Meet Joe Holder, Creative Director of Your Better Self

Meet Joe Holder, Creative Director of Your Better Self

Introducing GQ's new fitness columnist and wellness guru: super-trainer Joe Holder. What makes Joe special—and why his roster of clients grows increasingly star-studded—is his holistic philosophy. He's also a great columnist and can be reached at

Instead of killing yourself every day at the gym, why not save some energy to eat right, recover completely, and meditate? 

Here's Joe's first column.

Looking at Joe Holder, you might be surprised to learn that he doesn't love hitting the gym. “I'm not like The Rock, God bless his soul,” he says. “It's rare that I'm super pumped to work out—it's like an accountant having to do his own taxes.”

With all due respect to accountants, Holder has a bit more clout. In the seven years since his football-playing days at Penn, he has developed a wellness philosophy that has made him a highly sought-after (and Instagram-followed) personal trainer. He consults for brands like smartwater, leads private Nike training sessions in Northern Italy, and whips into shape a client list that includes Naomi Campbell and Virgil Abloh.

All that influence goes back to his refreshingly practical vision for a more holistic kind of wellness. “With the body, everything adds up over time,” he says. “People spend all this time at the gym but don't really care about what they eat or how much they sleep. If you just do a little better in every aspect of your day, the body loves that. That's better than ‘I crush workouts.’ I don't think that's the future.” For example: Instead of burning every last ounce of energy at the squat rack, save some juice so that when you get home you still have the fortitude to avoid ice cream.

That type of cutting-edge insight is exactly why we've anointed Joe our new guide to the wide world of wellness and tapped him to help us develop some fitness routines that make a little more sense. In the coming months, he'll be posting across all our platforms. Tune in for custom workout routines on and IG takeovers with his A-list clients at the gym.

Until then, here are seven pearls of Joe wisdom that show how he approaches health—and why his philosophy is worth emulating.—Clay Skipper.


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🏃🏾💫 simple man, simple plan 4x800m @10k pace w/90 sec rest 8x400m @ slightly faster than 5k pace w/75 sec rest 2x800m @slightly faster than 10k pace w/90 sec rest 1 mile @ half marathon pace I’ve also lost a little over 3 lbs in 3 weeks and 2.5% body fat during this marathon training but haven’t actually been eating less overall but more. I’ll explain why this is important later (and why relative vs absolute caloric intake is 🔑), but the under lying metabolic processes of the body need to be enhanced as you introduce the stress of increased performance work. Food is vital for this and much research has shown that many athletes are actually undernourished. More exercise and less food, especially for women, is not always the proper answer Creating a more efficient iOS of the human system is the answer, which includes nutrient dense food and more integrative wellness strategies #NikeRunning #Ochosystem

A post shared by Joe Holder (@ochosystem) on

1. We were born to run—literally.

“Human bodies are made to move. So for me, being able to run—moving my body as one unit, without pain—is the best indicator of physical proficiency. We've gotten so far from what our bodies are meant for. When you had to start running from a lion, you weren't like, ‘All right, guys, let me warm up my hammies.’ Obviously we're not worrying about predators much anymore, but you should be able to run down a cab without hurting yourself. That's what being in shape is. It's not just about body composition or how you look. It's: Can you move? That's why I believe everyone should have a base level of running. It will help you be in the world.”

2. Why are you even lifting, bro?

“People design artificial workouts that don't tie back to the purpose of the human body: to move as an integrated unit. I schedule two workouts a week—90 minutes to two hours, usually at night—that will push me outside my comfort zone. You don't want to just get stronger. You should be getting stronger for a purpose. I'll do strength training. But people think all of your workouts have to be hard. They shouldn't be. My other workouts are typically condensed to 30 to 45 minutes, when I have some flex time. They're what I'd call an ‘exercise snack’: a light mix of stretching, jump roping, and light strength-training work. When things are crazy, I keep my focus on the old hierarchy of a push exercise, a pull exercise, a hinge, a squat, a walk, and a glute bridge.”

3. 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. For snacks, I stick to fruits and nuts. Every now and then I'll give in and have pizza or apple pie. I really miss jerk chicken, but for me, saying no to meat is about two things: integrity—I said I'm not going to eat meat, so I need to do it—and having a ritual that keeps me in tune with my body. Each time I make the choice not to eat meat, it makes me more conscious of how my body is moving and feeling. It's a reminder of my commitment to treating it well.”

4. Don't let urgent things get in the way of important things.

“At the end of the day, you just can't get everything done, and so we often prioritize urgent things over important things. Urgent things are e-mails or texts that feel like they need a response immediately—and sometimes they're actual emergencies. Important things are the things that are less immediately consequential. When they're neglected you lose something vital: calling your parents, taking the time to read or write down your thoughts, making sure you know what you want from life. Those are the first things that go when you get busy. Sleep is one of these things—it's crucial. I try to get between five and eight hours of sleep. And I remember: It's one of those important things that will help me get the urgent things done at a higher level.”

5. Mental health is health, too.

“I try to find a little time in the morning to literally just breathe. Deeply. A lot of people pick up their phones first thing, have coffee, so already they're up-regulated, and then it's easy to fall into a spin cycle of responding, responding, responding. That shit is nerve-racking. You're constantly worried about the next thing. I take a moment and focus on breathing deeply, and I find that it helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed. Breathing can ground you in your immediate activity. People often think ‘mindfulness’ is a practice, but it's just a way of living. It's just being fully present. Maybe that's in conversation, or maybe it's just noticing condensation on a glass.”

6. Forget doing your best—elevate your worst.

“You need to keep the base level of your health high. I'm not in great shape all the time. I'm never in bad or average shape, though. I could get ready for something—a race, a photo shoot—in two to four weeks. But I'm not always going to be killing myself. That's not a sustainable practice. Most people only start putting in the effort when they want to make a huge transformation. Instead, I have consistent doses here and there so that I never have to have my back against the wall. That's the key for anything in life: Never have your back against the wall.”

7. Success isn't about willpower.

“Achievement is about structure. Most people think they can will their way to good decisions. But you're never going to get anything done if you depend exclusively on the power of sheer will. It's important to establish good habits. For me, I always try to move in the morning: Maybe it's 40 to 100 push-ups, a light stretch, and some sit-ups. It's just about getting my body used to moving well, even when I'm tired. If you can figure out how to use each hour just a little bit more effectively, you've won. Only have 15 minutes free for a workout? Great, knock out some push-ups and do some stretching. Do that three times in a week, and that's 45 more minutes you banked. It's finding minimum effective dosages for maximum results."

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