The Ready State Virtual Mobility Coach is like having a virtual Kelly Starrett in your pocket.
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Kelly: [0:00:04] Hey everyone, I’m Dr. Kelly Starrett.
Juliet: [0:00:06] And I’m Juliet Starrett.
Kelly: [0:00:08] And you’re listening to The Ready State Podcast.
Juliet: [00:00:16] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to us by our friends at Sleep.me.
Kelly: [00:00:21] All sleep is not the same.
Juliet: [00:00:24] Tell me more.
Kelly: [00:00:24] But one of the things we’re starting to recognize now, and we’ve known it forever of course, deep sleep is the restorative sleep. That’s when you’re putting out all the growth hormone and getting all of the recovery. Deep sleep’s important.
Juliet: [00:00:36] One of the ways to get really good deep sleep is to maintain a low body temperature while you’re sleeping.
Kelly: [00:00:41] Weird. And if you’re super hot, you don’t actually fall into that deep sleep as much or as well. I am a hot sleeper. I also am starting to be old. Old cat syndrome is starting to affect me. I’m starting to be almost 50 and one of the things that’s started to decay as I’m measuring this thing regularly on my ring is that I get less and less deep sleep unless I’m not on it.
Juliet: [00:01:01] Which means it’s more and more critical for you to make sure your body’s at the right temperature so you get the requisite amount of deep sleep.
Kelly: [00:01:07] Nailed it.
Juliet: [00:01:07] Nailed it.
Kelly: [00:01:08] So deep, Juliet.
Juliet: [00:01:10] If you want to improve your deep sleep, head on over to sleep.me/trs to learn more and save on the purchase of any new Cube or Dock Pro sleep system. Go to sleep.me/trs to take advantage of our exclusive discount and wake up knowing you’ve got a ton of deep sleep.
Kelly: [00:01:29] That’s it. Don’t let your deep sleep suffer from the fire legs.
Juliet: [00:01:32] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by LMNT.
Kelly: [00:01:35] Look, one of the things that we have witnessed time and time again, especially for the past decade, is that people are moving back to eating whole foods, which is great.
Juliet: [00:01:44] But then what’s the downstream negative consequence of that?
Kelly: [00:01:46] Well, I can’t think of many except they’ve stopped salting their food and they are working out like maniacs and eating in sort of a very saltless way. And guess what happens? They don’t feel as good.
Juliet: [00:01:57] One of the things we love about LMNT is it’s a simple way to just add a little salt back into our diet and also a lovely, tasty way to do it. And so we are really on the tip of eating 800 grams of fruits and vegetables every day and getting enough protein in our diet, but we do actually have to consider our salt intake. And we can really manage that by drinking an LMNT a day.
Kelly: [00:02:18] It’s an easy way I think to incorporate getting some of these essential salts, particularly after exercise. I think people are doing better but they’re not appreciating that you are a biomotor electrical human being and you need salt to run the system.
Juliet: [00:02:35] Right now, if you order through our link, you get a free sample pack with all of LMNT’s flavors. Go to drinklmnt.com/trs. That’s drinklmnt.com/trs.
Kelly: [00:02:47] And if you think you’re feeling better, give this LMNT a try; I bet you can feel even betterer.
Juliet: [00:02:52] On this episode of The Ready State Podcast, we are stoked to welcome Stefi Cohen. As a 25-time World Record holding-
Kelly: [00:03:00] Just read that again.
Juliet: [00:03:02] Twenty-five time. And the strongest woman pound for pound in the world, Stefi has dedicated her life to pushing the boundaries of what is physically possible. In addition to her passion for sports, she is also a doctor of physical therapy, like you; an exercise physiologist; and she uses her knowledge and experience to educate the public about health and fitness. She is passionate about sharing evidence-based information using a no BS approach to help clear up the confusion that surrounds complex topics in the industry. She is also an author, podcast host, YouTuber and influencer and she uses her platform to share insights and inspire others to focus on building themselves from within. Stefi is also an advocate for women’s rights and strives to inspire younger generations to make a positive impact on those around them through their skills and talents. Now I just want to start by saying one of the things I enjoyed the most about this conversation was talking about physical therapy school.
Kelly: [00:03:57] Yeah, I totally feel seen by Stefi’s story where she went to grad school and started a business.
Juliet: [00:04:06] And was a professional athlete.
Kelly: [00:04:07] Right. And Stefi is extraordinary. I first became Stefi aware, I think she was a powerlifter and I knew she was in grad school working her way towards physio. And it’s been so fun to watch her mature, completely dominate a sport, really push a business. She is an exceptional woman.
Juliet: [00:04:25] Yeah. I mean just hearing about her path towards becoming great at many sports throughout her life and her continuing interest in pushing herself and being uncomfortable and taking risks. It’s just really fun to get to know her in this context and it was an awesome conversation.
Kelly: [00:04:40] Even if you don’t think you are into powerlifting, listen to this episode. Stefi is an extraordinary person and she talks about her path across multiple sports and multiple life experiences. This has something for everyone. I love this interview.
Juliet: [00:04:58] Enjoy it. Stefi, welcome to The Ready State Podcast.
Stefi Cohen: [00:05:02] Thank you so much for having me.
Juliet: [00:05:03] So I want to start back, and I actually didn’t know before I was reading about you before this podcast, that you were a huge soccer player.
Kelly: [00:05:12] I knew because I’m a fan.
Stefi Cohen: [00:05:14] You’re a real fan.
Juliet: [00:05:15] I’m a fan too but somehow I missed that piece of fact. Anyway, I’d love to hear just in the arc of your amazing career as an athlete that you started in soccer and how did that begin and I know you’re on the national team and just tell us a little bit about the beginning of your athletic career as a soccer player.
Stefi Cohen: [00:05:32] Yeah. So soccer was my first love. I was introduced to it from my dad. He used to be a semi professional player for France, which is where he was born and raised. And so he had two boys and I was the only girl in the family and he really wanted me to follow his footsteps for his athletic career and I didn’t protest. I was always happy playing sports. It was my sacred place always. So started playing soccer when I was about eight years old and I absolutely loved it. But I sucked. I was so bad at it. But for me, it was all about spending time with my dad and spending time with my friends and just playing. I was so focused on just having fun and enjoying the moment that I wasn’t really thinking or putting any pressure on myself for a certain standard for how I should be performing. And then I did that forever it felt like I think.
Kelly: [00:06:31] It was forever.
Stefi Cohen: [00:06:31] I was 12 years old when I got offered the tryout for the national team when I kind of started getting noticed after many years of being benched. And yeah, next thing you know I got into national soccer team for Venezuela, which is where I was born and raised. And I did that for about five years. Climbed my way up to MVP, most valuable player, team captain, and all these other things. And eventually landed a soccer scholarship in the US and here we are.
Kelly: [00:06:59] Then you just broke your dad’s heart and were powerlifting. I can’t wait to hear this.
