Time flies, even during hard times.

8 years ago, almost to the day, I did my PhD Defense . . .

. . . and passed.

To say that I was sweating bullets about it is an under statement.

The overall PhD process from when I started through class work, teaching, lab assistant, completing 3 human research studies, publishing them, candidate exam, and culminating in my final defense took 7 years full time.

During that time I was also working 24 -32 hours a week at a cardiovascular med-tech company, got married, and was transitioning to move my training / nutrition business to 100% online.

It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. My MS in Mechanical Engineering was more difficult from the density of the material, but my PhD was a true test in pure gonadal fortitude.

Turn in work; get knocked down; drink more coffee; sleep less; redo said work; get hammered by advisor; go again.

I remember reading the quote below 4.5 years into the process when I really really wanted to quit. I was tired, burnt out, did not have a clear path forward to graduation, and basically had had enough.

Luckily, I remembered a skill that I had used in the past with good success where you imagine yourself in the future under different conditions.

Condition 1: I drop out and quit, would I be happy? Would I have any regrets?

Condition 2: No matter the cost, I graduate. This could even be from a different university. Would I have any regrets?

I spent weeks just thinking on those 2 conditions and paying attention to what showed up.

Time and time again I felt that if I quit, I would regret it. Even when played through the “what if” filter.

What if I never teach for a university?

What if nobody on the face of the planet give 2 flying hoots that I have a PhD . . .Would I keep doing it? In reality, very few people care that I have an advanced degree.

I realized it was something I felt I had to do…

…even if it did not directly change anything in my future.

I wanted to know that I did “the thing” for myself.

Rumor was that in in 1519, captain Hernan Cortes ordered his troops to burn their ships once they reached the “new world” so there was no going back.

Their only way was forward.

I reached the point where I was only going forward. Backwards and quitting was not an option.

I even discussed with my wife transferring to another university to re-start the PhD process again, which meant that I would only fly home a couple weekends a month for years. She was onboard with it if that was what it would come to.

Fortunately, at the 11th hour I did my final defense and passed.

I am sure you have points in your life and fitness training where it is a “burn the ships” moment.

What is it?

What are you going to do where the only way is forward?

What cost are you willing to pay? This is key to think about now.

In my case, I was willing to pay a high cost and drew the line at my health. I had blood work done multiple times, and luckily, my basic health markers were still generally good. Other markers like testosterone was horrible. My test was routine around 200 -250 ng/dL, which is stooooopid low. I knew it was stress and lack of sleep, so I pushed on.

I am not saying this is a wise idea. You can only red line your car for so long, and I definitely tested that limit and got out right before the engine blew up. If I am honest with myself, it took me about 3 full years to get back to where I was physical health, body comp and blood work to before my PhD.

The lesson here is twofold for you, dear reader:

1) What is your #1 goal?

2) What costs are you willing and not willing to pay to achieve it?

There are no right or wrong answers here. It is entirely up to you.

Let me know.

Dr Mike

PS – if you are looking for a group of dedicated trainers who are looking to learn how to run their business online, the Flex Diet Mentorship is for you. We have an exclusive slack channel, a module each week, and 2 group calls with your favorite nerd each month (6 months in length). Apply below

If you want to apply to the mentorship, DM directly for the link and tell my why you want to apply. The mentorship starts Jan 3, 2022, so do it today!

PPS – In addition to mass amounts of coffee and caffeine power naps in the back of my 2001 Jetta, I listened to the CD (yes those crazy silver platter things) “Perseverance” by the hardcore/metal band Hatebreed in my car nonstop every day during the PhD process. Here you go for a verbal kick in the jimmy to get you going.

“Yet you try and prevail

Face your torment and dismantle your doubt

Refuse this legacy of shame and deceit

‘Cause the only real truth in your life that you know is hostility

Your world is coming apart

Remain steadfast


Against all opposition

Crushing all limitations

Pure strength through solitude

Discipline and determination”

Rock on!

Dr. Mike T Nelson

Dr. Mike T Nelson

Dr. Mike T Nelson

PhD, MSME, CISSN, CSCS Carrick Institute Adjunct Professor Dr. Mike T. Nelson has spent 18 years of his life learning how the human body works, specifically focusing on how to properly condition it to burn fat and become stronger, more flexible, and healthier. He’s has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, a BA in Natural Science, and an MS in Biomechanics. He’s an adjunct professor and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. He’s been called in to share his techniques with top government agencies. The techniques he’s developed and the results Mike gets for his clients have been featured in international magazines, in scientific publications, and on websites across the globe.

  • PhD in Exercise Physiology
  • BA in Natural Science
  • MS in Biomechanics
  • Adjunct Professor in Human
  • Performance for Carrick Institute for Functional Neurology
  • Adjunct Professor and Member of American College of Sports Medicine
  • Instructor at Broadview University
  • Professional Nutritional
  • Member of the American Society for Nutrition
  • Professional Sports Nutrition
  • Member of the International Society for Sports Nutrition
  • Professional NSCA Member
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