​Head Coach and Next Level founder Christian Matyi – a/k/a "XN" – gives notoriously complex answers to even the most simple of questions.  He'd always rather you "think more" than "know more." So you can only imagine what'll happen when there wasn't any question even asked . . . 

You never know what his many years of coaching will inspire him to claim as "relevant" to your progress. 


To succeed, you need to plan a "then what?"

So many people talk to me with great concerns of winning.  And I often respond flatly and simply, with: "Well, if everything goes well, and you do indeed win, so what?  Then what?"

Smaller-minded people are quick hear this as me bashing the idea of winning.  But because folks like us want to focus on improvement over time, it is apt to let this comment be the launching point for any plan you have that you want to succeed.

if success is a concern for you, please have a listen.  And please leave comment below with your thoughts and responses!



Why many gyms, trainers, coaches, training centers and fitness trends fade.

A lot of gyms and coaches get ahead for a while.
But they fade, and profits fall
and eventually their appeal withers and their skills are forgotten.

The reason is because they showed up
eager to sell you the right answers.  
FINALLY!  Someone selling you the answers!
And then they make good on that sale.

At first they profit.  Then they prosper.
But eventually – seemingly far too soon –
they lose momentum.  
They become tired and worn.
Then they fade and fail.

But meanwhile, there are some places that last,
some coaches who remain consistent
and certain methods that truly stand the test of time.

What makes them different?
Well, these are not the ones that showed up
and eagerly sold you the answers.

The long term survivors are the ones that 
– no matter what – 
just keep selling you more questions.

"The best bodybuilders are the best healers."

I have said this time and time again.  If you want to get stronger, faster, bigger and better looking, you need to spend more time understanding how to repair yourself, and less time worrying about how to do the damage.  

Everyone in these pursuits wants to know the "best way" to get strong.  Everyone wants to know the "best way" to diet.  And the way these ideas are represented is as something you do "to yourself," or something you "put into yourself."  They encourage you to look mainly at the input. But that is the wrong focus.  To get ahead, you need to better understand the results; you need to place the majority of your focus on the output, not on the input.  Once you understand the results, you can create a plan of managing those results.  And that plan is most often a process of healing.

Results come not from what you are able to do, but rather from understanding just what it is you’ve just done – and how to take care of it.

Sorry guys.  You can talk all you want about what you can "do" – how big you lifted, how tight you got your abs, how amazing you performed – but the results come not from what you are able to do, but rather from understanding just what it is you've just done – and how to take care of it.

The topic was brought up by Will from the team The Beast recently in a question he posed to me:


"Being the best healer has had me fascinated since you put it up. How do we improve our ability to heal? My guess would be through a clean diet, plenty of sleep, a lot of water, and proper training. Am I anywhere near the mark on this one?"


My answer was more or less a repeat of the above point.  (Excuse a little reiteration here, but I really feel that this concept can not be stressed enough.)


As with all things (and you have to see this one coming), it starts with observation. As much observation as possible. In other words: confronting each question with some sort of research:
"What needs to be healed?"
"In what specific ways has my body been damaged?"
hat are methods other people use?"

It frustrates me that so many bodybuilding and strength athletes just refuse to lay claim to the most essential component to the process: "the best bodybuilders are the best at healing themselves, not the best at damaging themselves."

Everyone is busy bragging about what they can do, But few are discussing how they take responsibility for what they have done.


Healing the body is no small idea.  There are endless combinations of a multitude of systems at play.  However, the good news is there are basics common to us all.  Thorough rest, nurturing food choices and preventive warm-ups and cool downs are what immediately comes to mind.

However, the single biggest obstacle to healing is – you guessed it – your mind.  More precisely: the will of your mind.  

You are "convinced" of many things in life.  And once you become convinced of a thing, well, it is rare that you will go in the opposite direction of your convictions.  However, it is very possible that we are sometimes convinced of things that work against our ability to achieve our goals, yet we are unaware of the conflict because we are "convinced" we are doing right.

Know what I mean?

And so many athletes are simply "convinced" that they need to train harder, lift more, and workout more frequently.  They believe deeply – to the very fabric of their being – that they must do more.  

And doing more means more damage to the body.  

And then, because you are so busy doing more, you don't have the proper time and resources to heal from all that additional damage.  