Juliet: [00:07:03] Okay, but before we get to that, where did you end up going to play?
Stefi Cohen: [00:07:08] So I got into San Diego State University, Division 1. And it’s interesting because even though I played at the highest level back home in Venezuela, it’s not very glamorous at all to play any sports in Venezuela. It’s a third world country where we don’t get any sort of funding from the government. I was getting paid $50 a month to play professional soccer. We played inside of the military base where our soccer field was just a dirt field, it didn’t even have grass. Our goals have no nets. Our trainers were totally inexperienced, just like guys who maybe played soccer, but that’s it. No formal education, no athletic trainers. Obviously, no physical therapist. Obviously, no strength and conditioning coach. I’d never been inside of a weightroom in my life until I got into school here in the states.
And so I remember the first day of training was a Monday at 5 a.m. It was in the weightroom and I go in there and it’s all these girls that are, just like the military, they’re all lined up, all wearing the same uniform, they’re all jacked, they all know what they’re doing. And I’m just this little girl from Venezuela stepping foot inside of a weightroom for the first time ever. And I felt so lost and so intimidated by just the level of professionalism and skill that I was seeing. And it was really, really shocking. It’s funny, I laugh because a few years later I became the strongest woman in the world, so what was my biggest weakness eventually became my biggest strength. But I think it was lack of maturity combined with just how intimidating that whole experience was that led me to quit. It’s one of my biggest regrets now, looking back. I just wish I was a little bit more mature or maybe had somebody next to me to tell me to keep going even though it was hard at the beginning because I do feel I could have done something with that. But at the same time, I can’t… It’s not really a regret because I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in today if I hadn’t switched paths.
Kelly: [00:09:12] It begs a couple questions. One is that you’ve done okay for yourself, still doing okay for yourself as an athlete, which is bananas. But one of the things that we ask all our athlete friends, who are the best athletes at the top of the game? One of our friends, a professional cyclist, and we were talking about Peter Sagan, this incredible cyclist, and I said, “He seems like he’s so athletic.” And he said, “Yeah, he could probably be a World Champion in three or four sports.” And sometimes it just turns out that people are so talented in a sport, if they are given the care and feeding, then they can be great at any sport. And I feel like that’s certainly the case with you. It’s interesting that that piece didn’t work for you. But as you have traveled around and are now in your third major sport, at least that I’m aware of, maybe there are probably four or five more that I don’t know about, but you run into a lot of superstar mutants that almost could apply those skills anywhere.
Stefi Cohen: [00:10:06] I totally agree with that. I think there’s obviously a genetic physical component to those athletes’ ability to perform at the highest level. But I think that the factor that really contributes the most to the development of a person at the highest level in anything has to do more with their mental strength and their grit. So the reason why I emphasized and I mentioned how much I sucked when I first started playing soccer and the fact that I was so focused on just having fun, having a good time playing and developing relationships and all of these other less important markers of performance is because I feel like what I’ve learned there is what I’ve taken to every other sport and applied it the same way and it’s what’s allowed me to have the resilience and the patience and the kindness and compassion towards myself that allows me to devote enough time to something and eventually get good. Because that’s the part that people miss as they grow up and get older is that they become so impatient and they want results immediately. Delayed gratification is something, it’s a skill not a lot of people have. And I just feel like through that experience, like six years in the trenches where I sucked and I was completely invisible to everybody else, but I kept showing up and I kept going for the right reasons, I took that to every other sport where I just keep showing up, even when I sucked, even when it’s boring, even when it feels mundane. Even when I’m invisible and unnoticed. I just keep showing up and keep putting in the work and eventually it pays off.
Juliet: [00:11:43] I love that. I relate to that a lot. And I’m wondering where do you think that comes from, where do you think you get that? Because I will say that I have very few athletic gifts when it comes to skill, but what I do have is the ability to suffer and be gritty. That much I know about myself and that actually alone has taken me very far in my own athletic career in a much more micro way. But where does that come from? And part of the reason I ask is because we are raising kids and I think everybody wants to know how do I make my kid gritty? Where does that begin? How do you get that skill?
Stefi Cohen: [00:12:17] I think anybody can harness that skill, the skill of resilience the skill of grit, the skill of accepting discomfort. I feel like I didn’t have a choice. It was just the way I was brought up or the challenges and difficulties that were presented to me or that I had to go through and overcome paired with having really amazing role models. I come from a family of warriors. My grandparents are both Holocaust survivors that literally walked from Romania to Israel for months and that then uprooted their entire lives and moved to Venezuela and started over. They started the first Jewish high school and did all of these incredible things. And then they had my mom, who was also a really strong female figure in my life and my sister and my dad. And so I just feel like I’ve been surrounded by people who are go getters and warriors. So just having the right role models has been I think a pretty big determining factor. And then, just yeah, what I had to overcome and had to go through.
Kelly: [00:13:17] One of the things that I want to circle back to is you’re in this weightroom with these women who’d been exposed to that. And it’s something we talk to… I just talked to a bunch of recruits at a university. I was like are you in the weightroom because you’re expected to speak this language. Unless you’ve been exposed to it. Now you’re playing college sports and you have to manage yourself as a human being in college, which already I wasn’t very good at, for example. And then you have to also manage the strength and conditioning, all these things. Do you remember who that strength coach was, because this team that I’m talking about at Cal has—Hank, shoutout—such an extraordinary environment and culture there. And it is the only safe place in all of athletics, is the weightroom, because you’re not being judged, you’re not fighting for a position. You can work on all and develop all these strengths. And I know that this relates to you because you’re such a good strength and conditioning coach. But do you remember that person and was that a lost opportunity?
Stefi Cohen: [00:14:16] No, I don’t remember. It definitely was a lost opportunity. I’ve been asked this question a lot of times, what’s one of your biggest regrets in life, and it’s not continuing my soccer journey. Because I quit prematurely, right? I quit for all the wrong reasons. Now I don’t have anything against quitting. I’m actually a massive proponent of quitting. I don’t think there’s any shame in it and I think that society heavily glamorizes the grind, no pain, no gain, don’t quit, and I couldn’t disagree with that more. But I did quit prematurely and for the wrong reasons and I do kind of regret that. It says something about me. I’ve spent the last 12 years of my life undoing that feeling of guilt that came from quitting prematurely and that little part of my identity in that moment in time. I just never want to be in that position again.
Juliet: [00:15:08] What were your reasons? Because you said I quit but for the wrong reasons. At the time, what were those reasons other than that you were probably 18 and-
Kelly: [00:15:17] Away from home.
Juliet: [00:15:17] In a new country away from home. I mean-
Kelly: [00:15:20] The deck was stacked against you.
Juliet: [00:15:20] I can think of some reasons, but what were your reasons?
