When he was about six years old, Joe Holder began playing football, and since then never really stopped being an athlete. After playing football for the 3-time Ivy League Championship football team at the University of Pennsylvania, Joe now spends his time making health and fitness just as big a part of others’ lives as they have been a part of his. And thanks to his unique approach, his very own Ocho System, Joe is hardly your average trainer.
An Athlete at Heart
“I grew up a three-sport athlete,” Joe says about his involvement in sports over the years. “I played football, but then I also ran track – I was actually a nationally ranked junior high jumper – and I played basketball. I was pretty much playing a different sport every season. When I got to high school, I decided to just pursue basketball and football, and then eventually I decided to stick with football in college.”
Along with describing the specifics of sports’ central role in his life growing up, Joe talks about the positive influence that his parents had when it came to steering him towards athletics. Specifically, he notes that his parents always saw athletics as valuable on not just a physical level, but on a character-building level as well, and that this is a philosophy that has seriously informed his own attitude towards fitness.
The Ocho System
In addition to being a star player on the UPenn football team, which earned seven national titles, Joe spent his time at college studying sociology, psychology, and marketing, all of which interestingly found a way into his passion for sports and fitness.
“I’m a fan of human behavior,” says Joe, “and I’ve been taught that fitness is really about engaging people to change their behavioral attributes, not just the aesthetic.”
With that concept in mind, Joe developed the Ocho System, a health philosophy that he uses now as a trainer, which promotes productivity and progress through physical wellness, but more importantly encourages a goal of being holistically, and wholly, better.
“It kind of draws a bridge from a public health perspective to the behavioral and cognitive gap,” says Joe about the philosophy. “People know what they should be doing to live overall healthy lives, but they rarely do it. With the Ocho System, I use all of my expertise – workouts and diet, but also everything about human behavior – to really bring out the best in all of my clients and help them make the right decisions.”
Perhaps the most fundamental component of Joe’s approach, though, is giving his clients the tools that they need to live healthy lives on their own.
“It’s like teaching them to fish instead of giving them the fish,” says Joe. “I teach them to be healthy, and guide them on their health journey while allowing them to have their own awakening. At the end of the day, I would hope that best-case scenario, some of my clients won’t even really need me anymore because they’ll become so autonomous and self-aware.”
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Personal Fitness and Working with Nike
Naturally, a huge part of helping guide others to a healthier, more active lifestyle is being active himself, but given his background, that has never been an issue for Joe.
“My activity is kind of broken into cycles,” Joe says of his own personal fitness routine, which he notes is very rooted in the science of fitness thanks to his experience at UPenn. “I’m a runner, but I’m also of the philosophy of training to run. So I’ll utilize strength training and mobility work and proper conditioning to get the most out of my fitness. I strength train – depending on the cycle, I’ll do it between 2 and 4 times a week. I condition at least twice a week, and then I’ll run – depending on the cycle that I’m in – between 2 and 4 times a week. I also do yoga about once a week.”
Joe also spends some of his time now working as a trainer at Nike’s exclusive 45 Grand fitness studio in Soho.
“Nike was holding tryouts and I was lucky enough to get chosen by the training team,” he says. “It’s been pretty epic!”
A Plant-Based Lifestyle
Aside from staying on top of fitness – Joe has obviously got that covered, and then some – the real key to a healthy lifestyle is maintaining a good diet. For Joe, that has largely meant sticking to plant-based food choices (he proudly tags his Instagram posts with #plantbasedgang).
But the dietary choice is one that hasn’t been a product of nutritional trends for Joe so much as his upbringing, thanks to his parents who promoted holistic living for his and his six siblings’ whole lives.
“My dad is a doctor,” says Joe, “so we were kind of raised with a lot of the information that is just now becoming trendier. Everything was as organic and natural as possible because we just saw early on the benefits of living that way.”
As he sees it, though, a plant-based diet is more than just personal dietary choice; it is a matter of public health, since only about 10 percent of Americans actually get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, we’re constantly told to eat more protein when, in fact, it’s extremely rare that anybody getting a healthy amount of calories is low on protein intake.
When he talks about a plant-based approach to food, Joe emphasizes the importance of looking at is as a matter of inclusion as opposed to exclusion. Instead of talking about cutting out things like meat and dairy, the real goal is to simply focus on including more fruits and vegetables.
“It ends up just happening very naturally that a lot of animal products get cut out,” he says.
Words of Wisdom
At the end of the day, Joe’s health philosophy is all about individualization; about realizing that fitness and food are never going to be the same for everybody, nor should they be. The one thing that remains consistent, though, is the importance of every individual to make health a priority, and to make their behaviors and actions a reflection of their goals.
“Just don’t be average,” says Joe, and then he follows up with a quote that has come to be something of a personal mantra. “Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best.”
But like we said, Joe never really stood a chance of being average, anyway.