After wandering into the well-worn pit of indolence and drug abuse as a young man, at 23 years old Michael Chernow discovered both Muay Thai boxing and sobriety. Harnessing his newfound discipline into action, Chernow co-founded the hugely popular Meatball Shop, grew it to a half-dozen restaurants, and then sold it.
Almost immediately, he launched sustainable seafood eatery Seamore’s, grew and sold that venture too, and is now readying to open his latest culinary experiment, Kreatures of Habit.
Through it all the bodybuilder and fitness advocate has utilized his profound belief in health and wellness to blaze a path of his own. Today he tells us how we can, too.
You’ve managed to transform your robust restaurant background into becoming an advocate for health and wellness. What the most important practices people can start implementing in their lives to become more optimized?
It’s a loaded question, but here’s what I’ll tell you: small, little, decisions made on a consistent basis from the beginning of the day are the best way to change your life—in terms of optimization to living a life of wellness and betterment. And I learned that from early on we have an opportunity every single morning, from the second we open our eyes, to determine what our day is going to be like. We can open our eyes and we can hit snooze and go back to sleep, which is probably the worst possible way to start your day. Or if you really want to see a difference, wake up an hour earlier.
Walk me through your morning routine.
I kind of look at these little routines as just wins stacked up on top of each other; it really gives me an opportunity to succeed every single day. I wake up at 5:30 every morning. I don’t have an alarm that goes off, I just wake up. As soon as I know I’m awake I smile from ear-to-ear for 15 seconds, because a lot of people, including myself, wake up with a level of anxiety that sort of stops them in their tracks for the day.
What happens in that 15 seconds is I feel positivity and optimism literally wash over my body and it’s my first attempt to attack anxiety and stress right out the gate.
Then I roll out of bed into the bathroom. I splash water on my face. I brush my teeth, etc. And then I do 25 or 50 pushups, depending on how I feel. Then I quietly make my way down to the gym in my garage and train for about an hour and a half.
Getting up early gives me an opportunity to get things done, meditate, slowly roll into my day, get some writing done. For me, I like to get fitness out of the way first thing in the morning, because: A, it kickstarts my metabolism; I feel freaking awesome when I’m done with a good workout. And B, if I don’t do it in the morning, the chances of me skipping it as it gets later and later in the day are high.
You mentioned stacking up little victories. Can you elaborate on that philosophy?
So each one of those things, from waking up early [onwards] is a win. And then when I get into the gym, that’s the big win of the day for me. But all those little things that I do, back-to-back-to-back are all wins.
And I believe—and this is only because I’ve been sober for a long time, and I don’t use any mood- or mind-altering substances to help me navigate or take the edge off—I’ve had to find other ways to manage anxiety, stress, potential depression, and that is by creating these little wins that I drop into my day. And I can honestly say that with consistency over time, those wins are more powerful than any drug you can take.
How does one jumpstart this philosophy into motion?
I always get asked on social media, How do I start anything? Typically it’s about business, or how do I get in great shape, and my answer is always: “Start by making consistent little decisions every single morning that make you feel good.”
Right? In the beginning, waking up early kind of sucked getting used to, but after a little time I don’t know anybody that’s like, “Man I wish I would sleep in a little later.” I believe in my heart of hearts that we have the ability to win as much as we want. Winning just means making a decision, committing to it, and feeling the repercussions of what that means over time.
What are some of the other little wins you make a habit of picking up throughout the day?
Well nutrition plays a humongous role in my life. So I get all the sort of mindset and fitness stuff done before 7:00, 8:00 in the morning, and then I follow up with eating healthy throughout the day. The first thing I put into my body every single day is one of my favorite meals of the day: it’s a blend of gluten-free oats, plant-based protein powder, Ceylon cinnamon, pink Himalayan salt, blueberries and shaved almond. I’ve been eating that breakfast for probably four years and I crave it. I love how it feels so much I’m launching a business around it, Kreatures of Habit.
It’s based on that first meal, because I feel like the first thing you put into your body every single day is a good depiction of what you’re going to put into your body throughout the rest of the day. You start with the good, you have a much greater chance of ending with the good. You start with a donut, chances are you’re going to end with a slice of pizza or a burger. I just know that to be true.
What’s an underestimated aspect of fitness people need to pay more attention to?
I think a really underestimated component to the world of fitness is walking. Walking is totally underrated. And walking is not only something that is incredible, or just movement in general, but it’s a mind, body, and spirit activity.
So I would say if somebody is really trying to implement this sort of better-for-you lifestyle, start with trying to get in 10,000 steps a day. It doesn’t matter if those steps are walked slowly, walked fast, run, jogged, or skipped, 10,000 steps a day is a game-changer. And it’s something that most people can do; it’s a great way to get into the world of living your best life.
Give me one more piece of advice you’d like to pass along.
There’s another component that I think is so crucial towards living the best version of your life. Over the last year recovery has become a major part of my wellness practice, regimen and routine, and I’ve taken it pretty far. I’ve got a really incredible trip planned to go down to Colombia to this facility called BioXcellerator, which is a stem-cell therapy facility.
I had a major injury in my lower back about eight years ago, and when it first happened it was terrible. The MRI showed that I had ruptured my L4-L5 disc and a fragment of disc had landed on my sciatic nerve, so I was really sort of out of commission for awhile. Now I’m doing three different treatments; I have a lot of friends that have gone down there and lots of athletes in the professional arena that have had incredible experiences with BioXcellerator. So that’s like an extreme example of recovery and thinking about literally trying to live in my best body.
Sleep is another major part of my recovery, because typically when I get great sleep, everything that day is great. And when I get poor sleep, unfortunately everything that day tends to be subpar. So if you asked me if there’s one thing that I would suggest people do to just get started on their wellness journey, I would say, “Well, go out and start walking.” And if there’s one thing that I can suggest for people to do in their recovery journey, it would be to pay more attention to their sleep — and get as close to eight hours a night as possible.