Yet without healing, you will remain small or weak or slow or fat – or any other quality that you are trying to overcome.  

So what do you do next?  You start looking for more to do.  You start asking for more; more training ideas, more diet strategies, more weight, more effort, more work – more, more and more!  Rather than look at what you have done and how you could be taking better responsibility for the damage, you instead are convinced that the problem is you need to do something else; something more.

And you get stuck in that spiral.

You see how conviction works against us?  We get convinced of one idea, and then by operating under that idea we get stuck in a loop.  Only by confronting that conviction – and often perhaps shattering it and rebuilding it – will the cycle end, and we will begin progressing once more.

Conviction is the culprit behind the majority of slow progressions.  Our stubborn, confident, certain minds with it's glorious, golden and pristine thoughts is actually working against what we need to grow: better healing.

(Notice how I said "better" healing.  Not "more" healing.)

More observation, less conviction.

More observation, less conviction.

So, as I told will, the first step is observation.  Not hasty, broad observation.  Not "I'm-convinced-I-already-know-what's-there-so-I-can-skip-this-step" observation.  Careful, thorough inventory-style observation.

  • What damage has your training done to your muscle cells?
  • What damage has your training done to your joints; your tendons and other connectors?
  • What damage has your training done to your nervous system?
  • What damage has your training done to your motivation, your interest or your enthusiasm?
  • What damage has your training done to your schedule?
  • What damage has your has your training done?

There are countless other questions you can ask to prompt your observational inventorying.  And with each question you have the root of more questions; each question gets more and more specific.  

And this is where research begins.  The better the questions, the more specific your study, and true more precise your answers.  (Not to mention you get more of them – not all "more" efforts are bad ones.)

Before you go looking for more, look at what you got.  Before you go looking to do more, look at how you can take better responsibility for what you have done.  You will quickly discover that the one thing common to all the questions is some form of better healing, not better assaults of damage.  And that healing leads to better growth, more strength, and probably a damn happier person.

The best bodybuilders are the best healers.  They are not always the most skilled lifters.  They are not always the most scientific eaters.  They are simply the best at healing themselves, and thus getting ahead.

I have said it time and time again.  

You don't gotta jump overboard to plan on jumping in.

Look, I get it:
you gotta make money.

You gotta pay your bills support your kids, and you got a girlfriend you love to treat.  Or a boyfriend.  Or a car payment, or two cats, or a sick relative.  

You got things that demand you keep working to make money.  And rightfully you should.  The obligations we have in live are an extension of that which we love.


Or are they?

Well, while I do not think we should all quit our jobs to pursue our passions without having a game plan in tact, I do think we rarely bother with drawing out that game plan.  We talk about it in vagaries; we say "I wanna someday."  But we rarely make that someday today.

And I am just talking about the game plan.  No one here is suggesting you jump ship tomorrow, but I am asking: "Have you even looked over the railing to see how deep the water is?"

So many athletes look at competitors with awe and excitement.  Yet they describe their own aspirations as "far away" from where they are right now.  They gotta first do this, then gotta do that, then gotta and gotta and gotta.

Likewise, so many athletes who love, love love strength and physique sports don't dream big enough when it comes to their livelihood?  Who said you can't make profit off of being a great bodybuilder?  Who claims that obsessing over lifting techniques can never feed you?  All it takes is some careful planning to make what you love into a carter you adore.  And yet, so few of the men and women who are accomplished in athletics ever bother to draw up that plan - many in spite of being phenomenal planners with their athletics!

Then, like a ray of light, I saw something that offered a simple, tidy and clean way of describing this motivation.  It was a cartoon by Illustrated by Gavin Aung Than from  

And cartoons are easy.  Easier than big life choices, anyway.  Which is why I liked it; it illustrates simply the concept of not getting bogged down in your "gotta's."   (Obviously. I also made sure the cartoon got posted over in the Almanac, because it's nice and wisdom-ey!) 

Stop waiting on the game plan.  No, you may not be able to change it all right away, but knowing WHAT will need to change and HOW it will happen is essential.  

Stop dreaming.  Start planning.

The conditions are perfect, right now; today.

You don't gotta jump overboard to figure out how to jump in.

Longevity practice leads to more gains.

