Top 15 Things I Learned In 2022

Dec 26th, 2022


Top 15 Things I Learned In 2022

Every year around Christmas, I sit down in my journal and try to boil down all my learnings from the year into a few pages. 

I look at my calendar, scroll through my photos, flick through social media and read over my journal to try to capture the lessons to take forward.

This time, I started the process in October, keeping an open few pages in my journal to jot down soundbites as they landed.

Once I consolidate them, I like to write an article to dive deeper, explore concepts further, and close another mini chapter of my life.

This year has been different in many ways. I spent 14 weeks getting shredded glutes on a vegan diet, travelled for 12.5 weeks, and experienced the final 22 weeks or so knowing I’ve got a baby coming.

So without further ado, let’s dive in…

1. It’s never too late to work on your relationship with your parents. 

One of my best friends has an 18 month old son, and he said something at the start of the year that got me thinking:

“We never see our parents as normal people you can get to know. We only see them as mum and dad. When my son grows up, I want him to know the man behind his dad, not just dad.”

Before I started my photoshoot preparation this year, my dad said he wanted to jump in too. Organically, we started to talk more, and after hearing my friend’s sentiment, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to get to know the man behind dad.

I’ve always been closer to my mum; likely because of our shared entrepreneurial passions and similar stoic mentality. So this was the perfect opportunity to match the bond with my dad.

So we started meeting up for walks and coffees. And it’s become a ritual now that every time Chandni is with her parents, my dad will come around.

What surprised me is how simple questions about his life growing up led to so many conversations I knew nothing about. 

On reflection, this has been one of the personal highlights of my year.
Me + Dad Shoot
2. If I’m playful with Chandni, I’m in my sweet spot.

When you’re getting shredded, there’s no two ways about it - it’s going to be brutal. Beach lean is one thing. Getting lines on your glutes is a different ballgame few like to play.

I’m a bit of a masochist, so I like to set it as the benchmark of my conditioning. This year was going to be my 3rd rodeo down into the darkness.

And what I learnt this year is as soon as my playful attitude at home disappears, I’m gone. I’ve crossed the chasm and the only way back is bodyweight regain.

You can’t cheat it, hack it or even try manipulate it. Everyone will be different. I noticed for me, as soon as I’m sub 74-75, I start getting quiet.

When I get sub 71, sub 70 even (I never expected to see this), then it’s a straight up anxious dance with the devil. It’s all a mind game and a war within. 

And all the playfulness is sucked out of me. I can’t even force it. 

What I didn’t expect though is you often need to come back higher to find the play again. For me, it wasn’t until I got back into the 77s, 78s that I was normal again. I remember the week when Chandni said to me, “ah you’re back!”

It’d been 3 months post-shoot.

In our RNT Pro platform, we score subjective markers like mood, satiety, libido, hunger and energy weekly out of 5. 

During a team meeting, my colleague Ed said you know you’re out of consolidation once you score 4s across the board.

It all clicked then - that week was my first week I was in the 4s, and my bodyweight was finally above 77.

3. The last two kilos will make and/or break you.

When another colleague Ivan said to me, “I reckon you’ll be truly diced at 68-69” when I hit 71, I was like well, here we go…!

So I dug harder for 2 weeks to get another two kilos off and damn, I still debate whether it was worth it.

I remember taking a picture on a Friday night like “holy crap…I’m IN”. And that one moment made over ten years of bodybuilding worth it.
Pic I posted on Social Media with my ass in early April. Think it's in my 14 week case study.

I felt like I had the balance I always strived for, and I achieved a level of conditioning I’d always considered impressive in the rare photos I’ve seen.

Something I’ve not spoken about much was how dark my mood got. On the outside, I kept it together. But when I cancelled my birthday in May - which is usually an annual gathering of my closest friends, I knew I was burnt to a crisp from the prep.

I tried to hang onto shredded for longer than I should have, and then didn’t gain bodyweight back quick enough.

Looking back, that period of 8-12 weeks post photoshoot was not healthy. I was running on straight adrenaline and anxiety.

No regrets though. I now know what that level feels like. The only thing I wish I could have done was tear up a bodybuilding stage - I think I would have done some serious damage. But the dates didn’t align.

