G. Brian Benson: “Here Are 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”
Establish life balance — Looking back, it’s no coincidence that the first book I wrote focused on a whole bunch of different ways to stay in life balance. As my life continued to unfold with the books and acting; staying in balance became my rock and my foundation. Staying in balance allowed me to lead a proactive life filled with choice, not a reactive one. And when I was in balance, I could take advantage of opportunities when they came because I was grounded and ready.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing G. Brian Benson.
G. Brian Benson is a multiple award-winning and #1 best-selling self-improvement author, coach, actor, spoken-word artist, and TEDx speaker. As a 4x Ironman triathlete and cross-country bicyclist, Brian knows the value of hard work and never giving up on his dreams, a message he shares with audiences through each of his creative expressions. Brian’s brand-new book Habits for Success — Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar is an Amazon #1 Best-Seller and was selected as a 2019 Book Excellence Award Winner in the Motivational book category. Brian lives in Los Angeles, CA. To learn more please go to www.gbrianbenson.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
While I was very active and played many sports growing up and during high school, I first truly got involved in fitness while in college. During my freshman year at Oregon State University I was playing mud football with a group of my friends and while blocking for someone running with the ball I got hit from the side and my right knee cap was dislocated. Not only was it a painful experience, it scared me. I had always been active and I didn’t know what this meant for me going forward. After enduring a full-length cast for 6 weeks and then some rehab it became dislocated again about 6 months later. This time I had to have surgery. It was a very low-time for me. I became depressed being inactive during recovery and really didn’t know what I would be able to do in regards to fitness and sports going forward. I remember hearing a couple of my friends telling me about a short course triathlon race they did the summer before and that piqued my interest. The sport of triathlon was still very new in the mid-80’s. I made a decision to set a goal of racing in a triathlon when my rehab was finished and my knee was healed. One year later I found myself at the start of a race in Cottage Grove, Oregon. I really didn’t know what to expect and had major fears and butterfly’s flowing…but I finished and it changed my life. I felt alive and empowered and when it was all said and done did four more races that summer and over 50 races total over the course of my journey with triathlon including four Ironman distance races.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most interesting stories that happened to me since I started my career would have to be my bicycle ride across the United States. In May of 1996, a friend of mine told me about Bike-Aid, a cross-country bike ride that he had participated in ten years earlier. He explained that Bike-Aid was a fundraiser for a variety of local sustainable grassroots programs in cities and towns all across America. I had always wanted to ride across the US on my bicycle and actually had a pocket of about 6 months before starting a new job at the beginning of the next year. So, with the stars being aligned I knew this was my opportunity to live out this dream of mine.
I felt totally alive and completely present the entire time. Each day was filled with adventure and I was seeing everything with new eyes. For the two-and-a-half-month duration of the bike ride, that feeling of being completely present and in the moment never left me. My group and I met the most amazing and friendly people. About a third of the time, we stayed at local campgrounds. The rest of the trip, we stayed in a variety of homes that people kindly opened up to us, as well as school gymnasiums, churches, and even a few YMCA’s. Once a week we would stay in a town for an extra day and do a community service project. It was very rewarding.
As for our daily cycling routine, we averaged about seventy-five miles a day. Some days, I would ride with a small group of my new friends. Other days, I would take off by myself and go at a speed that suited me. Each morning we were given a map/route of where we were headed for the day and folks could go at their own pace. Although I enjoyed being around others, I also appreciated my quiet time and really loved the adventurous feeling I had of riding by myself in a brand-new world.
We took the Northern route across the US, and had countless opportunities to experience things that I never would have dreamed of. In Yellowstone National Park, I saw moose just a few feet away and also a grizzly bear running across a meadow about three hundred yards away. It was both awe-inspiring and a bit scary, since I was on my bike. The steep climb up and over 10,947-foot Bear Tooth Pass, just outside of Yellowstone, was remarkable and I loved every minute of it. We stayed on the Lame Deer Reservation in Montana. It was an absolute honor learning about their proud history and touring the surrounding countryside. We also happened to be there during a large Pow-Wow celebration and slept in teepees. We also stayed at an abbey in North Dakota with a group of Monks as well as caught baseball games at both Wrigley Field in Chicago and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Riding my bicycle through the historic grounds of both Little Bighorn Battlefield and Antietam National Battlefield were also very powerful, almost spiritual journeys for me. Moving slowly through those now-beautiful parks, one can really feel the unsettled and disconcerting energy of battle and of those that went before.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I don’t know if this would qualify as a mistake but there definitely is some humor in it. After having made it through my first two years of racing in triathlons, I knew that I enjoyed it immensely and that it gave me a lot of confidence and pride. I still wanted to improve.
