Habits & Health episode 16 with Geoff Girvitz. He is a Tiny Habits coach and helps people with wellness coaching, injury prevention, personal training and nutrition.
Scott Barry Kaufman
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Tony Winyard 0:00
Habits and health Episode 16.
Welcome to the habits and health Podcast, where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. Brought to you by an educator and coach for anyone who wants to create a healthier life. here's your host, Tony Winyard.
Tony Winyard 0:20
Welcome to another edition of the podcast where we give you ideas for habits that you can create to help your health. Today's guest is Geoff Girvitz. And he runs a company called Dad Strength, which is all about taking care of yourself so that you can take care of the people you love. He's a real expert in many different aspects of health and also on many aspects of habit forming. He's also a tiny habits coach, and he's a wealth of knowledge on so many things. And so I think you'll really enjoy this episode with Geoff he gives some great information. Please do share the episode with anyone who you think would get some great value from it. I hope you enjoyed the show. habits and health. My guest today is Geoff Girvitz. How you doing, Geoff?
Geoff Girvitz 1:05
Great, thanks. How are you? I'm pretty good.
Tony Winyard 1:09
And this is I think this is the first time we've made a trip to Toronto on this podcast.
Geoff Girvitz 1:14
Okay, I'm going to represent admirably
Tony Winyard 1:18
my first Is it Torontonian? What would you call a native?
Geoff Girvitz 1:23
Yeah, I suppose. So. Although I'm not a native torontonian To be fair, I grew up in Calgary in the West, but but yes, a torontonian.
Tony Winyard 1:35
Just before we started recording we chatted and you said you've been there what? 20 years now it was?
Geoff Girvitz 1:40
Yeah, just about
Tony Winyard 1:42
And for those who don't know Toronto, what is it most famous for?
Geoff Girvitz 1:48
What is Toronto most famous for? That is a good question. For Non Canadians thinking it's the capital of Canada! Which it's not. I would say in more recent years, the food scene here has been really tremendous.
there's incredible cuisine, in all shapes, sizes and varieties. So that's, that's been a wonderful part of living here.
Tony Winyard 2:17
And you have a pretty cool Film Festival there as well?
Geoff Girvitz 2:22
True. Yeah, the Toronto International Film Festivals, one of the big ones. When I when I first moved up, I would regularly attend, it's gotten to be a bit too much of a zoo in recent years. But I'm definitely a movie guy. So it's always kind of cool to see what's going on.
Tony Winyard 2:42
And workwise your... well, rather than me try and butcher what you do could you tell the audience what you do?
Geoff Girvitz 2:50
So since 2008, I've run a gym in downtown Toronto, where we really try to, you know, break down the process of integrating fitness into your life and make it really accessible. I think there's a lot of cultural baggage that comes along with that. Outside of that, I'm I'm always busy with something we know each other through the tiny habits community. So that's been a big part of my life for the last year. Yeah.
Tony Winyard 3:20
And for those Listen, I mean, we've I've I've interviewed one tiny habits coach, that was about two months ago. You know, Martin Shannon? I don't actually. Yeah, he's a he's a memory guy. He helps people with mem like memorise huge chunks of information is amazing. So yeah, I interviewed him on episode one, funnily enough of this podcast.
Geoff Girvitz 3:42
That's so cool. I'm always so impressed. By by people with incredible memories like that, that is not me.
Tony Winyard 3:51
It's not most people in his market quite nicely to be fair. I, I got to know Mark A few years ago, because I was learning these techniques of how to remember large chunks of information. And mostly I was doing it because when I was speaking on stage, I didn't want to have to keep referring to notes. So it's far easier to learn these things, then you would probably think but anyway, so that's a whole aside because that's not what we're talking about this episode. So yeah, I mean, I've really an as you just mentioned, clubhouse. And the reason as I said to you before, we again before we started recording the reason I wanted you on the show, because I've heard you speak on clubhouse many a time. And I just adore the wisdom that you give to listeners that people take him asking questions about how they can implement habits in in in their life and they're struggling with certain habits and, and you just time and time again, just knock it out the park with this advice you give So yeah, I just thought Well, I've got to get some of that advice on this show to my audience. So and you speak about all things sort of like health and But well, it was clear to me from listening to you on clubhouse, you have a lot more knowledge simply then In fitness, you're it's like, pretty well rounded you analogy sense.
Geoff Girvitz 5:05
It's, it's kind of your, you know, I can assure you any any sort of wisdom, if you want to call it that that I've come by it has been through trial and error and just doing everything wrong for many, many years, I think in the context of behaviour change, I have for well over a decade really been understanding of that to be at the heart of what we do. I mean, it's kind of it's almost absurd when you think of it that there's even a fitness industry. Why do we need to convince people that exercise is a good idea, or, you know, eating for health is a good idea. And And I'm not talking about elite sports or trying to be on the cover of the magazine, I'm just talking about living well, however, there's all this friction around it. And there's so many misconceptions. So getting to the heart of the human component of this is I think, what the the particular challenges, and I suppose that that's what continues to sort of fascinate me and keep me involved with this stuff.
Tony Winyard 6:07
You just mentioned misconceptions. What would you say some of the misconceptions?
