Functional Strength Training | Austin Current | Better Man Podcast Ep. 009
Today, I’m talking to Austin Current about functional strength training, and he’s an expert you’ll want to hear from. He’s the author of The Science of Strength Training, in which he writes about the mental and physical benefits of strength training, shares workout plans and dietary science, and outlines how to complete 33 key exercises safely and without injury.
Austin’s book is full of great information. However, what really made me want to talk to him is his gift for writing about a very complex and potentially intimidating topic in a way that someone who’s never trained seriously (or perhaps never even set foot in a gym) can use to get started.
In this episode, Austin and I dig into how (and why) his book took shape, how to take the guesswork out of your time at the gym and make the most of your training, and the key things to be doing outside the gym beyond eating and sleeping well to see the best results from a strength training program.
The Better Man Podcast is an exploration of our health and well-being outside of our physical fitness, exploring and redefining what it means to be better as a man; being the best version of ourselves we can be, while adopting a more comprehensive understanding of our total health and wellness. I hope it inspires you to be better!
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Watch a Clip From Episode 009
Key Takeaways with Austin Current
- How Austin developed his unique writing style for his book.
- Why it can be so difficult to take what you learn in the classroom (or in a book) and apply it in real life.
- When and why people need to work with trainers.
- The common physical and mental symptoms of overtraining, what to look out for, and what to do instead when it happens.
- Why it’s so important to manage your expectations when it comes to training.
- The key questions and conversations Austin has with his clients to help determine how he can best serve them.
- How to make strength training complement your yoga practice (or anything else you want to do).
- The dangers and side effects of idolizing impractical and uncomfortable bodies.
- How Austin and his wife set expectations, plan together, and check in on each other.
- How asking himself what he enjoys (and why he enjoys it) has helped Austin focus on doing things that make him happy.
- Why Austin thinks that it’s more important to move frequently over the course of the day instead of packing 10,000 steps into a single block of activity.
- What stresses Austin out the most each day.
- The biggest challenge facing men and their well-being right now–and why the best way to do anything is to start something, create small changes, and stop thinking about the future.
Austin Current Notable Quotes
- “To get better at something, it takes reps, it takes effort, and it takes those reps and effort over time to make that incremental change.” – Austin Current
- “You don’t have forever with people. You have to ask good questions and really listen, because people tell you exactly what they want if you listen.” – Austin Current
- “Sometimes, the best you’ve ever felt is never going to be the best you’ve ever looked or the biggest you’ve ever been.” – Dean Pohlman
Dean Pohlman: Hey, guys, what’s up? It’s Dean, welcome to the Man Flow Yoga podcast. Today, I have Austin Current on the show. Welcome to the show, Austin.
Austin Current: Thanks, man. Glad to be on.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, I always like to start these off talking about how I know you. I wrote two books with DK publishers – Yoga Fitness for Men and then Yoga for Athletes. And I like books. I have a ton of books. If you’re looking at the video version of this, you can see all the books in my bookshelf. I’ve been doing a pretty job keeping up with DK publishers’ books. And then I saw one that I didn’t have yet, and it was the Science of Strength Training. And I looked it up and I saw it. I think it has over 500 five-star reviews right now.
Anyways, really popular book, and I looked up the author, found you, messaged you, said, “Hey, your fellow DK author, can we be best friends?” And of course, you said yes. And so, here we are. I don’t actually know you aside from that. Full disclosure, we did have a few minutes to chat before we started recording. But I’m really looking forward to diving into your book and just having some conversations. So, yeah, thanks again for being responsive.
Austin Current: I appreciate you reaching out, and likewise to you, I think connecting with other authors. When I first kind of got the opportunity to do it, I looked up everyone I could find on similar topics under DK’s family tree there. And I was reaching out, like, “Hey, how is this experience for you? And what was you changed and did different?” I think it’s just great to connect with other people that have done this thing and are educators and share their experience and intellect with the world because it’s a difficult thing to try and encapsulate, especially into a book. So, yeah, I mean, I love connecting as well, so I’m glad you reached out.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And just from our brief conversation, I can tell you’re already very thoughtful in the sense that you’re pensive. I think you just seem to think about things just based on what I… Hey, it’s a good thing. And most people just don’t have the bandwidth or the presence of mind to be able to do that. And I could really tell that when I looked through your book, I mean, there are tons of different topics in this book. I’m assuming that the goal is for someone who hasn’t done strength training before to be able to pick up this book and get started. So, I want to ask you what was the vision for this book? What was kind of the process of thinking about what all do you want to include? Who do you want it to be for?
Austin Current: So, DK sort of came to me with an idea in mind, and they gave me a lot of freedom to organize it in a way that I sort of wanted to do, which I was very appreciative of. And they gravitated, I think, towards my writing style that I always, ironically, got docked points for in university and throughout my life growing up and through academics where I write a little bit more conversationally. And to me, that always made sense because I never really knew how to write, otherwise. So, I just wrote how I talked.
And then more through university and academics, I learned obviously how to write more for academia and that avenue. And I sort of landed on this hybrid between sort of conversational academic-type writing that I found to connect with an audience over social media, and it allowed enough context and enough information into the subject matter, but it didn’t, I guess, talk over anyone’s head. I’m always trying to meet people where they’re at. And to answer your question more specifically, what would I have loved to have when I started? What book do I think would have been or would be most beneficial to the everyday gym-goer that I work with on a daily basis as clients? It’s not written as well. I think this is really important distinction that I wanted to make from the beginning with it as I organized it was, it’s not written to impress you, it’s written to help you.
So, I’ve read countless, whether it’s research papers or very high-level articles or textbooks or whatever. And you can tell when something’s written to impress you and sort of like an intellectual flex, and it’s written for colleagues or other academics. And it also shines through when someone wrote something for the reader. And that’s what I wanted to sort of get across with this is sort of blending that higher-level type of information with the understanding that it’s going to be more of a reference textbook for the everyday person, the everyday gym-goer, not the academic. And so, that was a big motivation in kind of how I organized it or try to organize it from the beginning.
Dean Pohlman: Well, the irony of that is more people are going to want to read in the conversational tone, like I’ve had people actually reach out to me on my website and they say, “This isn’t grammatically correct. This sentence is too short.” I’m like, there’s a huge difference between writing for a book versus writing for a website. It’s a totally different writing style, so it’s interesting that you bring up the difference between writing conversationally and writing for academia and then trying to meet people where they are. That’s actually been a big theme with a lot of the people I’ve spoken with on the show so far is trying to make things simple or trying to create a bridge between the average person and what they know, being more relatable with their information.
Austin Current: I think it’s so easy to go beyond. I think in a way, it’s much harder to write that way. I think it takes a lot more thought and it takes a lot more conversation with people. I’m very fortunate that I get to speak to the everyday– and I say the everyday person, not as like in any way derogatory or looking down because when I talk to my accountant, for example, or anything like that, I’m almost like Michael Scott. Explain this to me, like I’m five, and assume I know nothing. And start there, not being offensive, really talking down to me, but speak to me like you would if I just walked into the room and I’m just learning about this for the first time.
And people are smart because I come from that angle, but I also come from the angle of like people are very smart collectively and they’re going to get it and it’s up to you to help them get it because I don’t think it’s a matter of information is too hard to digest. I think it’s a matter of the language you’re using, how much you’re throwing at them all at once. It’s a difference between trying to drink from a garden hose and a fire hose. It’s like, well, you’re getting the information through a garden hose, just fine at a good rate, there’s enough of it to understand and whatever else to kind of keep with the metaphor.
But a fire hose is like the information is coming out, but it’s going. There’s not a shot I’m going to get what you’re trying to say here because you’re using too many words that are maybe outside of my vocabulary or you’re basing things off of context that you understand that no one else that the reader may not understand, and so it’s trying to be relatable and it’s trying to bridge those gaps between everyday life stuff that people would understand and are a little bit more in tune with maybe from a vocabulary standpoint or context standpoint and then trying to sprinkle in the most need to know information of the higher-level stuff.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. It’s interesting because I find a lot of the people who do use those terms don’t actually know what they’re talking about, but they’re using those terms like this is a big word, this should impress you. And then you’re like, “Wait, wait, wait, what did you just say? Oh, you don’t know what this means?” And…
Austin Current: Yeah, it’s very easy to say mechanotransduction, but it’s very hard. I thought long and hard how to explain that in very simple terms in the book. It’s like I need to explain this, and I think it helps because the editors and the publisher and the illustrators and all of them are very knowledgeable, but there’s a reason they came to you to write this. There’s sort of a knowledge gap between you and them. And it’s helpful because that’s sort of your first filter is like, is what I’m writing making sense to you? Then how do we make even more sense to you and the reader? And so, you kind of go through, you write the main thing, and then you kind of keep distilling it down to, okay, this is good, but this does still need some clarification. So, how do we do that in this amount of words? And through that distilling process and breaking things down even more, you’re kind of left with at the end, like the most need to know useful part of what you were trying to say from the beginning without all the unreasonable words that you could use.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. It’s easy to write and include everything. It’s a lot harder to write and make it succinct and make it as need to know, so to speak, like you’re talking about.
