Solace: Strong New York

My basic understanding of CrossFit came through the much talked about documentary Fittest on Earth, which I watched on Netflix. The film ushers us into this behind-the-scenes look at the pre-game training and absolute torture the competitors endure for three hot days at the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games. Essentially a grueling battle to determine the fittest man and woman alive.

To the competitors and us the viewers, it’s obvious that CrossFit isn’t just a regimen so much as it is an all-encompassing lifestyle. A lifestyle that I knew nothing about but selfishly became interested to observe up close. Like anything in life, there’s a tendency for us to judge want we fail to understand unless we’re willing to be curious enough to ask questions and respect what others hold high value to.

In comes Solace New York, a gym that’s become a nationwide sensation and where Alex Silver-Fagan happens to be a trainer which is how I became aware of it.

In partnership with Reebok, Solace held their Strong New York series which I had the pleasure to document. Strong New York is their way of building, developing and promoting strength in all of us. It was hosted by the incredible Jen Widerstrom, and they had bada$$ panel of trainers ready to lead attendants in a full day of workouts and seminars celebrating strength, mental toughness, body positivity, self-love and how to cultivate these beliefs.

CrossFit workouts vary on a day-to-day basis which is exactly what keeps it exciting. It’s always good to try new things. It’s fun! It’s good to change things up or else you’ll get bored out of your mind and the fact that you’ll always be surround with people cheering you on is just as rewarding.

I'm an avid gym going. I train 4 times a week a 6am in the morning. At this point I would say I more than definitely have a well established routine in place as far as consistency in going but I'm looking to change things up. For the New Year, I'll be giving CrossFit a spin for a month and document changes to my body along the way. What I've come to appreciate the most in CrossFit is that the aesthetic changes is more of a byproduct and the cornerstone is in the relationships you build.

Don't Ask

I have this ongoing Collection within Instagram titled BTS (Behind the Scene) where I essentially stockpile images any photography is willing to share and give insight as to what their lighting setup looked like for any particular photo. I realize it’s something that may not be of much interest to everyone but it certainly sets me into dissection mode to see how I can replicate their technique while applying my own spin to the lighting.

Rarely would I ever reach out to any photographer and ask them how they achieve this or that because to me it comes across as not respecting the amount of time they put into tweaking and polishing their method of achieving what we see as the end result.

If you’re ever tempted to reach out to someone to pick their brains, think a bit about what Austin Kleon once said about asking:

Chelsea Aguiar

As I was editing this set I shot with Chelsea a few months ago, I was instantly reminded of an article I read entitled The Truth About Being a Strong Woman. An article deemed by many to be very fitting as we take into account our current gender dynamic in the country. In it, the author says:

There’s nothing more inspiring than a bad-ass woman because in my eyes they’re the ones who’ve set a precedent for how I aspire my own daughter to be like as she gets older. Of course, we can always read about these grounded and confident women but nothing beats the opportunity to meet a few and luckily there’s no shortage of them here in New York with Chelsea being one of them.

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Chelsea was recently interviewed for Shape Magazine on What It's Really Like to be a Fitness Model which I encourage you to read as well as this video interview where Chelsea talks about the advice she would give herself to overcome the omni-present feeling of Imposter Syndrome when she first started her journey.

Writing Wisdom by Madeleine L'Engle

I have advice for people who want to write. I don’t care whether they’re 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.

Writing is no different than waking up early morning before the sun has risen, taking that 20 minute drive to the gym to sweat and tear down your body, in the sense that you’re bound to exist in one of 2 states. It’s very binary - either you’re the person that commits to the process and respect its sanctity or you’re one that does not.

Often times we get mesmerized by the idea of doing something but if the process itself is not enjoyable then that’s an unequivocal sign that the commitment for us to follow through will never be there.

I love writing and I’ll admit I’ve fallen behind doing it a lot on it here on the site. I read a lot, I interact tremendously with people at work and there’s always conversations swirling in my head so in essence there’s never a lack of material but there is that feeling of whether any of it is worth sharing.

Also, I’ve identified that it’s the lack of me establishing a routine that’s kept me from writing which is why I’ve I’ve jumped on this bandwagon of keeping a physical journal not meant for anyone to read but more so to function as a mental exercise. As I write this, I’m still in the middle of reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Leonoardo Da Vinci and the daily practice of writing out our thoughts in this book and others always comes, so if there’s every a time to be “inspired” to write more it’s now.

Alex Silver-Fagan

The impetus behind even meeting in Dumbo, Brooklyn with Alex was to shoot a concept we had both gone over for a few days and it was very much predicated shooting in a studio setting which I had booked. As the saying goes, there’s a first time for everything, so unfortunately the studio we had booked was not at all what we were anticipating based on the photos we had seen, so to say the least, we ditched the place and made the best of a beautiful Fall sunset.

