sake of my argument, to the Indian rope trick is when an Indian man walks into a bar, approaches gorgeous women, walks out with a bunch of phone numbers and a girl in each arm.

The audience, including you, not only left shocked and amazed but also often left women-less. Don’t sweat, I’ve prepared a tandoori platter of dating tips that’ll have women eating from the palm of your hands. Couldn’t help the inane reference there.

Here’s what you need to know about an Indian man’s dating game.

First and foremost. Drop the plan. I’ve gone through my share of endless “game-plan” oriented dating websites, books and manuals. All those got me were nights alone at home with a beer and stale nachos from the night before.

Coming back home to an empty couch on several occasions, I can assure you that plans don’t work. Here’s why. You’ll have way too much noise bothering you throughout the encounter and have you waiting for the “supposedly” right signals.
And this is one of the major differences in an Indian man’s game. He has no plan. Don’t believe me, look at the Indian infrastructure. We do first, plan later. A famous quote from an Indian businessman, Ratan Tata will elucidate my argument-

“I don’t believe in taking the right decisions.. I take decisions and then try to make them right..” So always believe in your ability and efforts… ”

Here’s what you can learn from that old chestnut. Go out there without a plan, a clear head so to speak and just be yourself. If your funny, be that funny man. Oh, and by the way, women love a guy who can make them laugh their way into bed.

How would you do this? Simple. Think spontaneous, go-with-the-flow, making something absolutely boring exciting and paying close attention to her mood. Let’s say, you pick her up at 7:30 for a dinner and movie. Quite routine, ordinary or run of the mill. Right? Imagine, going bowling the same night (because you paid attention when her mood was clearly not in for Titanic 3D for the 5th time). Or ever seen stars in movies pull up at the airport and book tickets to the first plane that leaves. That!

If you’re not the adventurous sort, taking simpler steps will give you the confidence to do something novel later. To effectively pull of the (no-plan-plan) is to listen very carefully of all the things she has on the bucket list. Like, if she doesn’t like texting, drop in at her place, call her by the large mango tree (for the sake of argument, she has a large tree at the edge of her lawn) and hold her hand, look into her eyes (like a 5 year old boy who’s just discovered dad’s secret porn stash) evade being caught by her dad and maybe even sneak up to her bedroom.

One particular incident I can recollect from my past will elucidate this concept. So, there we were, a bunch of girls and boys, having a pizza and one of the girls started horsing around with me over a slice of pizza. To everyone’s shock and dismay, one thing led to another and we ended up bathing each other with soda that night in clear view of the staff, bystanders, other customers and our remainder friends at the pizza joint. We laughed and people raved about the incident for years. It was random, spontaneous and ballsy because even she didn’t expect anything non-gentlemen like (which men in her life had overdosed her on).

Secondly, women like a guy with balls, the sort who believes in something. It could be anything. As long as the conviction is there she’ll believe you. With our rich heritage and culture, Indian men have a lot going for themselves. Usually, if used in the right dose, it can win over the most difficult girls.

Further perpetuated and personified by our ancestors, grandparents and then the relatives. India, up till now, in large parts is still a land of big families. And a religious boy or the domesticated sort are a favourite with Indian girls (the next tip elaborates a bit on this). She sees you as rooted, God fearing and someone who can shift into several demanding gears that may require for you to juggle kids, her parents and then the household help while negotiating a a business deal with hard-nosed businessman over the phone.

For example. In order for me to explain this concept I will share the most common misbelief amongst men. The bigger his pocket (the more money) or the guy with the bigger car gets more girls. I say rubbish. I’d say most rich boys don’t try to hard because they let their money speak. This, after a couple of months, becomes mundane and boring. She prefers a guy who can speak his mind rather than his wallet. Look at all the artists, musicians, writers (awkward cough*) sporting girls in their arms. You’ll find these girls lost in the eyes of the dreamer.
Thirdly, master the art of perseverance. Most of us give up or retreat, in fear, at an early stage. Women, especially in India, play hard-to-get even if they’re not a 10 or 7.5. The other half fall under the conservative-conventional shell of the Indian society (I don’t speak with strangers or go out sort).

But, I believe (without dabbling into generalization) men are solely to blame for this radical behaviour (it’s the she smiled so I will take her to bed mentality). This not only inflated estrogen balloons but cemented the belief that all men want to get into some pants.

Cut long story short, you could be a player but chances are rejection is on the menu. You must learn to take it slowly and, dare I say this but it bloody well works out here, take the “friendship” route if all else fails. This way one can’t be intimidating the other and it opens up a door to know the person better. But be careful in how you tread on this double edged path (try only rimming the well without actually falling in if you know what I mean).

One tried and tested model that seems to work like a charm 99% of the time under the art of perseverance is flipping the ecosystem. It’s been mastered/perpetuated and thrown around year after year by Bollywood (the Indian Hollywood, duh!). Allow me to explain and break this mystical and magical model in easy, consumable and doable steps.

Let’s say you know a girl from school who also happens to live next door (sort of like an American Pie situation). Now, pay attention closely because it gets a bit tricky here. Get her parents, her friends, her dog, her relatives to fall in love with you. This will make the soil fertile and the ecosystem ripe for you to step in and make the move. In other words, all the “influencers” in her life will vouch for you. Play your cards right and she’ll be the one making the first move.

