Anthony Mychal runs one of my favorite websites, anthonymychal.com. His book, An Athlete’s Guide To Chronic Knee Pain, occupies a prominent space on my digital mantle.
I’ve invited Anthony to JTTG to tell us more about his work.
Tell us a little about yourself, Anthony. (Where are you from, your background, anything we might find interesting about you etc.).
I’m from Pittsburgh. I spend most of my days trying to tame my brain’s flatulence on the physical (physique, performance) into theories that not only make sense, but are a bit more enjoyable to read than most sports performance texts (which are typically very dry). This hasn’t always been my ambition, but, as of recently, this is where I’m trying to head.
As for things I do beyond writing: I fiddle with barbell and bodyweight training, and I also trick.
I told a story once of how I learned to relieve back pain through an accident. Some time ago, you broke your foot and it was the impetus for some of your future work. Explain.
Injuries are constraints, which help you focus. It’s not what should I do, but what can I do given my current situation? It reduces choices, which (in today’s age) is good. Also makes you more likely to get out of your own categorical thinking and try something you otherwise might not have.
Bad injuries are like a reset button. You start from the beginning of the game, but you’re ten times smarter than you were the first time around.
More than anything else, it made me re-evaluate what mattered to me. When you can’t walk, you don’t think about muscle or any of the gooey stuff that comes with living my life. You, instead, think about being independent. Being capable. Being able to brew coffee. Dumb stuff. Helps put everything in perspective.
You used to be skinny-fat. What was the worst thing (psychologically, physically) about that?
Hating yourself. But, really, if you’re skinny-fat, you’re probably lucky. You can probably move around. You have a roof over your head. Food. All of these luxuries you (and I) take for granted. All you need is some tough physical labor (barbell and bodyweight training) and to eat more like an adult and you’re “cured.”
It’s not cancer. It’s not a disease. It’s fixable.
Do you have a go-to exercise for burning fat, your default activity if you have no constraints? “Important Work”, as you’ve called it in the past.
Most of the energy you use comes from non-deliberate means. Takes a lot of juice to keep your brain churning day after day. After understanding this (which most people don’t), I’d say the next few things are most important: drink water, eat more vegetables, lift something heavy.
Can you give us one oft-heard training principle that hinders progress (e.g. Push to failure, or stretch before you workout)?
“Confuse your muscles.”
Makes me want to shove a fork into my eyeball.
Needless to say, I hate P90X. Confusing your muscles is like injecting 2322365 pathogens into your body in the name of immunization. If you know what you want to adapt to, you have to get the thing and then slowly expose yourself to more and more over time with tolerance.
What’s the most common dietary mistake made by the average joe looking to get in shape? Any foods or quick meals that you recommend as a pillar of a good eating plan?
Slapping the Lindy Effect in the face, otherwise known as “Neomania” (as Nassim Taleb would say). The majority of foods you should be eating have been around for a long time.
(Note, this doesn’t equal “paleo.” I’m not a paleo guy.)
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? Any unique skills or interests?
I like watching stand-up comedy and listening to stand-up comedians for reasons that I could go on and on about but won’t in the name of my own sanity.
Knee pain is one of the most common ailments in the 21st century. It sucks the enjoyment out of the activities we love. Athletes, especially, are felled not by age or disinterest, but joint pain. I’m extremely active and have struggled with knee pain, so much so that I thought I might have to quit impact sports altogether. Last year, I stumbled on to your book, “An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain”. It was a godsend. It’s one of the few purchases that I can say, without exaggeration, changed my life. Tell us more about it.
It’s a memoir, really. I had a lot of knee problems. I was able to fix them, so I wrote about the theory and exercises I used to make it happen.
I lift weights not just to enhance physical performance, but reap other residuals of hard work as well. You experience the same with “tricking”. What recurring themes have you found in your own fitness training journey (e.g. progression in difficulty is critical, the merits of unpredictability)
Trial and small error, which is another Taleb thing.
There’s a reality upon trying a trick for the first time: you probably won’t land. You just want to do something good enough (not kill yourself), feel, and then adjust.
You’re a voracious reader, dedicated to sharpening both the mind and the body. Any life lessons to impart?
Most people quit right before a big breakthrough. Don’t be one of them.
Any new projects on the horizon? What’s next for you?
A lot of things that I’d rather work on finishing than write about. I have a habit of starting and then quitting, so I figure I’ll wait for the products to speak for themselves. Books, mostly.
Where can readers find more of your work (website/contact info)?
Google is a cool little thing that I heard does wonders for stuff like this. I feel like people that read this and are intrigued will do the leg work needed to find me. As an enticer, I write a lot pieces for the price of “nada” on my website.
Free stuff is always nice, right?