Everyone is distracted these days. To put it simply, this world is overstimulating. Everyone’s busy displaying their highlight reel on Instagram and there’s an app for everything. It is very easy to get distracted by “the next thing.” It takes discipline to stay focused on the task at hand and execute. Additionally, there is an abundance of information. How the hell is anyone supposed to know what’s true and what’s false? So much information is readily available on the internet. There’s so many “experts” and “gurus” on Instagram. I see bad advice/information everyday regarding health and fitness. It takes work to comb through the data and research and figure out what is right. Most people don’t have this time, which is one of the many reasons people hire me.
As part of my series about “5 lifestyle tweaks that will dramatically improve one’s wellbeing,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Giancarlo Regni. Gian is the owner of G-Strength, Philadelphia’s premier semi-private strength and conditioning gym. Gian started G-Strength in 2016 after he graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Exercise Science. He is also a Certified Physical Preparation Specialist (CPPS)
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
Well short answer is, my high school hired a Strength & Conditioning Coach during my senior year. My 1st thought was “Holy Sh*t! You can do this for a living?” I just had to know more, and I ended up doing my senior comprehensive project with him on “How High School Athletes Should Train For Sport” and the rest is history. Because of this experience, I decided to study Clinical Exercise Science at Ithaca College and started my own business, G-Strength, just 3 months after graduating college.
Long answer is, like most kids who played sports, I went through grade school thinking I was going to be a professional athlete. This lasted all the way until I got to high school, where I realized I was undersized. 9th graders at my school were HUGE, and the 12th graders looked like grown men to me. I showed up at soccer tryouts in the summer and got absolutely smacked in the mouth and I was cut. I was devastated, so much so that I switched sports (multiple times). I became obsessed with performance and gaining whatever competitive edge I could, but I wasn’t necessarily looking in all the right places. After 2 years of doing push-ups in my room, I finally found the weight room. The only problem was I skipped leg day, a lot.
After my junior year, I transferred to another high school, but I showed up overweight and unathletic. A high school male athlete’s dream is to “put on weight,” but the only problem was I had gained all of it in my upper body. I pulled my hamstring very badly in our second game and missed most of the season. Eventually our school hired a Strength & Conditioning Coach and I was taught the right way to train. Coach Jeff changed my life. He opened my eyes to a world of training I didn’t even know was there. I remember wanting to be a physical therapist in high school, but when I met Jeff, I remember asking: “You can do this as a job?” I spent the entire spring during my senior project learning how to train and building myself into a strong and confident young man who saw no limitations to what he could achieve. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my life’s work than to gift that to someone else. I needed Jeff when I was in grade school. So, I decided to create the place that I needed most as a kid. For anyone (athlete or not) lacking direction or purpose, G-Strength was built for you.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Before opening my gym in March of 2018, I actually trained clients 1 on 1 in my small single bedroom apartment. I had a squat rack, barbell, dumbbells, and a bunch of knick-knacks in about 180 square feet of space, but it got the job done. When prospective clients would inquire about training with me, I would refer to my apartment as “our facility” and when they asked about locker rooms, I simply said “we have a restroom and changing area.” Upon arriving, people would literally walk right by my bed and kitchen to get to the back room where I had the gym set up.
One woman called me out on it and said “Oh, I didn’t know it was gonna be in your apartment?!” I didn’t even flinch and stayed on task, responding: “Yea… Well, the gyms right back here!” She went on to have a great training session and she’s still a member at G-Strength to this day. I consider her a good friend and even attended her wedding in January (side-note: her husband is also still a member and has been since the apartment days). I think that because I was 23 years old, frequently joked about it, and the fact that my girlfriend was always just hanging out around my place, it helped put everyone’s mind about the situation at ease. Fun fact: we refer to all of the clients from apartment days that are still training at G-Strength as “The OG’s.”