I got this wild notion that my swimming needed to improve. I was a better than average swimmer but wanted to work on it nonetheless. I was working as a lifeguard at Oregon State University during some of their swim classes and noticed the women’s swim team come in one time following a class I watched over. That got me thinking. I knew that the women’s team was a funded university sport and I had heard that they had a men’s swim club that wasn’t. It was participant funded. I then began to wonder who was on the men’s team and could anyone join? After some inquiries, I realized that anyone could join. I knew right then and there that was my answer to become a better swimmer; so, I joined. I didn’t really know at the time what I was getting myself into. My triathlon swim training basically consisted of me jumping in the pool and swimming lap after lap. Maybe I would throw in some kickboard work. That was about it.
Well that was all about to change very quickly at swim practice. Everybody who was on the team had been a very proficient swimmer in high school and was quite fast and talented. That wasn’t me. I was someone whose swim career consisted of a handful of triathlons and some summer swim lessons as a youth. Luckily for me the coach of the team was a supportive and wise man who had been coaching for a very long time. He understood where I was coming from and welcomed me.
No more jumping in the pool and swimming lap after lap for me. It was time for lung burning intervals and utilizing swim strokes that I had never attempted before! That first day while huffing and puffing my way through practice, I really began to wonder what I got myself into. Although quitting was an option that I honestly did think about, I decided to go again the next day. The routine was the same, lung busting interval after lung busting interval, but I began to realize that I could handle it even though I was the slowest swimmer there. I also began to realize that there was no way I couldn’t get faster if I stuck with this. Although practices were always tough, I began to get faster and more confident day after day. I even went on road trips with them to swim meets and competed in the freestyle events (that is the stroke that is used for triathlon). Although I truly got my butt kicked in the meets by all the experienced and accomplished swimmers, it was exhilarating and I became a really good triathlon swimmer going forward. That was just another example of how stepping out of my comfort zone paid off in big ways. I improved, gained confidence and learned that I was capable of a lot more than I previously had realized.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I think my contribution is as simple as just hopefully being an inspiration to others to step out of their comfort zones and make their dreams happen. Not only was I able to turn a knee injury into a huge blessing in disguise by moving into the sport of triathlon I also took a chance and made my dream of riding across the United States a reality. I love to share and hopefully show others that the payoff is so incredible in terms of self-empowerment, confidence and new-beginnings when we step into the unknown and trust that what lay next can be more amazing and life-changing than we ever thought. I am an everyday person that just boldly said yes and I want others to boldly say yes as well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
During the period of rehabilitation post-surgery for my knee injury while attending Oregon State, I took a physical therapy class designed specifically for people in need of rehab. The instructor named Jim (I unfortunately don’t remember his last name now), was a perfect mix of empathy and inspiration. I found myself wanting to get better not only for myself but to please him. He was someone who truly cared about his students and I didn’t want to let him down. I found myself thriving in this class and anxiously awaited its thrice weekly sessions. Jim really inspired me to heal and get my body strong which in turn helped me prepare and realize my goal of racing in a triathlon.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
The 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know and integrating it into our lives are:
1) Our current habits that are sabotaging and not supportive of the “helpful” information that we know. If we want to make positive changes in our lives, we have to become self-aware enough to take a step back and truly identify our current routine and current habits. And when we are able to do that we can then begin to identify were we could improve and begin to institute changes.
2). Lack of self-worth and not believing in ourselves enough. Subconsciously we aren’t feeling worthy enough to be the best version of ourselves which in turn holds us back. And because of this we are never able to begin to make the changes that we know we should make. Which adds on a whole other level of guilt and self-shaming making it even harder to dig out.
3). Our family or friends aren’t able to help support us in our growth. Sometimes we may be the only one that wants to incorporate positive change in our lives and it makes it a lot harder when we are still surrounded by others who are engaged in habits or lifestyles that we want to improve from.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
1) Movement — Move your body. Exercise, go to the gym, hike, dance, stretch, play, walk. It helps us in so many ways.
2) Just be yourself. Be you, do you, love yourself. Step into the things that make you feel good and excite you and let go of and say no to the things that don’t serve you. Its where true freedom begins.
