100% Mike – An Athlete’s Voyage for Quality
Written by Michele Vieux
As soon as you meet Invictus Athlete, Mike Paesano, it’s obvious that there’s something different about him. At first glance, it becomes very clear that he’s an extremely high functioning member of society – balancing a busy job with the U.S. State Department that demands travel, spending three hours per day in his car, unusual hours and a lot of pressure and responsibility to make sure his projects have the resources they need; making time for his long-distance relationship with his fiancé which includes FaceTime every day and driving four hours, one-way almost every weekend to spend time with her; all while focusing on training at the highest level in the sport of CrossFit. Most people would struggle to succeed in any of these circumstances yet he is highly successful in all three. But how?
It’s an interesting approach he has – taking lessons from one area of his life and applying them to the others whether they be lessons from training that he uses to prepare for meetings or taking what he learned while living in Asia for the State Department and using that to get the most out of his training. He is a master at it and is truly a modern renaissance man which is arguably the reason he’s been so successful not only in the Invictus Athlete system, but also in his life.
If you know anything about the Invictus philosophy, you know that Buddhist principles play a major role in how we coach and teach athletes to visualize their life, goals and training as well as reflect upon them after actions are taken. Most athletes have to be taught these things on some level but Mike had already made those connections on his own. During his time in Asia, he became very interested in studying Buddhism – not necessarily for the religious aspects, but for its philosophies: “being present” in all that you do and that “quality over quantity” becomes more and more important the busier your life gets.
With so many balls in the air, for Mike, the focus is not on how to find the time to train, rather being 100% present while he is training, whether he has 5 minutes or 90.
“When I’m training (or doing anything else), that’s all that matters for me. It’s a powerful thing in terms of the amount of quality you get from it.”
He’s been doing CrossFit for four years and when he first started working with Invictus Athlete Coach, Tino Marini, they discussed his “why”, something that our coaches discuss with their athletes on a regular basis. It helps the coach understand how the athlete ticks and it helps the athlete identify their purpose, giving them direction. During that first conversation, Mike told Tino his “why” for training was to make it to the CrossFit Games and Tino basically shrugged him off, saying he couldn’t make those kinds of promises as a coach and that making it to the Games was actually a “result” and not a “why”. It would be great if it transfers into winning a high level competition – that’s a great result. But WHY did Mike love training so much that he would sacrifice what little free time he had on it?
“Once Tino helped me dig down, I realized I wanted to be the fastest, strongest and fittest that I can be. That’s my why – I love that drive.”
That drive pushes him to literally drive past his house (he passes it on his way to the gym) after a long day at work so that he can train with young, energetic guys and challenge the hands of time. He attributes some of that to Tino and knowing that he’s put so much time and effort into his programming that he doesn’t want to let him down.
“Tino is a mentor, not only in the gym, but in life and the time he puts in with his family. I hold myself accountable to him because of the time he puts in.”
But if you ask Tino, he holds Mike in the same high regard. They are a match made in heaven, not only for sharing a similar mindset and outlook on life but also for understanding the value of time and making the most of what you have.
“Tino’s programming is so powerful so it fits easy with this. He’s good about adjusting [when I’m short on time or spent from life].”
And Mike is challenging the hands of time for sure. He was already in his 40’s when he started CrossFit and although the military unit he was with prior demanded fitness, he considers himself a more well-rounded athlete now because of his increased flexibility and strength. Ten years ago, he could barely front squat 200 pounds and now he’s moving 350. He hasn’t lost is motor either, clocking a sub-18 minute 5k just like when he was 17 years old.
He trains differently – smarter – now with the help of Tino, and laughs about putting as much passion into his warm-up as his workout. He uses it as the onramp to the highway. He warms up for workouts, meetings and even bedtime.
“With everything I do, I believe in the transition time. If you abruptly stop one thing and start another, there will always be a residual effect. If there is no transition time in life, then everything just blends together”
One way that using this “warm-up” time has increased the quality of his interactions is ramping down before bed (really the opposite of warming up) so he can maximize his sleep, recovery and gains.
His nighttime ritual led to another habit – one that he learned from watching monks in Bangkok who thankfully accept mismatched food donations from people who don’t have all that much themselves. And how all the people in Thailand – no matter their level in society – enjoy themselves to the max at whatever level they can afford. He realized that he was forgetting things that happened throughout his day and was taking things for granted and that it was cascading effect.
He started asking himself at night: What was the high of the day? What was the low of the day? And he would reflect on those things and why they were the high and low points. He came to realize that the highs were times that he was 100% present and the lows were the times he wasn’t. It was just enough awareness to get the ball rolling so he is now able to do check-ins on his presence throughout the day and implemplement some of the tools he uses to make sure he’s 100% invested in whatever he’s doing. In return, he receives quality interactions and experiences be it in his relationship with his fiancé, successes at work or milestones at the gym.
He plans to retire from federal government in two years and is going full-fledged Buddhist philosophy on a business venture idea he has that incorporates his love for woodworking and furniture making. This isn’t just any furniture either, he considers it more like functional art and he won’t put a price tag on it as he doesn’t want to have to rely on it for income.
“Whatever people say it costs, whatever it’s worth to them, that’s what I’ll sell it for.”
To sum it all up, here are the nuggets we can all take from meeting Mike to ensure we are getting true QUALITY from our lives. No matter what you’re doing, you have to remember and define your why. And, figure out how you can be 100% present in everything you do.
Update! Mike now owns an Invictus Location!
As of April 2022, Mike is retired from the Federal Government and wants to give back to the community by helping people achieve their health and fitness goals. Invictus is all about helping the community build better versions of themselves, so it was the perfect time for him to bring Invictus to Washington, DC. Vickie, his wife and co-owner, brings with her the entrepreneur expertise as she already owns a successful line of pharmacies on the East Coast and excited to continue her pursuit in the health industry but as preventative “medicine”.
Invictus Washington, DC
Washington, DC is the newest location in the line of Invictus gyms and it’s located in the heart of the city at the Navy Yard which is just south of the U.S. Capitol. This vibrant neighborhood on the Anacostia River is home to Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals, watery diversions like kayaking and a booming restaurant scene. The physical address is 1525 Half St. SW.
Are you interested in training with Invictus DC and our team of successful coaches? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today!