In a world of “Do as I say, not as I do” coaches and trainers, there are a handful for individuals who stand out. I have had the pleasure of training, learning and sharing with a few of them. Mike Mahler was one of my first introductions to kettlebell training. He is living, breathing, walking, talking example of self actualisation, someone who has relentlessly and unapologetically carved his own path. Mike is as far from the cookie cutter world of contemporary training as one can get. And whilst it’s easy to latch on to the the various labels, Mike the Vegan, Mike the Animal Rights Advocate, Mike the Zero BS Kettlebell guy, if you are lucky enough to meet and even better, train with him, you will find he is so much more than the sum of the parts.
Mike’s new book “Live Life Aggressively! What Self-help Gurus Should Be Telling You” is just out. I have not read it yet but one thing I know for sure…it won’t be Dr Phil! I look forward to posting a review in the near future. Mike has never been shy about giving away quality information, his website is packed with it but it is worth noting that 100% of profit will be donated to Lifequest Transitions and the Nevada SCPCA.
Meantime, in keeping with interviews I have put together with some of the folk I am lucky enough know, here are some Simple Questions…
How did your own training start, were you always interested in fitness and health or was there a particular event that set you on the path?
I started working out seriously when I was 18. I used to lead a very unhealthy lifestyle and was tired of feeling week and unhealthy. Once I started making progress I was hooked and started spending a lot of time researching training methods. Working out and eating right made me feel like a million bucks and it is not surprising that I eventually turned my passion for fitness into a career.
Did you participate in any sports or activities growing up that had an influence or impact on how you train
I did some martial art but not a whole lot. I had a good friend that taught me weight training basics and then I was on my way. I was inspired by movie stars such as Arnold, Jean Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Lee to get into training and get strong and healthy.
How has your training changed and developed over the years? Are there key concepts that define what you now do?
I started off making the common mistake of focusing on curls and the bench press. Eventually I focused on the three powerlifts and more functional training. Basically this means a focus on compound exercises such as overhead presses, deadlifts, squats, bent-over rows, and pull-ups.
I also got into kettlebell truing in 2001 and was hooked. I have been using kettlebells ever nice and started my fitness company with a focus on kettlebells in 2002. I love the kettlebell ballistic moves such as double swings, double snatches, and double clean and presses.
I like to combine a variety of training protocols. I spend a few days per week focusing on heavy training with barbells, a few days working on metabolic conditioning, and then spend some time on restoration training. For metabolic conditioning I use kettlebells, sledgehammer tire strikes, battling ropes, bodyweight exercises etc. I also like to sprint a few times per week with my dogs.
In addition to training often I like to lead an active lifestyle. I go for long walks with our dogs everyday and go hiking often. I think way too many fitness professionals and enthusiasts do not see the need to be active outside of training and that is a big mistake. Our training should enhance our lives not be our lives.
Whilst there probably isn’t anything like an average week, can you tell me if you have a particular focus or approach to your current training?
On Monday and Thursday I focus on heavy deadlifts, bent over rows, kettlebell presses and double kettlebell swings or snatches.
On Tuesday and Friday I do metabolic circuit training and often focus on sledgehammer tire strikes, kettlebell swings, glute ham raise, battling ropes, pull-ups, and clean and presses
On wednesday and Saturday I like to do 5-10 50 yard hill sprints with my dogs. On sundays I like to take the dogs to red rock canyon to do some hiking and get in nature.
Finally, during the day I often take exercise breaks and knock off some pull-ups, kettlebell presses, and one legged squats.
There is a tremendous amount of confusion when it comes to diet. Some people seem to approach it as an extreme sport. Can you give me a snapshot of your own nutrition?
I follow a vegan diet for compassionate reasons. I love animals and do not want to kill animals for food. I like to have a protein shake for breakfast everyday. It consists of pea protein, rice protein, brazil nut protein, and hempseed protein. I like to add frozen fruit to it: acai, blueberries, and strawberries. Then I add some coconut milk or duo’s oil for some healthy fat. Finally I like to add in spices such as ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In addition to making the shake taste great, the spices have a lot of benefits such as lowering inflammation, glucose metabolism, and ramping up dopamine for brain focus.
For lunch I usually have a salad loaded with pumpkin seeds, carrots, hummus, apples etc.
Dinner usually consists of some legumes such as black beans or garbanzo beans combined with hempseeds for a complete protein. Then I usually add in spinach, sweet potato, mushrooms, okra etc. I cook in coconut oil.
I like to have longs stretches in between each meal such as 6-8 hours in order to enhance leptin and insulin sensitivity. Both crucial for overall hormone optimization. Moreover, I like to have a balance of protein, fat, and low glycemic carbohydrates at each meal. I find I do very well on fat fuel for energy and like to time one of my meals two hours before my workouts. On training days I have another protein shake similar to my morning shake 30-45 minutes after each workout.
Are there any particular supplements you consider essential for yourself?
I am a big fan of BCAA and find them crucial when training hard. I like to take them in between meals and before bedtime as. I also take herbs to optimize testosterone and improve the testosterone to estrogen ratio such as bulbine natalensis, nettle root, siberian ginseng, and resveratrol. Finally I am a big fan of magnesium oil and systemic enzymes which work very well to lower inflammation and enhance workout recovery.
In my experience, recovery is the most overlooked aspect of the whole training process. What key strategies do you use when it comes to recovery?
Engage in restoration forms of exercise such as joint mobility, chi kung, and tai chi. Spend some time walking everyday focusing on deep breathing. Make sure to have an optimal diet and take supplements such as systemic enzymes, magnesium oil, and BCAA which all help a great deal with workout recovery and lowering high cortisol levels and inflammation.
Who have been your biggest influences over the years?
I have had many including Brooks Kubik author of Dinosaur training, Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell Club, Pavel Tsatsouline who introduced me to the benefits of kettlebell training, Mark Philippi a former strongman competitor and current high level strength coach in Las Vegas, and Ori Hofmekler author of the warrior diet.
Are there any books or resources you might recommend that have informed your approach to training or life in general?
Dinosaur Training By Brooks Kubik
Beyond Bodybuilding by Pavel Tsatsouline
Westside Barbell Principles by Louie Simmons
Serious Growth by Leo Costa
Think and grow rich by Napoleon Hill
The Art of war by Sun Tzu
Thick face black heart by Chin-ning chu
The Bhagavad Gita (Hindu text)
The Sufi Path To Mindfulness by Kabir Helminski
I’m a big fan of quotes. Do you have a personal favourite?
I have many and one I heard recently that I really like is
“After all is said and done, more is said than done” –Aesop
Currently reading? – Physics of the future and Outliers
Currently listening to? – Cro-mags, Danzig, Bad Brains, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Saliva, JayZ, Within Temptation, Beastie Boys