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
So, a big mistake I made was also back in the apartment days. My girlfriend and I used to Facebook stalk prospective clients for their initial assessment and consultation (to make sure we weren’t inviting serial killers back to our place). A prospect named Courtney submitted information and we went to work. We stumbled upon a Facebook profile with the same name located in Philadelphia that belonged to a male. I thought to myself: “Good thing we do this ahead of time. As far as I knew, Courtney is more commonly a female’s name, so that’s what I was expecting. The 1st meeting came a long and I almost shut the door in her face, before she yelled “I’m Courtney.” I responded “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were going to be a guy.” After letting that slip, I told her the story. I think she appreciated my honesty and humor because she remained a member of the gym until she moved out of town last summer. Lesson here is think before you speak because not everyone will be as forgiving as Courtney was.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I’m an authority because I like to say that “I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.” I’ve surrounded myself with the right people and learned from them. I’ve always had the mindset of “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.” I’ve been studying just about everything guys like Joe DeFranco, James “Smitty” Smith, Vince Gabriele, and Eric Cressey put out there since I was 17. These guys are pioneers in the Strength & Conditioning world and have created a blueprint for success in the industry. Without them, there is no way I open a gym at 24 years old.
I may be young (currently 26), but I’ve been working with clients since I was 19 and I have logged well over 10,000 hours in the trenches. Additionally, I find that very few fitness certifications actually mean something, but I am a Level 1 and 2 Certified Physical Preparation Specialist (CPPS). I truly believe this is the best certification out there. Most certifications just prove that you’re not an idiot, but this gives you practical information that you can take and use with your clients the next day.
I think my unique contribution to the fitness industry will be the way I run my small group personal training gym. Very few gyms in Philadelphia are incorporating the Barbell in the small group setting while still prioritizing good movement. We are by no means a “powerlifting gym,” but you’d be hard pressed to find another gym in the area that squats as well and as heavy as we do. G-Strength provides members with a unique environment similar to a collegiate athletic weight room. A lot of what you see at the gym was inspired by my time as an athlete at Ithaca College and as a Strength & Conditioning Intern at Cornell University. You might see a professional baseball player training in the off-season, but you might also see your grandmother in there crushing some deadlifts.
Everything is super organized, and we take pride in doing an exceptional job of managing our members’ programs. We’re getting our people really strong and most importantly, we’re keeping them healthy. Our unique process of running training sessions and providing a roadmap for success will continue to be something that we improve upon. My hope is that one day, we will consult other gyms on how to optimize their space, equipment, and program for their clientele.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents. Simply put, both my Mom and Dad have done an exceptional job providing me with the opportunity to succeed. They’ve always stressed the importance of a good work ethic, pursuing something you’re passionate about, and showing compassion for others. I would not be the person I am today without them.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
The first one is that a lot of people do not want to put in the work. There’s a great quote from Craig Ballantyne on the topic: “Success is easy once you accept how hard it is.” The truth is most people eventually come to this realization and back down. They don’t want any part of it. They decide the work is simply not worth it. They don’t want it bad enough, so they decide to settle for less.
Another reason is that everyone is distracted these days. To put it simply, this world is overstimulating. Everyone’s busy displaying their highlight reel on Instagram and there’s an app for everything. It is very easy to get distracted by “the next thing.” It takes discipline to stay focused on the task at hand and execute. Additionally, there is an abundance of information. How the hell is anyone supposed to know what’s true and what’s false? So much information is readily available on the internet. There’s so many “experts” and “gurus” on Instagram. I see bad advice/information everyday regarding health and fitness. It takes work to comb through the data and research and figure out what is right. Most people don’t have this time, which is one of the many reasons people hire me.
Finally, there is a need for instant gratification. Due to technological advances, everything moves faster and results are almost expected immediately. Most people don’t have the patience anymore for this stuff. These lifestyle changes take consistency over time to truly work.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.
Take cold showers.
This is one of my favorite things to do to help myself wake up at 4am for a 5am training session. Waking up at 4am never gets easier, but the cold showers do and there is loads of benefits to exposing your body to cold on a daily basis:
- Reduced Stress
- Improved Alertness
- Weight Loss
- Increased Will Power
- Improved Function of the Immune System
Additionally, it’s a great way to wind down after a long day. Taking a cold shower before bed lowers your core body temperature and can put you right to sleep.
Most people have a hard time managing their own problems. When you start your own a business, you inherit your members’ and employees’ problems. At times, being a personal trainer can feel like you’re a therapist because people will literally dump their problems on you during a training session. This does not happen often because I believe I have done a good job of surrounding myself with good people, but at times, the negativity can really add up. So, I decided to start practicing gratitude. A few nights per week before bed, my girlfriend and I will go back and forth and list 3 positive things that happened that day that we are grateful for. Some nenefits of practicing gratitude include: Increased positivity, improved self-esteem, improved sleep, increased happiness, and reduced stress.
