Oscar Smith of O-D Studio: How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Number one, the zone. It’s where you close everything around you and focus on what you are doing. Number two, breathe. You have to take a step back and assess before you do any actions. Number three, meditate. Take the time to talk to yourself and remind yourself that is what you worked for. Breathe and go through the steps one by one; adjust and focus.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Oscar Smith of O-D Studio.
Oscar has a lifelong dedication to fitness as a lifestyle. He has personally mastered multiple disciplines to develop a specialized training system for total body transformation. His fitness services are offered at his chic Tribeca personal training gym, O-D Studio. His level of experience and expertise has made him one of the most sought-out trainers in NYC.

With athletic experiences on his high school football and track and field teams, Smith went on to major in physical education, minor in kinesiology and biomechanics, and become a level two all-around gymnast. With over 25 years of experience, Oscar’s notable accomplishments range in scope. Oscar is a Certified Personal Trainer [ISSA-International Sports and Science Association], Certified Technician, Gymnastics Coach [USGF- United States Federation of Gymnastics], Kinesiology and Biomechanics Specialist (movement of the muscles and tendons), Senior Ocean Lifeguard and Ocean Rescuer (diver), USLA Competitor [United States Lifesaving Association], Six-Time Tri-Athlete (30-mile bike ride, six-mile run, one-mile swim), and a New York City Marathon participant. He was also a grade 3 ocean beach lifeguard and member of the lifeguard completion team, traveling to compete in worldwide events.

Smith started his personal training gym, O-D Studio in 2003, before anyone knew what a personal training gym was. He had a simple vision: to create somewhere where people could work out with a one-on-one trainer, where people didn’t pay for the use of a building, but for the use of a trainer. What he didn’t realize in creating his vision is that his gym would come to attract celebrities, because they could work out without the prying eyes of the public. O-D Studio has since attracted celebrities that include: Katharine McPhee, Tom Brady, Rosario Dawson, Val Kilmer, and many others.

Smith is the author of the book Natural Strength, which focuses on how readers can overcome their weight loss plateaus, and also encourages readers to reconnect with their inner child and try different things to have fun working out again. He also has a YouTube show, S.W.E.A.T., which explores the latest trends in working out, from aerial silks to trampoline workouts to underwater spin.

For more information, please visit https://o-dstudiogroup.com/

Follow Oscar Smith on Instagram @oscar_odstudio

Watch Oscar Smith’s YouTube show, S.W.E.A.T., here

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Iwas born in Minneola, Long Island, and raised in Hempstead, Long Island, which is a majority African American area. I grew up in the 70’s and I moved along the East Coast with my mom who is divorced–she was married four times. She ended up in federal prison and that is how I came to being raised by my grandmother. Being multiracial it was very difficult because I didn’t fit in one group. It was hard to identify with Black or Spanish. But sports were the best outlet for me to stop the negative stereotypes people had of me. I was bullied a lot because I was different, so the bullies would leave me alone if I played on their team. It was in the private schools I went to that I learned about prejudice. Only three of us belonged to minority groups. The other kids didn’t like us because we were better at sports. We would spend our time playing sports to continuously get better.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia and didn’t know exactly what that was. But when I started playing sports, people didn’t see this or that I was Black or Spanish, they saw me for what they wanted to see me. I learned to use my disability to my advantage while I was in college which made me more aware of my surroundings and who my friends were.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

There was a great trainer named Frank Hunter at Nassau Community College. I shadowed him and what he did. He was quite knowledgeable about the human body and knew so many professional athletes. I wanted to be like him because everyone respected him. His knowledge was good on every sport and I wanted to have that.

Lina Quintoni was a professor who told me I had a great gift. She pointed out I was able to take the most complex thing and break it down to the simplest form for people to understand. Years later I understood what she meant.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My grandmother made me the person I am today. She taught me to take pride in my work and to always be true to who I am no matter what the odds are. It is thanks to her that I became a real gentleman and learned to be respectful. She had one great line: “Once you hit bottom, the only way you have is up. Just get up. No matter how many times you hit it, you keep getting up.”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I thought I could be a big-time swimmer and then I nearly drowned in a pool trying out for an elite swim team. That’s when I realized I couldn’t do everything. I thought I was so good at sports that I could do anything and be fantastic at it. The lesson I learned is you have to train and give yourself time in order to get to a certain level. You need to accept the things you can do and those you cannot change. One of my biggest mistakes was I didn’t want to accept it.