4. A new lifestyle change will mean learning everything from scratch again.

This year I went vegan on January 1st. After my shoot prep in April, I started travelling often, racking up a total of 12.5 weeks in 36 weeks.

For the past few years I’ve cultivated a strong lifestyle solution that allows me to stay in good shape no matter where I am, year round.

Going vegan meant I lost my ability to eat intuitively. A skill where I could look at a plate and guesstimate calories and macros. This went out the window as I started to travel, and involved a lot of trial and error, both ways.

Sometimes I’d completely underreat, without realising at the time. Other times I’d end up eating way more because I’d overestimated protein intake. 

When you’ve been doing this a while, the idea of eating a meal without protein is weird. It’s the first thing I look for. 

One of the reasons focusing on protein helps when you’re in new environments is satiety and portion control. Protein fills you up. But when you’ve got minimal on plate, you can easily start overeating, whilst still feeling “empty” hours later.

I’m getting better - and my recent month away in South Africa was the best yet, as I began to discover “intuitive hacks” that help on a vegan diet.

5. Life under 80kg beats life over 80kg.

Except for my 2014 diet, when I horrifically rebounded, I’ve noticed a repeating pattern with my body after a diet. It happened in 2017, 2019 and again, this year.

After I peak, I tend to have a mental wrestle with holding onto my condition for 6-8 weeks.

I then realise this isn’t sustainable, and whilst I may look great, I’m not doing well mentally or as I alluded to earlier, playful at home.

So I gain weight at about 1% a week with a mindset of “is there a new sweet spot I can settle into?”

I get into my “normal” sweet spot of 77-79kg, but then think, “ah maybe I can try higher”.

As I gain weight, I accumulate sloppy habits and let the pendulum swing a bit further than intended, so I end up in the low 80s.

Then around 82-83, I realise enough is enough. It starts becoming a death by a thousand cuts, where I start justifying poor choices.

So I eradicate the poor choices, regain control, and settle into my sweet spot of 77-79 again. As I type this, I’m a month back under 80, and it feels so much better than low 80s.

And not because over 80kg is bad. If I have aggressive performance and strength goals, it’s required. But my goals are more mental performance and fitness, which is much easier when lighter.

I find my habits are better, I’m sharper, more energetic, and I don’t start becoming a bigger version of the skinny-fat kid I started out at.

My conclusion on this is you almost need to go slightly higher before you settle, else you never really know where your sweet spot lies.

6. Don’t be afraid to become a beginner again.

In April, I told the team in a passing comment, “I’m going to try boxing this year.”

After a decade in bodybuilding, I’m happy with where my body is. And I don’t have the desire to do what it takes to build a few potential extra pounds of muscle.

Whilst having performance goals in the gym during maintenance is good fun, it can become tiresome when you’re an advanced trainee.

Gains come slow, and the risk-reward ratio every time you’re in the gym becomes exponentially higher.

So I wanted to explore something different, with boxing or running top contenders. After trying a class in Bali, I then forgot all about it until I was in India in October.

I took a week off work and chilled out, which is when I realised I’d done nothing about what I said to the team.

When I was doing a lot of cardio earlier this year, I spent a lot of time on the stairclimber overlooking the boxing ring.

And I decided then who I wanted to work with. 

As soon as I got back to London, I contacted Gymbox (my local gym) and asked for my coach’s details.

The funny thing is, I thought I was signing up to boxing, until he started drilling knees, elbows and kicks for me.

Ah, Muay Thai. The art of the eight limbs.

I was hooked, spending the final 8-10 weeks of this year reprioritising my training to becoming a fit and flexible fighter.

That means more running, stretching, heavy bag drills, and a ton of pad work. 

I’m not a nimble guy, and have no rhythm, so I’m embracing the awkwardness and working on improving daily.

And with my type A personality to go all in on anything I do, I booked a flight to Phuket at the end of January to go to the roots of the sport.

As my coach says, there’s sport, and there’s combat sport. I’m excited to see where next year takes me with it, because I’m loving being a beginner again.
Muay Thai, the art of the eight limbs.

7. We all have vices, caffeine isn’t one for me anymore.

In September my mum started raving about the quality of her energy and skin of late.

When I asked her what changed, her answer was “I stopped all caffeine”.

I was instantly interested, because my mum and I always experience similar things with our bodies. 