Austin Current: Yeah. It’d be difficult.
Dean Pohlman: So, I’m curious what problems did you want to be able to solve with this book? What are the struggles that many beginner/intermediate resistance trainers have that you wanted them to be able to address with the book?
Austin Current: Yeah, I think from kind of like a 30,000-foot view, to me, there’s always been an issue with putting information into application, especially from textbook to gym floor. And throughout university, I spent time with a lot of very smart people who were fellow students of mine.
Dean Pohlman: Can you tell me about your education really quickly?
Austin Current: Yeah. So, I have my degree in exercise science, exercise physiology. And I spent time, a few different places and studying a few different things. I kind of started in exercise science, exercise physiology with the intent of actually taking more of a physician’s assistant track and a little bit more of the medical field. And as you get into that, you learn that maybe that path wasn’t for you to begin with.
And then I went into dietetics, so I was training to become more of a sports dietitian. I did that for two years and I loved the connection with athletes, I loved the internships I did within that sphere. But throughout the clinical part of it, I just got turned off by it. I just could not get past that part. So, I was like, well, okay, I got to finish this thing, I got to come out of this with something. You’re always going to find yourself in kind of where those passions lie within your university experience. And so, I made my way back to exercise science, exercise physiology, and I was able to take a lot of those things.
Dean Pohlman: And is this undergrad?
Austin Current: This is an undergrad, yeah. And so, I went through that experience and finished up with the exercise science. And so, with that, I spent a lot of time there around all kinds of different people who were very smart, but a lot of my classes, I was noticing that for myself really early on, for sure, I had the same issue, regardless of the A’s I was getting in anatomy or my other classes, it was really hard to make that information useful at the gym. Like, how does this actually apply? And whether it was like people I was shadowing or other professors, to no fault of their own, a lot of times, they don’t have a great way of putting it into application either. They were just kind of like, well, this is what you need to know, and you’ll get it down the road, like you’ll get it, you’ll eventually understand it and put it together.
And so, that was always a big issue for me and then for people that I’ve worked with or worked alongside over the years, mentoring other coaches or traveling and doing seminars and stuff like that. It was always kind of putting that information into application. And I wanted this book to make that easier to understand. And again, from my own experience, books were either very advanced, so mainly written for academia or textbooks, or they were extremely, extremely simple, almost too simple, where you open it and you’re like, alright, I get this. I’m not going to waste my money on this.
I was kind of envisioning if someone walked into Barnes and Noble wanting to kind of get into strength training, like their physician had told them, “Hey, lifting weights is good for you. You need to do this.” They’ve kind of always been intimidated by it. And so, right off the doctor’s office, the first place they go, let’s say, is the bookstore to look for resources or they hop on Amazon and they open this book or they open a bunch of different books and they initially see, okay, this one’s way over my head, terrible place to begin. Maybe it’s a textbook written for students or academics, or they open something for dummies, and it’s like, yeah, alright, that’s a little too simple. Now, I feel like I’m being talked down to. So, I wanted to sort of be able to bridge that gap between those two, and again, come from a place of like people are smart and they’re going to get it, it’s just up to you to display the information and allow it to flow in a very useful way, and so…
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that actually resonates with me a lot because I was just thinking of a book that I have that my strength training friend recommended to me. He used to work for the Sacramento Kings. Now, he works for the Wisconsin hockey team where I went to school and he recommended this book to me, and I read the first four pages, I’m like cool, got it. And then by page 5, it’s like in language that’s just over my head and I’m like, I don’t want to read this. This isn’t fun for me. I wanted to read this because it’s fun. And I did, I skimmed through your book before, but I just took a quick look at it. And one thing that I like that you do is raise your arms laterally out to the side because not everyone knows what laterally means, not everyone knows what medial means. So, you’re just saying raise it out laterally to the sides, like, oh, cool. Now, I know what laterally means, and I don’t feel like an idiot reading this book.
Austin Current: Yeah, and that’s one thing I learned from not only my own experience working with clients, whether it’s in person, whether it’s online, you say these terms and you almost always have to add like a parenthetical statement after it, meaning you’re talking about something or you’re walking someone through an exercise and you say it and then you look at them and there’s a blank stare on their face, and you’re like, oh, I just mean out to the side. And they’re like, oh, you could’ve just said that.
And so, it’s like I started to, and this is something I also learned from Steven Pinker’s book Writing for Style, I think it’s called. And one thing he wrote in that book that I thought was really helpful, one of the biggest lessons I took from it was using this sort of parenthetical writing or these clarification statements that go one step further. And that could be the difference of someone having an aha moment where something clicks versus someone glazing over something like they understood it, but when it comes down to it, when they closed the book, they didn’t actually grasp it, and again, that’s where it kind of the disconnect between the textbooks and all of the learning comes with actually being at the gym and thinking, like, okay, I can remember reading this, but it didn’t click on what that actually meant.
And so, trying to actually, again, write for the person that I know is going to read it and who I thought was going to be the biggest population of people reading it. And I wanted to write it for those people, just the everyday gym-goer or maybe those people I explained earlier who just left their doctor’s office realizing they need to learn everything they can to kind to get into the gym as soon as they can, to be striving for something closer to the health goals they have, but also for other populations or other people that have really gravitated towards the book and have had a lot of positive impact on thees people or trainers coming out of university or studying for their certification exams, where even some of that information that they’re learning for those exams is written, again, to take the exam, and it’s written, not saying it’s not good because I went through similar things, but it’s hard again to take that information and put it in the application.
And if you’re constantly just learning the highest level information to become the “best trainer” you can become, you can’t then turn around and speak that way to your clients because they’re not going to connect with that to the same degree as they would when it’s information or in a way that they would get it, so the lateral example. Language is used to convey a message. Language is ever-evolving. And I get a lot of comments, whether it’s through YouTube or whatever, where I have other colleagues, let’s say, or other people within MySpace who are other coaches who are very smart, and they’re like, don’t say medial because in the research, they don’t use that, and I’m like, that’s great, but this video was made for a person who is lost in the gym and they need to hear it in the language that they understand because if I’m sitting here making videos that just talk over everyone’s sort of current vocabulary and where it stands, how good is that? Like, how good is that information for that person? If they don’t come out of that video knowing exactly what to do now and how to sort of progress it from here on out, I didn’t do my job.
And so, my word choice is very specific to the message I’m trying to convey. And so, whether I use, if we’re talking about the medial delt or the middle of the shoulder, I may use middle, I may use lateral, I may use medial. It’s kind of just context-dependent on the question of being asked and the situation that it’s being asked within and how many blank stares am I getting throughout that explanation process?
Dean Pohlman: I really like what you said, the parenthetical writing or clarification statements because I hate it when I’m having a conversation, and people don’t follow what’s going on, or like conversation or like Person A in the conversation is familiar with the situation of a Person C, doesn’t know what’s going on, and they’re just talking to me and expecting Person C to understand. So, I’m always the person that says, oh, so just alternative Person C. And just so you know we’re talking about right now because I don’t want you to feel left out. It sounds like that’s what your writing style gets that, it’s trying to be more inclusive.
Austin Current: Yeah, very much so. I want to include everyone. I want to include as many people, I want to be included in the conversation, and it’s not conversation among colleagues, it’s a conversation among a person who is seeking out this information because they need to be caught up to speed, essentially. And so, grammatically, it’s sort of writing parenthetically or within parentheses to clarify something or kind of like writing what would come after like an em dash. It’s sort of like that little caveat, that’s like a little bit of a clarification statement of this is kind of what I mean. And I think just that short amount of characters can add a lot of contexts and it can add a lot of understanding and connection points for people that are kind of like, oh, not only do I understand it, but I understand that that’s what that actually refers to you now, which is helpful.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, totally. So, getting back to kind of the problems. So, now, we know who you’re writing it for and the writing style that you wanted to make, so it’d be more helpful. I’m curious about all the other sections that you have in this book because it’s not just here is how to do a bench press, there’s a lot of other stuff in that. So, can you go through some of the other sections that you came up with and why you wanted to include those?
Austin Current: Yeah. So, essentially, I want to create a reference textbook for the everyday person, and to do that, within a limited framework, I can’t write a thousand-page book because that’s going to be too much. So, you kind of got to take that framework and limitations that you’re met with to create this resource that’s going to be helpful for people and include the most need to know information that sort of gets people from point A to point B to point C to point D and so on. And it flows in a way where it’s sort of like from the inside out. And that’s kind of how I thought about it was, well, let’s start from the most micro inside parts of this discussion, like muscle physiology, what’s a muscle comprised of? How does it function?