Geoff Girvitz 6:12
Or how long is this podcast? I'm going to start with with I think the biggest one. And this is it's this, I don't know, blame it on Protestant work ethic, I guess. But there's this idea that for your fitness to be successful, it has to be gruelling. Everything's got to be really almost unenjoyable. And to the, to the point where people don't begin the process by asking, what would I like about this? Or what would make me happy? Where would I find pleasure in doing this? But just what is the most effective? And and maybe not even that question, what just feels the hardest? How do I show people? How do I show myself that I'm tough that I have willpower, the whole the whole conversation and hopefully we'll get into this because this, this segues really nicely into tiny habits. This whole idea that that it is willpower dependent or motivation dependent. Wow is such an Achilles heel for so many people. And and if there's one phrase that I've heard more than any other over the years, it is I know what to do. I just need to, and that's where I'll hear something about either willpower or discipline.
Tony Winyard 7:27
And, and kind of what you were touching on just saying I've, for quite a while now, I often use the phrase movement rather than exercise, because exercise just seems to scare some people. And the whole image of what they think exercise is, and then I use movement, and it seems to be softer for people when it's more acceptable or something that makes sense. I like that. And and I've found the same. So what do you think it is about exercise that that scares people?
Geoff Girvitz 8:00
Wow. Well, you know, where does it start? Where do we get our our information about what exercise is, if you are young and athletic, you might get pushed into sport, and often, to this day, to this day, even at fairly high levels, there are a lot of coaches that operate under the idea that mental toughness is paramount. And, you know, I used to have to deal with this with coaches of combat athletes. And I'm like, these are professional fighters. These are people who have stepped into the ring or the cage many times who have gone through training camps, which are unbelievable. And we're so I would like to think we're over that hump. And we can be more strategic about what we're doing. But people keep getting stuck there. If you're in if you're in school coaches might take that approach. And that is and might actually suck all of the fun. Out of out of fitness. You know, in every parent, we you know, we can't help it. You know, every time my son touches a piano key or a soccer ball, part of me is going is he prodigy? Is this what he's gonna do? You know what, you know? Something turns up, but I'm afraid he's four years old now. And I'm afraid if he's really into something like baseball, or football, what what's that going to be like for him? What are the other parents going to be like? Are they going to be shutting their kids? I just I don't have any patience for that. And I don't know how I'll deal with it. You know, because it's just they're, you know, they're gonna be seven years old. Nobody's scouting them. For the pro for the pros for the major leagues. It's really not a big deal. So I think sometimes there's that influence. There's what we get in the media. This sort of classic training montage. It went in there much of my life view as an adolescent was informed by by Hollywood and You know, this idea that do something terribly that you hate, but just keep suffering through it. And somehow miraculously, you become great, which is, by the way, which, which is not how skill acquisition works, not how mastery or deliberate practice works. But we're dealing with this, this burden, I'll mention one more thing, which which I just call the, you know, the double down fallacy, which is, okay, I want it to be exercising, I haven't been I've let my fitness or my nutrition or whatever other health behaviours slip. And now I have to make up for lost time, as opposed to just start where I am, and move forward at a sustainable pace. So these are just some of the misconceptions that I experienced.
Tony Winyard 10:42
And it's the whole body image thing doesn't doesn't help either doesn't know, where you know, and that can get really complex? Absolutely. Well, I mean, one of the things that was going through my mind when you were speaking just then is about, I guess, kind of CrossFit in a way hasn't helped with the, a lot of people have this image of CrossFit and about, you know, you have to punish yourself, do you know, the pain and so on? And in some ways, he seems that hasn't helped the situation? I don't know. What would you have any feelings on that?
Geoff Girvitz 11:19
Yeah, and I'll do my best to be semi politically correct here. Um, I think that, okay, let's, let's start with what CrossFit does. Well, CrossFit does community Well, the people who are coming in who are involved are really excited about it. I mean, that's the joke, right? That's the sort of classic joke, you know, people across the river can't wait to tell you about it. Or talk about how sore they are, maybe how tough their their workouts were. That's sort of a badge of honour. And I think there is something it is a really bonding experience for humans to suffer together, that sort of shared catharsis is a big deal. And, and I think they they recognise that the other reason, I think CrossFit was you know, will kind of be an important chapter in our, in our history of physical culture was, it was the first time I think, in a popular sense, I mean, there have always been garage gyms. Strength athletes just kind of recognise what appeals to them about the sport and just and find ways to move heavy stuff around. But CrossFit was on the heels, you know, the big box, gym model was sort of conceptualised, I want to say in the mid 70s, and was really rooted in bodybuilding culture. And this idea of, Alright, we're going to get a bunch of machines. So that a, we don't need a lot of skilled coaching, something you can theoretically do on your own. And be they'll have a footprint, you know, a controllable footprint, you don't need a lot of space. And people kind of rotated through these. And this isn't my my joke, but I'll gladly seal it here. And they didn't know what to do with the women. So they put them in a room and made them dance. And that was sort of the that was the big box gym model. When we opened our facility in 2008, CrossFit had already sort of begun to get traction, but wasn't well known at that point. And the fact that we had a big open space, confused people, and multiple people I remember back Back in the day, would walk in and ask me so are you still renovating or they were waiting for every square foot of space to be filled with with machines and appointment? And across it did change that? Let us know, okay, we don't need a luxuriously appointed space, we can be pretty bare bones, we can use unconventional tools. We don't have to necessarily spend a lot of money. All that's really positive. But yeah, turning it into a suffer fast for most people is not going to be sustainable. So and this happens all the time. And I think this comes back to that same idea. I know what to do. I've done it before. That's often an agenda. I've done it before. I you know, I just need to and my question is always Why aren't you doing it? Why did you stop? And the answer is either people got injured, or it required such high levels of motivation, or such intense recovery that once you fell out of that mode, it was really tough to get back in. And so that's you know, I saw the question I think we really have to when we judge these things, we have to look at them through a much longer temporal lens.