3) Gratitude — Gratitude is so important to get our mindset and vibration headed in a positive flow. Our attitude is the lens through which we see the world and an attitude of gratitude is everything!
4) Step out of your comfort zone and boldly say yes — Nothing ventured nothing gained. If we really want to learn, grow and achieve our dreams we have to keep pushing ourselves outside of areas that we are comfortable in.
5) Establish life balance — Looking back, it’s no coincidence that the first book I wrote focused on a whole bunch of different ways to stay in life balance. As my life continued to unfold with the books and acting; staying in balance became my rock and my foundation. Staying in balance allowed me to lead a proactive life filled with choice, not a reactive one. And when I was in balance, I could take advantage of opportunities when they came because I was grounded and ready.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
The 3 benefits of daily exercise are:
1) Exercise can be very meditative. Getting into the flow while exercising can help us give our busy minds a rest. I didn’t realize it at the time but many years ago while training for triathlons all those long bike rides and runs that I went on were incredible opportunities for me to relax my mind and allow my intuition to heighten. While I don’t train for triathlons anymore, I get the same benefit while going for long walks or hikes in nature.
2) Exercise can enhance our confidence and feelings of self-worth. It’s a no brainer that we are going to feel better by getting some movement and exercise in our lives. It’s an opportunity to cleanse our system, get our blood moving, build our stamina and sharpen our muscles while activating endorphins.
3). Exercise helps us think more clearly. Exercise is a great reset. Every time I finish a workout after going to the gym or for a hike, I feel renewed, settled and ready for what’s next. My creativity is usually heightened and I am able to see and feel things more clearly.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
While not everyone is the same and some exercises might not be appropriate depending on certain factors, 3 exercises that are absolutely critical to add to a daily routine are:
1) Cardio — Walking, cycling, cardio equipment at the gym.
2) Stretching — So important especially as we get older.
3) Yoga — It’s a fantastic blend of strength and flexibility.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long-term injury?
Some ideas to recommend for someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time and to prevent short-term or long-term injury are:
1) Proper hydration and healthy food/supplements are always incredibly important. Most folks don’t drink enough water and eat as healthy as they should and they need to really be on top of that. It’s fuel for your body. Would you put a substandard type of fuel in your car that could hurt it? Probably not, the same should apply to our bodies.
2) Stretching — It doesn’t get the love it deserves. Stretching is everything if you are exercising heavily. It keeps our muscles pliable, helps protect them from injury and helps our bodies work more efficiently.
3) Allow for rest — This is incredibly important and most people I believe don’t allow themselves enough rest. I remember when I was racing in triathlons, there was not much information out there about how important rest/recovery was and a lot of us just thought “more” was better. Looking back, I truly feel I would have done a lot better had I allowed for more rest.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I don’t know if there is necessarily a title for the type of diet I follow. I try to eat a lot of vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit and get some of my protein from chicken, turkey and fish. I recently had my system tested for food allergies and had a lot of my suspicions confirmed. While I didn’t eat very much prior, I completely eliminated gluten (bread) and dairy from my diet and feel so much better. I don’t have the bloating and swelling in my stomach anymore. Ever since I started racing in triathlons so many years back, I have been highly aware of how food makes me feel. So, for the most part I just tell others to listen to their body when they eat. How does the food that you are eating make you feel? I want to have energy and can easily get affected by foods that have a lot of carbs, sugar or heavily processed. It’s all about awareness.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer. I listened to the audio version of this book about 13 years ago just before I started thinking about leaving my family business and venture into the unknown. I remember how what he said just fit perfectly with where I was at in my life and it help jump start the next phase of my journey.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I love to empower others to identify their own unique gifts and gain self-awareness. With that being said, I think the key to that is to come to a place of true self-acceptance and self-love. From that place I feel like things fall into place. So, If I were to verbalize it as a movement, it would be, “be yourself to free yourself!” I actually have the domain and would love to do something with this in the near future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Life doesn’t truly begin until we can rest comfortably in our own skin.” I have always worked very hard at being the best version of myself that I can be and while writing my latest book “Habits for Success — Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar,” I came up with that quote. To me it epitomizes my journey and how much happier and more confident I have become resting comfortably in my own skin.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I really love how Lebron James handles himself. He is making such a positive experience in so many areas. Social activism, business, entertainment etc.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
www.gbrianbenson.com and most of my social media handles are @gbrianbenson. Thank you for asking.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
It was my pleasure!