She’d been to an Ayurvedic retreat in India during the summer and according to her “body type” (Fire), caffeine was no good.

Looking into this more, I discovered I had the same body type, with a few standouts in my research relating to caffeine, oily foods and excess working.

I’m a fan of validating all I read, so I decided to drop all caffeine the next day. 

And the first day was absolute hell. I couldn’t believe how much I was using my V60 pourover every morning as a way to get to “normal”.

I stuck with it, and after 30 days of zero coffee, I’ve since introduced it as a treat once or twice a week when out.

But with one caveat: never as soon as I wake up!

8. Get a work phone!

In December 2021, I got to the point where I said to myself, “I need to throw my phone in the bin”.

What I decided instead was to get a new phone contract. I figured everyone in the corporate world has a “work phone”, so thought it’d be a good idea.

And it’s been an absolute game changer. It was getting to the point I was getting WhatsApp messages at all times of the day I couldn’t switch off when out with family and friends.

So now I have a personal phone with only ~10 contacts.

For years I had a rule of “no phone use till 11am” because if I went into my WhatsApp it was game over.

Now I can be more flexible with it because I know I’m only ever going to get a WhatsApp from 10 people, and it’s impossible for it to be about a fire to put out at work!

That said, my rule for no social media before midday continues. And if I’m doing deep work, you won’t see a phone near me - personal or not!

9. Sometimes the first trigger isn’t enough

In the past 12-18 months, I’ve noticed more and more, the first trigger that propels you to sign up to a serious programme like RNT, often isn’t enough.

Oftentimes, you need a 2nd “earth shattering” moment to finally take serious action.

It’s impossible to predict, and it can go either way with something like a body transformation, where the level of commitment is high.

There’s very few things you can’t cheat in life, and transforming your body is one that falls in this category.

After noticing this trend, where people would jolt themselves into action 3, 6 or 12 months after joining, I began to ask around in different industries.

And the consensus was similar.

During one of my weekly leg sessions with Shyam Kotecha of, the fitness photography company, he mentioned to me that since Covid-19, more people delay, postpone or cancel shoots than ever.

I thought this was interesting. And it mirrored what we were experiencing, whereby mental health challenges have become more prominent.

Overwhelm, stress and perception of time and busyness is changing rapidly, which perhaps is the real aftermath of the pandemic beginning to show light.

And why, the trigger to drive serious action, needs to be significant enough.

10. AI is going to change the fitness industry

About a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook to Meta, and all we heard about was the metaverse, cryptocurrency and Web 3 as the next big things. 

They may still, and probably will, have a part to play in shaping the future at some stage.

But the most interesting tech innovation this year is the mainstream release of ChatGPT. The product, owned by OpenAI, co-founded by Elon Musk, has taken the business world by storm, and for good reason.

Before, many of us believed AI would disrupt the more manual labour tasks in the world, and that creative work would be last.

What’s happening instead is the creative industry is the first at risk, with many roles immediately commoditised overnight.

Tasks such as copywriting, graphical artwork, legal contracts and content creation are now all possible using AI. 

And having played around with it multiple times, I can vouch for the fact that the quality is strong. Which means as it collects more and more data, it’s only going to get better.

AI is going to force the fitness industry to raise the bar. And the area it will be able to impact the most in the near future, is the ability to personalise programming to a level I don’t think we’ve seen yet.

In fact, I asked ChatGPT, “how will AI impact the fitness industry?”

The response?

The way I see the body transformation industry evolving is AI will replace most, if not all of the “Xs and Os” coaches do, providing even better recommendations than humans can.

This will come from better and broader data analysis, more factors considered, and utilising biofeedback to drive the best advice, in real-time, proactively and reactively.

The role of a coach will develop into one entirely focused on the softer skills, and the personal touch.

Whilst I do believe AI can “mimic” softer skills, people are still people, and people buy into people and brands.

So if coaches have all the Xs and Os taken care of by AI, they are able to focus entirely on digging deep into the consumer’s lives, and facilitating the transformation they want.

I can only see this being a win-win for consumers, as they’ll get better advice, recommendations and better results. 

I asked ChatGPT, what jobs will be replaced in the fitness industry, to which it answered:

The final paragraph is important; it’s a complex topic and it depends on business models, brands, services and the results we promise.

