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When I was born, the doctors told my parents to put a lock on the refrigerator. They said I was going to be a giant, ravenous kid. Truer words have never been spoken. 30 years later, food isn’t just what I constantly crave, it’s the connective thread of my most meaningful relationships. The pandemic has only intensified my tendencies to snack, plan meals days in advance, and make excuses for one more piece, helping or cocktail. I don’t like to make excuses about it, because food makes me happy. But, in the back of my mind — and as pants with any kind of button have become my nemesis — I’ve been feeling more and more in need of a change. I don’t just mean ‘more working out.’ I mean a wholesale, refreshed point of view on balancing exercise, diet and wellness.
Joe Holder’s new Masterclass came at the perfect time.
A former college football star, Joe has risen to become a Nike Master Trainer and GQ fitness specialist. He’s worked with top models — like Naomi Campbell and Bella Hadid — and athletes — ever heard of FC Barcelona? — and he focuses on not just their physical performance, but mental wellness and long term health. I have been inspired by Joe for years, intrigued by his holistic approach to exercise — the idea that working out is not about a single goal, like summer abs, but rather about long term, sustained wellness.
Trust The Ocho System
To understand Joe’s dynamic and now renowned techniques, you have to understand his roots. As a rising football star at the University of Pennsylvania, Joe was sidelined with a brutal ankle injury. His road to recovery was grueling because over the years he’d all but mastered the traditional athlete’s training — building mass with whatever means necessary — but never put an emphasis on wellness, nutrition, or mental health. With the support of Joe’s father, a doctor who specializes in contemporary and alternative practices, Joe developed a new training regimen, went plant-based, and created a new set of principles to heal his body. As he continued to evolve his game and his body, Joe called these new techniques “the Ocho System,” which proved to help him not only recover faster, but remain stronger in mind and body ever since.
Joe’s Masterclass was designed to focus on how to work out for increased mobility and strength, maximize your nutrition, and build a positive mindset. There are 12 classes in the series, three of which are actual workouts that Joe walks you through.
Diving Head First Into Masterclass
Masterclass intrigued me for three reasons. First, Joe was the catalyst; somebody who was credible and preaching a modern version of exercise and wellness that intrigued me, but that I didn’t know how to integrate into my life.
Second, the cost ($99 for a year long subscription) felt worthwhile given Masterclass features only the best and most accomplished folks in their industry / trade. If I dug it, I’d have access to Scorcese for film, Waters for cooking, Curry for basketball, and Leibovitz for photography, among countless others.
Lastly, I’d never experimented with any kind of online classes, and what better time than in this newly remote, digital-everything world?
Bringing Simplicity To The Complex
True experts know how to make the complex nature of their craft simple and relatable for others. That may be Joe’s best quality, weaving together the intricacies of holistic wellness into concise, clear and memorable phrases. Here a few of the gems that resonated with me:
- You won’t love every workout, which is why you need to view it like a class schedule. When you were in school, you didn’t love every class you had, but you showed up. You did the work. Joe recommends a similar approach to exercise.
- You’re going to spend more time eating than you are in the gym (or exercising wherever you do). Whatever your fitness goals, and no matter how much you actually exercise, diet is critical.
- Data is king because it gives you value over your kingdom: your body. Focusing on data points — meaning everything from your number of steps each day to heart rate to muscle fat percentage — can give you a clear emphasis, or map, for what and how to improve.
- Work smarter, not harder. Jumping into squats or burpees after sitting all day isn’t best for your body. Warming up before exercising is critical, as is good form during workouts because they both contribute to long term sustainability.
- ‘Max effort’ doesn’t mean going hard every second of your work out. It means being cognizant of everything that affects your work out, like your sleep, diet, and overall health.
- Eat food for a reason. “I went to a plant-based diet five years ago. I noticed eating more fruits and vegetables made me feel better and less tired. So I'll have juices (celery, cucumber, apple, or grapefruit) and shakes (dark leafy greens, plant-based protein powder, blueberries, and half a banana) in the morning and then hearty salads or macro bowls for lunch and dinner.”
In many ways, Joe really is the modern day embodiment of Nike’s mission statement: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
A Trio Of Dynamic Workouts
I was legitimately nervous for these workouts, but they were not only totally doable, they’re configured in such a way that you can do them at home, using just your body weight, and mix and match various pieces to your liking.
The first is a mobility workout and uses basic motions like squatting, twisting, pressing, and pulling in various directions to improve wellness. This is a simple, repeatable series of stretches and activities that I’m not doing before all of my at-home workouts.
The second is a HIIT workout, or High Intensity Interval Training, and it offers a quicker way to gain endurance and burn calories. This got me sweating, from mountain climbers and glute bridges to high knees and skiers (which I’d never heard of, but is literally a lateral jump, not unlike a skiing motion). As I did the workout, I could see myself building these various elements into my daily schedule. It goes by fast, it’s hard, and it’s repeatable.
Lastly, Joe leads a strength workout, which is aided by a dumbbell. This workout… was no joke. Three circuits. 23 minutes (with a couple breaks in between). It’s a real, full body test, but for me at least, it led to that addictive feeling of pure adrenaline.
A Gateway — And A Trick — To The Masterclass Library
Joe’s class has had a legitimately profound effect on how I perceive and execute on my workouts, diet and mental and physical wellness. I’m eating smaller portions, drinking more water, stretching before and after exercising, and consequently feeling lighter and more agile.
If you’re looking for crazy workout videos of just another super buff dude intimidating you into guilt-inspired exercises, this is not your guy (even though he’s cut as hell). Joe brings sage wisdom and modern training into a series of inspiring classes on Masterclass that truly anyone can take advantage of.
This class intrigued me to take advantage of Masterclass’ wide-ranging offering. The trick I’ve found: dive into something you really don’t have any background in or context for. This strategy paid off as I pursued my budding passion for photography by taking Annie Leibovitz’s class. I have never bought a professional camera or taken a class, so this class was a fascinating entry point into how one of the greatest photographers of all times approached her work. Masterclass is full of gems, and ultimately an innovative take on how to digitally empower people with new skills across the spectrum.