Tony Winyard 14:46
I did CrossFit a couple years ago and and I did like it, it may have sounded like I'm really dissing it earlier and I did like aspects of it. But what what I didn't like was that there was just all this obsession with everything was anaerobic and hardly anything was aerobic. And it was just the balance was completely out of whack. As far as I was concerned.
Geoff Girvitz 15:12
So Charlie, Francis is a is was a Canadian sprint coach he died in in 2008. And his work, you know, really influenced the way I think about things sort of, he's sort of infamously known for the Canadian sprinter, Ben Johnson, who was the fastest man in the world or fastest person in the world and then and then had his metal stripped. Drugs are very much continue to be very much a part of, of the Olympic Games. It is it is what it is. But one of the reasons that Charlie Francis was so innovative, was he didn't do hard for hard sake, he thought of sprinting as as fundamental as a motor skill, we are practising going fast. So we need the requisite hardware to do that. But ultimately, we are we are training our nervous systems. And he, in a way that was really countered to the times and is still very, very different than a lot of what you'll see. Did did something called high load training. And he stayed out of I think he called it a black hole in the middle. So you would either go very fast 93% of your top speed or above more, you would be doing a robot work. But what he stayed out of was the glycolytic zone. So so you can so aerobic, is pretty sustainable, from from an energy production standpoint, but you won't have your highest output, anaerobic, a lactic so we're just going into the into the ATP, we have stored here at natto. I don't know how it works in the UK, and Canada. All anybody can tell you who's been through junior high, or maybe high school biology is that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Is that terminology? Yeah. I remember a junior high teacher saying, okay, okay, tell me what it does. But don't say, powerhouse of the cell. And three different people raise their hands and said exactly that phrase, much to his his dismay. But that's your stored sort of fuel for muscular contraction, now we can make it the glycolytic or the anaerobic lactic pathway, you can you can, you can produce energy there, it won't be your peak output. But it is also really fatiguing. And it may not be ideal for longer term athletic development. So when we used to work with fighters, we would recognise that's part of the sport, or wrestlers. So we prep them pre competition for this, but outside of pre competition, we stayed well out of that. That is also where things feel the hardest. And a lot of CrossFit just gravitates right to that zone. So you're not going to be performing optimally, which requires shorter work periods, longer rest periods, but you will also be really kind of beating yourself up where you need extended recovery. So so just, you know, just sort of, I guess, nitpick from a from a physiological or athletic development standpoint, that that's not how I would train anybody really outside of specific competition prep. It's not even how I would train someone for CrossFit.
Tony Winyard 18:31
You're more susceptible to injury as well.
Geoff Girvitz 18:34
We all when you're when you cross over past your your anaerobic threshold. So there's sort of a point where your aerobic system has done everything, it's giving you everything it can give, doesn't have any more. Now we have to start dipping into that, you start to fatigue very quickly, you start to your thinking becomes less clear, and you're more likely to make mistakes, if you are a combat athlete, and you can dictate the pace, and you can lure your opponent into that zone, even if they're technically superior, you're really going to level the playing field. Because their their, their functional skills will drop pretty quickly. So So yeah, and that's one of the reasons people are more likely to get injured. It's not necessarily what they're doing. But they're there's the state they're in when they're doing it. I mean, there's some other conversation around that, but but that will do I think
Tony Winyard 19:35
it's getting back to tiny habits. And so how are you? Wondering how you apply once you started learning how tiny habits framework, how did you apply that to what you do in the gym?
Geoff Girvitz 19:46
Question. So, you know, I've been I've been very interested and involved in, in the science and discussion on behaviour change for well over a decade. My experience was most stuff, most stuff didn't work and some stuff work but not reliably. So I read tiny habits is just sort of, you know it almost perfunctorily. Like, okay, I'll read this book as well just get this out of the way. And as I got through it, I was like, oh, my goodness, this is this all everything that I knew, everything that I had figured out, or cobbling together that worked, was in there was codified. All better than I had personally laid it out, as well as you know, some some missing pieces that I hadn't figured out. And I recognise, I recognise right away, how, how valid and important it was. And so how do we apply it is sort of the challenge to work with tiny habits you need, you need people to get over two humps the first one. Actually, that well. We'll talk more about the first one. The second one is celebration is is is the practice the skill of, of celebrating your wins of your successes of giving yourself some praise, and a lot of people really struggle with that. I am a terrible natural celebrator. This really took some doing for me personally. You know, I'm not an effusive person in that way. And the the first really tough bit, which is more of an intellectual challenge than an emotional one is the value of doing something small. And I remember struggling with that I was walking home one evening thinking about this and say, Ah, okay, I get it. And we've been talking in behaviour change, we've been talking about shrinking the change, since forever. Okay, bring it down. You want to meditate for 20 minutes, Great, well, maybe, maybe we'll bring it down to 10 minutes or five minutes. But the idea of 30 seconds, you know, or something like that for people. I noticed in myself immediately. This knee jerk reaction going? Nope, nope, you can't do the impossible. You can't do anything with that. And what that let me know that signal in the moment, let me know that not only had I not tried that, or was I unwilling to try the moment I had not been trying it, I had definitely not tried it in years, maybe ever. And you just sort of realised that if you want to do something different if you want to reach a new state, it's not going to be by by virtue of doing the same stuff over and over again. So I had to make that that intellectual leap. And now I can, you know, we can talk for hours about what the value of small is and why. But once we get people past those two sort of friction points, we can talk about how to apply it anywhere. It's, it's it's like water, you know, you can you can pour it in any shape. You know, like, like Bruce, Bruce Lee used to say, you pour into a bowl, it becomes a bowl, you pour into a glass becomes a glass, and I find that the tiny habits has that sort of universal flexibility to it.
