Today my guest is Ebenezer Samuel, Fitness Director at Men’s Health Magazine. Ebenezer is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with a degree in journalism from Syracuse University. He began his career as a sports reporter for the New York Daily News, where he learned a great deal from the athletes he covered about fitness, training, and recovering from injury. He’s also been a WHOOP member for the past two years.
Eb and I talk about what it’s like to interview pro athletes and how he’s used that to improve his own fitness, his biggest messages when it comes to smart and healthy training, and the various gyms and classes he visits in NYC to keep up with all the latest trends. We then explore how he likes to put these theories to the test through self-experimentation and using WHOOP to quantify the effect they have on his body.
As a journalist and trainer who’s also the fitness director for one of the world’s premier health and lifestyle magazines, I think Eb has a unique perspective that athletes of all levels and abilities can learn from.
3:59 - Journalism Background. “I wasn’t a great athlete, so the closest I could get to it was ‘Hey, let me cover great athletes.’”
4:39 - Starting at The Daily News. “Journalism, the way it is now, they throw you right into the fire. I showed up for an internship, and the next day they said go cover Derek Jeter and the Yankees. … I’m half fan-boying half trying to do a job.”
8:14 - Unwritten Rules for Interviewing a Star. “There are certain times in the locker room when you can approach them and when you can’t, and a lot of guys will only talk on certain days. … It’s almost like you have to strike up a conversation with them about something else, then be like ‘Oh, I have a job to do, so can I sneak in a couple questions?’”
9:29 - Learning About Fitness from Pro Athletes he interviewed. “I could say to Victor [Cruz], ‘How do you get fast?’ … Being around those guys, I learned so much about fitness and health.”
10:55 - Regaining Confidence After Injury. How do the pros do it? Unlike the rest of us, “It’s their job.” Eb recalls former NY Giants receiver Domenik Hixon who tore his ACL two years in a row and said to him, “This is how I pay my bills, so I have to go out there and figure it out.”
13:09 - The Oddity of ACL Tears.“The one wisdom I hope people get from this podcast, never play pick-up basketball with people who totally don’t know what they are doing.” Eb didn’t get his ACL tear checked out until a week later. “With ACLs, if you’re just running straight ahead you can kind of get away with it.”
15:17 - Transition to Men’s Health. “I was never a newspaper guy. … Sportswriting I was writing stuff but I wasn’t getting a chance to actively impact people.”
18:10 - Biggest Fitness Message. “I feel like there are a lot of silos in fitness, and we don’t always play together, or realize how we’re all kind of doing the same thing. The one thing I try really hard to do is merge different ideas.”
19:59 - Strategy for Putting on Muscle. “I always go back to pull, push, legs. … It’s something kind of nice and safe.” Do each once over a 3-day span.
22:02 - Focus on One Area at a Time. “The advantage to me is you can hit it a little bit harder, and you can also get in more variety of movements. … I can attack my body in a lot of different directions and along a lot of different plains if I’m really hammering one muscle,” Eb explains. “If you’re doing a hard full-body day 3 days in a row, you’re probably going to end up more fatigued.” Check out Eb’s videos on his Instagram account @ebenerzersamuel23.
26:54 - Training Frequency. “I spend way too much time at the gym. The gym is kind of like my bar. I’ll go 5-6 days a week and spend 1:30 or 1:45 there. To me the gym is about play too.”
27:52 - Going to Gym for Work. “Some of it’s a responsibilities thing too, part of my job is to know group fitness, checking out different gyms and being aware of what’s going on.”
28:25 - Favorite Gyms & Classes in NYC. “Brick does a really cool class called B|X. It’s very good quality very well programmed conditioning. … I’m a big fan of CorePower Yoga. I also like Everybody Fights, the best, most well-rounded boxing experience.” Eb is also a fan of Tone House.
30:57 - Boxing is Really Hard. “After 45 seconds of punching you’re like ‘Is it over yet?’ … A boxer has to find a way to stay mentally and physically in it for all 3 minutes, because if they don’t that 15 seconds where they’re not in it is when they get knocked out.”
34:56 - Getting on WHOOP. “It was about 2 years ago, I instantly loved it. I’m going to try to coin this hashtag at some point, it’s going to be #BeYourOwnLabRat.” Eb really enjoys trying out new things and learning how they impact his WHOOP metrics. “What I’ve really found interesting, cool and fun is to listen and hear theories on fitness, and then see how they’re true for my body, and how my body responds to stuff.”
36:58 - The Afterburn Effect. “The idea that if you doing high-intensity interval training your heart rate is going to stay up afterwards.” He’ll log that workout on WHOOP, then also log the 15 minutes afterwards to see what his heart rate is doing then.
39:55 - Quality Sleep. “I don’t sleep a lot, I’ve found that if I get 4 hours of good quality sleep, I recover better,” than if he gets more sleep of a poorer quality. “The quality of sleep is so relevant.”
42:44 - Fitness Goals & Tests he likes. “Right now I’m trying to get a little bean leaner. … I like to test my 225 bench and my 185 bench,” how many reps he can do. “I like to go out to the track and do 100-meter work.”
46:41 - Diet. “My goal is to have as anti-inflammatory an environment in my body as much as possible. … I drink a lot of water, have a lot of fish, a lot of good fats, a lot of green vegetables. And I’m kind of one of those people who eats all the time. I try to get something in me every 2.5 hours. I want a constant supply of protein, as much as I can metabolize.”
47:49 - Supplements? No, he doesn’t really take any. “The one time I took weight-gainer [in college] it was a disaster.” Eb tells a story of failing to get bigger because he was relying on supplements too much and not real food.
51:22 - Current Projects at Men’s Health. “One of the cooler things we’re doing is called the ‘All/Out app’ right now.”
51:56 - Workouts For Women Too. Will women get the same value out of his workouts as men? “Women should be strong, and they shouldn’t be afraid to get strong. … My workouts are great for women.”
54:09 - Yoga. “I have a couple bodybuilding friends who are experimenting with yoga, and as they get better at it they're feeling more mobile. … I feel like yoga to some extent contributed to making me more explosive.”
56:18 - His Influences. Michael Jordan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Along with Tom Brady, the 3 people he’s interviewed where he thought “Oh my god, I’m interviewing this guy.”
58:55 - Tom Brady and Resistance Bands. “There’s a lot of merit to training with resistance bands. They create this unique variable resistance than can really stimulate your abs and your core in a different way, if you’re using them correctly.”
1:01:03 - Recovery. “It’s about physical recovery and mental recovery. Saturdays are my recovery days for my mind, do everything I can to distance myself from the gym. … In terms of active physical recovery, I try to get that yoga class in.” Eb is also into eStim and Normatec.