When it comes to self-improvement, most of us guys know emphatically what we want—Confidence! Abs! A raise!—but have little idea how to get there. The internet is full of contradictory advice. Self-help books are tedious. And true experts, alas, are few and far between.
Fear not, gentlemen. We’ve gathered advice from pros across a range of disciplines, from boxing champions to body language experts, and boiled down their wisdom into actionable tips. How do Broncos players manage their nutrition? What happens to your brain chemistry when you give a speech? What’s the one outfit that every man looks good wearing?
Gather ’round, men. Class is in session.
How To: Nail Your Personal Style
Every guy wants to dress better, but where to start? Heading to the mall in hopes of revamping your look in a single afternoon is a recipe for disaster. A true wardrobe upgrade takes thought, planning, and occasionally the help of an expert. Stephie Davies, a Denver-based personal stylist and owner of the consultancy Polished, helped us break down some classic looks.
STEPHIE’S TAKE: “Try a bomber jacket, a cool t-shirt with a subtle graphic pattern, and jeans cut like joggers, tapered up the calf and through the leg. Pair this with bright, solid-colored shoes, like red or white sneakers.”
THE TWIST: Bright colors and bold patterns draw the eye, as with this striped sweater and cropped trousers from Kenzo, paired with some classic Vans.
Kenzo Tiger-Embroidered Striped Sweater, $370, Neiman Marcus, 3030 E 1st Ave.; Floral patterned shirt, stylist’s own; Kenzo Blue Cropped Sideband Trousers, $270, Neiman Marcus; Luminox Dress Field Watch, $600, Neiman Marcus; Vans Checkerboard Old Skool Shoes, $60, Steadbrook, 3151 Larimer St.
STEPHIE’S TAKE: “I like puffer jackets, but not the cheap navy version that everyone has. The more expensive options come in unique colors, the fabric is better quality, and a lot of them have piping on the sleeves or collar that make them more stylish. For fall, I like collared shirts in thicker fabrics like corduroy. Try something other than cotton, and consider unique colors like sage green or light gray. Pair that with your vest, a pair of dark jeans or cuffed slacks, and cool mountain boots—I usually recommend brown high-tops.”
THE TWIST: A rugged jacket, fitted denim jeans, and unique pieces like this vintage hat make for a great woodsy look.
Akubra hat, stylist’s own; Boots, model’s own; MooRER Mondor Jacket, $1,969, Andrisen Morton, 270 St. Paul St.; Jachs New York Slub Cotton Long Sleeve Henley, $59, Jachs New York; 1950s Battle Dress Uniform camo jacket, stylist’s own; J Brand Tyler Jeans, $198, Andrisen Morton; W. Kleinberg Suede Belt, $135, Neiman Marcus.
STEPHIE’S TAKE: “A V-neck sweater over a collared shirt, paired with shorts, can look really good. If you’re going to wear a polo, make sure it’s a nice one with a blended fabric—like a silk blend. These are going to have a better cut and better shape. Avoid the cheap, 100 percent cotton ones from Old Navy or the Gap, which usually have a boxy, unflattering cut. Try pastel colors, like light blue, purple, or pink. Guys these days can pull that off. And for shoes, you can always do the standard boat loafer. You can find tie-up loafers that come in cool colors, like light gray or blue. That’s a different and more stylish look.”
THE TWIST: A brightly colored sweater, like this one from Fedeli, paired with checked pants and red Ferragamo loafers are perfect for an upscale preppy vibe.
Fedeli Gran Sasso Sweater, $255, Andrisen Morton; Zanella Lightweight Tattersall Check Pants, $450, Neiman Marcus; Canali tie, $165, Andrisen Morton; Salvatore Ferragamo Parigi Suede Bit Driver Shoes, $595, Neiman Marcus.
STEPHIE’S TAKE: “You can’t go wrong with dress slacks and a nice collared shirt with the sleeves rolled, but you can also do a fitted blazer with a simple, dark T-shirt and dark jeans. If you want to dress it down more, you can do some cool sneakers, like Sambas. A really nice watch always helps, but this is a very personal item. Sometimes I’ll dress a guy in a gaudy gold watch and it will look amazing, but I would never put it on another guy. With other guys, I’ll do something like a classic Tom Ford leather banded watch. A nice leather briefcase or messenger bag is also great.”
THE TWIST: The dark-on-dark look of this Ermenegildo Zegna blazer with a turtleneck sweater and black trousers communicates presence and poise.
