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From Poker to Prose to Push-Ups

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I am writing this post in my car on the way back from Atlantic City (don’t worry, I’m not driving), where I was staying for a few days engaging in some great poker action—and because I happened to have a winning session, I’m in a good mood.

Good moods—like poker—seem to encourage somewhat abstract thought processes. Which led me to think about the trip and others before it.

Always a fun time, Atlantic City is sort of a strange microcosm of my life over the past 5 years.

That is, if I looked at all of my trips to AC over that time period, the experiences are reflective of what’s gone on in my life. These little weekend jaunts illustrate how things have changed…and how they haven’t.

You see, as time has progressed, I’ve gotten better and more successful at both poker and (arguably) life in general; and as that’s happened, the trip to AC has changed a bit: I stay at nicer hotels, frequent better casinos, eat at finer restaurants, and play in higher limit poker games.

Things certainly have changed at the poker table: I’ve gone from being the timid youngster with a few hundred at a low-limit table to a confident force to be reckoned with at the biggest game in town.

On the other hand, some things have—and I hope always will—stayed the same. I still go with two of my oldest friends (Josh and Evan), and we still have the most fun you can have without breaking any laws.

And one other thing hasn’t changed: the post-game break down.

No matter how we did at the table, no matter our wins or losses, we always wind up having dinner and discussing just about every hand we’ve played. Our good plays, the bluffs we got away with, our bad-beat stories, the donkey at the table who is either giving money away or drawing out on the river.

For over five years, it’s been the same routine, and I believe that’s one reason we’ve all gotten much better at the game. The more we talk about and critique our own plays and each other’s, the more we can hone our skills. It’s always the three of us, staying up talking and helping each other learn more.

On a very different but somewhat related note, I find the same thing happens around a lot of my friends in the fitness industry.

When you get a bunch of us together, we inevitably fall into conversation about all things exercise and nutrition: how things are going in the industry, the new programs we’re writing, what kind of workouts we’re doing, and how our clients are progressing. We talk about new and innovative training methods, bounce off of each other, and generally pick apart every nuance of training and diet comes to mind.

And, as with my late-night diner meetings with my poker pals, these discussions with fitness pros like Craig Ballantyne, Vince Del Monte and of course Joel Marion have led us all to conclusions we’d not otherwise have reached with having had them.

As an example, conversations about cheat days a few years ago led to the inclusion of a fast day, which helped lead to the creation of the Xtreme Fat Loss Diet, one of my early programs. Similarly, a lot of my new muscle building stuff is hugely inspired by conversations I’ve had with Vince Del Monte, including giant sets.

For fat loss, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t steal from Braig Callantyne (as we call him) as often as I can. Likewise, he’s been known to borrow from my ideas.

These small groups (in both poker and fitness) have been incredibly valuable to me.

Discussions with Josh and Evan have certainly made me a better poker player, and I KNOW for a stone cold fact that the email chains I’ve got going with my fit-pro pals have led my mind to come up with strategies I may not have thought of otherwise.

Perhaps it’s the bibliophile in me (and my need to draw parallels), but I am prone to liken these groups to the Inklings, a group for which I have a great fondness, the deepest respect, and from which I draw an intense inspiration.

For those of you who don’t know the reference (and who do not feel like following the links to Wikipedia), the Inklings were a literary discussion group associated with Oxford, which included giants of prose and erudition such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

The group would meet on Tuesdays at a local pub—the Eagle and Child, for those interested in such things—and initially was formed as a sort of sounding board and de facto critiquing council; that is, at meetings (which were informal at best), members would read aloud from their as-yet-unfinished manuscripts. The other members would listen, confer, and assess critically what they’d heard.

It is, of course, impossible to say how much influence these meetings influenced the decisions in course of story for any book, but, if my own experiences are any indication, I can say with certainty that these meetings made all in attendance better writers.

And it’s one of the very reasons why I created the RFS Mastermind. I want to help the next class of fitness professionals to take their businesses to the next level.

We must all strive to spend more time with the people who make us better. You know who hasn’t benefited from talking through their ideas and getting advice from their peers and mentors? Literally no one. You can’t name a single person. 

