It’s Two-Brain Radio. Every week we’ll deliver top-shelf tactics to help you improve your fitness business and move you closer to wealth. And now here’s your host, the most interesting man in fitness, Chris Cooper.
This episode of Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by SugarWOD. More and more, I get requests from people who want to pay me to sponsor this podcast, and I’m really grateful for them, but instead of money, what I ask them to do is something really awesome for Two-Brain mentoring clients. So Forever Fierce made a fantastic deal, Run Your Gym had a great deal. My Healthy Steps had a great deal ;boxprogramming.com. These are all businesses who’ve really helped out people in the Two-Brain mentoring program. SugarWOD is a bit different. SugarWOD has the potential to really do some amazing stuff, and after a few conversations with Drew, I tried it out in my gym. You know I’ve been using the same system for about six, seven years now. My clients are used to it. Changing is not going to be easy and I get that.
But after I tried SugarWOD for a week, my clients loved it, and instead of just writing their scores on the board and then having me enter everything for them through the old system that I was using, this was done pretty passively, now they have to write their scores on the board and then go into the SugarWOD app and log them again. This, which I thought would be a negative, is actually a positive because they’re a lot more mindful of their results. They think about it a lot more. It also allows people in different groups to fist bump one another, which is kind of a neat little tweak that I really enjoy. But my favorite thing about SugarWOD is that it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. And this is something that Drew, one of the founders, told me in our very first call.
It’s not booking software, it’s not billing software, it’s WOD-tracking software. And it’s really, really good at it. It integrates really seamlessly. You can get set up really quickly. Check it out. SugarWOD.com.
Today’s guest is Jim Wendler, and if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m sure you’ve heard of Wendler before. You’ve probably even used his 5/3/1 method. But you’ve never heard him like this. Jim is not a big fan of social media so it took us over a month to actually get this podcast together, but when I finally got him on the phone, he was completely transparent about everything. He was very open and available with his time. We talked about the notion of selling out and the cross between heavy metal music and the music industry and fitness and the fitness industry. He talked about when athletes deserve to be coached and he also talked about some unique perspective that he has on the pendulum effect of fitness.
You know, we can all think of Muscle Beach where everybody was doing gymnastics and weightlifting and then Arthur Jones where everybody was doing machines and now back to functional movement and where the industry is going next. We also talk about the need for modeling and mentors, and Jim gets really deep into his early models, his early mentors, how he deserved finally to be coached by these people and when you should seek these people out. It was really interesting. This is not an Oprah interview. My goal here is never to make the interviewee have a big breakdown and start crying and talking about their life. My goal is always to give you information that you can apply tomorrow in your gym. But a few times here, Jim actually did get emotional. He talked about some of his early models. Darren CHECK THIS, seeking him out as a kid in the weight room and offering to help him only after he’d been in the weight room room for over a few months.
It’s really moving stuff, and the depth of Jim’s character, I think, is revealed in this podcast more than any interview that I’ve ever heard. And I thank him for being so open and honest. When I interviewed Dave Tate several months ago in one of the first episodes of this podcast, I shut off the recorder and then we kept talking for another 35 minutes and I thought, “Oh, I wish I’d recorded that.” This time with Jim, I shut off the recorder, we said our goodbyes and then we talked for another 15 minutes. But this time I was smart enough to turn the recorder back on and I’m going to make some of that content available to Two-Brain mentoring clients only. So if you’re in there, hit me up and I’ll send you the last 10 minutes where we talk about the notion of selling out and Henry Rollins and what we learned about marketing and being a great coach and being a great mentor. And where the overlaps are. It’s some extra-curricular learning opportunities that I was fortunate enough to have and I’m thankful so much that I’m going to share them with mentoring clients in the group because they are kind of private. Thanks to Jim Wendler. I know you’re gonna love this. Let’s get to it.
All right, Jim Wendler, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
It’s my pleasure. So, just to bring people up to speed on where you’re at, because I’m sure everybody listening to this knows who you are already. Can you just kind of recount your story? You know, what brought you into powerlifting, what brought you to Westside and then, you know, what’s brought you to where you are now?