And then not only how does it function, but then, how does strength training actually help that muscle grow? How does it help the bones grow? What relationship does the tendon to the bone, to the muscle have? That’s how we create movement. We need all those parts. So, the sum of the parts is great in the whole, so however that sum goes, it’s like, you need all of these to understand every sum of the part that creates this whole moving picture.
So, it was written in a way we’re going to understand how muscles functioning grow, the benefits on the brain and mental health. So, we start moving more outward from the internal muscle itself to the muscle cell to the whole muscle to the bones, the tendons, to the brain. How does that impact the brain? And maybe what role does your nervous system have into that? Throughout the book, I think I do a decent job at kind of distilling the need to know information on each one of those things that piece it together in a way where, although it’s explained separately, it’s sort of all put together at the end to kind of best understand, so how it all kind of comes together?
And then from that first chapter, which Chapter 1 is the most sciencey part, it’s muscle physiology. It’s looking at its anatomy and physiology. We’re looking at the actual thing, like the actual muscles themselves, and then they’re looking at how they internally function to create these movements and how that drives strength training forward and then how that benefits us. And then moving on to the brain and mental health and then that’s all Chapter 1.
And then Chapter 2 was okay, well, then we explained how these muscles function and grow, but now we need the tools. We need the exercises that actually put a resistance in a stimulus or stress onto these muscles and structures. So, then we moved on to those exercises and then how to perform them with the best technique you can to not only get the most bang for your buck in the gym but also limit injury and create kind of a logical reasoning for certain exercises that you may have heard of before and where those fit into the equation and then exercises that you may have not heard of before that sort of assist or act as accessory to the larger movements that you really enjoy to do. And then that’s Chapter 2, that’s all of the exercises and how to perform them, what muscles are being used, how they’re being used, and all of those things. And that’s Chapter 2.
And then Chapter 3 is all about how to avoid injury or work around an injury that you may have sustained, whether in the past or currently in your journey. That was Chapter 3. So, preventing injury is Chapter 3. And then Chapter 4 is a deeper understanding, an inside look at how to design training programs. What are the fundamental pillars that make up an effective strength training program? Because there are a lot of great apps out there, there are so many great resources and free programs online, but when you look at something and you go through it, you’re like, yeah, okay, but when you’re done with that program, you’re kind of left back at square one because there wasn’t much of an understanding of kind of what were the nuts and bolts of that? What made that program a program that actually got you closer to a goal?
And so, Chapter 4, I wanted to take a deeper look at sort of those pillars that make up the foundation of an effective training program, like training volume, intensity, the frequency at which you’re training muscles, our ability to manage fatigue over time and periodize or organize that training in a way where it’s going to stay effective over a longer period of time. The exercises we’re choosing to fit into that program and then all of that stuff. So, it sort of encapsulates the book is like Chapter 1 being the muscle, Chapter 2 being how those muscles work in the gym in real time with exercises, which are just the tools to apply resistance to the body.
And then we’re going to have some nagging injuries over the course of our career, probably, of being in the gym. And we know that to make a lasting effect on your health, you need to stay consistent within the exercise you’re doing. That’s same for yoga, that’s the same for strength training, it’s the same for running, it’s the same across all disciplines. The benefit comes from longevity within doing that thing. So, we wanted a chapter on how to not only display what injuries could occur, but how to work around them, and then how to put it all together to actually create something that is useful for you. That’s kind of the gist.
Dean Pohlman: Got it. So, something that I was thinking about as I was going through the book is how long would you say you can effectively strength train without needing guidance from a personal trainer? Or what issues would you run into that necessitate the intervention of a skilled personal trainer? Why do you need a trainer, basically?
Austin Current: Yeah, I think it depends on the individual, what they want to accomplish, the timeline of that goal, and where they may be falling short. And I think that last bit is the most important because, again, like I said earlier with my accountant example, we hire an accountant because we’re falling short in our ability to manage the legalities of our finances and keep that on track. So, we stay within the rules of what we need to stay within, the framework we need to stay within, and to stay accountable to someone to get those things done. So, that’s sort of the same thing with the trainer is, okay, are we falling short with accountability? Are we falling to getting into the gym?
Well, the trainer can help you through set appointments or accountability to get into the gym on a consistent basis. And then, if you’re falling short with how to do things, the trainer is there to help you with that. If you’re doing those first two things, but you can’t quite push yourself as hard as you need to in the gym, you kind of fall short in each session to get you where you want to go, the trainer is there to help kind of fix that. So, it’s very individual. And I think meeting people where they’re at is the most important thing within that relationship because everyone’s going to come to you for a different reason. Some people are there. I’ve had clients throughout my career that otherwise could do everything themselves always. They’re very smart and they’ve been doing it for a long time, but a place they fall short is just needing someone there in their corner to maybe take the judgment or decision-making off of their hands because it’s stressful for them, something that gives an anxiety or kind of keeps them up at night because they’re not sure if they’re doing the right things or putting the effort into the right things. So, a trainer could be there for that situation.
So, to more specifically answer the question, it kind of really depends on the person, and if a trainer is your ticket to getting into the gym, like that’s the barrier of entry is like, well, I’m not going to go into the gym without knowing what to do, then a trainer may be a good first line of defense for you because it’s going to get you into the gym sort of with a chaperon that says, “Hey, you’re with me. And we’re good here. I know what’s going on, and I can tell you exactly what’s going on and how to navigate it strategically and effectively.” And that can be a great thing that a trainer can do for people, but it kind of depends.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I mean, I could probably have figured out my own workouts and made some and I could have gotten sore and felt like I was making progress. But to be able to pay somebody monthly to just here’s your workouts and then say, oh, you know what? My shoulder is a little weird here. Okay, I’m going to try this. And then, oh yeah, that feels a little bit better. Doing this for a month now, and now, it feels better. Being able to take the guesswork out of it, and if it’s something that it’s so me looking strong and looking healthy and looking good is really important to me for many reasons. So, outsourcing that, not have to worry about that, for me, that was like a no-brainer. I can either spend a ton of energy and effort on trying to do this myself, or I could have somebody direct me and be much happier with the results.
Austin Current: Yeah, it’s sort of like a mentor within your business. It’s all kind of the same thing to me. You have a business idea and you understand it’s going to take X, Y, and Z to get it done. And there are also a thousand ways to go about trying to reach the final destination. And having someone that’s been there before who studied it, who can reverse engineer their journey based off of their own experience and their education, it’s going to simplify it a lot and it’s going to take a lot of that hitting your head against a wall factor that we all run into at some point in our lives with something. And just simplify it a little bit better and make sure that your efforts have the most return on investment for the time you have to give to them.
And training is so important for our health and the rest of our life or exercise, in general, our fitness and health, but with an increasing demand on our attention and increasing demand in our time, we want to be sure that we have three hours a day to fiddle around with it. I have, let’s say, 45 minutes three or four times a week. Well, if that’s all I have and I kind of need to make the most of it, and I want to be sure those efforts are put to the best use. And so, a trainer can help you navigate that.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, one other specific question I was thinking of because this is a question that gets asked a lot in our mental yoga community is overtraining. Can you talk about some symptoms of overtraining, some things to look out for, and what you can do instead of your main workout that day?
Austin Current: Yeah. When I first think of overtraining, I kind of go to what you’re feeling. So, it can come in the form of continuously being overly sore, which is a little bit more of an obvious one. Like, you’re constantly sort of have nagging injuries, your joints are constantly limiting what you can do. And the other thing that I don’t think people address quite enough or pay attention to quite as much is are you continuously motivated to continue to do this? You can go from your first two or three months to be being very motivated and excited for those three or four training sessions every week and you’re excited to push yourself, you’re excited for this new thing is teaching you about yourself, you’re excited about all these things that, let’s say, training is bringing you or your exercise is bringing you.
But all of a sudden, as you start to ramp up more and more, you’re pushing yourself more and more, you’re doing more, there’s a time or there can be a time, especially if you’re not nutritionally handling things as properly as you should, you’re not managing nutrition, you’re not managing your sleep, you’re trying to just sort of fight through what your physiology and what you are capable of managing and recovering from. It’s sort of the equivalent to a burnout, to being burnt out. If you don’t manage your work and how hard you push yourself within your work, if you don’t take some time off, if you don’t take in weekends to relax and detach, if you’re not taking vacation, you’re not spending time doing other leisure activities, fulfilling things that are outside of that professional work, you’re going to experience burnout in some way, shape, or form. And burnout usually manifests itself into being very demotivated into something that you were once very motivated in.