Stefi Cohen: [00:15:23] I just felt so overwhelmed. I felt like I had so much ground to make up for. I knew that I was potentially more skilled than a lot of the players. But I knew that in order to get to the top there I was going to do an unsurmountable amount of work. And just because of everything else that was going on in my life at that time, like I had to learn the language, I had to understand the culture, I had to make new friends, I had to just figure out everything. Figure out where to eat, where am I going to get food, how am I going to get money, how am I going to pay for the other part of my tuition. There were so many moving pieces that I just felt like I couldn’t do it. I felt overwhelmed. But if it was me now, I would’ve absolutely found a way.
Kelly: [00:16:04] One of the things I think I appreciate about you as an athlete, obviously you’re a brilliant physio, great coach, all these things, but I see you really take care of the whole person now. Maybe I’m projecting what I know about you, just like you have a complete game. One of the things I hear about that experience in college was the system let you down, that we didn’t take care of a person trying to manage these things. And this was a long time ago, a little bit different era, but so many times Juliet and I obsess on watching sports documentaries, and it’s the rest of the thing. Playing the sport and training for the sport is the easy part. It’s managing relationships and stress and all those other pieces that ends up being the limiting factor. Do you feel like that experience being so overwhelmed changed how you went in and managed some of these other aspects of your other sporting careers and other lives?
Stefi Cohen: [00:17:02] I mean yeah, absolutely. But I don’t think that the issue was necessarily the system. I don’t even think that I was mature enough to recognize all the things that I was dealing with at that moment that were leading me to feel so frustrated.
Kelly: [00:17:17] You couldn’t. That’s what I mean by the system I think is that the culture, the whole thing, needs to be set up to take care of a human being who is expected then to go out and be heroic on the pitch.
Stefi Cohen: [00:17:27] Yeah because the problem becomes that all of this frustration and the overwhelming feeling is masked as weakness. Like if I don’t show up to training, then I don’t want it enough or if I underperform then I’m not as skilled or as talented. When in reality, it’s just this whole hurricane or tornado in my life that was happening that was preventing me from performing at the highest level.
Juliet: [00:17:51] Two questions: Did you stay in school? Number two, maybe I don’t have my timeline right so you can correct me, but did you find CrossFit first and then start powerlifting? If you could just tell me a little bit about how did you discover CrossFit and were you still a student at that time? How did that all come to pass?
Stefi Cohen: [00:18:08] Yep. So I decided to move to Miami from San Diego because I was so culture shocked. You don’t understand. Even though I wanted to play soccer in the US and I wanted to advance my career and to have a future and all these things, I was a kid. I was 17 when I left. It was mainly a push from my mom. She packed my bags, she applied to school for me, she did all of this for me. I felt like I was just getting out of my hometown essentially while all of my friends were still staying there and doing their thing and having fun, I was alone in another country by myself trying to figure all these things out. So I felt very homesick and I just felt like I was too far away from home, too far away from the culture that I was used to. So I moved to Miami, which is literally a replica of where I grew up. And I loved it. I felt a little bit more at home and felt I could breathe a little bit better. It was only a two-hour flight from home, which made it a lot easier for my parents to come visit and so on.
But yeah, quitting soccer… U M didn’t have a Division 1 team, so it wasn’t an option for me. They had a club team that I initially started playing with, but it wasn’t going to go anywhere. So I thought I was ready to give up that part of my identity as an athlete but I really wasn’t and I don’t think I’ll ever be. I’ve come to terms with that already, that I just need to be chasing something physical at the highest level at all times for as long as my body allows me to. But I definitely wasn’t ready to part ways with that part of my identity at that point in time, so I entered what I think about as a discovery period. I think it’s so important for people to do, get into things and try different things out without any sort of expectation for the future. If it’s something that clicks with you and that works for you and that you can see yourself making progress at, then stick with it. And if not, there’s no shame in trying something else.
So I started a discovery period. It was basically now looking back, I understand better what I was doing. I was trying to balance out these three pillars in my head: my skills, my talents, and my passion. That’s how I think about it now. So your talent is something that you’re gift with. Like your innate gifts for something. You’ve seen people that are just innately fast, that you just put them on a track and they’re just ridiculously powerful and ridiculously fast. So that’s your talent. Your skill is something that you maybe not have but you can definitely get better at. A good example for me was strength, right? I didn’t have it at that point in time. I was really weak and scrawny. But I definitely had it in me to get stronger.
Kelly: [00:20:45] I’ve never heard weak and scrawny and your name in the same sentence. But that’s cool.
Juliet: [00:20:49] Kelly was also scrawny at one point, I’ll have you know.
Kelly: [00:20:53] And still weak. Hey.
Stefi Cohen: [00:20:57] Okay, so skills, talents, and then passion is something that you genuinely enjoy doing. But I discovered that actually most people rely heavily on passion to start something or to get into something, but they forget that passion is also something that you can develop towards something. And especially if you’re getting recognition and praise and notoriety from the thing that you’re doing, you can definitely develop a passion for that because we’re social beings. We crave acceptance, we crave the longing, we crave praise. That’s in our nature. We crave attention. So you can definitely develop that even if it’s something that you’re not initially into.
So that was the beginning of my journey towards self-discovery and toward finding another athletic avenue that made me feel fulfilled and made me some sort of meaningful journey, I guess. So it was during the time that CrossFit was kind of in its inception. And I was going to school at University of Miami with Noah Ohlsen who’s a CrossFitter. And he was in one of my classes and he sat next to me in one of my classes. He was so jacked and he looked great. And I was like, “Man, what do you do, how do you look like that?” And he told me CrossFit. There was a gym, Peak 360, about two miles away from campus. And he invited me over for a workout. And that was my gateway drug into the world of iron sports, into the gym, lifting weights.
Kelly: [00:22:23] How did I not know that? I am going to text Noah immediately and be like, “Thank you. The world thanks you.” Oh my God.
Juliet: [00:22:29] Yeah, I mean I had no idea.
Kelly: [00:22:32] And he must have been 13 years old.
Juliet: [00:22:34] He still is 13.
Stefi Cohen: [00:22:36] Why does he look younger every year?
Juliet: [00:22:40] He grows a mustache and he looks way younger.
Kelly: [00:22:41] He’s a vampire. You all are vampires. That is bananas.
Juliet: [00:22:44] I can only say this on this podcast because Noah knows this to be true, but out daughters could care less about CrossFit. If we care about it, they care less about it. But they have always loved Noah. He’s like their one. They’re like ooh, Noah Ohlsen. And one time Kelly did some kind of podcast or something with him and Noah made them a little video. And at the time they were maybe 14 and 11 or something, but I mean they stoked, I mean deep stoked.