It starts off the summer before my eighth-grade years, I’d been bugging my dad for years to lift weights, because this was back in the day when being a big, strong guy like CHECK THIS, that stuff was heralded as pretty big and that’s all I wanted to do. So we finally started, he let me lift, and for the first, I dunno, 15 years of my life, my training was 100% focused on becoming a better football player and becoming—at least in high school, a better thrower. You know, I threw the discus in high school. Then I went to college and I played football at Arizona and again, the training was all revolved around being a better football player. Once I got out of football, I needed another avenue, and I still loved to train. And so I started reading up on powerlifting. I didn’t know anything about it. In fact, I always like to tell the story. I got an issue of Powerlifting USA and I turned to the back and it was like the top 100 list and I think it was fricking 220s or 242s or something, and I couldn’t believe what these guys were lifting. It’s before I knew that there was anything called a bench jerk or anything like that, so I was like “How the fuck are these guys benching 700 pounds, I’ll never be able to compete.”
And so the journey started there, I started reading up a little bit and I found and old interview with Louie Simmons. Not old. It is old now, it was new at the time, T-Nation Testosterone did with Louie. Man, he sounded great. I was like, “These guys are fucking nuts,” I needed that. And he had a big emphasis on speed and I was always a very explosive lifter because I was training for sports and that’s just part of the deal. So I thought, you know, I could thrive in that system. And eventually I got a job as a GA at the University of Kentucky, and it was there that I met Dave Tate. Not too far away from Ohio, from Columbus. And I worked there for about two years and then I started working for Dave at EFS. I was their first, I believe, full-time employee, it was just me, Dave and Traci in the office and we did every job known to man.
We patched everything up. We answered the phones, we did estimates, you know, we did accounting. Anything you could imagine we did. It’s not like it is today, with, you know, there’s 30 or 40 people working there. So it was just us three running the show. And Dave doing most of the work, I should probably point out. But at that time I started training at Westside and I think I was there for two or three years. I don’t remember. I always had the goal of squatting a thousand and then getting out. Because I didn’t want to do this indefinitely. Then I accomplished that goal, I had a pretty good total with that squat. And then I moved on. I kind of wanted to get back to what I did for the majority of my life, which was training for sports, that style of training. And I have done so—I only did powerlifting stuff for I don’t know, maybe five years. And so it’s all been kind of sports-running related since then and before then. So my roots were definitely in, especially for football and throwing, that’s where primarily I got all my education from.
And when you were playing football at college, you had an English major with a minor in creative writing, right?
Yes. Yes. And that whole story—I talked to my dad. I never really knew what to do and my dad’s always been kind of like the beacon in my life. And he told me, he’s like, “Just major and do something that you love to do, because it doesn’t matter too much as long as you get a degree.” He’s like, “I want you to be happy. I want you to enjoy what you do.” And that’s the one thing I love more than anything. Especially, you know—ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been reading, like voraciously reading, and I love that stuff. I love writing, and so it became—I wanted to go to college for something I was enjoying, not just, you know, putting my nose in the books all the time, I guess is the best way to say it. I don’t know, it’s just something I loved. And you know, the old joke is, I remember when I was in high school and college, everyone would say, “You love lifting so much and you read about it and you’re an English major, what the fuck are you ever going to do?” And it seemed to work out pretty good.
Yeah, so far. So when you started with EFS, you were writing for them, right? Like how did that go?
Yeah. What happened was Dave came down to the University of Kentucky. He was hired as a consultant by the head football coach. And of course I was pretty excited about that, and Dave and I hit it off right away, like within two minutes because you know, guys that have been lifting their whole life and just consumed by training and stuff, they always find each other. And so I mean literally by the end of the weekend, Dave and I would just bust each other’s balls about everything. I’m sure you have your friends, too, like you’re probably the worst person in the world to your friends. My friends, everything is just how much I can cut them down. It’s part of a tribe. So you know, I submitted some stuff to Dave, I said, “Listen, I’ve written some articles,” and I never thought he—because I’ve always been writing, even if it was never being published, because that’s something I always loved to do.