Rick Owens DRKSHDW Berlin Black Wax Jeans, $575, Steadbrook; Ermenegildo Zegna Microcheck Blazer, $1,595, Neiman Marcus; Ermenegildo Zegna Cashmere-Silk Turtleneck Sweater, $865, Neiman Marcus; Balenciaga Leather Combat Boots, $1,295, Neiman Marcus
STEPHIE’S TAKE: “Every single man I’ve ever dressed looks amazing in a navy suit with a crisp white collared shirt. If you wear that with a brown belt and brown shoes, it will always look great. It works for every single man on the planet.”
THE TWIST: No twist here. Stick to this tried-and-true formula for an outfit that will flatter any man.
Shinola Runwell Watch, $550, Neiman Marcus; Tie, vintage; Canali Blue Wool Suit with Orange Undertones, $2,350, Andrisen Morton; Magnanni Marron Chelsea Boots, $495, Neiman Marcus; Four Hands Braden Chair, $959, Lulu’s Furniture & Décor, 3475 S. University Blvd.; Wild & Wolf Retro Phone, $75, Lulu’s Furniture & Décor
How To: Get Faster, Stronger, and Leaner
You don’t have to step into a ring and get your lights knocked out to reap the benefits of boxing. DaVarryl Williamson, a retired professional boxer who fought at Madison Square Garden and now coaches at his Englewood gym, TOS Boxing, recommends the following workouts for everyone, no matter your fitness goals. “Whether you’re getting ready for a wedding, training for football, soccer, baseball, tennis, golf, or any other sport, or if you want to relieve stress or increase focus—for anything, really—boxing will help,” Williamson says.
Williamson, a two-time Golden Gloves champion, known to his students at Tos Boxing as “The Commander,” recommends these high-intensity interval workouts to Maximize performance.
2 minutes of jump rope at high intensity
2 minutes of crunches holding a medicine ball
2 minutes of speed bag work
2 minutes of plank
2 minutes of heavy bag work at medium intensity
Rest for 30 seconds between intervals. Repeat entire circuit 3-5 times.
2 minutes of heavy bag work at high intensity
2 minutes of leg press
2 minutes of push-ups
2 minutes of dips
2 minutes of low-to-medium weight bench press
Rest for 30 seconds between intervals. Repeat entire circuit 3-5 times.
2 minutes of jump rope at medium intensity
400-meter sprint, followed by 400-meter jog
2 minutes of shadowboxing at medium intensity
2 minutes of plank
Rest for 30 seconds between intervals. Repeat entire circuit 3-5 times.
Tips from DaVarryl
“An easy way to get healthier fast is to replace all liquids in your diet with water,” says Williamson. “Milk, juice, pop—cut it all out and replace with water.”
“It’s hard to start exercising and dieting at the same time. Start with the exercise, because working out is often a motivator to diet. It doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.”
“At first, focus on reducing the frequency of unhealthy habits rather than cutting them out entirely. If you like drinking beer, have three per week instead of six. Eat dessert every other night, rather than every night.”
How To: Upgrade your Workout Kit
Here are a few simple tools every guy should own.
TIGER BALM MUSCLE RUB
A must-have for every guy’s gym bag, this non-greasy rub uses menthol and camphor to sooth sore muscles and ease aching joints. $5.50 for 2 oz.
ELITE SRS BULLET FIT ROPE
Jumping rope for ten minutes burns as many calories as running an eight minute mile. And you can do it almost anywhere. This option has an ultra-smooth spin and adjustable length. $50.
JABRA ELITE ACTIVE 65T SPORTS EARBUDS
Some of the best athletic earbuds on the market, these are sweatproof, cordless, comfortable, snug, and come with a built-in fitness tracker. $190.
KETTLEBELL KINGS 40-LB. POWDER COAT KETTLEBELL
This simple piece of equipment, dating to 18th century Russia, can be used to train cardio, strength, flexibility, balance, and more. Our favorite brand: Kettlebell Kings, which has excellent balance and durability. $100.
How To: Eat Like a Bronco
When it comes to maximizing fitness, your strategy in the kitchen is just as important as your strategy in the gym. “Luckily, eating right doesn’t have to be complex or mysterious,” says Bryan Snyder, director of team nutrition for the Broncos. “Even for a pro football player, it all boils down to a few basic principles.”
FOCUS ON RECOVERY
“I often see people struggle with the recovery aspect of nutrition,” says Snyder. “After working out, you have about a 30-minute window to recover, which is what makes your exercise effective. For optimal recovery, you need carbohydrates and protein at a 3-to-1 ratio. Chocolate milk is great; it has that exact proportion.”