And so, with clients, a question I’m constantly returning back to, week to week, month to month is, how’s your energy throughout the day? How’s your energy right now, like doing your workout right after you work up throughout the day, throughout the weeks? Are you more melancholy than usual? Do you have it as your perspective and outlook become a little bit more nihilistic? Because if you go from the happy-go-lucky motivated person to introducing these stressors in your life, we only have so much capacity to manage stress. We only have so much bandwidth.
So, that’s where sort of fatigue management and proper planning of when we’re pushing yourself and when we’re pulling back comes into play. And again, a trainer could do that, they’re to help you sort of manage that. And you’re going to experience less sort of physical burnout and be able to sort of stay on top of that over time, more so than just trying to fight through any sort of discomfort. And that isn’t to say you don’t push yourself, but that is to say there’s a limit to that, and for everyone, there’s a different limit.
Dean Pohlman: So, overtraining can also come out as feeling mentally lethargic or even somewhat like lightweight depressed, it sounds like?
Austin Current: It could be, yeah, absolutely. It can definitely manifest itself into that. And again, you’re looking for contrast. You’re kind of looking, and that’s kind of where, within my own coaching, for example, like with clients, I’m looking at that information week to week and I’m tracking it. And we’re able to see, okay, from weeks 1 through 6, all these were sort of in the green. And then in week 7, they sort of entered a yellow, sort of a caution area where I’m like, oh, okay, we either need to address this now or we’re getting very close to needing to pull back. And then, you see in week 8 and week 9, you almost got a red. And for me, it’s trying to track those things as closely as I can with biofeedback, with feedback I’m getting from people, conversations I’m having with them, with their language like an email. Do they go from very excited to kind of, again, melancholy, lackluster, nihilistic?
Dean Pohlman: Can I just share a couple of my experiences with burnout?
Austin Current: Please do, yeah.
Dean Pohlman: So, one of the first things that I notice when if I know that I’m overtraining is I take forever to start my workouts. It’s like I’ve got my time to work out and my, ah, just let me do this warm-up exercise, let me do this form of exercise, and it’s been like 20 minutes, like, why am I still warming up right now? So, that’s like indicator number 1 for me is like if I’m dragging my feet to do my workout, that’s something huge.
Another thing that I’ll notice is my transverse abdominals, like my core won’t just fire the way that it used to. So, I feel like my lower back is doing more work than it should be doing. That’s a huge indicator for me is if the core is in firing, if my pelvic floor muscles, my transverse abdominals, if those aren’t firing, then there’s definitely an overtraining thing involved. And to your point about the motivation, if I’m not feeling excited about a workout, if I’ve been consistently dreading the workout for a week, then that’s a really good indication.
But what I have found is there’s sometimes just parts of your training where you’re just going to be in there for a couple of weeks and you kind of get through it and then you get a deload week or you drop your sets or you drop your apps or maybe you move out of a volume phase and you’re moving into a more strength training phase and you get over it, or maybe you just need one day off, maybe you need to take instead of doing three workouts per week, you do two workouts that week and you do a bunch of yoga for a few days, and then you can get back to it and you’re actually stronger. So, anyways, that’s just a bit of my experience with recovery, if you like to speak to that.
Austin Current: Yeah. Absolutely. I try to, again, kind of make references to things that sort of we all understand to some degree. And so, let’s say you were an athlete growing up or you played sports growing up or did something active growing up, at the beginning of the game, everything sort of firing on all cylinders, everything is communicating. Your cuts are great, let’s say, if you’re playing basketball or something. Your defense is great. You as the defender is able to keep up with the ball and the ball handler and everything else. As the game goes, as you get more fatigued, things get a little bit more out of sync. As fatigue climbs, so does your ability to manage the communication between that entire network.
You can think of this as sort of like Wi-Fi too, internet. So, if it’s very fresh, there are not many devices using the internet, it’s very fast, things connect, things are going very smoothly. As it gets more bogged down, as it gets more tired, as it gets more drained of its resources, things become a little bit more out of sync. You start to make a few more mistakes that you otherwise wouldn’t have made. And that’s in a big way where a lot of injury can happen. So, if you’re deadlifting and you usually feel very strong in the deadlift, you usually feel your cores tight, your transverse abdominis is tight, your rectors are tight, everything is very engaged, you’re communicating well throughout the entire body, but as you get tired, those final sets or you’re going through a training phase that’s progressively just gotten harder and harder and harder, and you’re working through it, you’re managing it, but all of a sudden, your abs give out, your transverse abdominis, that sort of internal weight belt we have that we rely on so heavily to manage tension across our torso just doesn’t fire as well as it once did, even a set or two before that or a week before that.
And that one thing and that one event could be the difference of you’re experiencing a low back injury or something that’s going to be nagging for you or your ability just to not coordinate everything together to create as much force or power development as you once did. And so, you may not get a training load or a weight that you used that you once got, you may not get it. And so, there’s a lot of communication that needs to happen throughout our nervous system. Our brain has to communicate all of these messages so quickly, and you’re coordinating so many messages across your body at any one time, especially as you get more tired. Those communication channels get a little bit bogged down, and that conversation starts to slow down. There’s a little bit more laps within that communication.
Dean Pohlman: So, at this time, when this is happening is like I found that sometimes, you’re like, no, I can keep finishing, like I’ve got one more set, I can do this. And even if it’s not at the best possible quality, I can still do it versus sometimes, you’re like, no, this is going to be unhelpful if I do this. Like, I could do this, but I know I’m going to feel it and I’m going to be out for two or three days. So, I think a lot of that comes down to you just developing the intuition to understand like, okay, my form isn’t perfect right now and that’s okay versus my form isn’t great right now and it’s not okay for me to continue.
Austin Current: Yeah. And I think that’s where understanding certain exercises can come in handy. So, let’s say, you’re performing a back squat, and the back squat is a lot to manage, it’s a lot to manage from a technique perspective, it’s a lot to manage from a coordination perspective. And so, let’s say you have a decision to make. I’m very tired and very fatigued, I think I could do another set, but I feel like I may be risking something. That’s where in my head I would take that client over to the leg press because that’s a very stable environment where their spine is a lot more protected. And now, we’re not coordinating as much movement. We’re essentially just instead of trying to coordinate movement and protect our spine and rely on a lot of things to go right, now that we’re tired, but we still have some to push, we want to challenge ourselves and get the most out of the session, that’s where I would change the tool that we’re using to apply that resistance into a safer environment to allow that person to be in a very controlled, protected place to push themselves, right?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Austin Current: And that’s where that kind of comes into play.
Dean Pohlman: Got it. Cool. Alright, well, I want to move away from physical fitness because I know it seems like you think a lot about this other stuff and I’d love to get into this with you. So, let’s start off by just talking about what are some other things outside of working out, outside of nutrition, outside of sleep that are really important when it comes to seeing success from a resistance training program.
Austin Current: Yeah, I gave this some thought. And I think the first thing that kind of came to mind is managing expectations because I think we can become very bogged down by a mismatch and expectation versus reality. So, to understand, it’s almost like no matter what goal you have expected to take 6 to 12 months. So, let’s just say 12 months, whatever goal you have, expect it to take 12 months because that allows you to approach it much differently than you would if that timeline was four weeks or a month because you would start to cut a lot of corners as that time table starts to dwindle.
You go from okay, well, if I have 12 months, then, man, the first three months of that at least could be me just sort of building in a foundation, gaining momentum, learning things I need to learn that are going to allow me to push the envelope in that last nine months, where if I only had a month instead of 12 months to do that, well, now, I only have…
Dean Pohlman: You’re going to push.
Austin Current: You got to push and you got to cut a lot of corners. To me, it’s kind of like goal setting. Obviously, you want to accomplish a goal, but to me, it’s more who you become throughout the process of achieving that goal than actually achieving the goal. So, set differently, the point of the hike isn’t necessarily to go from point A to point B, kind it is.
Dean Pohlman: What does Miley Cyrus say? It’s not the journey, it’s the climb.
Austin Current: Yeah, exactly, as Miley Cyrus profoundly said. Party in the USA, and it’s about the climb. But it’s like…
Dean Pohlman: Who you become as you achieve your goal is more important than the goal itself.
Austin Current: To me, it is because we set goals to create a framework to achieve something. And to me, it’s less about that goal of achieving. Obviously, if your goal is to lose 25 pounds, we obviously want to at some point achieve that goal, but if someone could snap their fingers and remove 25 pounds from your body, it gives you that goal, but it doesn’t give you the tools to actually sustain that goal or to be able to repeat that process again and again. And so, you’re not actually equipped as an individual to manage that. So, you’re just going to default back to previous behaviors and confusion around how to actually make it happen.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And that’s what I was thinking of when you said, expect it will take 12 months, you can push yourself through something for a month. You can’t push yourself through something for 12 months. So, not only are you going to take your time and figure it out to make sure you’re doing it the smart way, but you’re also going to figure out how to do it in a way that’s actually enjoyable or actually something that you can see yourself doing for a long period of time.
