We talked with Nick Shaw in February, 2020.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Nick Shaw. I am 32 years old and am married with two kids (ages eight and five). I currently live in Charlotte, NC. I currently weigh around 212 lbs, am 5’9 and have about 10% bodyfat.
I was born and raised in the state of Michigan and attended the University of Michigan for my undergraduate studies. My job is the co-founder and CEO of Renaissance Periodization (RPstrength) that I co-founded with Dr. Mike Israetel (whom I met at the University of Michigan).
Some of my more notable accomplishments include competing in powerlifting, bodybuilding, creating RP and most notably the ability of RP to effectively help hundreds of thousands of clients across the world in their health and fitness journeys.
For our work at RP, Dr. Israetel and myself were awarded the Early Career Achievement Award at the University of Michigan. We also created a scholarship for students in the Kinesiology Department at the University of Michigan.
I have been training since I was about 14 years old or so. I had an older brother (four years older than me) that got me started when he was training for sports. We started with a really bad set of plastic/sand weights in our basement. That got me started and eventually hooked.
I also started training more when I got involved in sports in high school. I was a runner (cross country and track) along with basketball through 10th grade.
Another notable thing that stands out to me was an ESPN the magazine article with former NFL wide receiver David Boston. I remember seeing his physique and freakiness (4.3 40 yd dash at 230+ lbs) and I knew that I wanted to train and train and train to try and get as close as I could to something that amazing.
18 years later, I still love lifting and other hobbies including recently training BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and reading. All of these hobbies tie together to this idea of continual self-improvement.
I am quite obsessed with the idea of continually getting a littler bit better each day whether it’s training, learning new techniques in BJJ, or reading/learning as much as I can about life/business.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
A typical day of training for me includes getting up and knocking out some early morning cardio. This typically consists of a bit of running or rowing.
My goals have shifted a bit from my bodybuilding days to seeking more general fitness and overall health. I’m no longer concerned with being OPTIMALLY strong or lean, but a bit more well-rounded in terms of cardio, strength training, etc.
My morning cardio usually lasts around 20-30 minutes but can be a bit shorter if I go more intense (just running a time trial for a mile or if I’m doing a long rowing session of 40-60 minutes).
My main weight training is around 60-75 minutes long and I train with weights 4x/week (Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri). I also train CrossFit on Wednesdays to help with my cardio and general fitness.
I also try and train BJJ at least 3-4x/week as well. Typically that occurs on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and sometimes Saturday.
I use the RP Male Physique Training Templates for my weight training. For my cardio, I design all of my own training and then follow the daily workouts at the local CF gym that I go to. For BJJ, I do three classes per week and try and do one private session each week with the gym owner.
My current goals are to maintain my bodyweight (not looking to cut or bulk currently) and focus on getting more fit and healthier overall.
I train at home with weights and absolutely love it as there are no other people and I can get in and out in about an hour and continue on with my day. I do cardio at home as well and then go out to the gym for my weekly CF and BJJ classes.
My supplements typically involve a whey/carb shake during training (a bit more of each when weight training, especially in the higher volume weeks and then a bit less for technique classes at BJJ). These shakes usually have about 20-30g whey protein from Ascent Protein and about 40-50g carbs.
A bit less when drilling technique at BJJ and a bit more when doing longer workouts at home or at CF. The carbs are usually just dextrose powder or Gatorade powder.
I do log all of my cardio workouts in my phone so I can compare times, distances, etc each month or so. Some cool new cardio PRs are a 6:32 mile with a weighted vest (on my treadmill) and a 19:13 5k row as well as a 10k in 39:45. A current goal of mine is to row 15km in under an hour.
I also have a training log for my weight training where I record all of my MPT sessions (male physique training templates).
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
Training and the continual pursuit of self-improvement is really tough. Inspiration and motivation get us going but ultimately being disciplined is the most important part. If you can instill self-discipline it will get you through the many, many days where motivation is no longer present.
Part of learning self-discipline is understanding your why for wanting to do what you are doing. If you are obsessed with constantly seeking ways to improve then the self-discipline can be easy as you just know what you want to do and you go and do it. I find this self-discipline a bit easier in training than in say something like reading or sometimes even work. I am focusing on making that an area of improvement, so I become automatic (with better habits) in those areas.
The biggest thing here is learning and realizing that there are NO HACKS. The “hack” is that once you realize that and just get to work you’ll be a million times better off. There’s no shortcut, no easy button, no quick fix.
The “hack” is the realization that things that are meaningful require a dedication, self-discipline and willingness to just get to work and get after it. Training a lot can come with tradeoffs and so long as you are disciplined there’s no reason you can’t balance family time, leisure time, work and training.