It’s best not to speculate how differently say, the Lord of the Rings, for example, would have turned out had Tolkien not asked for the input of his fellow Inklings…much like it’s best not to try to hazard a guess about how much money I would have lost over these 5 years if not for the late-night meetings with my compatriots.

And so you see, from poker to literature, meeting in small groups and discussing your ideas can help you improve your game, your writing…and in our case, your fitness.

Community is hugely important, and whether you join the Mastermind or simply just read our emails, I want Roman Fitness Systems to be your community. This place will be your late night post-game breakdown. We will be your Inklings. 

As this community grows, so too will its efficacy; the more we interact, the more we can learn from and teach one another.

So don’t just limit the interaction to hear. Find me on SnapChat and Facebook—find each other on SnapChat and Facebook. Exchange ideas. Ask questions. Learn. Teach. Grow.

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

  • lou

    It's great to hear success stories and wish you much continued success in the future as well:)

  • Did not know this side of you, very cool. You and Contreras are my two favorite fitness writers, guess I loves me some fellow nerds?

  • Hey John,

    the last two blog posts you've put up are two of my favorites.

    You have a great way of finding lessons in unique situations – awesome articles man thanks!

    – Chad

  • Fred

    Agreed. The master-mind group where you can share ideas and build upon each others' ideas is a fantastic initiative, and really necessary if you wanna get the most out of any activity, whether it be training, poker playing or business related.

    My best tip for really understanding the concepts behind the master-mind group would be to read Napoleon Hill's “Thing and grow rich”, which is an awesome book in general, and really stresses the value of having a master-mind fellowship where one can bounce ideas and stuff around in.

    Anyone else read the book and feel the same way?

  • Sorry, I realize my question wasn't clear! I meant that these programmes are geared towards gaining mass. Which types of trainees would you recommend to use which?

  • @Shaun: i dont pretend to be an expert on fat loss, but i'd like to share my opinion. it really depends on how your body handles it. If you are quite experienced at dieting or if you have a deadline to reach, by all means, give it a try. FPFL is insanely tough, though, and will get you great results on it's own. As long as you hit your protein requirements, you shouldn't be losing muscle. However, if you feel faint or dizzy during the day, then I'd advise you to dial it back a bit. XFLD is a really low-cal, extreme diet! I should know, as I've done Lyle McDonald's PSMF for 3 weeks straight before!

    @Roman: thanks for sharing this blog post. I'm actually in the process of creating my own blog on the fitness and nutrition articles that I come across, and also on all things related to my life, interests, goals and the things that motivate me. I'm also documenting my fight against a certain vice in my life and my journey in Ballantyne's TT contest. It's mainly my own journal for accountability and to be honest with myself. It's my hope that one day I'll be able to recommend this free resource to others who are similarly caught in a similar rut and help them get their lives back together – if I can recover, so can they.

    However, it's still under construction, so it's all bits and pieces now. But I'm hoping that I'll be able to complete it soon.

    On a lighter note, why haven't you written any muscle building programmes?! Also, do you mind if I asked for your opinion on how Vince's No Nonsense Muscle Building differs from, say, 5/3/1 or Bill Starr's 5×5 and which type of trainee you would recommend for each?

    Thanks!

  • Well i'm here getting the ball rolling or foam rolling whichever you perfer. In the middle of my fast day after a righteous cheat day (Saw Rush last night). Did Lactic Acid this morning and now going to do the bodyweight 500 after I finish getting my meals ready for the week.

    Since I commented on your previous post and i'm trying to gain muscle is 3 an overkill? Should I follow the 25 day meal plan? I've started carb cycling the last 2 weeks with great results and turned out to be a lot easier than I thought.

    Any suggestions “gang”?

  • Justin

    Hey John! I'm breaking the lurking pattern and also the first comment! whooo! lol. Anyway, I seriously find your blogging and writing addicting. It is safe to say that your (and some other fitness blogs) are pretty much the extent of what I read for pleasure. So much of my time is consumed with school, homework, and soccer, but I ALWAYS make time to read your blogs…like seriously…no joke…but anyway…I posted a comment on your last blog post and was wondering if you could get back to me on some of the stuff that was in my post. Thx for being such a great inspiration of so many aspects in my life as well as fitness.