Tony Winyard 23:10
For people listening who are maybe not so familiar with tiny habits, can you explain why celebration is an important part of it, and how it helps with the whole... maybe more about tiny habits and why celebration is an important part of it.
Geoff Girvitz 23:28
Okay, so the, the easy sort of way to think about this is the ABC construction, where we have an anchor, a behaviour, and a celebration, your anchor, is we could call, also a prompt, this is what reminds you to do the thing in the first place, your behaviour, in this case is going to be a tiny habit and the celebration. The reason we do that, functionally, is that how we feel is very much tied in to our ability to remember things emotion and memory, are very tightly coupled. And in this case, positive emotion. So BJ, BJ Fogg would say, we change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad. This is very true, I would sort of add to that, that if we are trying to live in a way that has meaning, and where we are enjoying our life, not just doing hard things because we were told that this is how you become successful. And then I don't know, walking down this path that you don't like for years and years, and then suddenly, you know, expecting to reach a certain point of an external success and suddenly feel happy. This is not what I've seen. I don't think that's how humans work. So I almost think of it as this subtle sort of signal of what path to take. When when we have a bunch of different paths in front of us and different choices. That's one of the signals we can listen for. Well, these all seem to have value. They all seem to be approaches we could take to being successful, but which ones have the most meaning sort of have the most joy factory installed? And I think the more attuned we can become to those signals, the more that you know, and I'm not saying be a hedonist. That's that's not that's not what I'm saying. But the more we can kind of look for that component of value in what we're doing, the more reliably, we will find that we've taken paths that not only lead us to success, but have sort of a, an implicit value to them. So that's, that's the ABC, should I pause there?
Tony Winyard 25:34
Well, and, and so on, that you mentioned before, that you struggled with the celebration part? And I did as well, British men are kind of almost famous, or infamous, for not showing emotion and so on. And I wonder what it's like in Canada.
Geoff Girvitz 25:54
we're a former colony, we've got that baggage. You know, friend of mine, in a discussion about men and emotions, suggested that will perhaps men struggle so much, because our palette of emotions range from pretty shitty to Okay, I guess, like, that's what we've got. So so the the ability to describe emotions to be more attuned to nuance, and it is we haven't been given that sort of education culturally, maybe, maybe not by our parents, you know, things are changing. And in some really positive ways that, you know, a big part of my, my son is four and part of his junior kindergarten experience is learning that vocabulary of emotions, being asked every day, hey, what things fill your bucket, how's your engine running, they'll ask. And so so to finally teaching those emotion regulation skills as part of a, of a curriculum, I mean, feels really important, and feels like, like, it's long overdue. But you know, for myself, not, you know, I'm not a big I'm not going to dance, you know, and sometimes people I think that's the first resistance, right? People experience, Alright, we've got to celebrate Well, I'm not going to yell Hooray. And wave my arms in the air. I'm not going to, you know, do a dance or a song, little soft shoot in the street. How can I do this? And you know, my first advice would be, don't do something that feels inauthentic, we just have to figure out what's going to work for you. BJ refers to this as your natural celebration. For me, I tried so many things I got, I got downright weird about Antonia, as I tried to come up with with these elaborate approaches to celebration. One day, I was listening to a podcast, somebody that I like and respect very much was speaking. And he said something that I really connected with. And I found myself saying yes. And that was my first hint of what a natural celebration was. But me being me even that I'm not going to do I was alone, I'm not going to do that in public. And the things that have really worked for me personally, have been to really think about meaning, what's important to me, what are my values, and connected to that. I've also and this is sort of, it's embarrassing to say, but I realised going through this process that I'm a terrible smiler I have what my wife refers to as a resting murder face. And I wasn't smiling a lot. And even the act of smiling, worked. And in moments that I am feeling too shy to smile, I can even begin, I can just gently tug, feel the first hints a muscular activation of the corners of my mouth. And that still works. So it doesn't have to be, you know, a Disney style production of what your your celebration is. I'm curious to hear how you sort of navigated that challenge
Tony Winyard 29:03
was similar. I mean, I, I, I guess I just I just kind of say to myself, yeah, that was good. Or, you know, so it's not, it's hardly going over the top by any means. It's and it's very much and often I don't actually verbally say it's just kind of in my head. I mean, yeah, I did a good job, though. I did that or something along those lines.
Geoff Girvitz 29:25
But even acknowledging that and I think that that is a skill, and it's an important skill unto itself. Because if we're going to assess our success, if we're going to be clear on what worked and what didn't work, you want to make a little tick in your mental diary. And again, so part of this is just intellectually acknowledging, oh, this, I set out, you know, I said I was going to be consistent with could be anything drinking water. You know, saying hello to people on the street, people are all feeling a little disconnected right? Now. So you know, being friendly, I think is a wonderful habit to integrate, and to just say, Oh, I did what I set out to do. And if your self image is in a lot of people struggle with this, oh, I always give up, I always quit. Well, that's the other beautiful thing about tiny habits is we can move the goalposts wherever we want them to, to be, and continue to move them until we are successful near 100% of the time. And if you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it. And now we have almost a better internal system of metrics and self appraisal for what's working, and what you can reliably do. And so even from just a skill perspective, this becomes really important because you can place your bets about new habits, about new skills about new challenges in a really reliable way. And of course, the positive emotion just makes it easier for you to remember these things.