Austin Current: Couldn’t agree more.
Dean Pohlman: So, that’s what I thought about when you said that. What else? What are some other things, you think?
Austin Current: That was the big one.
Dean Pohlman: If you only had the one prepared. Okay, cool. I’ve got other questions, don’t worry.
Austin Current: Go ahead.
Dean Pohlman: We can talk about other stuff. Managing expectations, that’s good. I’m glad you thought about it, and I agree that’s a really big one. What are some things that you like to focus on that other people don’t do so much of in mainstream fitness?
Austin Current: We kind of alluded to it earlier, but I try my best to meet every client and every person I speak with from where they’re at. So, I try to meet you where you’re at rather than imposing my assumptions on where you want to go or where I think you’re at or whatever else. So, if someone comes to me for help, it’s my job to ask good questions and actually listen to what you’re saying because I have plenty of people that I work with that, of course, at some point in life, they’d love to have abs, but that’s not necessarily why they came to me. They came to me because they don’t want to be confused anymore when they go into the gym. They don’t want to have anxiety over knowing that they’re doing the right thing. They want to learn how to structure and manage all of these things we’ve been talking about that keeps them in the gym across their lifetime.
Dean Pohlman: So, they want to feel confident they’re on the right path, they’re doing the right things.
Austin Current: Right. And so, if I sort of kind of like finish that thought, it’s like if I take that person who comes to me and they’re very motivated to create that change, and I’m not listening to that and I just think, oh, well, they’re going to want a six-pack so I’m going to ignore what they actually want and I’m just going to force them down this path of whatever that’s going to take for them to get a six-pack. And it’s like, to me, there’s a huge disconnect between those two goals, and how you’re going to get there, and the language I’m going to be using, the timeline it’s going to take to achieve that goal because if we do it right, I’m going to be able to teach them things that can eventually, if they so choose to pursue that goal of a six-pack down the road, they’ll be able to get there, whether it’s with my help or without.
So, I think meeting people where they’re at, what do you actually want to accomplish? What’s important to you? Why is that important to you? What have you been successful with in the past? What are things you haven’t enjoyed in the past? And to have very focused action, I think, is very important because as a trainer, as someone that works with people, you don’t have forever with people so you just have to ask good questions and really listen because people tell you exactly what they want if you listen. And if you got it right…
Dean Pohlman: They know the right questions, though.
Austin Current: Yeah, you need good questions. And I think to get to the root of those, I know in certain like motivational interviewing or whatever when I was kind of first starting in my personal training career, it’s like the five whys. You ask someone something, and they’ll tell you the first thing that comes to their head, and that’s never it. And so, you ask, okay, but why do you want that? And they’ll say something else because they feel like they should say it. And then you’re like, okay, well, that’s fine, but why do you want that? And then by the fourth, fifth, sixth why, you’re finally getting to the root cause of why they came to you.
Dean Pohlman: If they’re not tearing up, they haven’t gotten to the reason yet. If they’re not getting emotional, they’re not there yet because they want to look good in the mirror. Like, nope, you’re not there yet. Keep going.
Austin Current: I’m sure that’s true, but that’s not it, that’s not why you’re here in front of me right now. If that was it, you’d be somewhere else right now if that was it. So, you got to listen. And I think there’s a lot of assuming and there’s a lot of imposing demands on others and imposing assumptions on others based off our own biases, based off our own goals, based off our own experience. And I think if you’re going to help someone, you got to meet them where they’re at and you have to listen to where they actually want to go to help them. So, that’s one thing for sure.
Dean Pohlman: Okay, I feel that. What drives your personal interest in your fitness life? So, what motivates you to continue to show up?
Austin Current: I think the big one is leading by example. As a health professional, we have a dream that everyone’s just going to– regardless of how you get there, whether your main thing is yoga or your main thing is strength training, your main thing is running, or your main thing is CrossFit or mud runs or obstacle courses or whatever, our goal is that you figure it out and you find a way to enjoy it and you become passionate about it enough to continue to do it and to continue to show up. And I think as a health professional, it’s our job to lead from the front because if those you look up to aren’t even doing the one thing that they know how to do, if they’re not doing it and they’re the most qualified people to be doing it, well, how the hell am I going to do it? How do you expect me to do it?
Dean Pohlman: And how long have you been lifting weights?
Austin Current: So, I’m 28. I started lifting weights when I was 12. I started with my brother. So, I had a wonderful, wonderful strength coach from the time I was basically 12, 13 years old, all the way through high school, and he actually luckily transferred to the university that I was studying at, and so, he became my professor at university. And so, I had such a good…
Dean Pohlman: He Mr. Feeny’d you. Did you get the reference?
Austin Current: Yes.
Dean Pohlman: Okay, good. It’s a boy meets world reference, in case you didn’t know.
Austin Current: Yes. I started, and so my brother had him as well. And so, I had such a good example given to me on how to properly do things and do it safely and how to work off progressions and regressions and work off the capabilities you currently have. And I started with bodyweight things, I started with push-ups, pull-ups, dips, very light things that I just sort of got technique down first, built a foundation, and then I progressively graduated.
I didn’t start with a barbell on my back squatting, I started with a PVC pipe over my head or a kettlebell in front of my torso and squatted that way. My first thing wasn’t to put a barbell loaded on my back and just hope for the best. And so, I owe that to people that I had in my life, which was my brother, which was my strength coaches, which was all these other people around me showing me how to do it. They were leading by example, they were leading from the front. And so, I was given a framework to work from.
Dean Pohlman: Gotcha. So, even working out, lifting weights for 15 years, one thing I think that people think is that we just– since I do yoga, since I’m known as the yoga guy that I do yoga for two hours a day and I’ve never fluctuated from that for like 10 years. And if you do weightlifting, if you’re a weightlifting coach, then you’ve been doing two hours of bodybuilding every day and you haven’t fluctuated that in 10 years, and the reality is that most of us have these periods of motivation that ebb and flow. And sometimes, like, right now, I’m in a weightlifting phase. I’ve been lifting weights on and off since I was 14 or 15, but for the last eight years, my workouts have been dominated by yoga.
And so, a year ago, I was like, I’m going to start lifting weights again, hard. And that’s what the majority of my intense workouts or my fitness focus, what I’m really trying to improve on right now is my strength training. And so, the question I have for you is how do you keep your interest in fitness? Does it stay in strength training? Do you have periods where you’re like, I’m going to go do Brazilian jiu-jitsu for six months? Or how do you keep it interesting?
Austin Current: Yeah, it’s a good question. And I think…
Dean Pohlman: And I didn’t write that down for you before.
Austin Current: No, you’re good. I think detaching yourself from what you think you should be doing versus what you’re gravitating towards. And there’s a certain part of me that understands for my health and for the physical betterment of myself across my life, I need some component of fighting against resistance. For my bone strength, for my muscle strength, for my mental health, my physical brain health, my heart health, all these things I need to be able to vary the intensity and volume at which I’m doing things over a time period.
And for me, that’s been strength training. You catch the bug of whatever you start with. And for me, that was strength training and looking better. And you start to see those initial changes in your body. And it was also something I was good at from the beginning. And so, you start to gravitate towards things that you’re good at that you also enjoy. And then for me, luckily, I had a giant part of that 15 years of strength training, a lot of that’s been dominated by athletics intertwined. So, I’ve learned how to express myself physically and challenge myself physically outside of the gym too which helps.
Dean Pohlman: What sports are you involved in? I didn’t ask this.
Austin Current: So, throughout high school and all those years, basically from the age of four and a half, five all the way through high school and even through college, more on an amateur level, it was things like baseball, basketball, football, or some iteration of those things. And so, the thing I played the longest was basketball. And so, I played that throughout college, mainly from an intramural standpoint or a recreation standpoint or different leagues or whatever else. But I learned how to express that need for physical challenge and the health benefit of what that brings outside of the gym.
And then throughout college, I started to get into bodybuilding. I had a bodybuilding career that I did. I was a professional bodybuilder for three or four years and did that thing, enjoyed that. That brought a different challenge to me, a different structure and regimen. But since then, I haven’t competed professionally since 2016. So, the past five or so years, I’ve been without that in my life. So, it’s kind of, again, get to your question like those seasons ebb and flow, like you were saying. And there are times where I could train five, six days a week, and I’m in it, that could last two or three months.
And then the next two or three months is spent training only two times a week, three times a week, maybe incorporating some yoga that I do with my wife or trying out cycling or swimming, or just trying to keep myself physically moving and fighting against resistance and doing the things that I know bring me enjoyment and health benefit, but it doesn’t always have to be the gym. And I think for me, that’s a very healthy balance and the best I’ve ever felt.
Dean Pohlman: I was going to ask, do you have a set time that you work out every day? Like, do you get antsy if you don’t work out at a specific time every day? Or does it vary?
