Bar Malik: Constant Improvement, The Importance of Grit, and No Days Off

Bar Malik (@mubarakmalik) is the Director of Performance and Science for the New York Knicks. That is, for the less sports savvy, the NBA team that calls New York City home. And if you didn’t know that, that’s okay, because you don’t need to know a single thing about basketball, or even sports in general, to enjoy this episode and benefit from what you’re about to hear.

Bar and I met last year, after being introduced by a mutual friend—Dan Giordano, founder of Bespoke Treatments physical therapy. To give you an idea of how fast Bar and I clicked, that very same day we started working together on a project.

We met up for a workout. It was Bar, myself, Dan, and the girl I was dating at the time.

This was right after hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit Texas and Florida, respectively. After working out together, the four of us went to get brunch, as is customary in New York—I’m sure avocado toast made an appearance—and there and then we, as a group, decided to organize a charity fitness event.

We called it Box Bike Burn, got three studios involved, and in one day we raised $5,000 for the American Red Cross’s hurricane relief efforts.

Bar and I have been friends ever since, and I was beyond stoked when he agreed to be on this show.

Now in his sixth season with the Knicks, Bar is heavily involved in player development, working with some of the biggest stars in the NBA. (He also recently launched Fenix, a nutrition-focused service with a corresponding private health and wellness community.)

He travels with the Knicks throughout the season and helps to ensure players are optimizing their time, both on and off the court. From exercise to recovery, he takes a 360-degree approach to performance, and some of his insights are just plain fascinating.

To record the interview you’re about to hear, Bar and I caught up in New York City, right before he was scheduled to head off to Atlanta with the Knicks.

One of my favorite things about this conversation—and, really, this is the goal of every Gamma Project episode—is that regardless of whether you’re a diehard NBA fan or don’t know a basketball from a bar of soap, there is a lot for you here that can be applied to several different aspects of your own life, no matter what you do professionally or where you’re currently at in the grand scheme of things.

That said, if you are interested in sports, particularly how pro athletes train and continue to improve their performance over time, you’re in for some really cool insights from behind the scenes.

Here, Bar talks about the most productive habits he sees in his players, all of which you can adopt for yourself.

He describes, in detail, the tactics he uses—and that you can use—to optimize both physical and mental performance.

And then we also get away from the court to talk about things like how to deal with the loss of a loved one—which, if you remember, also came up in Episode 1 (Phillip Picardi: Building a Brand, Becoming Fearless, and Finding Calm in Chaos), but it’s something we all end up dealing with eventually, so it’s worth the revisit.

We also talk about journaling; accountability; the importance of connecting with friends, family, and nature; and much, much more.

During the first few minutes of the episode, we spend quite a bit of time talking about the path that led Bar to where he is today—both professionally and personally—and that is because I’m a huge fan of context.

One of the things I am always interested in is how successful and influential people arrived at the jobs they have, because what you often find—almost always, in fact—is that it’s not simply a case of showing up for the interview and getting the job.

Relationships, persistence, grit, and failure are almost always part of the story—and Bar’s case is no exception.

So, we start by getting into all of that, to paint a fuller picture, and ultimately set the scene for what comes next, which is a full-court press (to employ the only basketball term I will use in this entire episode) of practical strategies, tips, and tactics that you can absorb into your own routine and reach whatever goals you have for yourself.

I hope you will find this conversation as informative and inspiring as I did. And if you do, please subscribe; Gamma Project is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and RSS. Ratings and reviews are appreciated, too!


This episode is brought to you by Altra.

Altra makes shoes that allow you to run the way you were born to.

Altra’s founders noticed something—that the design of most running shoes was hurting runners more than helping them: In traditional running shoes, elevated heels promote a high-impact landing; and narrow, pointy toe boxes squeeze the toes out of their natural position—increasing risk of bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.

So, a couple of years ago, Altra founder Golden Harper began melting off outsoles and removing the excess heel elevation from his traditional running shoes. It was ugly, but it worked! The term ” Zero Drop” was coined to describe the level cushioning and perfect weight balance from heel to forefoot.

Today, every Altra running shoe features a fully cushioned Zero Drop platform that places the heel and forefoot at the same distance from the ground. This natural balance aligns the feet, back, and body posture for less impact. It also strengthens the Achilles and lower calf muscles that have been weakened over a lifetime of running on elevated heels.

In addition to Zero Drop, Altra’s Footshape toe box allows the toes to relax and spread out naturally, while allowing the big toe to remain in a straight position. This enhances stability and creates a powerful toe-off to maximize running performance.

I was introduced to Altra a couple of years ago, and their running shoes have since become a sort of secret weapon for me. I break them out for especially punishing runs, and when it’s time to go off-road, their trail shoes are the only ones i’ll wear. The Lone Peak is my personal favorite.

This spring, Altra wants you to #EmbraceTheSpace and get fired up for taking your runs outside with their lineup of fast and light road shoes. One model to check out, for sure, is the Altra Duo, which features 31mm cushioning beneath both the forefoot and the heel, and weighs in at a crazy-light 7.5 ounces.

If you’re interested in checking out the Altra Duo, you can head to fleetfeetsports.com. They’ll be available there through March.

Altra is also committed to helping runners avoid injury by teaching efficient, low-impact running technique. Golden, (who, by the way, ran a world-record 2:45 marathon when he was 12 years old), taught me everything I know about running with proper form. By focusing on four core pillars, we totally overhauled my running form and noticeably improved my performance and efficiency.

In case you’re curious, since you’re here because of a podcast dedicated to self improvement, those four pillars were:

  • Establishing a forward-momentum posture
  • Utilizing a proper arm swing
  • Cultivating low-impact landings
  • And maintaining a high cadence

You can find more information on those, which I encourage you to check out if you’re a runner, along with all kinds of advice and tips for proper running form, as well as, of course, information on all of Altra’s products, at altrarunning.com.

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