It won’t eradicate the need for trainers, far from it. But it’ll empower trainers to deliver even better results for their clients.

As a company building tech, I’m excited to explore the potential and possibilities of integrating AI in the future, so we can deliver even more personalised solutions, and free extra capacity for coaches to dive even deeper into our members’ lives. 

11. Building a company with your wife is a special feeling

The biggest game changer within the business this year was bringing Chandni into the fold.

I remember when we first started dating, I said to her, “knowing your skill set, and the way you work, you’d be so good in a small, dynamic, fast-growing start-up.”

I never considered at the time she’d once join RNT, but the seed was planted. 

After quitting corporate life at the start of 2021, Chandni focused the next year on building a women empowerment coaching business, Fearless Females.

Watching her grow something from nothing was awesome to see, but one thing I could tell was she wasn’t able to operate in her zone of genius.

Her profile and style makes her a world class operator. Being on social media, producing regular content and being a brand herself wasn’t her thing.

So in a conversation at the start of the year, we decided to test the idea of her working in RNT. We’d always worried about it for two reasons.

The first was the horror stories from couples who’d tried it and it’d ended in a disaster, either for the business or their relationship, or both.

And the second was the perception in the team, being the “boss’ wife”

Both worries were in our heads, and what started as a test - a few hours a week, quickly led to a full time role where she now lives and breathes the mission.

The changes and improvements she’s made in the business have been nothing short of game-changing, and she’s whipped the business into shape with rapid innovation, improved operations, and better team integration.

Her strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa, so it works well. And the best bit about working together is all our interests are now aligned, which makes it win-win-win for us both, and RNT. 

12. Boundaries are critical to working with your wife

Working together has definitely taken our relationship to the next level, but not without its challenges.

And with a baby on the way, we now have three conversations at play throughout the day: husband and wife, mum and dad, and business partners. 

What we learnt early on was the need for boundaries.

I remember times I’d be lying in bed at 10pm, when I’d turn and ask Chandni if she’d sent that email out.

Or times when I’d wake up and Chandni would hit me with a ton of ideas she’s implementing.

Being in business together means it can become a melting pot if we’re not careful, so establishing boundaries is critical.

A few things we do are:
  • Adding one more element to our weekly check-in, where we have an RNT relationship check-in to reflect on every weekend.
  • Creating time and space for business chat, and then date nights as a married couple.
  • Working in separate rooms.
  • The ability to give warnings if there’s too much business chat going on.

Most of the time, it’s reigning me in, and it’s telling me how it is!

13. Empowering team is a life-changer

A big part of this year has involved shifting my role from being in the weeds of every area, to empowering others and building a back office team to make the business more sustainable.

That meant bringing on a sales team for the first time, and having a full-time operations manager (which Chandni now sits in as).

After kissing a few frogs with both, it’s taken a fair bit of trial and error to get right, which of course is still early days to know if it is.

What this has allowed me to do is focus more on the brand, marketing and leading the core team.

Developing a core team to own and lead each area of the business has been a real eye-opener.

Letting go has been one of the hardest things of my entrepreneurial journey, especially with the coaching department. And has likely been a big bottleneck of mine.

It’s been an area I’ve struggled to find great leaders in, until this year, where we now have Ed - who leads the coaching team, and Ivan, who mentors them. 

Building a back office team coincided with the decision to bring on all our full time UK team as employees.

I wanted to do this from a culture, security and stability perspective, which I know isn’t the norm in the fitness industry, and I believe it’s had a strong impact on the business.
The RNT Team From Christmas

14. I gotta start working like a lion!

With this change in the business, I’ve had to shift my default of thinking I have to do all the “heavy lifting”, to now focusing on where I can give my best value to the team.

I realised earlier this year I continue to pride myself on my work ethic, and use my “hours input” to validate my output. 

Whilst I knew in theory, I needed to be more “on” than “in” the business, I struggled to translate it into my actions.

Years of entrenched habits, likely linked to elements of workaholism, all came to the forefront after two events.

The first was finding out we were pregnant.

My trigger to starting RNT was seeing personal training colleagues on the gym floor turning up bleary eyed six days a week to work, and admitting they never saw their kids till Sunday.

I knew then I didn’t want that for my future family, when the time arrived.

