Chōsen Expert Taylor Rank on Lifestyle Optimization, Living Like a Pro Athlete and How Everything Starts with Nutrition

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When it comes to fitness and lifestyle optimization, Chōsen expert Taylor Rank is a walking encyclopedia. A professional athlete and a specialist in strength and conditioning, the mindful American is also a big believer in moderation and balance. What’s more, having lived in the United States, South Korea and Hong Kong, and currently based in Dubai, he is extremely adept at tailoring his tried and tested methods to different regions and cultures. Here, Taylor tells us about his journey in the fitness sector, how small changes can trigger positive results and how to strike a balance both inside and outside the gym.

How did you go from being an American Football Division 1-A student athlete to a career in strength and conditioning, and what disciplines have translated from one to the other?

Being a Division 1-A student athlete requires an incredible amount of commitment off the field of competition, as well as during the off-season. Given the extremely physical nature of American football, there is a huge emphasis on preparing not only the body but the mind as well. As much as I loved competing on the field, I enjoyed the strength and skills-development aspect even more. Every winter and summer, the team would have daily competitions involving strength and conditioning. Who could squat more? Who had the fastest 40-yard dash time? Who could outlast the others in an agility drill or some form of tug-of-war? My coach once said, “Winning isn’t everything, but to be great you have to love to compete.”I truly did, on the field and most definitely off the field in the weight room. So naturally, after my playing days were over and football was no longer part of my life, as it had been since I was a child, I filled the void by increasing the amount of time I spent in the gym and began to pursue my passion for strength and conditioning. During that time, I was introduced to CrossFit,which some call“the sport of fitness” (really it is just competitive working out). I love the challenge ofCrossFit, as well as the approach to optimizing human potential with emphasis on movement, overall health and performance. The fact that it has become a competitive sport at a high level is icing on the cake. I'd say the main crossovers from football would be the Olympic lifts I learned during my years of strength and conditioning for the sport, as well as the commitment and mental toughness it takes to really pursue the competitive side.

Your work has taken you across the world. Do you stick to your diet and fitness routine when traveling?

I have some pretty standard principles around which I base my nutrition and mostly follow the primal way of eating, which basically means,“Eat food, not products!” If it comes packaged or boxed, I usually don't eat it. That said, maintaining a healthy diet while traveling can be difficult, and I usually rely on salads and non-meat protein sources to comprise the majority of what I will be eating. Overall, when on the move I tend to relax a bit and eat as well as I can. Food is a big part of travel, in my opinion, and we can all afford a few days of indulgence from time to time. It’s impossible to be healthy all the time and travel can be a good reset for a lot of people. As far as fitness goes, you can workout anywhere: my favorite spots while traveling are the beach or a park. If you bring a jump rope and some sports shoes, the possibility for workouts is endless. 

What advice would you give to those of us trying to achieve a perfect balance of living well, eating well, fitness and work?

The first thing to understand is that nutrition is the foundation for all fitness and health. We should treat food as a drug. It is the most powerful thing we put in our bodies and we do it multiple times every day. There is no excuse not to make food and nutrition a priority. It may take a little more time and possibly a little more money, but what is that when it comes to living to the optimal level? If you eat well, the other aspects of your life will follow. A balanced and nutritious diet will provide you with more energy. If you have more energy, you’ll find the time to get to the gym or pick up an active hobby. Fitness is all around us, and fitness doesn't have to be done inside a gym. Find something you like to do that involves moving your body through time and space and gets your heart rate jacked up. If you can combine a passion or hobby with fitness, you are already achieving balance. For the vast majority of people, work – unfortunately – is work, so once the working day is over, do something beneficial that you enjoy.It’s even better if you can do it with people you enjoy being around. 

What's the biggest mistake people make when trying to reach wellness goals, and what can they do to increase their chances of success?

I once read that, “Changing someone’s nutrition is harder than changing their religion.”I’m not sure if that’s true, but it is extremely hard to change the fundamental way someone eats. So, in my experience, the most helpful thing is not to take on such a challenge alone. Find someone –a friend or a health coach, perhaps– who can help you through your journey, hold you accountable and support you through what will sometimes be a struggle. Also, don't step on the scales every day. Scales can be deceiving. Weekly or bi-weekly body composition measurements (using an analysis system such as InBody) are more useful. 

What does being a Chōsen expert entail, and what have you gained from the Chōsen experiences that you have attended?

As a Chōsen expert, I truly do hold myself to a high standard, especially when it comes to the area of my expertise. I am continually in pursuit of new knowledge and experiences that will help me grow as an individual, and in turn allow me to provide others with the tools, knowledge, power, desire and motivation to improve themselves, their lives, and the lives of those who surround them. I do this by being available to our Chōsen family, constantly expanding my knowledge, leading by example and pursuing a lifestyle that reflects what I preach. Chōsen experiences have done so many things for me. People are our greatest resource for access to and the acquisition of knowledge. You meet so many people from different cultures, places, and backgrounds on Chōsen experiences, and all of them can teach you something new. Beyond all the challenging and exciting activities and adventures you're exposed to on a Chōsen experience, the people,and the interactions with those people,comprise the most influential and memorable aspect.

What does lifestyle optimization really mean?How do you eat and train in the most efficient way possible to achieve lifestyle optimization?

For me, lifestyle optimization means maximizing the quality of my life via health (my level of competitive fitness, the structural integrity of my body and my overall wellbeing), relationships with friends and family (my wife most importantly), and happiness. That may be an oversimplification – the subcategories for each of those factors can be extensive. However, for me personally, if I am fit, have strong relationships with those closest to me, and I am as happy as I could possibly be, then I have optimized my lifestyle. 

Overcoming challenges and injuries is part of life as an athlete and coach. What have you learned to help you on your journey?

Life has taught me that patience is one of the greatest virtues. Taking the time required to assess situations, make decisions and perform actions can only be beneficial. Take your time, enjoy the sights and sounds of life, and notice the people and things around you. The moment – every second of every day – is uniquely singular, so I do my best to take them in. Setbacks happen, but we can learn more from failure than from success. Every setback is an opportunity to get better. It rests upon the individual to take advantage of an opportunity, no matter what form it presents itself in. Find out more about our Chōsen experts here!  

FitnessChosen Team