Mind And Body 2.0: Self-Improvement By The Experts

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Mind And Body 2.0: Self-Improvement By The Experts

Words by Mr Jamie Millar | Photography by Mr Cody James | Styling by Mr Fernando Pichardo

4 January 2022

The custom of making New Year’s resolutions is at least 4,000 years old. The Ancient Babylonians promised they’d get out of debt and return borrowed objects (at a guess, gardening equipment). The custom of breaking New Year’s resolutions must therefore be nearly as old. And the impulse to try and do better, be better, older still. Certainly it predates the self-help or personal development industrial complex.

You don’t need to try and be better. But you may want to, whether to curry favour with pagan gods, feel happier in yourself or believe that things can get better – yes, even you. And besides, you could do worse. So, MR PORTER asked three wise men for their physical, mental and spiritual guidance. Happy new you.

Mr Joe Holder

Dubbed “fashion’s favourite coach” by i-D with clients including Ms Naomi Campbell and Ms Bella Hadid, Mr Joe Holder is a Nike Master Trainer and GQ wellness columnist

What does “a better you” mean to you?

For me, it’s remembering what humans are made to do. Humans aren’t made to drink Gatorade. Humans aren’t made to sit in front of a computer. So my thing is: how do I balance the true reality of the modern existence with the true historical realities of what it means to be human? But the definition of better is contingent on the individual.

Once we’ve decided what “better” means to us, how do we set good goals?

You have to make a deadline. That’s the only reason work gets done. That’s the only reason a child listens to you. So, rule number one is: make a clear deadline. Rule number two is: break it down as simply as possible. What’s that first benchmark?

And how do we instil better habits?

The easiest way is to set up the structure. And then it’s the same thing as goal setting. Just make it as simple as possible to overcome inertia. I don’t want to be on my phone – I put my phone in a different room at night. I want to watch less TV – maybe I get rid of my TV. I don’t want to eat junk food – I don’t buy junk food when I go to the grocery store. Junk food isn’t real to me because it doesn’t exist in my home. Not because I don’t like it – I think it’s delicious. If I’m out and about with my friends, yeah, I’ll have a drink because I know that’s the only time it exists.

You believe in having an eating practice rather than a diet?

I think there are a few key rules that everybody should follow: stay away from excess sugar, stay away from highly processed foods, don’t eat too late, also don’t eat too early. But in terms of what you eat, I think you should limit red meat. I personally have an eating practice that allows me to be more conscious of what I put into my body, whether it’s a “healthy” food or an “unhealthy” food.

You’re always on the move. How do you find stillness?

Every day before I get out of bed, I try not to check my phone and I take 10 deep breaths. In the shower, I like to say, “Wash off the worries of yesterday and wash in the focus of today.” When I drink tea in the morning, I’m savouring that moment. When I’m on the train, sometimes instead of being on my phone, I sit and look around and just take in this thing called life. Before I go to bed, I try to decompress and go through what happened that day. And then formally, I try to meditate three times a week for 15 to 20 minutes, whether that’s focusing on my breath or monitoring the sounds around me.

You live in New York. How do you access nature?

I’m a member of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I try to go once a week if I can, or at the very least I pull up the map of local community gardens in New York and try to sit in one maybe once a week. I try to go on a run in a park once a week. When I travel, I try to stay closer to nature. Even when I’m travelling to LA, I stay in Santa Monica so I can be near water.

Mr Knox Robinson

A former music manager and one-time editor of hip-hop magazine The Fader, Mr Knox Robinson is co-founder and captain of New York running collective the Black Roses

What would you say to someone who isn’t a runner, but wants to be?

On an evolutionary level, we’re all runners, so it’s not like there’s a threshold you have to cross. Think about running as a vehicle for self-exploration and a practice for knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Start simply and go out and jog for a minute, walk for a minute, jog for a minute, walk for a minute. If you do that 10 times, have a rest day and then go out and do it again. Pretty soon, your body’s going to respond.

What is running “on feel”?

Instead of training along the feedback loop of your pace and heart rate and heart-rate variability and sleep score, you’ve spent time understanding how your body feels at 13 minutes and at 27 minutes, or going up a hill. If you’re watching your heart rate, you’re never really going to understand your relationship with the hill. Not that technology and those metrics aren’t useful, but there’s other stuff in the running journey that isn’t addressed by a GPS watch.

Why should we count minutes when we run and not miles?

We don’t do anything in our culture these days that requires us to do one thing repeatedly for a really long time, and yet that’s what running is. So you need to encourage your mind to come around to the idea that you’re out there for an expanse of time.

How do we pick the right running shoes?