Stefi Cohen: [00:23:12] Oh my God. He’s an angel. He’s amazing. But yeah, that’s kind of how I started getting into the whole world of lifting weights. And initially, again, because my biggest weakness was strength, I naturally gravitated towards spending more time doing the Olympic lifts, doing my squat bench and deadlift, just trying to develop some level of general strength because I felt like I was so lacking in that. And then next thing you know, I met an Olympic weightlifting coach. His name was Camilo Garcia. He was the main coach for the national Cuban team and for the Venezuelan team as well. and when he saw me, one of the first times he saw me, he just went, “Hey, do you maybe want to go to the Olympics?” And I’m like, “Fuck yeah. Why not?”
Juliet: [00:23:55] Yes, I do. You’re like, yes, I do. How’s that for an intro?
Stefi Cohen: [00:23:58] Yes. And I started doing Olympic lifting full time. So I guess I’m on my fourth sport, not my third. So I went head in first and started training Olympic weightlifting with this coach who was amazing. Every morning he would text me at 6 a.m. with my morning workout that he would physically write on a notebook. Super, super old school, super Cuban style. He would text me my morning workout, I would do it alone, and then in the afternoon I would meet up with him for the second session and we did that for six years straight. I was able to work my way up to 91 kilo snatch and 120 kilo clean and jerk at 50 kilos body weight.
Kelly: [00:24:39] That’s ridiculous.
Juliet: [00:24:39] Ridiculous.
Stefi Cohen: [00:24:41] It’s Olympic level. I didn’t have citizenship so I couldn’t even participate in Nationals or any sort of tournament or qualify for anything. And I wasn’t going to go back to Venezuela. That was so dangerous and impossible for what I was doing for my life in school and such. And from there, because I got into graduate school, and my family’s always emphasized high level education first and foremost and so have I, I got into graduate. And in my head, I’m like I’m going to just put Olympic weightlifting on pause for the next two, three years. What I’m going to do is I’m going to be proactive, just continue getting stronger, worry or just focus developing general strength through squat, bench and deadlift, maybe do Olympic deadlifting once or twice a week, something like that, just to maintain the technique and the mobility and then I’ll get back into it. That was my plan. But man, I was so good at powerlifting that… And I say this humbly. I just progressed so quickly and was doing things that nobody else had ever done before that I had to see it through the whole way. I wanted to see what I could do kind of thing. And that was the end of Olympic weightlifting and the beginning of powerlifting.
Juliet: [00:25:48] So having been a partner to someone who went through physical therapy school, which is what you went through, that was your graduate school, it’s pretty rigorous and there’s a lot going on. And somehow in the middle of that, we had a baby and started our own gym, so we obviously had a bit of spare time.
Kelly: [00:26:04] It wasn’t that hard.
Juliet: [00:26:04] What was the timeline here? Were you training fully for powerlifting while you were in physical therapy school, and if so, how did you manage all that?
Stefi Cohen: [00:26:13] Yeah, so that resonates with me because I also started my business the first year of grad school.
Kelly: [00:26:18] Do you remember getting pulled aside by the dean and saying, “Are you okay? Are you sure? This is insane.”
Stefi Cohen: [00:26:23] Oh my God. It was so bad for me. My school had a policy that if you got anything less than a 75 on any test at any point and time you got kicked off.
Kelly: [00:26:33] It was 80 for us.
Stefi Cohen: [00:26:34] It was 80 for you? Okay. Jesus Christ. Oh my God.
Juliet: [00:26:38] I know. It’s so mean. It was so mean.
Stefi Cohen: [00:26:40] Honestly, that is not an environment that’s conducive for learning.
Kelly: [00:26:44] No. Fear. I’m going to say a shoutout to Martha Jewell. She failed out over half the program the year before between biomechanics and anatomy. Half the program washed out from those two classes. It’s crazy.
Stefi Cohen: [00:26:57]] What’s the point? I really don’t get it.
Kelly: [00:26:59] Not sure.
Stefi Cohen: [00:27:00] And honestly, that was my biggest turnoff from school because I was such a passionate student, really. Even in undergrad when I switched my major from business school to exercise phys, I was so stoked like this was my life calling kind of thing and I would sit in front of the class and I would ask the difficult questions and I would read the additional material and I would do my research and I would write and I would be so stoked. And then I got to grad school and it was like just such a slap on the face. It’s like they don’t want me to learn. They just want me to regurgitate all this information that is extremely outdated and to shut up and to just do what I’m told and do it all under the most stressful conditions possible for any human being.
Juliet: [0:27:41] Yeah, I mean I think you perfectly described Kelly’s exact situation.
Stefi Cohen: [00:27:45] It was so frustrating.
Kelly: [00:27:47] I want to hear how you balance that but I also want to know… I took a lot out of physio school and was like, oh, there’s a lot of opportunity here because they’re still playing this game and I know that’s got to be the truth for you. I mean you had a business that was making money while you were in PT school. So did we. I think our passive revenue was like $70,000 a year just running our little crappy gym on the side. And I remember being like, wait, what, I’m going to take a crappy job? I don’t think so. I’m going to actually see what happens when we do this full time.
Stefi Cohen: [00:28:21] And you pioneered that. I think I told you this before, but before I got into physical therapy school, I was modeling off of you. I’m like if this guy was able to go to PT school and find a way to disrupt the market and take what’s being taught in PT school and commercialize it, and make five times as much money as he could as a PT, that’s what I want to do.
Kelly: [00:28:44] And own my own life. I mean I think that’s really the thing, right?
Stefi Cohen: [00:28:48] Of course. Freedom. Oh my God.
Juliet: [00:28:50] Yeah, it is interesting that you both had I would say mediocre to sometimes bad experiences in school. But I don’t know if you feel like this but I know that Kelly also simultaneously has no regrets. He’s so glad he has that education and just the deep understanding of certain things that he would not have gotten without having that education, even if it was torture at times. Do you feel like that too?
Stefi Cohen: [00:29:14] Of course. It’s always thinking about the first principles. Having a deep understanding of things at its most fundamental level, it’s what gives you the ability to think critically and get to your own conclusions. But you can’t do that skipping the first step, which is understanding things at the most fundamental level. So absolutely. I mean as much as I have mixed feelings for traditional education and for the way that grad school was, I guess the architecture of grad school, at the same time, I wouldn’t have done that any differently. I needed to go through that, I needed that education, I needed to understand things at the deepest level. And also, the opportunities that the credentials gave you, the authority to speak on so many topics and your ability to appraise research and understand things. I definitely feel like I got significantly smarter from going to grad school alone.
Juliet: [00:30:11] Hey Ready State listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show.
Kelly: [00:30:19] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by our new offering, our new book, Built to Move.
Juliet: [00:30:25] Which is actually available for purchase now. You can check it out at builttomove.com or any platform where you buy books. We are very excited.
Kelly: [00:30:33] This thing is not only our best work to date, but I think it’s the first book in my understanding that has literally put a line in the sand. We have given you benchmarks and vital signs around key aspects of your physical behavior and your movement behavior.