Chandni said to me, “if you can’t finish on time without a baby, how do you expect to do so when we have one?”

That hit me pretty hard and forced me into changing some of my behaviours. When analysing my days, I realised if I was home, and I’d completed my main tasks, I’d start grazing and creating work until dinner time.

If I’m bored, I just work and work. And often on low value tasks and menial things.

The hustle is what I’ve accustomed myself to. This isn’t the first time I’m writing about it, but it’s the first time I’m doing something about it.

Simple things such as weekends off my laptop (for the most part!), starting at reasonable times, and filling my calendar with other activities (usually training related), has helped a lot.

I have a goal to be a present parent in 2023, so I know working on my work addiction is going to be key.

The second trigger was on a 1000 calorie stairmaster challenge.

I was listening to a podcast by Arthur Brookes, where he was talking about workaholism, and its comparative effects to cocaine addiction.

“Nobody bats an eyelid if you work 7 days a week for 16 hours, but if you snort 5 grams of cocaine every weekend, you’ve got a problem.”

I’m paraphrasing his exact words, but his point was you can’t think clearly and produce your best work if you’re always on the grind.

With the new business structure in place, I knew I had no real excuse now. And if I didn’t change my habits and behaviours, I’d be doing a disservice to the business.

This timed perfectly before my month-long stint in South Africa, where I feel I nailed it.

I worked hard, played hard, and because everyday we had an activity, I focused only on high value tasks.

The perfect example of this in action came on safari, observing lions.

They spend their days either resting, or finding prey. When they see prey, they’ll take their time strategising how they’ll pounce. And when they do, they go hard, get it done, then regroup.

After seeing this a few times, I changed my phone screensaver to be a constant reminder!
Lion Screensaver

15. The hard bit is not getting it, it’s knowing what you want

I had five points I was going to tie this article up with, but decided to pull them together under this one learning.

We live in a world where everything is at our fingertips, and the possibilities are endless. 

One thing I’m always asking myself is, “am I living true to what I really want or not?”

Not because of any doubt, but because life evolves and new seasons begin.

It’s like with friendships. The friends you held 10 years ago may or may not still be with you. Not because of any animosity, but because some relationships are for specific times in your life.

In the closing quarter of this year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want for my life in 2023, and what success looks like.

More and more, I’m beginning to connect to the ethos of success being something I can experience daily.

I just have to choose to experience it.

But outside of this, it continues to boil down to what I value most in life. An exercise I like to do is think back to recent days where I’ve felt in an elevated state throughout.

Depending on the week, this could be almost daily, or it could be 1-2 days. 

When I dissect the day down, it comes back to the fact I chose to live the day by my design, and by my values. 

I only have three priorities in my life - RNT, Chandni, and my physical health. The claim to top spot varies across the year, but that’s about it.

Values are an interesting subject which I feel have lost their meaning. Perhaps because they’re thrown around so easily.

But your values are a representation of what you prioritise, and how you feel with it. If you work 80 hours a week in a corporate job and you love it, then your priorities are aligned with your values.

When a disconnect emerges is when you start feeling empty inside.

For me I know days where I’m able to be creative and build the brand, I’m training hard, and I’m spending quality time with Chandni, I feel ultra successful.

The funny thing is - every year I tend to go on this search for “is this what I really want?”

Then I come back to the same answers. So my lesson here, to finish this off, is to stop searching, and start living.

What’s next for 2023?

With a baby on the way, I know from April my life is going to be different in a way I can’t predict. What’s interesting about babies is whilst there are so many books and people you can ask, you don’t know what you’re going to get until it arrives!
AV + CV on Beach Holding Baby
Every year is an opportunity to write a new chapter of our lives, and my next is The Year Of The Disciplined Dad.

A few reasons. The first is my requirement to discipline my working hours to be present and active at home. The second is the extra need to discipline my focus in the business, given the time and energy challenges raising a baby is bound to have. And the third is the discipline to stay fighting fit year round to potentially compete in a beginner Muay Thai fight.

The year starts off with the launch of our companion app, a 2 week training camp in Phuket, and preparation for Chandni to go on maternity leave. After April, it’s all up for grabs!

In closing, I want to thank you all for being a part of this journey - it’s an absolute pleasure and I look forward to growing together in 2023.

To read previous instalments:

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