With only three events out of five under his belt, it is still too early for Tom Keon to get cocky about winning the contest.  But it's hard not to be optimistic because, as of the time of this posting, Tom Keon (Wolfpack, Advancement '13) is currently in first at the Hudson Valley Showdown II StrongMan Contest.

This could lead to Tom's first-ever strength contest first place!

Say many things about me, but "cocky" will never be one of them.

Two years ago, Tom was struggling to lap a 200 lb. stone, and his pushpress was . . . how shall I put it?  Not impressive.  Now he is already becoming a leader in a single novice contest.  His secret?  Diligence and persistence and an ego which is always kept squarely in check.  Humility and focus are his weapons, and it has propelled him from "the skinny guy who lifts" to the Red Bull who dominates.  

No longer "the skinny guy who looks like he lifts a little."

As his coach, it makes me super proud to see what longevity in the sport can bring to even the most unlilkely guys.  Longevity has been a hallmark of my coaching for years; I believe that keeping an athlete focused on what can elongate their lifting career – even if it is sometimes "boring" or slow-moving – can produce far greater gains in the long run than will just trying to dominate the field right out of the gate.  Seeing Tom espouse graduated practices has begun paying off for him.  

I'll be sure to post his final results soon, but in the meantime I couldn't help but share some pride.  



Reality check: Paleo Dieting wouldn't even exist without "anti-paleo" eating.

Before I speak one word on paleo dieting, let's get one thing perfectly clear:

Nor is this a PRO-paleo post.

Nor is this post attempting to be binary in any way.  I am neither coming out in favor nor in admonishment of paleo dieting.  So please – please! – do not attempt to color me as having a standpoint of absolution on this topic.  

We good?

No seriously – ARE WE GOOD ON THIS?

You "get" that this is not a sour rant nor blind praise?

All clear? Yes?


And breathe . . .

Dieters love pyramids.  Probably because they're pointy and apparently have meat in the basement.

Now, the reason I need such an exaggerated disclaimer is that few dieters present themselves with  the righteous certainty of those who cling to the "paleo diet."  Paleo dieters are almost as bad as peanut butter lovers, among whom if you don't claim to live for their food of choice will all claim that you're somehow completely against the very existence of peanut butter and are the great enemy.  There is no middle ground for peanut butter lovers; if you do not yearn to smear it all over your nethers, then you hate it.  There is no such thing as peanut butter neutrality.  And it seems paleo dieters are very similar.  If you do not agree deeply with their principles, then somehow in their ears you are refuting them.  

Well, guys: I'm not.  I know you love to foist behind yourselves millennia of human experience which claims that you alone are eating "the way the body was meant to eat."  I know you feel the divine hand of Darwin has touched you above all others in our species.  And I know the rest of us "have it wrong: in your eyes.  I get it.  But really, I just wanted to point something out:

You may have sort of forgotten one vital organ in your evaluation of what a "whole body" is about.  More specifically, paleo dieting seems to overlook the brain in it's understanding of the human eating experience.

I am not saying that paleo dieting is bad for the brain.  Not at all.  In fact, the way paleo diets are run I would imagine it is rather good for the organic matter of the brain.  Paleo's emphasis on clean fats and robust protein could only service the neurology.  No, I am not arguing paleo dieting has forgotten the brain's physical health.  I am suggesting paleo dieting may have forgotten the brain's role in it's very creation.

"Oh, you know . . . just diggin' up bones, eatin' cupcakes . . . the usual sciencey stuff."

Check this out:

How do we "know" how paleolithic man ate?  Research, of course.  Anthropology, archaeology, genetic research and all sorts of sciencey stuff is what has helped us discern the eating habits of early man.  Myself, I sort of tend to side with well-vetted science.  So I buy it.  We got a pretty good clue as to what helped man evolve and survive and kick some major saber-tooth tiger ass.

However, where did the science come from?  Well, the technology used to determine these paleolithic standards involves all sorts of microscopes and chemical tests and fancy equipment, doo-hickeys and goo-gags to get the work done.  And all that gear had to come from a lot of humans doing a lot of thinking.

Likewise, the bankrolls behind all that science and technology bad-assery relied on a lot of people doing lots of math and running a lot of big think tanks.

Tut-tut!  Looks like science!
(See what we did there? See??)