And I knew that there was some kind of future, I just didn’t know how it was going to come about. And so I had all these articles stockpiled and I sent some to Dave and he put them up. And you can imagine for a young person that’s huge. You know, EFS was to me like the best source of information, it was really the only source of hardcore information out there at the time. And so I got to be part of that. You know, kind of got in on the ground floor and the rest of kind of history. But yeah. I owe Dave much. Dave, besides being a good friend, I still see him from time to time and we never talk about training. We just will have a good time and laugh about little shit.
But yeah, Dave kind of gave me my first shot and I took advantage of it. That’s the best way to say it. If you look at my life, and I look at the different turning points in my life, you know, I took advantage of the opportunities. I’m sure I missed a lot, too, but I also prepared for those opportunities. You know, I didn’t just wait for them to come to me. Even with football, I won’t go into the story, but the reason why I got to play on the team was I grabbed an opportunity to play that no one else wanted. And from that point on I traveled with the team and was always playing. So think about all the time that went into that, it was 10 years of obscurity and running and training just to get that one shout-out CHECK THIS, you know, same thing with EFS. All the years of writing and training and thinking and reading and thinking and reading and writing and all of a sudden Dave shows up. I mean, I was well prepared. I think too many people think opportunities will just present themselves no matter what. You know.
And you’ve been writing for EFS for—did you write for them for 10 years before 5/3/1?
No, probably a little less, probably eight years. But at that time, most of your readers probably know but they had a Q and A. At the time, I think it was me, Dave, Bob Young, Danny Blankenship and Martin Rooney. There was always five of us on the Q and A. And I loved answering questions and doing all that stuff. And it got to the point, Dave will tell you probably more accurately, but I was answering something like four or five hundred questions a month and that doesn’t include all the emails. This is for years. I remember we added up one month, it was something like 1,200 Q and A’s and emails. A lot of fucking work, you know. But I did that for a long, long time. Long time.
What prompted you to write 5/3/1 then Jim, was that just kind of like a response to the common questions you were getting through those Q and A’s? Was that part of it?
Well, the reason why I developed the 5/3/1 program is in the book, I just needed something more concrete. I needed something to guide me. It’s all in there, so I’m not going to talk about that. But what happened was I started doing it and I started having remarkable success. And then some of my friends who needed some help asked me and they were my guinea pigs, you know, shit like that. And the response was amazing. I mean from guys like me who had a lot of experience to younger kids with not a lot of experience, stuff like that. So it seemed to work. The principle seem to work across the board and it was awesome. Like to me it was what I’ve always wanted to do. I can actually remember, this is a true story. I remember looking at an old Boyd Epley workout on my way to the airport. My parents were dropping me off at the airport to go to the Air Force Academy. I remember I had this sheet of paper and I was trying to figure out how I could program something that they’re kind of—it’s a long story, but I looked at that and l’m like, “How the fuck can I work this out to a life-long program?” And do you know who Boyd Epley is?
Yeah. He was like the first guy and all that shit. But I remember that. And I was like, you know, I’d kind of have to sit here and explain it for 40 minutes of what my line of thinking was or what I saw, but that impetus has always been there. Since I was a kid; since I first started lifting, you know, how can I program? And so once I kinda got a handle on it, I mean you have to understand, this is—what was I, 18 years old then? And I wrote it when I was 35 or something, and that’s a lot of years of trying to develop something.
So what made you actually write it down? Right before we got on this call, you texted me that you got carried away writing something because you were pissed off. Did that factor in?
The real reason, and people can debate this, but I know what I feel. Like my whole goal is—like I don’t have a gift to cure cancer. I’m not a surgeon. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a police officer because I think that’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. But what I can do is I feel like my gift is I can help people get stronger and something that I have immense passion for, OK. That’s all—I wanted to share that. And I have done—you know, most of my life has been free work. That’s one of the things, I know that this is one of your questions here that you sent me, but at the time I was answering so many questions and doing all this, I needed something to hand to everyone so everyone could look at it, stuff like that. So that was kind of I guess the real reason. Of course, getting paid is nice, but at the time I had no idea it was going to take off like this, no idea. You know, I just wanted to write something quality, and to think that I had some kind of grand business plan, I mean, Dave will tell you I’m the worst fucking salesman, the worst businessmen alive. And I think part of that, I mean we can go down some of these questions, but you’ll see kind of how I approach this stuff mentally and all that other shit.
So when 5/3/1 got published, you had a waiting audience, right? You had fans.