Tony Winyard 30:59
I was interviewing a lady called Dr. Andrea Pennington, she's a specialist in compassion and self care. And one of the things that she said, which I really loved. She was talking about how how brutal many people are to themselves and how self critical and so on. And, and she said, I forget exactly how she said it. But it was basically a friend can help someone who has that sort of destructive self talk, is when they hear them say things like, "Oh, I'm so stupid", or "I'm an idiot", or whatever the case may be to say, "don't talk to my friend like that". And it may or may not be understood at first, but then they'll understand Oh, yeah, you're my friend, I don't want you talking to yourself like that.
Geoff Girvitz 31:49
You know, that's so great. So many people, we see this a lot of times and caregivers, parents, people who are incredibly nurturing to other people, but if we ask them, would you ever talk to you to somebody else like that? Not in a million years. But but sometimes it's their old habits, sometimes they were formed before even our brains have finished maturing. And I think it's also you know, useful to realise that it is not self is not a binary, it is not not every thought, it's you, but it's not all of you. And we can have thoughts of different types, you know, at the same time, and so just, you know, recognising All right, well, that that's, that's the asshole part of my brain and, and he's quite vocal, but I also have a kind of compassionate part of my brain. And so one of the tiny habits that I incorporated for myself is when I notice that I'm lingering on something negative, I will spend at least twice as much time focused on something positive. So I will, I will just start there. And because we do need, we have a negativity bias as humans, there's a reason our species is still around. And we are sort of hardwired to be aware, extra aware of danger, things that will kill us or, or harm us. And so we have to, for that reason, be extra deliberate about counter balancing that, especially since most of us are fortunate enough to not have to worry about physical survival on a day to day basis.
Tony Winyard 33:28
What habits would you say have made the biggest difference to your life?
Geoff Girvitz 33:33
The first habit that was really powerful for me, I wasn't even I was maybe a third of the way done the book. And the concept of pearl habits, which is really I think a lot of credit goes to Linda Fogg to BJ Sr. and, and so normally when we talk about, you know, I mentioned that ABC constructions we have our anchor, our behaviour and our celebration, so the anchor, most of the time we talk about an existing action, so not a not a calendar reminder, or a post it note, because most of these things just become white noise after a while. But if we look at behaviours, because we already have a bunch of habits, we're very successful at creating them. So whether it is after I turn the coffeemaker on in the morning, after I pour myself a glass of water, after I put my feet on the floor in the morning, you know, mornings are particularly stable in terms of habit. So we use these actions as our anchors, but we can also use internal sensations and those could be bodily sensations like noticing hunger or needing to go to the bathroom. But they can also be things like anxiety, or anger or sadness, and Perl habits. I mean, it's even the name is wonderful because from this irritant, we produce something beautiful. And all of a sudden, so I was Believe it or About a year ago at the beginning of of this global pandemic, with with questions about health, where do we go? I mean, at least it's sort of a known quantity. Now, we didn't even know, can I touch this package that was delivered? How far can you know? Do I need to stay away from people, there was so much uncertainty, I didn't know if my business was going to survive. So with all this anxiety, and anxiousness inside, I just created the habit when I noticed that I'm feeling anxious. So and I always sort of preface this because you won't, you can't guarantee you'll always do it. But when you notice that it's happening, we can apply it. So when I noticed that I'm feeling anxious, I will take two mindful breaths. That was it. As it turned out, I had a lot of those prompts. And all of a sudden, what had previously been this, this negative experience, became an ally, and allowed me to practice mindfulness dozens, at least, maybe hundreds of times a day. And it had an incredible impact on my state of mind and mental well being. And so knowing that if you are having persistent internal experiences that are not pleasant, that are not the way you want to be. It's this incredible piece of internal judo. And now you can, you can leverage those and and hard, it's energy, you know, and, you know, you could argue that, that anxiety is, is an energy or prompt that we haven't been able to act on. And so rather than go, Oh, I should, I should start meditating, or I need to start going to the gym, or I should work this out, too. In the moment, as soon as it comes up, have something and that's why tiny can be so powerful. There's no pause, there's no hesitation, or waiting. It can really be transformative. And that was definitely the experience for me.
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Tony Winyard 37:22
Have you read any of the other sort of well known books on habits such as you know, atomic habits and Power of Habit and so on? Yeah. Yeah. What are your thoughts on those atomic habits
Geoff Girvitz 37:33
is is a wonderful book, it is a summary. It's almost It reminds me of reading the Russian manuals on or the translator Russian manuals on different types of physical developments to sort of a collection of methods. And so it's interesting. But it's, they're things that you would already apply if you know where to place them tiny habits is almost a bit more of a textbook. You know, BJ is an academic and it comes across so it's really clearly ease, you know, clearly written and easily accessible. But there's that sort of threat of building skills, building knowledge, how to test and iterate it, I guess the Power of Habit. So when I think back so if we do if we want to do a roll up of all the all the books on this stuff, the first one that I'm aware of that really sort of entered popular consciousness was was Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, right?