EMPHASIZE LEAN PROTEIN
“When you start working out regularly, increasing lean protein is key. You want to make sure you eat 20-30 grams with every meal. That means foods like eggs, oatmeal, turkey bacon, chicken, fish, and bison.”
DON’T CUT TREATS, CONTROL THEM
“I never recommend eliminating treats out of anyone’s diet completely. Let’s say someone loves cookies. A couple times a week, I’ll work a cookie into the day’s nutrition plan. One cookie is not going to derail your nutrition plan, but telling somebody they can’t have one for two months potentially could, because it builds into a psychological stressor that’s not sustainable.”
DON’T STARVE YOURSELF
“One thing you don’t want to do is restrict calories too much. When people get on a health kick and say things like ‘I’m only going to eat 1,200 calories per day,’ it ends up slowing down their metabolism and preventing weight loss. They’re not able to get leaner because they’re not fueling their body with the right stuff.”
EAT SIX TIMES PER DAY
“You should aim to eat six times per day—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three healthy snacks in between—even if you’re trying to lose weight. This will keep your blood sugar consistent throughout the day, which positively impacts your metabolism and allows you to burn calories effectively.”
“Often people will think they’re hungry when they’re actually just dehydrated. If you’re feeling hungry, try drinking 12 ounces of water and eating an apple. Then reevaluate to see if your body has stopped signaling hunger. If it has, you were probably just dehydrated.”
How To: Manage Stress Scientifically
The human body responds to stress in some very unpleasant ways. Sweaty palms, nausea, a racing heartbeat—we’ve all been there. To add insult to injury, most of these responses are maladaptive, meaning they hurt us more than they help. Christopher Lowry, an associate professor of integrative physiology at CU Boulder who studies stress and anxiety, recommends the following tips for fighting the stress response and maintaining Ernest Hemingway’s famous definition of courage: “grace under pressure.”
UNDERSTAND THE COMPONENTS OF A STRESS RESPONSE
“To fight any kind of stress response, you have to understand it,” says Lowry. “When the body encounters a stressful situation, three things happen. First, the stress hormone cortisol is released, which increases the availability of blood glucose. Second is activation of the ‘fight or flight’ response in the sympathetic nervous system, which causes changes in circulation, heart rate, and adrenaline levels. Third comes an immune response. Because the body is anticipating potential injury, it ramps up the immune system, which increases inflammation. The key to managing stress is mitigating these responses. The four techniques below help enormously.”
FIND YOUR ZEN
“Anxiety is all about the anticipation of negative outcomes. Anything that makes you focus on the present will help. For example, if you’re giving a speech, focus on someone in the audience who’s giving you positive feedback and making eye contact, and speak directly to that person. This acts like a form of meditation, putting you right in the present.”
BREAK A SWEAT
“Chronic exercise has very strong antidepressant effects. This has been shown in both humans and animals. Aim for a 45-minute daily routine that incorporates cardio and strength training.”
“Good dietary decisions can increase stress resilience and decrease anxiety and depression. A Mediterranean diet is best, with lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and limited processed and sugary foods.”
“Certain types of bacteria in our environment have evolved to keep inflammation under control in humans. Studies have shown that when these bacteria prevent stress-induced inflammation, it helps with anxiety. These organisms are all around us in the soil, so just being outside and exposed to dirt can actually provide protection from stress!”
How To: Execute a Manly Handshake
The simple handshake is probably the most important social gesture you’ll ever learn. Done well, it communicates confidence and warmth. Done poorly, it’s a recipe for social awkwardness. Here’s how to nail it.
» Greet the other party aloud, wait two seconds, and then extend your hand. This will ensure that you’re noticed and prevent handshake rejection (usually unintentional, but socially devastating nonetheless).
» Focus on the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Aim so that it meets the same spot on the other party’s hand.
» Watch your hand until the moment it makes contact. This will prevent the dreaded finger grab. The instant contact is made, look up into the other party’s eyes and smile.
» Shake firmly twice, then release.
» If it’s a close friend or associate, a light shoulder grab may be warranted. Never grab the elbow—that’s strictly for politicians.
How To: Read Body Language like a Pro
“Body language can expose all kinds of deception, from high-profile fraud to white lies, like whether your girlfriend actually likes your new haircut,” says Traci Brown, a Boulder based body language expert who has trained in nonverbal interrogation techniques with the FBI. “Through body language, people are saying exactly what they’re thinking, all the time. The question is, can you read that information and use it to your advantage?”