Juliet: [00:30:50] And for us, the things that we emphasize in this book are the things that we do day to day in our own life consistently and have moved the levers for us the most in terms of our health.
Kelly: [00:30:58] Wait, but you’re a working mom who runs a business and has a couple kids.
Juliet: [00:31:01] Well, that’s the other thing we’ve tried to do in this book is acknowledge that people are busy and maxed out and confused by the fitness space and we have tried to help with tools and strategies for how you can actually fit these things into a busy, time crunched life.
Kelly: [00:31:15] If you are an athlete trying to go better, you will find some blind spots that will allow you to work harder. If you are a non-exerciser or you know a non-exerciser in your life, this book is for them. It will create basic movement behaviors, environmental behaviors, that will make you feel better and move through the world better.
Juliet: [00:31:33] Check it out, learn more at builttomove.com or anywhere you buy your books.
Juliet: [00:31:40] That’s really cool. I’m a huge, gigantic… I mean I agree I have mixed feelings about our educational system and things are changing and probably education isn’t changing fast enough. But I had the same experience with my own education and feel the same way about it.
Kelly: [00:31:54] Well, maybe the three of us also went through at a time where a lot of things were shifting. I mean no one can project the rise of the internet, the blowing up of strength and conditioning. You also happen to be like, oh, I’m just the best in the world at a sport ever. I mean there’s a lot of things that are happening all at once and school, it can’t be nimble. It takes a minute to set up a school, to organize the principles.
Juliet: [00:32:17] Right. It’s institutional.
Kelly: [00:32:19] It’s institutional. It’s tricky. Because we get asked all the time what would you change and I was like, well, there’s a lot I’d change. But what do you throw away? I had to write a business plan as part of our graduation but I just wrote it about
Juliet: [00:32:33] Our existing business.
Kelly: [00:32:33] Our existing business.
Juliet: [00:32:35] Yeah, we already had one so-
Kelly: [00:32:35] I was like why am I pretending to do this, you know?
Juliet: [00:32:37] Yeah, so just back to my question though, I mean you’re in grad school, you start your business, which maybe you could tell our listeners about that as well. And you’re a competitive powerlifter. Were you just like I’ve got the grit and the determination and you just made it happen?
Kelly: [00:32:54] If you want something done, give it to a busy woman.
Juliet: [00:32:55] Just tell us what that was all like, mixing all that together.
Stefi Cohen: [00:32:59] Yeah. So I was competing in Olympic weightlifting at that time and I was honestly just documenting my training on Instagram. I think I got into Instagram about two years after the platform was initially built. And I was just using it as a log to record my training so I could see my progress over time. And next thing you know, I started growing an audience of people who were interested in my training and my progress. Then when I got into graduate school and I was putting Olympic weightlifting on the backburner and doing more a combined or a mixed Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting with functional bodybuilding, that was the training style that I was doing. And people seemed to be really interested in that.
And so me and my partner at the time, we thought, well, if there’s an interest and there’s a need in the market, why don’t we try to fulfill that. And so we started working on creating our own software. It was initially going to be a website. Back in that time I think the only available white label software that existed was TrainHeroic. At the time, they would take 30 percent of whatever you were making. And when we did the math, we were like, well, we might as well make our own technology and not pay somebody 30 percent. That’s kind of our thought process initially. And we started working on our website and we came up with a waiting list for people to beta test our training and our software. And we got like 600 people in it.
And at that time, I had a small following. I had maybe 10,000 followers at that time and my partner had maybe 30,000 at most. And still, we were able to get about 600 people on that waiting list. So it just became very clear that there was a definite interest and that we had an interesting product that just was a little bit different to other people’s training plan. So we leaned into that and we invested a lot of money into that technology and the software and building a team. I think a year later we opened our first physical gym. And two years later we expanded into an app. And every year after that, we added another vertical to our business.
But as far as balancing everything out goes and being in grad school and starting a business and competing at the highest level, it’s funny because I’m so desensitized to stress that it didn’t feel that bad. It even feels weird to say because it was a lot. I’m not going to try to sugarcoat it but I was sleeping maybe two, three hours a night. I would wake up at 5 a.m. just to pop an Adderall. I would literally pop an Adderall at 5 a.m., go back to sleep, let the Adderall wake me up at around 6 a.m., review my classes and the material for the classes, go to class, stay there for, whatever, eight hours, pop another Adderall, take a bunch of Red Bull, a bunch of caffeine, go to the library, then go to the gym at 9 p.m.
Kelly: [00:35:56] Do you remember what it was like to be young? Oh man.
Juliet: [00:36:00] So resilient. You’re so resilient.
Stefi Cohen: [00:36:01] Trust me, I’m not like that anymore. I feel the aging. I feel it.
Kelly: [00:36:07] That is a bananas story. And you know what’s bananas? I just want everyone to appreciate this. When I was in PT school many years ago, people left their relationships to go move into the dorm so they could study full time. They felt it was that hard and that rigorous, they shut everything else down. And you were pivoting and saying, hey, there’s a real opportunity here, I just have to survive it. I say all the time I couldn’t do it again. If you were like, “Kelly, you have to go back,” I’d be like, “Nope. I’m going to do any other thing.”
Stefi Cohen: [00:36:34] I honestly don’t think I could do it again either. And I ended up getting kicked out of grad school. Sorry I got sidetracked. But I got a 74 in one of the tests I did.
Juliet: [00:36:44] Oh my God. No.
Kelly: [00:36:45] No. No.
Stefi Cohen: [00:36:45] I did. It’s so embarrassing. But listen, I had never failed a test in my life. It’s just not me. It was one of the winter breaks and I was in Canada skiing, or who knows what I was doing. And I came back home and there was like, I don’t know, 10 letters underneath my door. And I open them and I’m like what the hell is this. And so the first one just said that I had been withdrawn from the program because I got a 74 on the test. Then the second one was like, okay, if you don’t respond then we’re for real going to kick you out. Then the third one, fourth, sixth, seventh one was thank you ,but no thank you, you’ve been officially removed from the program because you didn’t even contact us about your failed class. And I was like, oh my God, the possibility of failing a class didn’t even cross my mind at any point. I left my computer at home during winter break. I didn’t open my school email. I was skiing and having a great winter break. And I came back and I was kicked out of the program. Awesome.
I made an appointment with the Committee of Academic Review and I had to go and plead my case and explain why I deserved a second chance. And just imagine this: It was a room with a round table with every single professor from the department. So it’s like 20 people, 20 professors, and me at the head of the table. And what they opened up the discussion with was why do you think you deserve a second chance. And I had so many reasons but I didn’t even know how… Because it was so obvious to me. I’m like are you kidding, obviously I deserve a second chance. I got a 74 in clinical eval. I probably forgot to put history on the first… You know what I mean? It’s such a silly mistake. Where do you want me to begin to tell you that I deserve a second chance? So nothing. I plead my case. The part that shocked me the most from this conversation was one of my spine professors was sitting on my lefthand side and he just went, “Look, Stef, I’m sorry to say this, but I just don’t think you’re as strong a student as you think you are and my advice to you is going to be to stop trying to play sports at the highest level and seek counseling so that you can officially and efficiently part ways with that part of your career and just focus full time on school because simply you don’t have what it takes to do both.” And I was like-
Kelly: [00:39:08] Thank goodness that person said that to you.