Austin Current: I used to, less so now. I get antsy if I don’t do something physically challenging. So, I’ve noticed over the years that I have a lot of physical energy. I have slothy-like behaviors, like I can be very lazy. Physically, I can do all these things. And if I’m not careful, my habits can gravitate towards getting me into those routines, but I notice that almost immediately if I go a day, two days without physically challenging myself, like making something physically hard for myself, trouble sleeping, I start to get anxious. That’s how I express that physical angst and energy. It’s something very physically challenging because, I guess, that’s how I’ve always expressed it. I’ve always had that in my life since I was four and a half, five years old.
And I’m sure before then, I was running around and trying to beat my brother up and being pummeled. So, that’s just how I express that part of me, and I notice if I don’t release that or get that out, I get antsy, I get anxious. My sleep starts to suffer. My mental health starts to suffer, and so, to physically challenge myself is just a part of the greater picture of well-being for me. However, I just do it.
Dean Pohlman: It’s not like 7:30 every day or it could be whenever.
Austin Current: It’s kind of whenever. Like right now, my wife and I are in a phase where we’re trying to get our footing in Colorado. We just moved back out here. We’re kind of in the process of looking for a house. We’re super busy. We have a lot of projects kind of getting off the ground. And so, there’s a lot of things kind of moving around and a lot of moving parts. And so, my wife and I are kind of in a place where we’re really training three times a week, maybe four if we’re lucky. And so, we kind of every week get with each other and we’re like, alright, so where in this week are we going to make it a point to get to the gym or to be physically active? When are we going to make that happen?
And then if you asked me six months ago, it was like, oh yeah, every day at 11 a.m., five days a week, I’m at the gym. And during my book, when I was writing the book, I almost needed to structure it that way because if I didn’t, I would look up. And it’s 6 p.m., and I hadn’t really eaten anything, I hadn’t moved. It’s like, okay, well, this can’t keep going. So, you have to physically set times and timers, like I have timers with Fitbits, and we have tools now that can kind of buzz at you if you haven’t moved in an hour and you’re like, oh, okay, yeah, you’re right, let me get up and walk around the block or something, get outside, get some sunlight, allow my mind to wander, and maybe critically think over this one thing I’m kind of struggling with or whatever, and then come back to it, come back to what you need to get done. But if you have to set physical reminders for yourself, do it, and I’m not immune to that.
Dean Pohlman: Alright, so I cut you off from your last answer. I think you were saying your best combination of…
Austin Current: Yes, the best I’ve ever felt, and this incorporates yoga. The best I’ve ever felt was two to three days of strength training, at least two days of yoga, and at least two days intertwined in there, something aerobically very challenging, whether that’s sprint on the assault bike or road biking or swimming or something that’s aerobic that isn’t directly related to lifting up a barbell or something. So, two to three days in the gym, at least two days of yoga, and at least two days of something aerobically challenging, that’s the best I’ve ever physically felt, the most energy I’ve ever had, the most sort of limber I’ve ever felt. And it has a symbiotic relationship, and it’s going to create this cohesiveness of physical being that you’re kind of filling in the gaps with each one of those things.
So, a very structured resistance training, and then you have kind of more free-flowing movement that has some structure to it that allows to enhance flexibility and have all these other benefits to it that you teach. And then the aerobic component of things that focused on heart health and releasing a lot of physical energy in shorter bursts and training a lot of passive connective tissues with impact and bones that way as well. And so, there’s a lot that sort of goes into that, but that’s the best I’ve ever felt was the combination of those three modalities and approaches to fitness.
Dean Pohlman: Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. I will add that sometimes the best you’ve ever felt is never going to be the best you’ve ever looked or like the biggest you’ve ever been.
Austin Current: No, the best I’ve ever looked and the biggest I’ve ever been was when I was bodybuilding. I looked and performed like a machine, but that was the point of the training. I train six days a week, most weeks. A lot of days, I train twice a day, but my life was set up to do that. And every component of my life was set up to make that my reality. That was my sport. That was my profession. And so, like, I did that and I set my life up to be that. I did feel good, I felt strong, I looked great, but comparing that to how I felt with the combination of all three of those things, you kind of muddy the water with like, you still look good, that’s the thing. It’s like, suddenly, you look bad, but you definitely just didn’t look as you once did. And that’s okay.
Again, it goes back to managing expectations. You can’t expect to look like a professional bodybuilder if you don’t put in the work of a professional bodybuilder. That’s just mismatched expectations. So, you’ve got to manage those, and what effort you would have put in for what result? And what are you looking to get out of this? And a lot of components of bodybuilding taught me a ton about myself, it made me very physically fit and strong and made me look good, and it taught me discipline and commitment. And there are so many things it taught me, but there was also negative physical attributes to parts of bodybuilding that I just knew I didn’t want to continue with and I knew that filling in those gaps would make me look a bit different, but I could still be healthy, I could be strong to look good. It just would be different. And that’s okay.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I guess what I’m getting at is the picture of someone might look really good. This is the best I’ve ever looked, but like, okay, well, they probably don’t feel the best they’ve ever felt.
Austin Current: The week of the competition, I was like heading into a bodybuilding show or a photoshoot or something that I did in the past was if you physically saw me, you’d be like, I mean, what a machine. Like, what an invincible human.
Dean Pohlman: You’re a Greek god.
Austin Current: I mean, yeah, exactly. But that was the point to look that way. But I could tell you, I felt like a string bean. I felt weak. I mean, I was physically strong, but I felt weak. I could deadlift 500, 600 pounds, but if you pushed me, I was kind of like, don’t do that, don’t push me. I don’t have much body fat on me. I don’t have much cushioning. My joints hurt, all these things.
Dean Pohlman: The big thing is that people think that, like having 6% body fat or having as much of your as visible as possible is like, oh, that’s… It’s like, and if you don’t have that like, oh, you let yourself go, like, no, actually, I let my ego go so I could feel better. It’s the other way around.
Austin Current: It’s the other way around for some people and for most people. I would say for most people, it is the other way around, like you said, but I think the outliers of what sort of cloud that judgment. There are people genetically just set up and predisposed to look a certain way with certain habits. And then they’re the people that we idolize as figures that we strive for, and that’s partly a good thing and partly a bad thing. And the part that’s not as good, in my opinion, is we’re striving for something that isn’t as realistic for us within the limited capabilities we have to commit to it.
And when we don’t achieve the goal we set out for, there’s a cascade of disappointment and negative feelings towards ourselves and others that exist that isn’t productive towards what you actually needed to accomplish, which was just becoming healthier and maybe losing some weight and improving your heart health and improving your flexibility and ensuring that if your kid runs and jumps at you, you can catch them without pulling your back, throwing out your back. That’s the important bit that you probably care a lot more about, but we do idolize these figures that just kind of look like that for a snapshot. To me, I don’t know if this is a good example, but it’s sort of like fashion images. It’s like what looks best in a photo is probably the most uncomfortable thing that you could ever put on in your whole life. No one wears that in real life. And so, you try to seek out that look, but you live most of your life in discomfort. Why would you do that? So, yeah.
Dean Pohlman: Well, I wanted to ask you at least one question. And you just brought up kid, so I’m going to draw that as a segue to you being married. So, you’ve been married for over five years now. And one of the things I wanted to ask, you made a post. This is really a long time ago. And you went off social media for a while. You had a hiatus. But in January 2021, you made a post about you and your wife kind of having to talk about the year before and your expectations for the year ahead. And I’m just curious, do you have a schedule? Do you systematize these conversations? Or do they happen organically at the right time? Or how do you go about having these regular conversations? We’re kind of just making sure you have an aligned vision.
Austin Current: Yeah, and I think it’s just something that we started our relationship doing. And we kind of talked about it a little bit before we hopped on the recording was from the beginning, my wife and I have always sort of had a check-in of, hey, we’re on the same page. How are you? And where are you at mentally? Where are you kind of looking to go that I can support you within that journey? What are you struggling through, maybe that I could help with or at least support throughout your process of dealing with it?
And I think these aren’t systemized or whatever, but they usually happen when there are times of a lot more self-reflection and usually during trips where we’re kind of de-stressing, deloading from life, from work. And we usually gravitate towards conversations like that because it’s the first time we’ve sort of came up for air in a while. And to me, it’s important that we reflect on those things because, especially to be in a relationship, you’re growing, but you do want to sort of grow towards a similar horizon, you want to grow towards a similar place, and you want to be sure that you’re staying accountable to each other and those aspirations and goals.
One thing that my wife does is she checks me on a lot of things. If I’m struggling with something, then she’ll tell you I’m agonizing mentally over something or internalizing something a lot, and I finally sort of let it out after maybe months of internalizing it, within a matter of a minute, she essentially broke it down to make little to no sense. And it’s like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. Okay, well, nothing’s wrong with that anymore. It’s kind of like that can happen.
