Instagram, @shakastrong - photo by Eric Wainwright
Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi! My name is Shaka Smith. I am an actor, a host and a vegan bodybuilder.
I started bodybuilding in 2011 in the Men’s Physique division. Since that time I have won five overall awards, placed in the Top 5 nationally and at The Arnold. I currently host a fitness podcast called Fit Club, which has been recognized by Women’s Health Magazine and the People’s Choice Podcast Awards.
My training began as an evolution from sport. I was a collegiate swimmer and water polo player and after no longer playing I sought an outlet to remain in shape and naturally I began to explore the gym.
I avoided the gym when I played sports because the few times I tried to lift weights, I found myself tight in the water the next day. I didn’t know at that time how to properly incorporate training into a sports regimen so I abandoned it altogether.
However, I found myself in law school and learning more about training and took it step by step reading all the guides and bodybuilding magazines I could get my hands on. However, when I moved to LA and shortly thereafter began competing, I took my knowledge and training to the next level.
I’ve settled on a high rep, low weight regimen. I settled on this regimen because I really wanted my joints to last and avoid injury in the short term. As a hemophiliac I’ve always been focused on injury prevention and this strategy has served me well.
I aim for 100 reps for most of my workouts but depending on how light or heavy I want to go I will break it up into sets of varying reps; if I’m lifting light it could be one set of 100 reps or if go heavier (but still light in comparison to traditional training) I may go 5 sets of 20 etc. Every three to four months I give myself a few days of more traditional heavier training to shock my regimen.
Describe a typical day of training
My training usually starts with black coffee and cardio, at least a mile on the treadmill or some other cardio equivalent. For the most part, I work out solo and keep my training instinctive. It’s largely full body and I determine what I need to work on in the moment.
I don’t use a particular training program because the body doesn’t always operate according to the program. If I’m feeling pain in one are or others feel lacking, I need to be able to adapt and having no set program gives me that freedom.
Music is a must and I’ve been addicted to my body monitor, the Whoop Strap 3.0.
I like to have a protein shake after my workout. I always go with my sponsor Garden of Life – as a vegan they have the best products around but I’ve been with them the last four years so I may be biased, ha. I also hit the sauna/steam room regularly after my workouts.
How do you keep going and push harder?
The hardest part of going to the gym when the motivation is low is just getting there. What has worked for me is putting no pressure on myself for the workout.
If I go to the gym and want to walk half a mile and go that is fine and knowing that helps me get there. And once I begin working out, between the music and just moving, I get into it pretty quickly even on the days with low motivation.
But yes, sometimes I’ve left the gym after walking a mile or a short workout. If I’m not feeling the workout I have to address that’s fine, but I always always always must show up.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, I find myself looking to find new fitness challenges. I’ve recently been training with some Ninja Warriors and that has been a welcome yet humbling change of pace.
I am really enjoying hosting my podcast Fit Club; I’ve had the chance to meet some wonderful people who have been guests and keep me on top of my fitness knowledge.
My podcast is aimed at getting the best information out to underserved communities but this is universal info we’re talking about that everyone should be up on. I’m hoping the future allows me to bring my podcast to a wider audience.
As an actor, I’m also working on a few projects right now, one of which is my own that I am writing, acting and directing.
I hope that I am able to continue creating and have the support and resources to tell meaningful stories that people enjoy.
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Recovery for is instinctive in some ways. By this I mean, I plan no days off from the gym. If I feel sore in one area, I simply train other areas. However, there are days when I do need to rest and I know it by paying attention to my body and level of soreness. Sometimes that translates to an active rest day and others it means a complete day off. An active rest day, might be just a yoga session but hiking is my favorite and fortunately LA has many scenic ones.
I have been less good about sleep but that’s why I love my Whoop Strap. Whoop Strap analyzes my sleep and how much I need according to my level of activity during the day. Having this metric, has really helped me improve but I still need to do more work in that area.
On average I sleep about 5 hours. I actually feel pretty energized but I’m really working on getting better. I’ve been working with Whoop, which monitors my patterns and helps me increase my sleep and so far it’s helping – hoping to creep into 6 hour territory soon!
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I’m vegan and regularly intermittent fast. Daily, I fast anywhere from 12-18 hours. I’ve always had an addiction to sweets, but I’ve found having fruit first when I have sweet cravings usually keeps me from craving the less healthy options. However, if a craving persists, I satisfy it.
To satisfy sweet cravings, I reach for fruit first. I love apple slices, grapes and mangos. Usually if I have these I can avoid the ice cream/cookie cravings but if it still persists I get my fix ha.
I’ve been vegan for 4 years now. It started with a video of Annette Larkin’s and a 70-something vegan I saw on YouTube. After hearing her story and researching other old vegans I was convinced it was a path to take and I made a 3 year plan that day. I took one year and gave up red meat, went pescatarian the following year and vegan the year after.
Going vegan I did see a slight uptick in my recovery time but the energy is what I noticed first. While I get 5 hours of sleep on average I have so much energy. There was a time if I got less than 6 or 7 I was a zombie for the day. So I’m really excited to try to get back to healthier levels of sleep.
As for supplements, Garden of Life protein is a staple. It’s a great way to break my fast and while I don’t track my macros in writing I try to keep a rough idea in my head and this shake makes it easier hitting my macro goals. I also take Garden of Life’s Ashwagandha, Turmeric and Collagen Builder.
What has inspired and motivated you?
I’ve been inspired by the way knowledge can change the direction of someone’s life. Since going vegan, I’ve had many people make the change and others try it for a day or even just a meal a week.
When it comes to food and the way we eat, we pass these habits down and our friends and other family members pick up on them as well, so hearing stories of people making changes that affect their friends and family has been a source of motivation. Its also inspired me to keep learning and keep sharing.
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
When it comes to advice, one piece of advice was offered to me at my first show when I started to talk myself out of the positivity I had built up, which has always stayed with me. Another competitor said to me, remember “comparison is the thief of joy.” Something about those words changed me and I won my class in that show and I never looked back.
So often, we talk ourselves out of our wins because we get sidetracked comparing ourselves and letting that dictate how we feel or act.
In the age of social media, it can sometimes feel like we are supposed to be comparing ourselves to everyone else but its just not true. We all have to remember to celebrate others and ourselves and not fall into the comparison trap.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I don’t train but we share some great info on my Fit Club podcast and I am on social media and love talking to anyone interested in fitness or looking for guidance.
Where can we learn more about you?
Ready to get really fit and inspired?
I’m Mads Phikamphon, founder of Bulk Hackers.
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