Stefi Cohen: [00:39:11] That just lit a fire up my ass. I was like, “I understand where you’re coming from, I understand that’s the way it might be coming across, but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree and I would just love a second chance to prove to all of you that I can be a student, a professional student, and a professional athlete at the highest level.” And I did not only that, but I also started a seven figure business during that time. Thank you very much.
Kelly: [00:39:35] I feel so vindicated. I was the blackest of the black sheep in my whole PT school.
Stefi Cohen: [00:39:40] Oh God. Me too. After that, all of my professors hated me.
Juliet: [00:39:45] Yeah, and even I don’t know if you experienced this—sorry to interrupt, Kelly—but even the other students really… I mean he had a couple of friends but mostly the other students didn’t really like him because-
Stefi Cohen: [00:39:54] Same.
Juliet: [00:39:54] They felt like he got to bend the rules and he got special treatment. And so he definitely was sort of isolated and he had a couple of close friends, but mostly people didn’t like him.
Kelly: [00:40:06] I have to tell a story. Juliet and I before my first year at PT school started a week long leadership school for kids with HIV. So one of our friends was the director of pediatric infectious disease for that age. All of these poor kids from around the country with HIV… At the time, pediatric HIV was killing kids. It wasn’t controlled. We would bring 20 kids in and we’d go whitewater kayaking for a week and we’d sleep outside. And we had run this. And that was something we’re going to continue to run. And one of my classes, I think it was cardiology, I was like, “Hey, I’ve got this thing coming up, I’ll cover all my things.” And they were like, “Well, no one takes a week off in the middle of school.” I’m like, “Well, I’m going to so you have two choices: You’re going to let me do that or you’re going to kick me out.” And they were like, “Well, if you fail, you fail.” And I was like, “Cool. You said it. I won’t fail.” And that was literally the system is trying to make me do one thing and Juliet would talk me down off the ledge over and over and over again.
Juliet: [00:41:00] Yeah, he was swimming upstream that whole time.
Kelly: [00:41:03] Oh man.
Stefi Cohen: [00:41:05] Because my presence at powerlifting events or just networking events was so important for my business to continue growing, pretty much every weekend I had to take off on a Thursday. We didn’t have class on a Friday but we did have class on Thursday. So I missed a ton of either Thursday classes or Monday classes. I would alternate between missing one and one like that. But same thing. I was met with so much resistance. Instead of being encouraged for being a pioneer and disrupting the system and being a creator and providing jobs for people, instead of being celebrated for that, I was constantly shamed. I was made to feel bad for it by my professors and my classmates just like you.
Kelly: [00:41:46] Success is the best revenge. Ooh.
Stefi Cohen: [00:41:48] It really is. It really is. And what’s funny is that after all of that, after all the shit that I was put through during grad school, at the end after graduation… Actually, yeah, day of graduation I missed my graduation because I had a powerlifting meet and I broke the world record that day. And guess what? My school wrote a whole piece about me, how proud they are, look at all the world records she’s breaking. I’m like, wow, that’s crazy.
Kelly: [00:42:16] You bet they did.
Stefi Cohen: [00:42:17] You guys didn’t make it any easier for me to do that but now you want to clap.
Juliet: [00:42:22] That’s amazing. Okay, so tell us about becoming the strongest woman ever.
Kelly: [00:42:26] And when was that not enough?
Stefi Cohen: [00:42:28] It never is enough. When is it enough? I mean getting into bar lifting, like I said, I always say that bar lifting chose me. I didn’t intend to get into it. For me, it was a temporary thing that I was going to do so I can position myself better in Olympic weightlifting when I went back to it. That was my intention. But I got strong so fast and I was doing things that had never been done before and I just felt that I had to keep going. Genuinely I didn’t really enjoy powerlifting at all. I didn’t enjoy the training, I didn’t enjoy competing, I didn’t enjoy the sport at all.
Kelly: [00:43:06] Way to sell it, strongest woman in the history of the world.
Stefi Cohen: [00:43:09] I really didn’t. Look, I have so much respect for powerlifters and I appreciate the community and everything that it’s done for me, but I never enjoyed it. I really didn’t. But then again, that also just allowed me to tap into a whole other gear mentally. I was doing a sport that was already boring that was more boring for me. I’m an athlete. I like to be challenged physically and I like to be able to showcase my skill. And I just felt like powerlifting wasn’t it in that sense. It was just a one-dimensional sport that tested one very specific performance indicator. And I just felt very blunted by it and I felt I had so much more to show in terms of my athleticism. But at the same time, I was monetizing heavily from it and I was building a brand that was 100 percent based on the fact that I was a strong woman and so I just felt that I had to keep going.
Kelly: [00:44:04] It makes sense though, in terms of all the complexity in your life, traditional strength training is pretty routinized. You know what the path is, you can either do the path… It’s something I feel like if you’re listening to this, you can actually take this away, if your life is really crazy, simplifying to a few metrics, bench, deadlift, squat, those are simple things that you can keep noodling on and make good gains without lots and lots of complexity. I think that really is, I mean it’s amazing of all the sports you chose, you chose the sport where you could actually really thrive even though someone had thrown a blanket over your fire.
Stefi Cohen: [00:44:41] Yeah. So it was a good sport for that time period of my life definitely. But not what I wanted to do forever, yes.
Kelly: [00:44:48] I am grateful that I actually think I got to watch you lift one time before we were friends. So I actually got to see you compete when you were still competing.
Stefi Cohen: [00:44:55 inaudible]
Juliet: [00:44:57] Yeah, that’s really cool. Well, so you now are training as a professional boxer. And A, I’d love to hear about what that’s like and how it’s different. But also, because you talked about how much your powerlifting was connected to your business and your monetization of your business, was that like a difficult transition for you to make because you thought, oh okay, now I’m going to be doing this and are the people following me not going to get it and is that going to have a financial impact. Was that a consideration and did you perhaps stay in powerlifting longer because you were worried about that side of your business?
Stefi Cohen: [00:45:32] Oh my God, yeah, absolutely. I stayed in powerlifting for I think an additional two years after I was already thinking about quitting and after I had already accumulated a bunch of chronic injuries that were making it incredibly difficult for me to progress, just like the pain that I had to endure and go through for marginal gain was insane those last two years of my competitive lifting career. I mean was it worth it? Yeah, probably, because I was able to recover physically from all that damage. But it was really, really tough. It really was. And I was scared of transitioning out of it because, like I said, I mean my entire income is dependent on that image that I built as a powerlifter. So it was a little bit nerve wracking. But at the same time, I mean I always find a way. I always figure out a way to make things work. So at the same time I was confident in my ability to pivot and to make my audience follow me again.