And we know that this sort of science and money and research and exploration has been going on for a long time.  Thousands of years when you think about it.  From the Phoenicians through the  Greeks and Romans; through the Far East and in China; even across parts of the Americas, and certainly through Europe's Renaissance and Industrial eras; there has been a lot of thinking and studying going on.  And all that thinking and industry and science wonkery over the years allows us to see into the past and know what was up, all the way back to caveman times.

So, really, paleo dieting wouldn't have come to anyone's mind unless there was the ability to be scientific.  And that ability very much depends on not hunting and gathering.  Pretty hard to run lab tests on genetic strains when you got to forage for seven hours a day for some wild raspberries or spear a few carp before sunset.  One of the reasons the paleolithic men couldn't know what their own ancestors ate was that, well, them bison ain't gonna hunt themselves!

Paleo dieting could not exist without the onset of agricultural civilization.  And we know what horrible crimes arose from farming and cities.  That's right – you guessed it – farming led to (gasp!) non-paleo eating!

Oh, the horrors!

That's right.  The minute we stopped eating pale, we began developing the skills to discover how we ate before we stopped eating paleo.  The scientific discoveries on paleo eating rely directly on humans aggressively insisting on not eating a paleo diet.

"Man I could use a slice of pizza."

In other words: paleo dieting would not exist, even as a concept, without thousands of years of non-paleo eating.  Paleo eating was, in a sense, a failure of human evolution, not a success.  Sure it allowed some jungle daring-do and probably helped spear a walrus or two, but overall it limited humans ability to use their most vital evolutionary edge: their brains.

Our brains are what have allowed us success.  And like I noted before: paleo dieting was great if you want to live in a cave and never create telephones, baseball or archaeology.  But most humans sort of like the things their minds can create.  And indeed, like eating in ways that can help that happen.

The very industries which have allowed the spread of the paleo diet theories – the bajillion dollar "fitness" industry and the umpteen-bagoogle million dollar media industry – were the both the result of a whole lot of non-paleo eating.  My friends, you wouldn't have known paleo even existed unless millions of humans eagerly refuted paleo dieting.

And herein lies the logic flaw behind paleo diets.  They only describe the body as if it were not attached to the brain.  And our brain is sort of, well, what makes our species unique from others.  

Indeed, some scientists (so I've heard somewhere) actually believe it was the ability to make better food (read: the predecessor foods to non-paleo eating) which caused our evolution from homo erectus to homo sapiens.  In other words, what made "thinking man" was his ability to not have to eat like a paleolithic wretch.  Our evolution was caused by the very urge to not eat paleo, not by the adherence to such eating.  The more "desirable" humans for mating were actually the ones who would gradually evolve to make cinnamon rolls and pork dumplings, and not the goons who wanted to do burpees and eat raw mushrooms.

When evaluating the paleo diet it's vital to understand it's principles as opposed to convert to it's church.  Such dieting would have never existed without lots and lots of non-paleo eating habits.  The very foods and habits paleo dieting condemns are the same habits which allowed us a window into paleolithic eating to begin with.

I, palindrome, I.

It is a mobius of logic; a palindrome of dieting principles.  In order to come up with any argument in favor of paleo dieting one must engage in a whole lot of non-paleo dieting to arrive at the conclusion.

And this is what I share, as a coach, to the countless people who ask the flat, bland question: "So, XN; what do you think of paleo dieting?"

My answer is that the "thinking" is often not the part considered, and if we want to be purist about being human than we sort of have to uphold the brain's role in our construction of eating habits. I'm not saying that we should all go eat bread and bacon until we bust a spleen – that would be a binary notion, and we already cleared up that issue in the opener to this article.  I am merely saying that the principles of healthful eating with whole foods from natural sources is a phenomenal and vital concept for improved performance and healthy weight maintenance, yet can not unto itself sustain your own personal evolution into something other than, well, a caveman.

Which is why this is not an anti-paleo diet post.  This is an anti-cavement post, perhaps, but not anti-paleo.  It is merely pro-thinking; pro-homo-sapiens.  The brains which allow us to understand paleo dieting , and the great feats which gave us to tools to discover paleolithic man's habits rely on a whole lot of non-paleo noshing.

This is merely your reality check, folks:  paleo dieting wouldn't even exist without "anti-paleo" eating.