I know it’s frowned upon by some these days to keep score, but it is simply the best way to keep yourself accountable. I believe this idea stemmed from Geno Wickman’s book: “Traction,” but I first heard about this from my mastermind group full of gym owners (Vince Gabriele’s SPF Mastermind). It is recommended that we track key performance indicators, such as: leads, trials, sign-ups, attendance, retention, revenue, etc. to help gain traction within your business. What I didn’t realize is I had been doing this my entire life in other ways. I always kept my own stats when I was playing baseball. I always tracked my progress in the gym. There has always been certain numbers that I’ve wanted to hit and the scoreboard has been an enormous help in keeping my accountable and showing me where I need to look to solve a problem.
Retrain Diaphragmatic Breathing
We breathe almost 20,000 times per day, but most of us are doing it WRONG! Most people are chest-breathers, which is like hyperventilating on a low level ALL DAY LONG. This can make us feel more stressed and fatigued. It will also teach you poor posture resulting in movement dysfunction down the line.
So, how do you fix it? Consciously make an effort to breathe into your belly (expanding it 360 degrees, like a balloon). At the end of our training sessions at G-Strength, we use a recovery tool, called box breathing. We work up to a 5 second inhale through the nose (into the belly), followed by a 5 second hold, followed by a 5 second exhale through the mouth, followed by a 5 second hold. The we repeat for about 5 minutes. This small change can:
- Improve Soft-Tissue Quality
2. Improve Performance
3. Develop Fundamental Core Stability
4. Improve Posture
5. Enhance Recovery
6. Improve Quality of Movement
Do something that makes you uncomfortable every day
This could be as simple as finally saying hello to someone you’ve always wanted to talk to. Small actions like this can build confidence and lead to big change. “Embrace the Suck”, because the real progress is made when we do the things we don’t want to do or do the things that we don’t think we can do. I always tell my clients: “The program should make you a little nervous. If you’re not getting butterflies, you’re not setting the bar high enough for yourself.”
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
The first is confidence.. I think I’ve mentioned this a far amount in this interview so I won’t go into too much detail. Doing something you once thought was impossible does wonders for your confidence and self-esteem. You’re more likely to take risks and it will lead to a better quality of life.
The second is increasedstrength
Strength is the tide that raises all ships. Those ships include:
- POWER — more strength increases your ability to produce force.
- SPEED — force production is increased, therefore more force is being applied to the ground while sprinting.
- AGILITY — improved force production also improves your ability to change direction and transition to another movement quickly without losing momentum.
- MUSCLE SIZE — if you want a muscle to grow, it must be progressively overloaded in one way or another.
- COORDINATION — strength requires muscle recruitment. The better you can recruit muscle, the better you can control muscle.
- BALANCE — keeping a center of mass is easier when you improve force production.
- FLEXIBILITY — going through full range of motion during strength exercises does wonders.
- STAMINA — when a runner increases strength, their stride becomes more powerful. This means it takes less out of them to run a given distance, therefore they might be able to run further or run that given distance faster.
- ACCURACY — strength improves the ability to accurately move the body in the manner it was intended.
- ENDURANCE — the cardiovascular system is still taxed enough to experience small adaptations due to strength training.
- BADASS-ERY — nothing demands respect like being strong!
The thirds is resiliency.