Kelly: [00:46:32] Man, I am on the call with two of the grittiest women around. I swear you two are so gritty. I remember the time where I’d only known you as a strength athlete and a really impressive strength athlete who moved beautifully. One who I was like, oh, this is how you should lift. You should lift and move like this. This is a great template for beautiful movement. Then I remember watching you kick a soccer ball at the track and being like, what? You’re an athlete underneath that? Because a lot of times I’ve found that powerlifting can attract people who aren’t very athletic but who know how to really persevere and are very strong but not necessarily mutants. You can walk around 800 but you can’t tie your shoes and tuck or twist.
Stefi Cohen: [00:47:11] Yeah because from a skill level, the entry level for powerlifting is virtually nothing. It’s like can you sit down, stand up.
Kelly: [00:47:19] Yeah and I’ll put bench pressing as one of the most technical lifts there is. It’s so gnarly and technical. Comma, all of a sudden, I’m watching you box and I was like, oh my God, I did not realize how athletic you were. And then I found out, oh, she played soccer growing up. You always had this latent athleticism, which is definitely good for boxing. But I think it’s so interesting that you had all of this experience cutting, running, sprinting, twisting, being athletic and then you were able to harness that into these specific sports. Because, again, the conversation Juliet and I are having a lot of times with our kids is how do we expose them enough to enough things that they can either choose to be able to dip into those pools and wells, insert themselves or not. And we don’t have any aspirations that our kids are necessarily going to be the chosen ones; maybe one might be. But really, we want them to have this love of being able to go out into the world and play. And it seems like soccer set you early up for that.
Stefi Cohen: [00:48:17] It really did. I really do think that the combination of soccer being such a dynamic and complete sport – you have to take into account your footwork, your hand eye coordination, your ability to produce rotational force, your endurance, your power, your speed—it’s such a complete sport. And then pair that with all the development that I had in the weightroom, it was just the perfect combination for anything else. It was just the perfect baseline of general physical preparedness that I could possibly have.
Kelly: [00:48:50] Seriously, I make Caroline seesaw press after a tournament yesterday. I was like, “Come on in, we’ve got 10 minutes, we’re going to go seesaw press because this is the way and having these little microdoses of Olympic lifting, et cetera, et cetera to support the whole thing.
Juliet: [00:49:05] I was just going to tell you, I was going to mention this earlier when we were talking about soccer, but I missed my chance, but interestingly, now that we’re almost 50 and our friends are similar age to us, we have noticed that our friends who were young soccer players now at our age still seem to be the ones who can pick up other sports the most quickly. We have a neighbor who played soccer in high school and then also played in college and he literally never… We like to mountain bike, he’d never mountain biked in his entire life and we took him out mountain biking and after one ride, he was already better than us. That same thing would be true I think any sport we exposed him to. Again, I’m sure there’s many factors but there’s something to say for lifelong-
Kelly: [00:49:48] You’re saying the collegiate soccer player turned out to be a good athlete?
Juliet: [00:49:51] But it’s still just there’s something about soccer. These people we know are like, “Why are you such a good athlete and you’re stuck in an old body?” And they’re like, “Oh, I played soccer.” So there’s something really complete about that sport and when young people do it, it really does seem to have this lasting impact on their ability to be athletic. I don’t know what it is.
Stefi Cohen: [00:50:09] I totally agree with that. I’ve never met a soccer player, somebody who developed their ability to play sports using soccer, I’ve never met anybody who has that background and isn’t athletic.
Kelly: [00:50:23] So here you are, you’ve got some decent skills, force of rate of development of force, you’re very strong, you have this background in soccer and contact and collision with other human beings. What is missing from boxing because boxing is classic sport but oftentimes if you didn’t grow up golden gloves, it’s hard to get the reps in. Where were your blind spots or where do you find is just opportunity? Is it just back to the old Stefi model where you’re like I can outwork you and persevere and make the game?
Stefi Cohen: [00:50:58] Yeah, pretty much. I don’t think that there is anybody else in the world who works harder and more intentionally than me and who, again, do the mundane shit for as long as I… if this takes me 20 years to get to the top, you bet that I’m going to be here for 20 years. However long.
Juliet: [00:51:19] You’re in.
Stefi Cohen: [00:51:20] I’m in. Exactly. I’m in. And I’m a student. I’m always a student, forever, for life, for anything that I do. So my eyes are open, my ears are open, I’m constantly studying other people, I’m constantly looking for feedback. It’s not only the work that I’m putting in but the intention behind the work. And I genuinely don’t leave any stones unturned. I have the best team behind me. I’m working with Andy Galpin for my conditioning. I’m working with Victoria Felkar for my supplements. I have a sports psychologist. I have a psychiatrist. I have an amazing strength and conditioning coach. So I have access to really incredible people who are helping me tap into my fullest potential as a boxer too.
Kelly: [00:52:00] Little different than being 18 years old and got to figure out where to eat, huh?
Stefi Cohen: [00:52:04] Exactly. I definitely learned how to problem solve.
Juliet: [00:52:07] So for people who aren’t already following you, where are you in this professional boxing journey? How long have you been doing it? Are you already competing? At what level? Give people the 4-1-1.
Stefi Cohen: [00:52:19] So it was 2020, the beginning of lockdown, I was having some relationship issues. I was just so fed up by just where I was at in my life. What’s funny is that it was a point in my life that I remember before shit hit the fan with everything that I had going on right then and there, I remember thinking to myself, I’m like I’m way too comfortable and that makes me really uncomfortable. I don’t like it when things are so smooth and comfortable. I’ve been competing in powerlifting for five, six years, I’m crushing it, I’m at the top. Nothing feels like a challenge. Training doesn’t feel challenging anymore. My relationship is too smooth. My job is doing really well. And the next thing you know the shit hit the fan from every single angle. That’s what led me to want to chase something different.
Kelly: [00:53:08] Did you have boxing friends?
Stefi Cohen: [00:53:09] No. Well, I guess Tony Sentmanat, Real World Tactical was the only person in the combat sports world that I had access to at that time.
Kelly: [00:53:17] Did someone say to you, “You’d be a great boxer?”
Stefi Cohen: [00:53:19] No. And I was turning 29 that year. Nobody believed I could become a boxer. I wanted to be a boxer but every time I would mention it, people would be like, “You’re too old.”
Kelly: [00:53:30] In full disclosure, I remember when you were boxing I was like, oh, look, Stefi’s gotten on the boxing craze. Boxing became very cool. We saw people like Bridges take a fight. We saw people messing around taking fights a little bit. I was like, well, I don’t feel you’re like a dilettante I don’t feel you’re an amusement… I was just really curious to see who stuck in it. And of course, you stuck in it.