And then there are times where it’s like, okay, well, that’s really valid. How can we approach that over the next 3, 6, 9, 12 months that helps you deal with that a little bit better? Is there something I can do? Is there something we can do in our life to kind of prioritize that for you? And I think if you don’t have these conversations or if you don’t have these moments of self-reflection, regardless of how substantial they are or how remedial they are or very short they are, to me, it’s important that I think to get where you want to go in life, you have to first sort of reflect on what that even is and then create some sort of framework on how you’re even going to get there because with life being as crazy as it is, with us being pulled in so many different directions at any one time, it’s really easy to kind of have a squirrel brain.
I guess a squirrel brain is a very good way to put it. You have this very squarely random shiny object syndrome brain that if you’re not careful, you can just follow the shiny objects around aimlessly and you sort of feel like you’re being productive, but as life passes, years happen, and you’re like, wow, I’m no closer to that than I was three years ago. And to me, that’s due to maybe something just didn’t go your way or something fell through or whatever, but there’s also a component of well, did you have any sort of strategic framework to even make that goal realistic for yourself? If you want to become a better writer, are you setting time aside every day or every week to write? If you’re not, it’s just a pipe dream. It’s a hope that one day, I’m going to stumble across becoming a better writer.
And to get better at something, it takes reps, it takes effort, and it takes those reps and effort over time to make that incremental change. And I think something I wrote down a little bit later on was we often think it’s these monumental things that we need to change to make a difference. And in my experience, it’s the small things that compound that make the biggest difference. And so, these check-ins allow us to prioritize those small things that are going to compound over the next year of our lives, and that helps us mentally and emotionally sort of set criteria and a framework around how much we want to travel, how much we want to focus, how many days per week are we wanting to take off? Is this a period? Is this a season where we’re wanting to take two to three days off a week and really go for hikes, go snowboarding, travel more, whatever?
Or in the case of like writing a book, it’s like, alright, for the next 18 months, you’re basically very focused and concentrated. You’re going to come up for air every few months, but like this is a sprint marathon, and you got to get done with that. The only way to do that is to really, really focus in on it. And so, I just kind of finalize that thought, if you’re not checking in with yourself or your partner or those around you who support you, we can’t read each other’s minds, and you’re out for a lot of disappointment if you don’t express those things and share those things.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I like a lot of what you said there. So, thanks for answering that.
Austin Current: Yeah, thanks for asking. It was a good question.
Dean Pohlman: Thanks. Alright, so I’ve got my rapid-fire questions, rapid-fire being rapid-ish. So, we’ll start doing those now. So, what do you think is the one habit or a habit, a belief or mindset that has helped you the most in terms of overall happiness?
Austin Current: Asking myself why or asking myself, what do I enjoy? And then why do I enjoy it? No matter what I’m doing, I need to be able to answer that question of, what within this do you enjoy and why do you enjoy it? And I found a lot of things that over the past, let’s say, five years that I’ve spent a good chunk of resources and mental energy and time into that, when I came out of it at the end, I didn’t really enjoy it and I didn’t know why I was doing it. And regardless of whatever was accomplished during that time, I didn’t come out of it as fulfilled as I thought I would. And there are so many ways to live life and enjoy life, and I think to, again, be a little bit more purposeful and intentional about that in the way that we’re spending our time, you have to ask yourself, do you enjoy this thing and why do you enjoy it? And if you can’t come up with some good reasons, like maybe you should rethink doing it.
Dean Pohlman: So, you’re making sure that what you’re doing during the day, day to day is stuff that you actually like, rather than just slogging through it for the hope of what it will bring you or just for the end result.
Austin Current: Yeah. And I think there’s obviously a luxury to that, to a degree. And then there’s obviously a part of you got to do things you don’t want to do sometimes, and that’s part of being a person and being an adult. So, sometimes you just have to get over yourself, but I don’t want to spend every waking hour of my life getting over myself and doing things I don’t enjoy, I want to spend as much of that time doing things that bring me fulfillment and it hopefully helps other people along the way and spend as little time as possible doing things that I am trying to just do to get over it.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s something that I don’t quite frame it in that mindset.
Austin Current: How do you frame it?
Dean Pohlman: I ask myself, what am I doing now that I like doing, that I would like to do more of? What am I doing right now that I don’t want to do, that I would like to do less? And then from there, I try to think of, okay, what’s the plan for doing more of things that I like? What’s the plan for doing less of the things I don’t like? And every now and then, I come up for air for my day-to-day to think, oh yeah, that’s right, I’m supposed to be thinking about these things, and for the most part, I slowly work towards them. And a lot of what we’re talking about now is stuff that I think most people just don’t do is they don’t come up for air, they don’t take the 30,000-foot view and think, why am I doing all these things right now? Or like, where is this all leading to? So, I’d be curious to figure out, like how many people actually think about these things?
Austin Current: Yeah, I think there is a caveat.
Dean Pohlman: Give me a percentage, how many people do you think actually think about these things?
Austin Current: So, before I mention the percentage, I think there’s a caveat in that spending time reflecting. I think everyone’s capable of doing it.
Dean Pohlman: Oh yeah.
Austin Current: But I think it’s a luxury to be able to do it often. So, like if you’re a bogged-down single parent, three or four kids, you have no time to think for yourself. You’re giving every waking hour to everyone else. There’s a lot into that, that’s like I’ve no ground to stand on in that. It’s like, I don’t have kids. I got plenty of time to navigate the self-reflection and set time aside for it and all of that, but I’m in hopes that at least there’s times in everyone’s day where they can sort of daydream, even if it’s for five minutes, ten minutes of those certain things. And then what within your situation can you manage? And what can you change? And try to make incremental changes towards those things because, again, it’s the small things that compound and it’s the small things that repeat over and over daily that we spend the most time doing. Life happens within the mundane.
And so, if you’re not enjoying your mundane, that’s most of your life. So, I’m hoping you at least can find some fulfillment or enjoyment from that. And if you’re not currently, then is there something you can do within a limited capability of doing it? But percentage-wise, I don’t know. I’m very to myself a lot and I’ve always been an introverted person. And I spent, I would say, most of my conscious life where I’m aware of doing it, reflecting on things and spending time with myself, spending time with my thoughts, and I’ve always been like, even as a kid, I was like that.
Dean Pohlman: I mean, your beard makes your age a mystery, but also, the amount of– is contemplativeness a word? The amount of contemplation…
Austin Current: We’ll go with that, yeah.
Dean Pohlman: … that you can tell that you have just based on a conversation with you, it’s above average. So, you can definitely tell, and it makes me feel better about my own journey with analyzing myself that you say that you’ve been doing this since you were a kid, so.
Austin Current: Yeah, and sometimes it comes at a detriment. Sometimes I spend too much time in my own head, so.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, you mentioned that.
Austin Current: Yeah, and it could be a curse, blessing and a curse.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Alright, let’s give it a percentage, just a random percentage.
Austin Current: What do you mean?
Dean Pohlman: I think it’s 10% to 20%. I think 10% to 20% of people actually think about, like give themselves a vision for their lives and think about it.
Austin Current: Yeah, I mean, that’s still a lot of people in the world, but comparatively, I’ll give it 25%. I’ll be a little bit more generous, but maybe 25% to 30%.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I mean, like you said, there are a lot of people who aren’t exposed to the ideas and there are a lot of people who don’t have the luxury to do that, so.
Austin Current: And I think there’s a part of everyone’s self-exploration and self-journey that– I have a family member, for example, who kind of just cracked into the self-help world, and she’s in her 60s, 70s. And she was trying to hand me this sort of motivation, self-help book. And you could tell, like I’m very fortunate in that, I was exposed to that stuff when I was 17, 18 years old and I had a lot of these realizations very early on that sort of unlocked the understanding that I have control over circumstance and the perspective that I have and I can take self-ownership and responsibility for things, and if I don’t like something, then it’s up to me to change it.
And I realize I was lucky enough to come across reading material when I was young to explain this, but I think it’s a generational thing too, it’s an access to this information where, depending on what generation you’re from, you may just be discovering that you have those abilities, that you have the self-autonomy to– we all kind of exist in our own reality, our own perception of the world. And the more you realize the more control you have over that and how you choose to approach every day, it can change your reality and the lens you’re seeing through. It’s almost like you go from not wearing sunglasses to wearing polarized lenses. Things can become a lot more clear and focused and moving in one direction that you’re wanting to move in rather than chaotic and sort of blind.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Those are all good points. Alright, next question, what’s one thing for your health that you believe is overlooked or undervalued by other people?