I’ve known of Alex through her informative, inspiring and entertaining Instagram account and I’ve met her in passing at a few fitness event’s I’ve covered here in New York but this truly was the first time our conversation exceeded 3 minutes. She’s a NIKE Trainer and model, she works regularly with publications such as SHAPE, SELF, Women’s Health, and Cosmo just to name a few. Quite honestly, it’s difficult to imagine what can’t she do, especially when she’s beyond driven in every single aspect of her career and life.

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Leonardo’s relentless curiosity and experimentation should remind us of the importance of instilling, in both ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it—to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.

I understand the premature nature of commenting on a book I’ve yet to even be half way through may not make sense, but it’s a piece of historical literature I’ve been deeply enjoying thus far hence the brief praise on it. The build up to it’s release was so substantial via 2 of my favorite podcast - On Point Radio and The Tim Ferris Show, that there was no question I would read it but the conflict was whether I would consume it the traditional way or via audiobook format. I’m serious note-taker when I read so I went with the latter.

As the author Walter Isaacson has said, “Leonardo da Vinci died a poor man but he left us a wealth of lessons,” 2 of which I’ve come to esteem because I also can’t help be inquisitive about the most random sh*t in life combined with the unhealthy obsession of keeping notes of those interest inside of overpriced notebooks.

This is my first time ever reading a biographical piece and I believe I just discoverd a new genre to further explore.

Be Deliberate with The Way You Invest Your Time

This topic comes up a lot in conversation with people I initially meet because it’s an area in my life that I’m always seeking to improve and hopefully in the process extract pointers from people who I feel have developed a good grasp around managing their time.

I’ll be honest. I don’t recall anything significant I did with my time prior to having kids, which is kinda sad. Yes, I traveled a lot with my then girlfriend now wife, but as far as those moments I had to myself where I could have worked on something on the side, honed a craft, or have had a deep enough interest in people far more knowledgable than I, as oppose to sitting back, relaxing thinking “free time” was the ideal time to do nothing. I did none of that.

Luckily becoming a parent has taught me the value of time and so when I see younger co-workers, or people complaining about not having the leisure to do simple things that matter in their life such as prepping their own lunches so they’re not spending $14 a day on junk food, or the inability for them to fulfill their commitment of getting back into shape because they lack the willpower or “time” to make it to the gym… I’m baffled by it all.

I’m no expert in this thing we call life but I can tell you that the underlying theme in all the books, articles and podcast I lend my attention to is that the one thing “successful” people do is treat their “free time” as such:

The trick to this advise is that it only works if you’ve already taken the time to become fully aware of what you want in life, or perhaps areas in your life you want to improve on. It’s no different than walking into a gym. There’s nothing more disorienting than walking into a space with life-changing equipment and not having a set of specific exercises you’re hoping to execute on that day. If you’re walking around wondering what to do, you’ve already defeated the purpose of this whole life-reflective moment…you’re wasting time.

As Nicolas Cole says, “be deliberate with the way you invest your time.”

The Podcast I Listen To

Radio shows have always existed. I may have never matured into a loyalist listener the way my grandfather did towards his evening shows, but for me the straight-forward equivalence of his commitment to audio enjoyment comes in the form of podcast. If well produced, there’s a timeless attribute to each episode, allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks and make you feel engaged. It really adds a new dimension to the content.

I hardly listen to music. In fact, up until now, I have no qualms about having cancelled my Spotify membership. I’m all about podcast and the reality is that regardless of what interest you may have in any topic, there’s a chance there’s a podcast for it and once that consistency ethic kicks in about listening to them, believe me you’ll be hooked.

When I'm not self-educating through books, I'm more than likely listening to a podcast.

When I'm not self-educating through books, I'm more than likely listening to a podcast.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old adage that “you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” and so I would say that the same principle applies to the type of material you consume. Without question, podcast have had a major influence in who I am as a person and in shaping my life. I easily listen anywhere from 15-25 shows a week, all covering a variety of topics, including some unfamiliar ones which I never thought I would have an interest in until you subsequently come across the right people who make a topic like business and economics more palatable.

Podcast are like books in that just because you “subscribed” to one, it doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to stick to it in the event you happen to lose interest down the road. Ditch and discover new ones! With that said, as of now, these are podcast I’m listening to on a weekly basis like clockwork in no particular order:

As for when I have the chance to listen to these you ask…the majority of time during my commute to work and a few at the gym. As if I didn’t subscribe to enough, the one type of podcast I’ve yet to find is one fully in Spanish. The only one I’m familiar with is Radio Ambulante but I’m searching for more!