If you’re on the heavier side, or just getting into running, you’re going to need a little more support just because of the physics. If you’re running on trails or in treacherous conditions, a little more tread. There are all these personal, rather than technical, considerations. Choosing the shoe that’s right for you in this day and age has amazingly reverted back to just: what feels good? Because if you feel good, then that’s going to have the corollary effect of a positive running experience.

What about running technique?

It’s about what feels good for you, but in general you want to be relaxed, shoulders square and back and swing your arms in a rhythmic fashion at the sides of your body with your arms crooked at a 90-degree angle and hands nice and loose. Stop and shake out your shoulders or hands every once in a while to shed any accumulating tension. Then you want to have good knee lift and a mid-strike. You don’t want to try to be up on your toes or landing on your heels.

What should we eat before and after running?

You want to sustain a running or any sort of fitness journey with simple, natural foods without too many additive colours or flavourings. You don’t want your body to devote energy to break down stuff that it doesn’t need when you could be using that energy for something else, such as running. So there’s sustaining yourself before you go out, and that’s a banana and half a bagel or something like that, and then there’s putting fuel back in the form of a protein source within 30 minutes of finishing your run.

Do you take any supplements?

I take a daily regimen in capsule form of a handful of things, including vitamin C and B12 and magnesium. And then mushrooms: reishi, cordyceps and a blend called Stamets 7, a mix from the legendary Paul Stamets, who makes a star turn in that Netflix doc Fantastic Fungi.

What music do you run to?

Years ago, I was listening to The xx and Jamie brought that beat down all the way to the iciest, coldest, slowest beat and I was running out of my mind. So I learnt that slow BPMs [beats per minute] are conducive to running fast. Sometimes I’ll listen to trap and sometimes spiritual jazz. Reggae falls somewhere in between.

Mr Riley Harper

A third-generation stuntman famed for vehicle work, Mr Riley Harper made his debut by falling down stairs in Mr Kurt Russell’s 1998 film Soldier at the tender age of seven

Do you wake up feeling like you’ve been in a car crash – because you have?

Yeah, a couple of them.

So, being a stuntman beats you up pretty badly?

There are individual injuries, definitely. Last year, I cracked a vertebra in my lower back and tore the labrum in my left shoulder, my “good” one. The worst part for me has been the wear and tear, a lot of stuff that just adds up over the years.

How do you buffer that?

I have a chiropractor and kinesiologist that I’ve seen for, like, 15 years. I go to him with any injuries or concerns. And I work out three days a week with a personal trainer who’s also a physical therapist, always doing mobility and really good, long warm-ups before we do any of our circuit training. Mobility has been the most important thing for me, I’ve realised, for longevity.

Gucci White Slim-Fit Cotton-Poplin Shirt coming soon

How do you dress most days?

I always take to simplicity. A really nice pair of worn-in light blue Levi’s, white Reebok Club C 85 sneakers, a grey T-shirt, cashmere sweater and a TAG Heuer Carrera limited-edition watch is my overall go-to outfit.

Do you do any physical upkeep at home?

My trainer would do cupping on my shoulder. The instant mobility and release of tension is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. So I bought a set of cups for home. My girlfriend can do it. If I feel something coming on, I isolate the area with cups. It leaves a bruise, but it’s well worth it. Then I have a barrel sauna and ice bath in my back yard and doing circuits, like, the past two years has been really great for recovery. Those are my home remedies.

You surf. What do you like about it?

I’ve been into it ever since I was a kid. It’s one of those things that just for me is more mentally appealing. Like, you never really come in and feel worse. You always feel a lot better. It’s very cleansing. It’s more meditative for me than anything.

Do you do any meditating?

Not really. I’ve tried over the years. But I do a lot of mountain biking with friends. On those rides I’m more in my mind, thinking about stuff. I find things like that, where I don’t have any distractions, are better for meditating. I usually take a time of day, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, where I’m reflecting on things, thinking about what’s coming up, what I want to be doing, how I want to make things better. On every level.

Any crazy LA wellness practices?

I started doing hot yoga when I was doing a movie in Atlanta. There was a studio next to the apartment I rented that was open really late so I’d usually do a 9.00pm class. It helped with a lot of my back issues.

And you follow music legend Mr Rick Rubin’s recommendation of 20 minutes of morning sun naked.

Yeah, definitely during the summer more. It’s sunny right now, but it’s pretty cold. Every day’s different, whether I’m out the door right away or I have the whole morning at home. But I always take time to lie in the sun when it’s out because vitamin D is no joke and it’s something I really need.

What do your neighbours think?

I made my back yard as private as can be. And if they see something, hey, whatever.