Part of that tradeoff might be giving up social media or TV a bit more or potentially waking up earlier (or going to sleep a bit later) but if you want to excel and get better you must realize that there are some tradeoffs that need to be made. You can’t continue doing what you’ve always done if you want to push and get better.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My current training is going pretty well and I’m really enjoying it all. I have introduced some new training the last six months via cardio and BJJ so that has really provided a cool new spark/passion.
My goals over the next few years are to just gradually and continually improve. I’d like to do a road race or two (just for fun) for a 5k, complete the CF workout “Murph” in under an hour this spring and get my blue belt in BJJ this year.
My plan to reach these goals is to continue tracking, logging and making gradual improvements over time. I need to keep pushing myself and remaining disciplined so that I can do the necessary training in order to get there.
Just like with self-improvement, our goals at RP are to continually make better the RP Diet App over time and little by little gradual improvements over the course of months and years will radically improve our app. No hacks or gimmicks, just the relentless pursuit of improvement over time.
I’ve always been a hard worker, even back in high school so the only thing that I would really change is the realization that you need a solid, evidence-based training plan earlier on that puts your efforts into the most efficient way of reaching your goals.
Hard work is great but if you can combine that with the most optimal training/diet plan out there, you’ll be much better off.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Avoid injuries and setbacks comes down to managing your training volume and loads. There are times when I know I’m feeling a bit more beat up and I simply scale back the volume and/or intensity a bit.
This past week I got a little rib injury from BJJ (with Dr. Mike) and I backed off my own weight training a bit and focused on doing some things that didn’t bother the injury. I also just drilled technique at BJJ class the next day and sat out the live rolling session even though I would have liked to roll.
You have to bury your ego to help avoid injuries and focus on the long-term instead of the short-term gratification that comes from trying to push too hard or too fast.
It’s a dichotomy there between hard work and busting your ass vs knowing when too much is really too much and needing to step back, detach from your ego/emotions and follow the right plan in place.
I typically try and get at least seven hours of sleep per night. I need to be more disciplined about reaching that goal as I know sleep is very important for recovery.
Travel and schedule changes come up and sometimes you just have to roll with it and edit your plan a bit here and there. That’s usually not a big deal and most places you can travel to will have a hotel gym, or most Airbnbs have a kitchen so you can at least control your nutrition.
The important part is control what you can actually control and not stress too much if something pops up outside of your control (ex – if your flight gets delayed and you cannot eat you can’t control that but you COULD control having extra snacks with you so that you’re not in a bad spot).
Managing overall volume/work load is a much more effective tool for limiting injuries than any magical supplement or tool out there. Our book on recovery is a must-read for those that enjoy training hard!
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
My nutrition is all handled by the RP Diet App. It’s an AI diet coach in your pocket that helps tell you what to eat, when and how much based around your specific schedule, lifestyle and goals. No matter what my training looks like I can edit the lifestyle in the app to accommodate it. This means that each of my days is a bit different depending on what I am training or how much I am training.
Since my daily numbers change a bit each day I won’t list exact specifics (in case folks want to mimmick that and it wouldn’t make sense because nobody is likely to train and have the same schedule that I do).
My focus is almost exclusively on maintaining my bodyweight so my diet doesn’t change a whole lot. If I wanted to bulk up, I’d need to eat more and I would do so. I’ve been as high as 260 lbs before and when I was a runner in high school I was about 160 lbs. I’ve been anywhere and everywhere in between those and currently am about 210-215 lbs at about 10% bodyfat or so.
The last cut that I did was last spring and all I did was steadily increase my activity levels (this was before I was doing a daily morning cardio) and just started walking more outside. I would then slowly lower my food intake (predominantly lower my fats slowly) when my weight would stall out. Between those two I am able to create the caloric deficit needed to reach my weight loss goals.
My nutrient timing is all handled by the app, but I typically eat more carbs around training and less fats. I also make it a point to have dinner with my family each night and that usually means that I have a slightly larger meal at night with my family. Having more food at night usually helps most people with satiety so it’s a very good strategy to consider for many.
I don’t really have “cheat” days or anything too crazy like that. Since my focus is on weight maintenance I have a lot of flexibility. I also am no longer a super competitive athlete so I have relaxed my diet a bit so that I can enjoy time with my wife and kids.
This means if we have pizza once a week for pizza night I am able to eat with them and really enjoy it. If we sneak out for ice cream here and there I make sure that I feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever about it.
I know I’m training hard and what my goals are so I’m 100% comfortable making those choices. If I were focusing on getting super lean I would, of course, back off of those things and tighten it up. Since that is not the case I enjoy the flexibility and so long as my weight is about where I want it to be then I enjoy the occasional treats.