Yes, yes. And that was all because of all the work that I did. You know, it’s kind of like a grassroots campaign. But you have to understand, I did all that without any knowledge of what the hell I was going to do. I always knew I wanted to write, but I thought that was what I was doing and that was just a perk of my job, you know, doing all the other stuff at EFS. And so that audience was, you know, totally homegrown and done naturally, I guess you’d say. I never had a big plan in mind. You know, I think some people in this industry, they’re like, well, if I do something for a couple of years and I’ll get a reputation and stuff like that. And that’s true to an extent, but I think people can see through the sincerity, you know? I mean, I still answer tons of shit for free all the time. I write articles for free, you know, I help people out free. But I’m lucky that I’ve done this enough that people trust me enough to have some competence and you know, pay 10 or 20 bucks for programming
Do you think that audience comes more because you’re so forthcoming with helping people on the internet or is it more because you squatted a thousand pounds?
Well, you know, I’ll tell you this story. The last game I ever played was at Arizona state, and that was Thanksgiving weekend. And I packed up my bag and my parents came out for the game and I was driving back to Tucson with my parents. I remember walking to the car and thinking, “Holy shit, I’ve got nothing. I have spent my entire life training and playing football and I have nothing. How is this ever going to help me?” Fast forward today, It definitely helps me. You know, I found, you know, hindsight’s 20/20. So yes it does, it definitely helps. You’re not going to take financial advice from some dude who’s got 10 bucks in his pocket, right? And the same thing kind of come to that. So I think part of it, I’ve earned the trust of the audience, at least some of them; obviously there’s a lot of people fucking hate me. But whatever you say, you can’t deny that I’ve had some success with a very, from what I’ve seen in other athletes, a very well-stocked athletic body. And so I think that kind of proves true. It’s like, the best coaches aren’t always the best players, but the best coaches succeed at it at a very high level for their given talents. And they have to struggle. Something like, you know, Phil Jackson was probably considered the greatest coach in basketball and he was a fucking role player in the NBA. But he still went to the NBA.
So you still have to reach a high level. And I think what the good thing is, you know, I struggled for a long time with my strength. I was, you know, a hundred-pound weakling, just like everyone else, you know, to a degree, of course; everyone’s gonna be a little bit different. But also I was able to make my way to a higher level. Now the one thing that people don’t understand is you have a guy like John Welborn, who I’m really good friends with, he played in the pros for like 10 years, and that is a completely different fucking animal. I mean, he’s so far above and beyond me, what he’s accomplished, you know. So I don’t think I’m the greatest thing ever, because I know I’m fucking low on the totem pole, but for a lot of people I think what I’ve accomplished at least gives me some credibility.
And then the other thing, too, is I think people at least hope realize that I’m sincere because this is what I want to do. You know, you can act like—we train helping people for free at my gym. I don’t really publish that much, or you know, talk about that. But if there’s kids here that want to train in the city of London where I live, it’s a small town, then they get to train for free and I help them out. And it’s just the same thing that Darren did for me, my longtime coach in high school, he did all this shit for free. So it’s just—so I have an immense amount of passion for this, and it drives my wife nuts, you know, she’s always like, “You only care about two things: lifting weights and heavy metal, that’s it.”
OK. Well, talk about—
I don’t know what to say, man, I just love this stuff. And I think the bottom line is yes, it does help, but you have to have other shit behind it, too.
Absolutely. So let’s talk about what’s behind you, Jim. We’ve already talked about your dad. What was the best piece of advice your dad ever gave you?
Well, you have to kind of know my dad. My dad is very quiet. He’s exactly the opposite of me. He’s the kind of guy who, if I won the Heisman trophy and like $1 million lottery, he’d be like, “That’s pretty good.” But he’s loved me. My parents are supporting me, you know, I always like to joke that my mom made me—my favorite band is Eyehategod, my mom made me a customized pillow from Eyehategod T-shirts. You know, she’s like, “I know you love the band.” She’s always asking—they’re just really supportive no matter what the endeavor. And I guess, I don’t know, my dad gave me so much great advice, I guess. I remember when I was a kid, he always told me, he said, never quit anything and never follow the crowd. And that stuck with me forever, you know? And my poor father, you know, when he told me when I started lifting, I remember he took me aside and grabbed me and said, “Listen, if you start this, you will not quit.” And you know, of course I had never quit. I was joking the other day, I bet you can count on one had how many days I missed training in the first 15 years, you know. And that’s not even an exaggeration. But yeah, I guess— and you know, the crowd thing is probably more of a result of him being a high-school coach and a teacher. He saw kids, you know, being influenced by other kids, stuff like that. But of course it can be brought into an adult aspect, too.