Austin Current: Yeah, I wrote down, I have two things that I thought about, and these may be things that people do, but I think they’re overlooked and into the grand scheme of the big rocks that people try to move within their daily life, and so, one is frequent movement throughout the day instead of doing it all at once. And so, if your goal is to hit 8,000, 10,000 steps a day, like the difference in the way that I feel in breaking that up into three, four, or five walks throughout the day or patterns of movement or being physically active throughout the day, I feel better throughout the day, I have more energy throughout the day, it’s more stable. It’s sort of like having evenly spread out meals throughout the day is a management tool of balancing blood sugar throughout the day rather than fasting all day or maybe eating only once every other day, it’s like your body’s going to have a tough time managing blood sugar throughout that time period, and then you kind of get everything all at once and then you’re like, oh, okay, I feel good now. But then you go a ton of time again with not moving much and then you do it all at once. And so, that’s one thing.
I like frequent movement throughout the day. It gives me energy. It seems to be a little bit more sustained throughout the day. I get outside first thing, set that circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. It helps me sleep at night. I notice a big difference in getting sun exposure and movement as soon as I wake up within the first 30 minutes to an hour when I wake up, that really helps me. It sort of sets the tone for the day.
And then the other one I wrote down was focusing on a hard stop at the end of a workday. I think this is something that really helps me, and my mind that is constantly kind of churning, whether I’m ruminating on something, I’m sort of agonizing on something, I’m inspired by something creatively that I’m thinking about, or I just have so many things to get done that I can’t turn it off. Having a hard stop, for me, where it’s sort of like to quote Cal Newport, it’s like sort of a system shutdown, at the end of the day, you set up the next day, you know that everything that was immediately pressing that would keep you up tonight is accounted for. And things that maybe you should have got done today but can be done tomorrow are first thing on your to-do list for tomorrow.
And then you sort of kind of close all your tabs, physically and mentally. And okay, if you’re done, just be done and move on and be present in the rest of your life. Start to wind down, cook dinner, spend some time with your family or friends or connecting with others that has nothing to do with being needed by the world or being attached to a screen of some kind. I think that’s helped me a ton.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I think that’s a really good one. That’s one that I use as well. I mean, mine is imposed by the child coming home.
Austin Current: Okay, that’ll do it.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I like to use buffer activities, so I like to use my workout. So, that way you don’t immediately go from one thing, from working to no working, like you still have the shutdown process involved, but then you have an activity like cooking or doing a workout. So, you use that where you’re doing something busy, something physical, and then you’re– anyway, so that’s…
Austin Current: I like that too. I think I gravitate towards doing that as well. Like the best workouts, the most focused and present workouts I have are usually after, if I was able to be very focused on my workday and let’s say 2, 3, 4 p.m. rolls around and I’m able to get to the gym. And when I’m able to go do that transitional activity, the buffer activity, physically exert myself kind of maybe work through some finishing touches on thoughts I’m having or notes I’m making or whatever, there’s then that sort of you’re working through those kind of actively and physically and you’re releasing endorphins, you’re doing these things that sort of create this transition into the next activity you’re going to do, which is hopefully something leisurely and fulfilling in a different way. And so, cooking a meal is great too because you have to be very present for that and be paying attention and kind of take your mind off of whatever you were doing before then. So, I like that a lot, yeah.
Dean Pohlman: Cool. What’s the most stressful part of your day-to-day life?
Austin Current: I think just purely the amount of things that I have to do and get done, the things that are pulling for my attention, whether that be personally or professionally or whatever it is, but like as you get experience with dealing with a lot of things to do or a lot of things pulling out to you, the more experience you get with dealing with those things, the better you get at sort of self-organizing and reverse engineering where you need to be at a certain timeline and what’s it going to take daily, weekly, monthly to get you there.
And I think by self-organizing and adding clarity to those things and time blocking those goals out a little bit more, you can have a peace of mind and an ease that you otherwise may not have because then, if you haven’t sort of reverse-engineered where you need to be at a certain date and how am I going to actually get there, every single day, trust me I experienced this, if I don’t do it, every single day, I’m anxious about like, am I going fast enough? Is there enough done today? Am I where I need to be? Like, okay, if I take the day off, how does that set me back?
And so, if you have a lot of things you got to get done, there are a lot of things pulling at you, I think being able to add some clarity and peace of mind to that by laying it out structurally can help a ton. So, that helps me out, but yeah, I stress about just like anyone else does, as soon as you wake up, as soon as you go to bed, it’s like you can be reached when people are trying to reach you and these things pulling at your mind and you just kind of try to organize it somehow.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I hear that. Alright, my last question, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing men and their well-being right now?
Austin Current: I’m going to go with the example I gave earlier, and I think it’s thinking that it takes massive action to create change. And to me, it’s the small things that compound and ultimately create the lasting change you’re after. And I think in the content I put out and the messages I try to put out, I’m trying to break down the barrier of entry into whatever you’re trying to accomplish. And I think that if you’re focusing too much on that in destination, like we can go with Miley Cyrus metaphor earlier, if you’re thinking only about the fact that you got to get from here to way up there and you’re thinking that from the sake of, well, from here, I got to get there, there’s no way. There’s just no way. I don’t have the time for that. I don’t have the mental energy for that. This is not going to happen. I’ve tried, trust me. And I failed every time and X, Y, and Z.
And I think if you go from doing that to– what’s the quote? It starts with the first step. It’s like, just start with the lowest hanging fruit, start with creating something that’s achievable for you. That’s going to the gym one time a week and going for two walks a week. Like just start it, just do something. And the small things are going to compound over time because that behavior is going to be the catalyst that sparks the next sort of unlock that you have. And even for us, like health professionals, people that are kind of set our lives up very strategically to make it happen, sometimes that we stop to move mountains just to start. And so, we’re not immune to this. And the best way to do that is just to start something, create the small changes, and stop thinking about all of the things that are going to come and just start with step one and go from there.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I don’t think I need to add anything to that. I think you said it great. Alright. Well, thanks for joining me. I encourage everyone to go out by Austin’s book, the Science of Strength Training. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, make sure while you’re in the DK book section to buy my books Yoga Fitness for Men and Yoga for Athletes. Honestly, I really like Austin’s book. I think it’s really comprehensive, but again, it’s done in language that’s really easy to understand. I think even if you’re an intermediate weightlifter, that just having this book, beginner, definitely, even intermediate, though I think you’d be really happy to just have this book just to learn a bit more. So, anyways, Austin, you did a great job with that, but you don’t need me to say that because you already have hundreds of Amazon reviews that say so.
Austin Current: Thank you. I appreciate it, man, it’s very kind. And I do think, whether you’re a beginner or intermediate or advanced, to some degree, I think this book can help regardless of where you’re at. And I say that not to just say it, but I say that from the sense of I gave that thought at the very beginning and I tried to do it in a way that I think everyone could benefit from it at some point or in some way. And so, it’s $15. You’re going to take something from it.
Dean Pohlman: One quick buy, just go do it. What’s the best way for somebody to keep up with what you’re doing, Austin, to learn more about you?
Austin Current: Instagram is probably where I hang out the most and put the most effort into sharing and creating. And so, Instagram, so if you just search Austin, A-U-S-T-I-N, and then Current, C-U-R-R-E-N-T, the big bearded fellow. You just see a beard as the photo, basically. There’s some eyes, and a beard is mainly what you see, so.
Dean Pohlman: Have you been connected with Beardbrand yet? Do you have a beard sponsor?
Austin Current: I don’t. And I tell you what, I get so many, hey, try our beard oil, man. Wahl grooming tried to send me clippers. I don’t do really any “influencing” anymore. I did it one time, and it just wasn’t for me, I struggled with it. This is not how my brain operates. And to me, if I want to recommend something, I’m just going to recommend it and I don’t like to be contractually obligated to mention something.
Dean Pohlman: Gotcha.
Austin Current: That isn’t to say influencing is bad or it’s wrong or it’s not a worthy pursuit because trust me, I know people that crush it and they’re so good at it and they do it in a way where it’s very, very simple and ethical and organic and they’re great at it. But I promise you, like I am not that person, I am not that good at it, and I like to just do what I do and just try to be better at that. And the more I try to do it, the less good I get it, the things I want to be good at. So, I just gave it up completely.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, it sounds like it made sense. Alright, guys, well, thanks for listening today. Again, go follow Austin Current on Instagram, buy his book. Austin, thanks for your time, your thoughts, your deep reflections shared publicly.
Austin Current: Thanks, man. I appreciate it. It was a great conversation.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Hopefully, we’ll see you guys on another episode soon or see you on the next video. Bye-bye.[END]
- Science of Strength Training: Understand the anatomy and physiology to transform your body (DK Science of) by Austin Current
- The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
- Instagram: Austin Current
- Yoga Fitness for Men: Build Strength, Improve Performance, and Increase Flexibility by Dean Pohlman
- Yoga for Athletes: 10-Minute Yoga Workouts to Make You Better at Your Sport by Dean Pohlman
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