Tony Winyard 38:31
Geoff Girvitz 38:33
And I want to say that was in the late 60s, maybe 67. And that's where the myth of the 21 day is to create a habit comes from the Power of Habit was sort of was useful in giving people a mental model. So I wouldn't say that it exactly works like this. But the idea of, here's your, here's your prompt, and your your action and your reward, talking about dopamine, talking about our expectations, and looking at some of the research was was really useful in getting the conversation going. Atomic habits, I think, my favourite part of that book was talking about the transition into identity. And then I'll tell you a story maybe from my experience, we have a wonderful guy who's part of our fitness community named Adam, who when I first met him, said to me that was that was within a moment or two of meetings that I'm not a gym person and explained to me all the reasons why he was not and and why fitness had not worked but he's willing to give things a try is a lovely man. And we bit by bit we began to make things work. And he transitioned from being not a gym person to, I think still not a gym person, but somebody who who was showing up consistently and was willing to work hard. And this continued to sort of morph, it really became part of his life. And he wrote me this email, he was on the East Coast, visiting friends, he was at a pub hanging out. And a couple of a couple of friends were talking about fitness, talking about working out. And they sort of paused and looked over at him and said, Hey, I'm, you're a fitness guy, what do you think about this? And he realised that, you know, it had the transformation sort of been complete from those sort of tingling internally to the way he had had thought about himself. First by Well, at least, but I do the work to becoming more comfortable and familiar for this becoming part of his life to the point where on a long enough timeline, other people will begin to see the the signs of that and without him present, he's an unpretentious person is soft spoken, he would never show up, you know, he wouldn't, he wouldn't roll into the pub in, you know, in microfiber, you know, arms bear or anything like that. But people just recognise this, you know him. And so that was that sort of planting the seed internally, not not necessarily speaking about it. All the way to that blew me to the point where people recognise that through his actions, the way he behaved, what his knowledge was, and I guess the way he looked as well, externally.
Tony Winyard 41:26
I don't know why this thought just came into my head, but I'm going to change the subject quite a bit. What does What does the word health mean to you?
Geoff Girvitz 41:38
That's broad. That is, that is big, right? health? You know, I guess we can, we can think about it in a couple of different ways. The first, the first priority is to get rid of anything that will mess with your ability to survive, or thrive. So before we start choosing very technical or detailed methods, is there anything in your life right now, that is clearly not congruent with that? is there is there an injury or an illness? is there is there a habit or you know, if you're, if you're smoking three packs a day, we may not need the highest powered nutritional supplements are the most technical training, some of these wins are really easy, just by not doing something that that's clearly not your benefit? Once we clear, you know, sort of, obviously knock us inputs from the system, then then what is the question? And so fit fitness would have been an easier question for me to answer, Tony, you know, and I would talk about adaptability, primarily in that I like to think that anyone to be fit isn't is fit is really a specific kind of situation, but in general, to be three to six weeks out from being competent in any kind of physical activity, not not being the best in the world, necessarily, but just being able to participate and learn not having any obstacles to developing skill. If you have to get low enough, if you have to move fast enough, if you have to change direction, can you do that? Health itself is much more broad. So we have our physical health, but we also have our cognitive and emotional health, the sort of the relational components of things we have our environmental health you know, on my on my to read list today is is something that's talking about racism in the context of, of public health. And there's been some some real progress in that discussion. Because if you are living in a system that automatically removes opportunities or increases stresses, for you, that is part of the big picture. And so our health in that sense, in the things that either support or hinder it, extend well you know, outside of the, the, the physical borders of our body.
Tony Winyard 44:16
And what I mean is you touched upon fitness there and because fitness and health, there's a difference isn't and they're not the same thing. A lot of people seem to think that if you're fit, that means you're healthy, and if you're healthy, that means you're fit
Geoff Girvitz 44:30
The classic example is the bodybuilder about to walk on stage. I mean a lot of those people are a stiff gust of wind away from Keeling over. Their energy is so incredibly low. Their liver enzymes have dwindled down to about zero. You know, it is so hyper specialised so competition and in optimal performance in the moment But particularly in athletic contexts are not always the same as health. There are trade offs to be made. And I think it's really important to recognise. So you know, and that's one of my favourite things I think about, if we talk about strength training, for example, it's different. If you are a power lifter in competition, you are doing your final squat of the day trying to set a record in your knee doesn't feel 100%, right. I'm not talking about catastrophic breakdown, just little discomfort, you're going to push through it, if you know you're at the end of whether it's a an MMA or a footy match, and you know, you don't feel great, or your shoulder feels like perhaps a dislocated a little bit, you're gonna finish. That's what competitors do. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But there's a difference. If I'm in the gym, been doing some barbell rows, or cable rows, my shoulder doesn't feel 100% I'm just gonna stop. Nobody cares. nothing's on the line, other than my ability to come back and do this again, and have quality, enjoyable workout. So you have that freedom and flexibility. The stakes are so much lower, and I think that's free.
Tony Winyard 46:22
And that brings me on to recovery and the importance of recovery. It's something I have talked about with other guests because and I guess the reason I come back to it a lot is because I just feel it so neglected. And so there's just not enough importance given to it by too many people.
