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Fallen off the workout bandwagon this holiday season? “The little black book of workout motivation” may be your pocket pep talk to hit the gym. Health and fitness author, Mike Matthews’ latest writing comes on the heels of the third editions of his flagship books “bigger leaner stronger” for men and “thinner leaner stronger” for women. Matthews is also the founder of Legion Athletics, a company that creates high quality sports supplements in Tysons Corner. That’s where the fitness guru invited us in to chat about this book, his latest rewrites, and more.
How did the Little Black Book of Workout Motivation come about?
MM: I just thought this was an opportunity to do something different and interesting because there is no other book, at least in the fitness space, like that. Also because, over the years, I’ve been asked so many times about how I stay motivated.
So how do you stay motivated?
MM: I’m a very routine person. So everyday I’m doing things at the same time, basically, and never deviate unless I have to. I’ve been doing that for many years. So this book is like the answers. I don’t think I have the answers for everybody, but here are the principles that most keep me going, and how I view things, and why I do what I do.
What are your intentions with the book?
MM: My goal was to produce something that people would come back to, and that they can read—not just to get practical tips but also analytical left-brain stuff. For example, there’s some good research on setting goals, and there are certainly right and wrong ways for people to set goals and to go about working towards those goals. There is also more creative writing type stuff. Really, essays just to try to motivate people basically.
I recorded an audio-book as well, and I heard from some that they’ll listen to specific chapters everyday before they work out. In some cases, it’s not very long— like five to six minutes.
It sounds like the book could apply to everyday life too.
MM: There’s the cliché: the lessons you learn in the gym are lessons that can help you in other areas of your life—even if it’s just the importance of hard work, consistency and patience. I think there’s actually quite a bit we can learn—even if it’s unconsciously in the gym and getting what it takes to get results in the gym.
How do you balance it all – from the rewrites, new books, to home life?
MM: My personal take on work-life balance is that it’s a fiction. It’s a fantasy. I think you have to decide.
For me, my life is really imbalanced. People would look at it and that’s what they would think. People immediately see financial success, but I tell them come live with me for a week and you’re not going to like it. You’re not going to want my life. You may like some things and say it might be nice to have some money, but you don’t want my life. So, for me, it’s more about being aware of how unbalanced things are. So, one, it’s cutting what I’m willing to sacrifice. I don’t have a social life to speak of. I’m working and spending time with my family. This is my friend time here.
What do you think the biggest misconception women have with body weight?
MM: A lot of women who find themselves to me want to lose weight rather than gain weight. It’s in the book (Thinner Leaner Stronger) that there’s way too much attention put on weight, and I think it’s very unhealthy, psychologically and physically, because weight doesn’t indicate the quality of that weight— meaning, what is your body composition?
In the end, it’s more about: Let’s talk more about what you want to see when you look in the mirror. What kind of body do you want to have, and what do you want to look like, and who cares what the weight is? Let’s find out. In many cases, women will find out they weigh quite a bit more than they thought they would when they really have the body they’re happy with seeing in the mirror.
Do you ask clients to not weigh themselves in this time period?
MM: I think that it’s a mistake to not weigh yourself, because it’s an easy metric for monitoring progress. However, what I do recommend is to weigh yourself every day, and then take an average of every 7 to 10 days as opposed to weighing yourself everyday and fretting over I weigh two pounds more.
Tell us your thoughts on dieting.
MM: On the diet aspect of things, I advocate for flexible dieting. Meaning, it’s not so much what you eat. It’s a good idea to eat nutritious foods for sure, but it’s more about how much you eat. So, it’s about understanding those and coming back to the first principles of metabolism and understanding what is a calorie and why does that matter. Many people who say they hate calorie counting don’t know what it is, and how it relates to the metabolism and the balance that they’re eating and extending that. I explain in the book (Thinner Leaner Stronger) not because you have to count calories to lose weight, but first and foremost, you should understand the basic terms that we are talking about, and then let’s talk about your body’s machinery a little bit so you understand how it works. Because there are different ways to get there. Some things are negotiable—like the foods you eat. What’s not negotiable is the relationship between energy in and energy out. It’s just not negotiable.
What are some of your go to snacks?
MM:These days it’s apples, strawberries and bananas. I’ll have a banana before I workout, and I’ll have an apple in the morning. Also another snack I really like is Skyr Icelandic yogurt. Mike Matthews’ books are available on Amazon. Visit MuscleforLife.com, a website with daily articles on health, fitness, and general wellness, and supplements information.