How Nike trainer Joe Holder began his fitness journey
From Ivy League beginnings, trainer Joe Holder is no ordinary workout guru.
Holder's interest in fitness began when he was young, stemming from his parents' influence and his involvement in sports. By the time he got to college at the University of Pennsylvania, he was an all-star athlete and a part of the football team.
However, Holder hit a rough patch when he was affected by injuries that kept him from playing the game. Eventually, he found his own path to fitness and built what is now known as the Ochosystem -- a holistic lifestyle focused on fitness and healthy eating.
Holder is now a trainer based in New York City and has worked with brands with Nike, s10 training and others. We had the chance to sit down and chat with Holder about his inspiration, journey and more. Check out the interview below!
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When did your fitness journey really start for you?
Since I was a kid -- My dad was a doctor and I'm one of seven kids. I'm not sure how my mom did it, but it was basically a way for all of us to grow closer, but at the same time, teach us valuable life lessons. I know it sounds cliche but without sports I wouldn't be the man I am today. We always saw fitness as a way to not just increase our physical aptitude but our cognitive aptitude too. We were all kind of high overachievers, and so it's been a fitness journey for me since day one -- hopped out of the womb and got right into it.
What was it like for you to move away from team sports and focus on the individual -- yourself as a trainer?
It's an interesting concept, but I don't really focus on myself -- I had a good run, I won some Ivy League titles at Penn where I played some football, and I took that team mentality out into the real world. For me, I think if you're in the service of others you'll also be in the service of yourself. So, I'm really just focused on bringing that camaraderie in the sense that I'm a coach now that wants to make sure my clients get better. I don't really care about me, I'll stay in shape but it's not really about the glorification of me, it's about how I make you feel better and at the end of the day that's what brings me happiness.
Can you talk about how Ochosystem even came to fruition?
In college, I dealt with a lot of injuries. My dad is a great doctor, he's an MD that mixes contemporary and alternative practices, and when I was in college I moved away from that. Food kind of took a back seat, the dogma in my football program was pretty archaic, they would just tell players to eat whatever, so long as you put on weight. It wasn't really about overall wellness and athleticism, it was about numbers and how a person looked. When I hurt my ankle, I went to a really dark place, it was a high-stress institution, I wasn't playing for the first time, I didn't know what was going on. It was supposed to be my year, because I had a really good year the year before, and all of a sudden I couldn't play. I was bummed because my body wasn't healing. From there, I took a step back and re-evaluated my mental wellness, physical wellness, emotional wellness, and nutrition-wise just what I was putting into my body -- that's what started the Ochosystem. From there, I got some local press. I was putting out all of this stuff I was learning. On campus, people took a liking to it, so I thought I had something special and I just kept building with it, and I got to where I am today after a weird and wild journey.
What's it like developing something that's focused on holistic wellness?
I am a big believer in human behavior -- sociology, psychology, etc. I looked at it like, how can I change my behavior to make things better? After I had sustained that ankle injury in my fifth year, I broke my leg and they told me I was out for the rest of the year. I put all of the stuff I learned into practicing and I came back in a little over four weeks -- it was crazy. When you talk about trends, people look too much at tools and technology, they don't look at the underlying aspects of human behavior that haven't really changed throughout history. I don't think we experience as modern humans is different than what people have dealt with for all of humanity, it just presents itself in a different manifestation because of the curse of modern living -- for lack of a better term. Instead of focusing on the tool, we should focus on the aspect of human behavior is this new thing working on that's making people attached to it. You really need to focus on human behavior and not really the trends, and you'll see what's going to stick.
What's the biggest takeaway that you've learned about yourself since you became a trainer and started the Ochosystem?
It's weird, but it's one of the things that yoga was kind of founded on, which is that the only time you're selfish is in your pursuit of selflessness. Basically, you can't refill your own cup. If you're always out there in the service of others -- which is what I want because that makes me happy -- that drains you, and you can't give people the "best product" to help them because you're in a state of too high stress or too strung out. So, my biggest lesson to learn was to be selfish at the times that I know will promote my optimal functioning and my selflessness to make sure I help others. To treat myself as my own client too sometimes, put things in practice that help others that I've realized and bridge that cognitive and behavioral gap that a lot of my clients have experienced, but that need to be fixed within myself too.
What's the one piece of advice you wish you had received before you became a trainer?
Don't get lost in the glam of it. Realize that it's a service industry and that you're there to help others. Never get complacent and keep pushing.
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