In conclusion, here’s where I can leave you with a quick recap. Remember to drop the plan and be spontaneous (the do first and make sense later approach), be the versatile social monkey abled to handle all flocks of society in one merry-go-round (without flinching) and mastering the art of perseverance and flipping her ecosystem in your favour should seal the deal (it sort of reminds of that movie “How to lose a guy in 10 days” when McConaughey takes Hudson home). Hmmm…

Published originally on GQ.

Categories
GQ SYNG

Trip to the dentist

Senior Designer, Brand Designer, Experience Designer, Art Director, Creative Director, Branding, Brand Consultant, Brand Strategy, Brand Architecture, Brand Engagement, Brand Experience Design, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Freelance Designer, Freelance Graphic Designer, Freelance Web Designer, Packaging Designer, Poster Design, Album Cover Design, Branded Environment Design, Environmental Graphics, Signage & Wayfinding, Logo Design, Brandmark, Brand Identity, Brand Driver, Brand Positioning, Naming, Verbal Branding, Visual Driver, Brand Guidelines, Book Cover Design, Editorial Design, Lookbook Design, Communication Design, Copywriter, Blogger, Brand Design Studio, Toronto, Downtown Toronto, New York, New York City, NYC, TDOT, GQ

A few days ago I found myself lying down on a rather swanky chair in a dentist’s office. Nope, it wasn’t a root canal but a perspective client seeking some brand restructuring. In these, first-off meetings I like the getting-to-know-the-client-better by stepping into my nosey 12-year-old self with 21 questions routine. To your surprise, the clients quite fancy my enthusiasm.

Alright, an hour into this meeting, I have had my stats pulled up on 42’ LCD, had a sweet foot massage (by getting into one of those overtly priced sofas) and had my x-rays taken just for kicks.

Even though I dread the chair, this was quite a pleasurable experience so far with little clue of what was going to hit me next. As we were about to call it a day, the door to the cabin opened and in came, along with a blast of cool air from the AC, a gorgeous bombshell with long black hair, sharp features, and boy was she tall (6ft give or take), sporting a business suit, juggling a handbag and some files in one hand with the other on the knob.

I hid my boner like a man and climbed off the chair and grabbed my laptop bag. She exchanged words with the doctor. Apparently, she was a consulting dentist as well as (I’m guessing a part-time Penthouse centerfold) but I wouldn’t take the later too seriously for now.

While I stood there with my jaw hanging, boner intact (hid carefully behind my bag) the doctor was kind enough to introduce us both. Although I had undressed her to a black bikini, she looked no less in a suit.

We shook hands and all I could I think off was being spanked like a naughty boy on the swanky lemon green chair behind me. She oozed power and loads of sex. Or maybe thats testosterone talking or my dick but I was alive. The equivalent to how I felt would be running naked in a packed stadium.

Without revealing much (or further making a fool of myself), I walked out the door leaving the two behind. I had only walked a few yards and my phone rang. I so wanted to pause with an excuse and this was my ticket. I paused in the hallway (in play), and it was another client. The conversation pursued while I had my eyes nailed to the doctor’s door, waiting for this lady dentist who had blown my mind to step out. I felt that behind my perverse thoughts, there was something far more beautiful, a connection.

Bang! She stepped out and caught me red-handed staring down at her from across the hall. For a moment, I had goosebumps on my back for the fact that it reminded me of my days in school when I could barely make eye contact with girls.

A three-second eye contact and I looked away (right from the players handbook), continued to walk out towards the parking lot. My car was awaiting my return but my client was still on call. I couldn’t help but pause by an SUV (it reminded me of one I had just like it) and appreciate it, while at the same time, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the girl one more time.

There I was, standing between my other car and this incredible SUV. I could see her walk out the main entrance and walk right up to this SUV and plonk all her stuff on the bonnet. She continued to fiddle while I was on call.

From the corner of my eye, I could sense something in the air, by looking at her nose deep into her bag. I cut the call and walked up to her and blurted the most obvious, “Is this your car?”. Turns out, it was her boyfriends and we had loads to talk about. She wanted me in the cafe (in the hospital lobby) and I didn’t want to come off as desperate weirdo.

She persisted I get a ride in her car for old time’s sake and we could exchange numbers. On this request, I couldn’t help but quietly sneak the keys of my car into my pocket and story up how my friend dropped me off and didn’t show up.

We exchanged numbers and got into the SUV. This was even way hotter than I had previously imagined. Girls behind big wheels have this uncanny ability to make some men extremely horny. While she drove at a steady pace, I couldn’t help but thinking on how wild it would be to park the car and throw yourself on each other and make wild passionate love on the massive back seat.

To that, I only looked out the window and continued to talk about how she fancied creative people. To my surprise, we had this common thirst for art (and maybe wild sex but she didn’t mention anything of it). We reached my office and we shared this awkward, should we hug or shake hands before I’m thrown out of the car moment. I behaved and threw in a handshake/high-five. She left and I sneaked back to the hospital, with a friend, to pick up my car.

A week later, I called her up on the offer but the tables had turned. I’m guessing she stumbled upon my blog (brandished on the back of my business card which I exchanged during our meeting from the parking lot) or her better half got the best of her. She no longer wanted to have that coffee or make wild-passionate-love in the backseat of an SUV or in other words, go for a drive.

I guess this was one fantasy never meant to become reality. Sigh.

Published originally on GQ.