We believe in the idea that making small changes can help us perform better and be happier. The 10% Project is our challenge to each other - the TRIBE community - to improve each day. This is a piece from the TRIBE 10% Project Book - a collection of personal journeys that inspire us. Real TRIBE people telling stories about how small changes in nutrition, lifestyle and training have helped them change their lives. Matt "Mills" Miller, Founder of ustwo global digital agency and TRIBE member since day 1, chats all about his lifestyle changes - giving up alcohol, coffee, meat, dairy, crisps, sugar etc - and becoming an Ultra runner overnight.
I first met TRIBE in a pop-up store they opened for two weeks in Old Street Tube station. I’ve spent 13 years travelling from south London on the Northern Line to my product design studio and company builder named ustwo. We’ve built a number of wellbeing products over the years and the space of self-improvement is one that has always excited me.
I was intrigued by what they were showing me because I had only a few months prior started my preparation for London Marathon. It seemed to me like our meeting of minds was destiny. I loved their passion and loved how they saw nutrition and community as a crucial path to fitness and enjoyment.
Something just clicked, there is no better way of describing the moment when I turned my back on my old sedentary lifestyle and became an Ultra Runner. No alcohol, coffee, meat, dairy, bread, crisps, sugar, desserts of any type - if it wasn’t going to help me be a faster, stronger runner it had to go, if it wasn’t going to help purify and refocus my mind it was out. Black to white... complete slug to ultra-athlete mindset in an instant.
Some people prefer to gradually change, some people that balance is the key to happiness, I however feel the need to go “all-in”. My mind was set, I remember lying in bed around 100 days ago wondering what it was I thought it had been a good idea to have habitually drank alcohol every night, why I always chose the cheese burger in any restaurant I visited in the week and why I needed so much coffee to get myself moving. This wasn’t the life I had envisaged. I have always been lucky in that no matter what I eat my body just about holds onto its form. But I had been abusing this genetic gift and although I wasn’t fat, I was no longer the figure I grew up with, worse still my energy levels were depleted, I wasn’t as enthusiastic about life as I had always been. Something wasn’t right.
I’m coming up to 40 and I’d been chasing the ephemeral success most crave from their industry peers. One day I caught my own reflection in the mirror of a shop I had walked past and something wasn’t right. I looked awful. At that exact moment, I had an epiphany; nothing I would ever achieve financially would ever beat the feeling of physical wellbeing and athletic accomplishment, that all that really mattered in life was feeling physically 100% - I’d been chasing the wrong goal.
I’d always wanted to be a runner, I was always jealous of seeing anyone out running on a Friday night while I was drinking. I knew how good they were going to feel later that night while I was downing another bottle of overpriced craft beer. Running when I had been doing it always cleared my mind, always made my day feel brighter and always gave me an incredible high. I just hadn’t been very focused on being better at it (i.e. being able to run longer)
With the switch of a button, something made me sign up to a 100km Ultra marathon for May of 2018. I needed a challenge that seemed so utterly insurmountable that it would force me to make a momentous change in my life to survive it. I needed the 100% Project! It worked.
In that moment, I psychologically became an ultra-runner regardless of the facts I hadn’t ran more than 5km in the last 6 months. I had to own that mindset otherwise I was going to be in serious trouble come the race day. I started to read anything and anything I could from ultra-marathon runners, watching hours and hours of YouTube videos on different races around the world. I became so inspired. I started signing up for more and more races so that I could immerse myself in the running community and I started to feel incredibly good about myself and what I could accomplish.
I would say that the biggest and best change I made was stopping alcohol for good. That one change was the catalyst I needed to optimise my entire life. My sleep improved, my attention improved and my energy levels went through the roof. Knowing that I never had to have another hangover was mind blowing, instead of lying in my own piss I could and would use the mornings to hit the road early. Every second counted. Life was and is too short to waste.
My relationship with food significantly changed, all the bad foods I was eating became enemies of my mind - food became nutrition and I had no issue dumping the crisps, the processed food, the meat, the sugar. I became a vegetarian overnight and I now see all food as fuel and not as a comforter. Within 2 months I lost 2 stones of weight and I am now at what I consider my 175 lbs. race weight. The perfect balance of weight and strength.
By refocusing the mind to that of an ultra-runner I could see my day to day through that lens, I dumped anything that wouldn’t help me achieve my running goals. Within 4 months I’ve gone from a standing start to accomplishing my first solo 50km without breaking a sweat (kind of). I’m halfway to my initial goal. Something tells me I need to up the mileage!
Photos by the fantastic Tom Price