Injuries and disease are a part of life, but they don’t have to be. Training can help decrease the frequency and overall likelihood of both. Your perception changes. If you woke up at 4am to train and you had max effort deadlifts on the menu, it’s likely that nothing you do the rest of the day will be that hard. Ultimately, your daily stressors (the stresses at work, getting your kids to soccer practice, etc.) become smaller relative to what you did at 4am and life gets better. Regardless of the situations you face in life, it’s best to face them as the strongest and most conditioned version of yourself.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
They are the king of all exercises. Squats can help build muscle mass throughout the entire lower body all the way up to the spinal erectors. If you want big arms, back squat. Holding maximal loads on your back can and will build muscle throughout the upper back and arms. Every October, I participate in Squatober, which is 26 days of squatting out of 31. It’s unreal experience and I highly recommend it. Obviously, my quads, hamstrings and glutes grow. Every year, I am pleasantly surprised to find that having 300+lbs on my back all month has done my arms some good too. Beginners should squat because it is essential for developing true core stability and rigidity. The core is primarily meant to resist movement at the spine. Nothing trains this better than bracing for a heavy set of squats. Additionally, if you’re looking to improve speed, few exercises develop force production into the ground necessary to be fast better than squats. Except this next exercise
While I consider the squat the king, there is certainly an argument to be made for the Deadlift. You’d be hard pressed to find an exercise that requires the same brutal combination of full body strength and mental toughness necessary to pick a heavy object up off of the ground. The position of the load in front of the body during the deadlift is key for developing the posterior chain. Whether you’re an athlete or an average Joe looking to get out of back pain, this is essential for improved performance.
I had a very tough time choosing only 3 here. An argument could certainly be made for a push-up, pull-up, or inverted row, but I concluded that nothing is more functional than picking something up and being able to carry it around for a while. Loaded carries can help develop core strength and rigidity as well as strengthen grip. Nothing is makes a first impression like a nice, strong handshake. Whether you are Mom carrying her child around with her all day or simply live 20 blocks from the grocery store and don’t have a car, it is incredibly important to get really good at carrying heavy stuff.
Any variation of these 3 will be an absolute gamechanger for someone who has not exercised. Not only will your strength, work capacity, and muscle mass improve, but your overall quality of life will get so much better.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
- Box Breathing (Mentioned above)
2. Proper Warm-Up
A proper warm-up should be performed before each and every workout and even on off days to help facilitate recovery. For example: I will lift on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, I will just do my warm-up and bounce. This has done wonders for my recovery and has minimized overall soreness.
Every warm-up should consist of:
- Self-Myofascial Release
- Core Activation
- General Preparation
- Central Nervous System Activation
I try to drink 8–16oz of water with every meal and 16oz between every meal. This approach has always worked for me.
Most people will tell you they drink enough water, but the truth is: PROBABLY NOT. The average person should consume somewhere between 3 to 4 liters of water per day. If you’re fairly active, I’d recommend adding a liter of water per hour of exercise. You might be saying “Wait a minute! That’s a lot of water, G!” Well… Water is the single most abundant molecule in your entire body. It accounts for roughly 60% of your bodyweight. Water is what lubricates your joints, which will make you less injury prone as you age. Water keeps your ears, nose, and throat moist. Water helps digest food and utilize its nutrients. Water is essential with regard to your body’s detoxification systems. Water makes your brain work better. Water improves your mood. Water enhances your performance during training sessions. Water helps you build muscle and lose fat more efficiently.
Ensure that you’re eating an appropriate amount of calories and eating well-balanced meals consisting of proteins, carbs, and fats
Get 7–9 hours per night. No exceptions.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
“Don’t ask yourself what you want out of life. It’s easy to want success and fame and happiness and great sex. Everybody wants those things. A much more interesting question to ask yourself is, “What kind of pain do I want?” What you are willing to struggle for is a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”
This quote really reframed the way I looked at my life. Life is all about having a problem to solve. When you don’t have any problems, you will ultimately create them. This book really helped me see what problems in my life are worth pursuing and solving. It enabled me to decipher between the important and the unimportant.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement to educate more about health and finances. These are 2 things that no one knows anything about. It’d be great if they taught you how to do your taxes, how to start a business, or how to eat properly starting in high school.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Success isn’t owned. It’s leased and rent is due every single day.”
Whenever I don’t feel like doing something, I remember that quote. The best way to lose everything you have is to get complacent or too comfortable. I try to approach every training session this way. It is extremely important for me to demonstrate value every single day for the members at G-Strength. They pay a lot of money to be here and there’s tons of distractions out there. It’d be silly for me to give them any reason to quit.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Adam Sandler. He’s hilarious. I’ve seen just about everything he’s ever been a part of. I’d love to thank him for how much laughter he has brought into my life. Also, people used to tell me I looked like him, so it’d be cool to see whose got a bigger/more egg-shaped head in person haha.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@RealGStrength on all social media platforms. Our best stuff is on Instagram.