I also noticed lots of professional athletes are egotistical or arrogant and I realized you become that way when you win so much you start to believe you are great. But there comes a point when you need someone to keep you humble and grounded.

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

Read. Read everything possible and learn from it. Be like a sponge; let your brain absorb everything. You are never too late to learn anything. And be humble and respectful to everyone no matter what. Treat everyone the same way by being true and honest.

For people who want to open a gym, take business classes. That is the one thing I wish I had done more. Read about it and talk to knowledgeable people. The biggest mistake is thinking you know it all. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. And be sure to have your heart in what you do.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My fitness app which will hopefully launch by the end of the year. It brings people together with fitness and social activity to get off their phone and out of the house. Sports have always been great at bringing people together. Then I want to write my second book on stretching.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

Number one, the zone. It’s where you close everything around you and focus on what you are doing. Number two, breathe. You have to take a step back and assess before you do any actions. Number three, meditate. Take the time to talk to yourself and remind yourself that is what you worked for. Breathe and go through the steps one by one; adjust and focus.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

Yeah, I do a part meditation breathing. You take three deep breaths and hold the last one for 15 seconds. Then each time after that you try to add another 10 to 15 seconds. You are trying to relax.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

There’s nothing wrong with meditating and so many people have a hard time trying to do it. Clearing your head is one of the most difficult things in the world. I think of the ocean. My best is in the middle of the ocean in a cold winter day with nothing but seagulls. Focusing on the surroundings calms me down.

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

Cardio. Cardio. Cardio. Mix up your cardio. Strength is something you wanna pick up one or two times. Muscle endurance is something you wanna pick up 30 to 100 times. Push yourself to the next level in order to get better.

These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?

Yes, that is true in my life. Habits have become a huge thing for me such as waking up early. Keeping good habits is very important and sets you up for a nice routine to succeed at anything. Don’t allow distractions that could break your routine. You control the environment, surroundings, and situations you are in. you control your life.

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

Bad habits you know right away. You know the effect they will have on you if you keep them up. Why would you want to set yourself up to fail? Why be so self-destructive? Obstacles are for you to climb.

Motivation comes from within. For me, a good habit was to sit down and learn how to relax. As well as implementing reading time to learn more. This was also done by interacting with people who had the knowledge. Another great habit is sleeping six to seven hours at night and eating correctly. Listen to your body because it will tell you how you feel.

The most important habit is believing in yourself and getting started.

As a high-performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?

You know the flow when things are working so well for you. For a lot of people, flow is an euphoric feeling, a natural high, when everything goes where you want it to. How you perceived it to go then implementing that to reality. It’s hard to know how to explain that feeling, you just know it. For people to achieve that, you have to feel it.

Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.

Just working on my breathing. Swimming is one of the best things for me when I just wanna really slow things down and logically think things out. My thing is going out in the middle of the ocean and my wife calls it a death wish. There were a couple of times when I almost didn’t make it, but my confidence always tells me I can do it.

Many of us are limited by our self-talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

Getting rid of all negative people around you, first of all. Anyone who tells you no all the time, get rid of them. They are an anchor when you are trying to swim. Their jealousy will haunt you and bring you down. There is nothing wrong with wanting more and to do better.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have done it by writing a book and sharing my thoughts.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Motivation comes from within” and what I mentioned earlier my grandmother said: “Once you hit bottom, the only way you have is up. Just get up. No matter how many times you hit it, you keep getting up.” I think about those when I feel despair or lost. Then I reflect back on all I have accomplished. Regret is something people tend to take to heart, but it’s a learning lesson.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Elon Musk because he took a thing and made it into something worldwide. My secret is I love space. He took something like that and made it work. I would love to tap into his mind and see what’s next.

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