Geoff Girvitz 46:49
Yeah, it's sort of you know, the the rumblings in in the fitness industry is that recovery will be sort of more trendy over the next year, it's I mean, that that's the way it's been for maybe the last year and a half, two years. But we do have to recognise that that exercise is a stress, not all stress is negative, there is just a sweet spot for under stimulated, we don't adapt if we're overstimulated, overstressed, we also can't adapt, we've exhausted our sort of adaptive reserves. So we stress ourselves, we apply measured stresses in a way that we can adapt positively. And so we need two things we need, we need the right dosage, too low or too high, and it's not productive. Too low as merely not productive, too high could also be dangerous. And, and then we need some ability to recover from it. If you're recovering immediately. are you repeating the same thing day after day? It's either because we have undershot, which is okay. I mean, maybe maybe we've shot precisely right, we need something that is that sustainable, but more likely, we are not recovering sufficiently, we have we have sent all these signals to our body to repair tissues, to build new neural connections to myelinate pathways. So we need the raw material. So protein is the obvious nutrient of choice, but we eat fat to most of the nervous system, brain is made of fat. So that needs in place we need, you know, needs to be in place. We need the micronutrients to support all this development. So much of this happens during sleep. So if we are chronically under recovered, we're not going to be at our best. Is that the direction you were going? Or did you have something else in in mind?
Tony Winyard 48:47
Yeah, but is that and I also he just seemed I guess part of it is the reason I've I guess I've talked about this a few times in different episodes is because here in different people in different gyms that I've gone to in different people that I've been helping, and they I think there's there's a real misunderstanding of what recovery is. And so some I mean, for example, when I used to go to CrossFit, and some people's idea of recovery was I on Thursday afternoon, I had a couple of hours off, and that was recovery. And then for other people, it was blay. I have two days off every week, I don't do any training and is and it's not necessarily linked to how much activity they're actually doing and what's involved in in there, how much work they're doing. And, you know, there's, it's very vague, I think, basically, just a lot of people just don't really have an understanding of what recovery is.
Geoff Girvitz 49:44
Yeah, it's kind of abstract. And it is it is tough and a lot of the Taipei's of the world. The only time I've ever gotten traction on those discussions is when I sort of tease at the idea that they'll be able to do more for some people. That's the only reason they would buy into recovery at all. We're sort of coming off this idea that the healthier you are, the less you need to sleep and the less you need to eat, which is just not the case at all. What would I find? To be a more useful frame? is to build some kind of metrics around performance. How do we know when you're performing? Well, which seems like an important question, if you want to be a high performer? So how do we even track that? What are our measures? So, you know, we might use for an athlete, we might use repeated vertical jumps as an example. We, you know, something that's a little more tied to your nervous system, there are also ways to give you clues, such as measuring heart rate variability, but you want to form a global picture, I would never rely on only one metric, but I would look at how things are trending. And then I would play around and ask, because we don't want to over recover. We don't want to recover, you know, spend more time recovering the necessary if we're really driven. But when do we see if we come back and repeat this work the next day? Is it of an equal quality? And if the answer is no, you know, there's a good chance we're under recovered. And, you know, what I'll mention about this is if you are really driven and competitive, let's say so we'll talk about working at a, you know, a perceived rate of exertion, how hard is this on a scale of one to 10? As an example, we might say, all right, well, I I'm doing we're not, we can't, it's not possible to work at 10 out of 10, every day, unless you're absolutely a beginner, right, because you're not even neurologically efficient enough to dig into that. But let's say you're you're more intermediate or advanced athlete. And we want to work it about a seven and a half, eight out of 10 today, and that, that effort, the way that feels, translates into a certain output, oh, I lifted 90% of my max weight for three reps on a deadlift, you know, and so on and so forth. We have these sort of external metrics. So just because you're under recovered, does not mean you can't come in the next day and do the same thing. That is often the case, however, the question we want to ask is, what is the cost of doing business? And if we need to be filled with stress hormones, to be able to get that job done, again, you know, competitive people rise to the occasion. And sometimes we really need to, but if this is just training, if this is not a competition, if it's just designed to make you better, the question is, by showing up and working now, let's say a nine and a half out of 10 to get the same work done. What's the cost of that? What how does that impact recovery? How does that impact work? injury risk, right? And so it's not we don't just look at what did you get done? We look at how did it feel? What did it take to do that. And if it felt like it was far more stressful, it requires a much higher level of emotional arousal of activation, then that may actually be slowing down your progress through a longer lens.
Tony Winyard 53:13
52 minutes has gone already. And there's so many other subjects I want to cover here is I'm going to switch to talk about some of your reading. I know that you like reading and you sent me some of the stuff that you've been reading recently, I actually downloaded that Scott Barry Kaufman book today, the transcend book, I'm looking forward to this and look at that looks fascinating. But yeah, tell us about some of the books that you like to read and what you've been reading recently
Geoff Girvitz 53:41
yeah, I mean, I'm not much of a fiction guy. It's tough. It's got to be just the right sort of level. I don't want to be punished by my fiction. I think I mentioned Thomas Pynchon. But I also I want it to be well written. I'm enjoying one of our one of the members of our community actually writes short crime fiction. So I do. His name is Peter Sellars, which is pretty easy to remember he has a book called kickbacks. I've been reading that but mostly it's nonfiction. Yeah, Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman, where he's looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs through an evidential lens and saying, Okay, what, what do we have from a research standpoint that actually, you know, substantiates that he's got a bit of a different perspective. So I think that's really interesting. I'm reading Adam Grants, Think Again, he's an organisational psychologist, and I'm just really enjoying the book. It's about questioning or assumptions and you know, overcoming our sort of cognitive biases and the parts of us that make us human. That's a fun one. I'm geeking out a bit I'm not much of a you know, I don't understand all the math quite frankly. But I'm reading a manual the Mandelbrot set is the probably the most well known fractal. And I love thinking about you know, the hidden Great observation was all this talk about shapes about these flat, you know, these perfect squares and circles and triangles. Nature doesn't have any of that nature has this irregularity. And when we look at systems that work that have integrity that work on a, you know, on a tiny level and work on a macro level, we don't see these discrete shapes, we see we see chaos, but chaos that repeats in it's this paradox of chaos that repeats in an orderly way. And I think anything that we're really going to learn, we're going to draw from nature. And so that's really been interesting. So that sort of, I'm the kind of person that likes to, you know, connect the dots between things that seem unconnected and so that's really been impactful for me, you know, or these last few months as I as I think about all kinds of different challenges.