OK. So a few months ago, Dave Tate was on this podcast and he had listeners write down the top five influences on their life. You know, who created a turning point, positive or negative, that shifted your life’s path. Who else would you list there, Jim?
Well, obviously my parents. Darren Llewellyn, by far, he was my high school throws coach and also the guy who taught me everything I knew about training. I mean, the guy is—I can’t say enough. In fact, I’ll probably start crying because I think he never gets enough credit for what he’s done. And I thank him as much as I can. And I’d say as far as in this business where I am now, obviously Dave was a huge influence. And, you know, I hesitate to say this, because, you know, I’ll sound like an idiot or whatever, but my wife has been awesome to me. My wife—you know, I’ve been married before, and I was divorced and I found a woman who accepted me and doesn’t nag me, doesn’t ask anything of me other than to be a good father and a good husband, and she gives me enough space to go do what I want to do or I’ll go nuts.
And before that, you know, you always hear all these stories about marriages, stuff like that. But she understands me. Like I’m very stubborn person. She always laughs because I will not do anything I don’t want to do; I just refuse to do it. Like I say no all the time. Does that make sense? And she’s totally accepting of that. Like, if I didn’t want to see her parents, I’m like I’m just not gonna fucking go. She’s like, “All right.” I’m not saying I’ve done that, but that’s exactly how it is. And you know, she’s my sounding board. She owned a gym in New Jersyey. She competed in figure, powerlifting, a bunch of that stuff so she understands the competitive drive. And she’s a tough son of a bitch, and she might be only 110 pounds, but mentally she is as strong as anyone I’ve ever met. So yeah, I mean, I guess, you know, people are always looking for grand examples of like Dan Gable or something like that. But everything—the big influence on my life are people who actually touched my life and been in my life. So I’d say those, my parents, Darren, Dave and my wife have been the most influential, but there’s probably a ton of negative shit, too. But I don’t know, I don’t really bother with that stuff anymore.
OK. So what was your first encounter with Darren Llewellyn, then?
I wrote an awesome article called “Mentoring Women” for T Nation. This is a true story. My eighth-grade year, you know, I started training; I started the summer before my eighth-grade year. And so I began training in the high-school weight room; my dad was coaching there. He was the coach in the high school, I should say. So he let me use the weight room. And you have to remember, I’m a bag ridder amongst the sea of juniors and seniors, you know, some pretty big strong dudes, and Darren was always in there. And he looked like he knew what he was doing, and I saw him hang clean 290 for 10. Pulled over 700, and the guy played professional soccer, he threw the javelin and the dude was just built, and he was fast as shit. I mean, just fast. And so I just kept my mouth shut. I didn’t ask any questions at all. And about six months into training, maybe a little longer, Darren just came over to me and said, “You need to probably start doing some straight-leg deadlifts.” And then he walked away and that was it.
Then a year later he gave me a little bit more advice. Never said a fucking word to me, just watched me train and all this stuff. And later on, like my junior, senior year, I asked him, “Why did it take you a year to talk to me?” And he said something I’ll never forget, he said, “Necause you had to earn the right to be coached, because so many kids come through here and they think they’re owed anything and then they drop out after a couple of weeks. It’s not worth my fucking time. So I had to make sure that you were serious.” So I took that with me my whole life and I understand exactly what he was saying. And then from there, you know, beyond just the lifting stuff, he always asked me questions or proposed stuff to me about life and whatever aspect. He never told me what to think or what the answer was or what he thought the answer was, he just let me spout off my mouth and then he’d just nod his head, like “all right.” So he taught me that, too, about how to think about different things.