READ YOUR DATE’S MOOD
“Watch where the other person’s feet point,” advises Brown. “We have the least control over our feet. Are they pointed towards you, or the door? If someone’s really into you, they will unconsciously match your movements. If you scratch your head, they might do the same without knowing it. More subtly, you can look for pupil dilation. People’s pupils dilate when they see something they like.”
SNIFF OUT DECEPTION
“Words can lie, but the body can’t, so look for mismatches between body language and words. If someone shakes his head while giving an affirmative response to a question, that could be an indication of a deception. If someone is holding back information, they might suck in their lips over their teeth, or cover their mouth. It means there’s more they want to say.”
PRACTICE THE “POWER STEEPLE”
“One of the easiest ways to create confidence in yourself is to steeple your hands. It’s called a power steeple—putting the pads of your fingers together lightly and holding them up in front of you like a steeple. It not only projects confidence, it actually produces a physiological response that creates confidence from within.”
POSITION YOURSELF FOR SUCCESS
“If you want to show confidence, but not so much that the other person feels threatened, position yourself in the right way. Typically, men prefer to have important talks sitting (or walking) shoulder-to-shoulder. Women are more comfortable with face-to-face conversations.”
How To: Give a Presentation that Will Have the Water Cooler Buzzing for Days
Inside the workplace, a presentation in front of your colleagues is the ultimate chance to shine. If you’re like most people, this is easier said than done. There’s stage fright to contend with, boring source material, “meeting fatigue”—the list goes on. To make your next presentation sparkle, follow the tips on the next page from comedian Adam Cayton-Holland, a Denver native who has written about the business of being funny for the New York Times and Esquire.
Presentation tips from Adam
GO TO AN OPEN MIC NIGHT
“If you seriously want to get better at public speaking, go to an open mic comedy night at a terrible dive bar,” Cayton-Holland says. “Some people will be funny, but most will be awful. Just sitting there thinking ‘I’m more comfortable than that guy!’ will boost your confidence and demystify the process for you.”
GET UP ON STAGE
“If you’re braver, get up there and tell a joke or two. I guarantee that whatever public speaking you do after that will not be as scary.”
PERFORM ON A (SEMI) EMPTY STOMACH
“This is a personal thing, but I don’t like to eat until the job’s done. I think it’s better to have some hunger in your belly—not so much that you can’t think straight, but enough to keep you sharp and give you an edge. Being too full will make you sedate and sleepy.”
“Nothing wins people over like a well-timed punchline. If you’re trying to make the presentation light, don’t go too long without one. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown joke—just something to lighten the mood and ease the tension in the room. Write out your presentation, read it through, and hunt for moments when you can insert one of these oratorical exclamation points. Just be careful to avoid sarcasm; that’s not a good style of humor for the workplace.”
How To: Stand Out and Move Up at Work
Forget office politics and endless networking. Sarah Glenn, director of career coaching at Denver’s Fruition Coaching, has boiled down job advancement into a science. Her 5-step approach is a fast-track to success, no matter your industry.
STEP 1: FIGURE OUT HOW SUCCESS IS MEASURED
“This is like a compass to point you toward advancement,” Glenn says. “Sit down with your boss and talk about measurable metrics that he or she will use to judge your performance. This way, you’ll know what to focus on. A little hint: If you’re applying for jobs, this is a great question to ask during an interview!”
STEP 2: CONTINUALLY ADD VALUE
“In most jobs, people ask themselves, ‘What can I get out of this?’ To move up, you need to shift your perspective to ‘How can I contribute?’ Those who add value to the company are always going to rise more quickly than those who don’t.”
STEP 3: MIRROR SUCCESS AROUND YOU
“In any area of life, you are essentially a product of your five closest associates—whether they’re friends, family, or coworkers. If you’re hanging out with the slackers in the office, you will be perceived as a slacker, period. If you’re hanging out with the top performers, you will be perceived as a top performer. And you’re more likely to learn beneficial work habits by osmosis.”
STEP 4: BE PATIENT
“It takes time to prove that you’re adding value to the company. You will only advance if you’ve shown that you have the patience and tenacity to stick around for the long haul. Use this stage to focus on executing steps 2 and 3 on a regular basis.”
STEP 5: ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT
“We can’t expect our employers to read our minds. If you know the measurements of success, actively contribute to the company’s value, and mirror success in the office for an appreciable period of time, the next step is asking politely (but confidently) for what you want—be it a raise, a promotion, additional responsibilities, whatever.”