Tony Winyard 55:54
If people want to find out more about you, and the any services that you offer for people, and so on, and social media, wherever they go to,
Geoff Girvitz 56:04
you can visit, https://www.bangpersonaltraining.com which is our website. So we deliver a lot of online services, including physical presence, which is our programme for where we use movement and exercise for for mental well being. So we approach it from the perspective, how do we boost mood, boost cognitive function? And so that's really been a lot of fun to do. We use a lot of tiny habits, in that it's been really important in the approach. I'm on what am I on finding on clubhouse? More likely? You can email me at Geoff@bangpersonaltraining.com. happy to chat.
Tony Winyard 57:02
For people who maybe aren't so familiar with clubhouse, do you want to talk about the kind of things that you that tiny habits on clubhouse and how it is you're helping people on on the tiny habits, rooms in clubhouse,
Geoff Girvitz 57:15
you know, I'm such a fan of BJ Fogg. And not just because he's a smart person, but he is really trying to be a force for good in this world. And say that pretty sincerely. And so we have a tiny habits club on clubhouse. So it's audio only if you're not already familiar with it, I think it's really neat. It's the only social media that I've been excited or optimistic about. And it's not to say there was a nonsense on there. But on the whole people are very positive and supportive, and collegial. You hear these sort of, you can't you can't fake expertise, really, and you can't fake authenticity. We hear this in people's voices. And so we run all these tiny habits, rooms, and people are just there coaching, giving it all away for free on the platform. So anybody who who raises their hand wants to ask a question or get a little bit of guidance, or really kind of getting loved bombed, and getting these really fantastic coaches. It's a wonderful community, we must be running in excess of 1010 rooms a week now on all kinds of topics and applying tiny habits to all kinds of challenges from vocational selection to mindfulness to exercise
Tony Winyard 58:35
in kids. I mean, it's this is a real wide range of topics and a real wide range of questions as well that come in on some of the rooms Yeah, that's right. I mean for and for so if anyone isn't me and is some people I don't even know what clubhouse is still because it you know, I guess for for us that have been using it because they only saw that it just ended December January, didn't it? So some people still aren't really sure what it is. So it's only at the moment. It's still for only iPhone users, I think.
Geoff Girvitz 59:04
Yeah, I think by May of this year, we can expect it an Android rollout. It is it is live audio only. And it think of it as almost like talk radio, in the sense of here's some experts discussing their ideas, talking about important topics. The difference is one you have this this broad range of people you can you can choose from you just sort of wander down what they call the hallway, think of it as a radio dial and find what's interesting listen in. And unlike radio or or a podcast, you can raise your hand and all of a sudden you can ask a question or contribute some thoughts and completely change the direction of the conversation.
Tony Winyard 59:54
Yeah, I definitely advise anyone who's listening who's not checked it out yet. definitely have a listen and Search for the tiny habits club or is it called a club room? And what was that it was the name of the so yeah, tiny habits club? club, right? Yeah, just search for that and see some of the discussions going on. And you'll hear Jeff's voice quite often he's on there quite a lot, giving them some great advice out to people. So before we finish, Geoff, is there any aspects of habits or anything about tiny habits that I haven't asked you that you think will be good for, for people to know?
Geoff Girvitz 1:00:30
I think that that's a good question.
I think that we need to step away from for a moment from this sort of transactional nature, and say, What am I What am I getting out of this? What is the value of doing this for 20 seconds? What is the value of only doing one or two push ups, or taking a single mindful breath when I have these much larger aspirations? And so I would say we'll take a note from the tech industry, and MVP everything, what is the minimum viable product of this big thing that you want to do? Can you do an easy version of it consistently, you'll be able to immediately get feedback on what's working and what's not an often we find even through tiny habits, and iterating through them, the stuff that's great on paper doesn't work. And then the things that do work often come at you from surprising angles. So we really encourage people to be playful, and be experimental with it. And the faster you get at iterating, the the faster you're going to find what works for you. And this is also a meta skill. So as you you know, I think of, you know, the proverbial getting back. The idea of getting back on the horse, right? When we fall, we fall off constantly. If you are meditating, you're constantly falling off the horse. If you're trying a new business endeavour, you are constantly falling off the horse. And that can be sort of destabilising, so building the skills to more quickly get back on the horse and reduce the downtime by just being thrown for a loop with our our failures of which we will have, they'll be myriad for the rest of our lives. That's part of the deal for being human, the more successful you're going to be. And so the value may not be immediately apparent. But as you roll this out, you'll see it turn up in some surprising ways.
Tony Winyard 1:02:24
And I think that's a great piece of wisdom to end on. So Geoff, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. It's been a great episode. Thank you so much shot, it was fine. Next week, Episode 17 with Tommy Barrabe, who has gone through a lot of health issues there were a number of years ago, he went through a lot of health issues, and now helps people with the issues that he was going through. He's a personal trainer, but he helps people also around different aspects of health. So that's next week's episode with so many variables. If you enjoyed this week's episode with Geoff Girvitz, please do share with anyone who you feel would get some some real help from some of the stuff that Geoff shared with us. And I hope you have a great week.
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