Juliet: [00:53:52] Of course it’s Stefi.
Kelly: [00:53:52] Of course it’s Stefi.
Stefi Cohen: [00:53:54] So look, I bought a heavy bag, I hung it on my squat rack. I bought a pair of cheap Fairtex gloves that I was trying to put to use. And then I dusted my running shoes. And I was like, all right, I’m going to go run a mile. One mile. I’m going to go run a mile. I couldn’t do mor than 400 meters without my legs being incredibly pumped and my lungs burning to an extent that I never felt before. What is happening? I used to run half marathons, I used to play 90 minutes of soccer, no problem. and here I am, 400 meters, and I’m dead. This is definitely a problem. and I’m 29 years old. I also saw it as an opportunity to connect with my fitness again, and like I said, to play, to just have fun. Powerlifting became a job and it became something that I really, really didn’t want to do. And so I saw boxing as an opportunity to reconnect with my fitness and to reconnect with my inner child, just to play and have fun and meet people and learn a new skill and just enjoy while my body can do it. That’s really how it started.
And then a couple of months later, I got an email from a promoter in Dubai that was hosting the Thor versus Eddie Hall fight. And he invited me on that show and offered me a substantial amount of money. I’d never been paid that much for anything athletic related so I was like, fuck it, that’s amazing. My entire life, I’ve wanted to be a professional athlete that gets compensated fairly and this might be it. I’m confident in my work and in my ability to learn new skills and so I feel like I could potentially turn this into something. So I started training for that fight. I had eight months to prepare for that fight. I didn’t have any previous fighting experience at all. But there was this massive opportunity to perform at a big stage and get paid and I was like, yeah, I’m going to be all in. So I did. I actually ended up taking my first professional fight about two months before that one just because I wanted to get a little bit more experience just under the lights and in the ring. And so I flew to Dominican Republic and fought for the first time there and then two or three months later I flew to Dubai for my second one and it was that one.
Kelly: [00:56:04] You’re committed. I mean did you like it?
Juliet: [00:56:04] And how did that go?
Stefi Cohen: [00:56:05] So my first fight was really easy. I fought at Cannes. And it was awesome. My second fight I should’ve fought at Cannes again because that’s usually what you do when you’re starting your boxing career, you’re not fighting tough opponents. But I wanted to make a statement. I wanted to make sure people understood that I wasn’t an influencer boxer, I was just a boxer, just an athlete trying a new sport kind of thing. So I chose an opponent that was incredibly tough. She was an Olympic alternate for Colombia. She had 10 years of marital arts experience. She was 24 years old, significantly younger than me as well. And she was a really, really tough opponent. And I remember I got in the ring with her and as the rounds went by, she became perceptually larger than me. I swear to God. It was like she was getting taller and bigger and meaner every round that went by. I’m like what the fuck is happening. And man, she was catching me with some strong shots that hurt so bad. The fight ended in a draw. And I remember as soon as I got out of the ring, I’m like fuck this shit, I’m never doing this again. why am I doing this? I have a business that’s thriving on the basis of me doing something where I don’t have to get hit in the face. I don’t need this for anything, to make money or for anything else. This is stupid. I’m not doing this ever again. That’s what I thought as soon as I got out of the ring.
Then I went to the changing room, I got changed, I washed my face and I was like, wow, am I going to pull another Stefi Cohen coward story from when I was 17 or am I actually going to lean into this discomfort and take it for what it is and see how far I can actually take this if I apply myself. and that was the moment I decided that I really wanted to do it for real and the fear and discomfort that I was going through was worth it. It was worth it for the sake of writing the story I want to tell in the future. That’s essentially the driving force for every decision that I make, is I just want to live an interesting life. I want to live a difficult life, a life that’s full of obstacles and challenges that I can overcome and then look back fondly at. That’s the kind of life I want to live. So that’s the moment that I decided I wanted to do it all the way.
Juliet: [00:58:20] I love hearing just how it comes full circle since we started talking about your soccer career and your regrets about quitting and how you used that to motivate you. But the other thing I thought about is most people aren’t trying to face discomfort and have a difficult life. Most people are doing the opposite. They’re trying to find comfort and take as few risks as possible and, I don’t know, just be comfortable. I guess what is it about being uncomfortable and putting yourself in those positions that you find to be valuable as a human?
Stefi Cohen: [00:58:53] It’s just how it makes you grow afterwards. I just feel like without going through those periods of discomfort, you just stay completely stagnant. It’s through those obstacles and that discomfort that you find out more about yourself, about who you really are, about how much grit you really have, about how willing you are to live and to accomplish things. And it is in that process that I feel the most fulfilled and I feel the most alive. I mean I don’t judge anybody who doesn’t chase discomfort at all. I guess we all have our own definitions of success and our own… We assign whatever meaning we want to our life, whatever meaning of life it is. For me, it’s not the same as it is for you. But yeah, for me personally, every time I’ve gone through really difficult times, I’ve discovered another layer of myself. and that to me is everything. It’s really exciting and it’s extremely fulfilling.
Kelly: [00:59:48] Two questions: One is when is your next fight? You have one scheduled?
Stefi Cohen: [00:59:53] Yes. It’s June 8.
Kelly: [00:59:54] Amazing. Where is it?
Stefi Cohen: [00:59:56] It’s in LA. And then I have a big one in Madison Square Garden towards the end of the year.
Juliet: [01:00:01] Yeah. We’re going to come to that one.
Kelly: [01:00:01] We’re going to come to that one too. The next thing is, after boxing, what will be the next sport you dominate?
Stefi Cohen: [01:00:10] It’s a good question. Believe it or not, I’m already thinking about it. I think I’m gravitating more towards extreme endurance sports like David Goggins style.
Kelly: [01:00:18] Well, let me just say, grittiest women I know, I wouldn’t be surprised. If you can see your future, be your future. Thank you for talking with us today. I love learning things about you and also recognizing that I’m not the blackest sheep at PT school.
Stefi Cohen: [01:00:33] I’m right there with you.
Kelly: [01:00:36] Where do people follow your journey? Where do we get more of the Stefi experience?
Stefi Cohen: [01:00:41] You can find me on all platforms @steficohen.
Kelly: [01:00:44] Excellent. Thank you so much for joining us. Can’t wait to see you.
Juliet: [01:00:48] Thank you so much, Stefi.
Stefi Cohen: [01:00:50] Thank you.
Kelly: [01:00:56] Thank you for listening to The Ready State Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing, check out all our episodes here or at thereadystate.com. And be sure to subscribe or leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show.
Juliet: [01:01:07] Check us out and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @thereadystate.
Kelly: [01:01:12] Until next time, cheers everyone.Back to Episode