My supplements include whey/casein protein through Ascent, a basic multivitamin (just because I’m not quite disciplined enough to eat enough veggies although I do eat veggies at least a couple of timers per day), a fish oil (because again I don’t eat enough fish in my diet) and I do enjoy using caffeine. That means I enjoy the occasional diet soda or energy drink along with a five-hour energy type drink in the morning.
I don’t drink and probably haven’t had a drink in close to 10 years. I also don’t smoke and never have.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
My sources of motivation and inspiration come from those that are experts in their fields. When I used to be more hardcore into bodybuilding and powerlifting I would follow the top guys like Ronnie Coleman and I specifically remember being drawn to the old “Journey” Animal Pak ads. Those honestly were part of what got me into serious, hardcore lifting back when I was in college and even a bit in high school.
I would highly encourage anybody into lifting to go back and read those ESPECIALLY if you want to compete in bodybuilding. There’s no sexy ads there, just the real talk about being disciplined, working your ass off, and ENJOYING the process that is the daily grind!
My more current sources of motivation include looking up to folks that have served in our military, specifically Special Forces. I sort of accidentally stumbled upon books by Jocko Willink and was immediately hooked. I now listen to his podcast almost daily and if that doesn’t fire you up to go and get after it then you may not have a pulse.
I have also had the absolute honor and privilege to become really good friends with another former Navy SEAL and just learning about his journey and most importantly, his mindset/approach to things has been another thing that really stands out to me.
I look to those guys as constant sources of inspiration and a daily reminder that I am fortunate enough to be healthy and I am grateful for that and to be lucky enough to train and push myself hard every day.
It’s hard to pinpoint the best advice that I have ever received but I think the commitment to reading and learning from MANY sources is super important.
The last year I’ve probably read over 50+ books on all sorts of topics like business, war, military history, entrepreneurship, finances, self-improvement, etc. and there are things to be drawn from all of those topics.
My favorite thing to do is to look for common themes among them and notice what most of the successful people all tend to have in common. Something that I’d like to do someday is write a book about what I believe are the top traits/habits/things that make people successful.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
My best advice for folks getting started in fitness would be to start simple and set realistic goals. Many folks fall prey to the “false hope syndrome” where they set goals when they’re inspired and quickly realize that the sheer amount of hard work needed to get there isn’t something they can realistically do.
It might be ok to set huge goals right from the start, but you had better be prepared to work harder than you ever thought possible if you want to get anywhere close to those. That’s why, for many, setting more manageable goals is a much better route to go.
That’s why we created things like our simple diet templates and simple training templates. We realize that not everybody is a hardcore fitness enthusiast and there needs to be an easier transition for folks newer to fitness. You don’t start driving with a race car, you start with something much easier to drive.
Some of the silliest things that I have seen in the gym really all come down to folks lifting with their ego, especially in glogo gyms. Ego leads to using too much weight, too little ROM, and just bad technique overall. That will likely increase injury risk and isn’t a good thing to do. Folks, bury your ego and think long-term vs short-term and you’ll be much better off.
Remember, there are no hacks in fitness. The “secret” is that there are none besides hard work, discipline, consistency and a solid evidence-based plan. If there were fitness hacks then the creators of those would be wealthier than Bezos and Gates combined.
Unfortunately, the human body doesn’t function like that and the best bet is to just get to work and get after it.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I no longer coach clients 1:1 and haven’t for a number of years. My time/focus is spent on growing RP and creating more products to help the greatest number of people that we can through science and evidence-based practices. Our goal is to help folks realize that they need to stop looking for quick fixes and need to focus on the basics.
I would highly suggest folks check out the RP Diet App as it is the future of fitness coaching. We will continually make it better and better over time based on the feedback of our members.
Using RP is a no-brainer when you look at our collective team (the most accomplished staff ever assembled in the fitness industry with 20 PhDs and 5 Registered Dietitians ) and all of our results online.
There are tons of other great resources out there, but just make sure that they have the academic credentials to back it up, the physique to prove that they practice what they preach and that they have clients from all backgrounds to prove their methods work.
The #1 most common question we get is folks wanting to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. That’s quite challenging to do at once (unless you’re newer to training/diet, have recently been injured or are using illegal substances) so we instead recommend focusing on either losing fat or gaining muscle.
Doing phases distinctly is a bit more efficient than just weight maintenance for body recomposition (trying to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time). The two are hard to do together because one requires a caloric deficit (to lose fat) and the other requires a caloric surplus (to gain muscle). It’s usually a better strategy for many to pick one or the other to start and focus your efforts/resources there.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
I would highly suggest that folks follow us on social media @rpstrength for Instagram and Twitter and here on Facebook. Our main channel is Instagram, but we will be releasing tons of great content and videos on our YouTube channel this year.
Our website is rpstrength.com and you can download the RP Diet App in the Apple or Google app stores.
I also have a personal Instagram @nick.shaw.rp.