But the training thing always gets me because I think people think they’re owed everything. Now, I’ve been coming here pretty hardcore for, you know, a month. Like, dude, you have to show me a little more than that. You know, and I’m sure—I don’t know how long you’ve been involved in this industry but I’m sure you’ve seen it. You know, people think that they’re owed the world or owed something free or owed your time, but your time is valuable. I don’t really want to waste it on someone who’s going to be here today and gone tomorrow. But of course there’s a larger picture. Earning the right to be part of something, you know, just because you buy the latest workout gear or you know, have chalk in your bag doesn’t mean you’re part of it. You have to earn that.
So the kids coming to your gym right now can’t pay, Jim. How do they earn the right to train there and be coached?
Right now they just have to show up, and as soon as they don’t show up, they’re done. That’s just the bottom line. I don’t ask a lot from them. You know, they don’t have to pay anything, but as long as they keep their big mouth shut and work hard, that’s all I want from them.
Have you ever had a kid who lost the right to train there?
No. Most of the kids that—you have to understand, I have a gym garage, and for a lot of people I’m a fairly scary-looking dude, and you know, my garage is covered in posters of various metal bands and stuff. I think it would take someone fairly serious about doing something to even approach it. So for the most part, everyone’s been really, really, really good. I mean, really good. And the transformation these kids go through, not just physically but mentally—now of course it might be as a result of just growing older and becoming a little bit more wiser, but you know, I’ve had teachers and parents and coaches come up and they’re like, “Man, I don’t know what you did. That kid walks tall now.” You know, without a doubt, that’s the biggest change I see, is just the confidence.
I remember seeing kids walk here with their heads down the first couple months, just kind of kicking the rocks, and afterwards they were running, they are keeping their head up. They look like they—they’re just different people. They have more confidence, and in the grand scheme of things, man, are they ever going to have the same love and passion for training that I have or you have, the answer’s probably no. But you at least want to start them on a path of strength in life, and not just strength in the body, but just that confidence as well. I love training high-school kids for the simple reason because Darren did that for me.
I think for a lot of us, we had somebody like Darren, you know, a model that we kind of followed and we just did what they did, right?
Yeah, yeah. You know, training, when I was growing up, was—we tried to plan it out, but I remember Darren and I spent a ton of time together and you can even ask any of my classmates or teachers, like these two are fucking annoying, because I would have notebooks filled with workout plans and then I would share them with Darren, and Darren would give me a scrap of paper he had there when he was showing a movie in class, like what do you think about this? So it was more of an exchange of information. But yeah, I definitely looked at what other people were doing and tried to emulate it. I mean, success leaves crumbs, right? Even if you look at the difference between Russians and Bulgarians, as far as the Olympic lifting, you know, one uses some crazy intensity and multiple workouts a day. And then Russians use sub-maximal training and stuff like that. But the bottom line is they still squat, they still clean and jerk, they still snatch and they’re still very methodical about their approach. There’s a lot of similarities that people—and then in most training systems there are lot of similarities. So I don’t—there’s a lot of, you know, this way’s better, this way is better. But if you kind of take a step back and really look at the big picture, that’s when you’re really gonna start finding answers. It’s like diets. Like there was the Zone diet for a while and Paleo and then there’s a million diets out there and if we discard like the grapefruit diet and like the liquid diet and that bullshit, if you take a step back they’re all based around the same basic principles.
And I think that’s where people lose it. They get so tied into one way of thinking instead of realizing that it’s pretty much the same. And that’s when I started realizing that the principles of training were more important than the actual days a week or sets and reps and stuff like that. I’ve been trying to preach principles, I mean in training, because when you do that, everything starts to work itself out. In fact, I have a friend who I’ve been friends with, I don’t know, for 10 years or something, and he’s always asking questions and stuff like that. We met through training and all that stuff. And I remember I finally got through to him one day and he texted me, he’s like, “Holy shit dude. Now everything makes sense.” It was like this massive—you know, the clouds parted. And he’s like, “Now I get it. Holy shit.” I’m like, “Yeah, there you go”. It was just a really awesome feeling for me, too.
What was the principle that he learned?
He learned about specific program—there was a balance to everything. For example, if your training program—he was a law-enforcement guy, OK. And he’s trying out for the SWAT team and he needs to increase his running and all that stuff. When you increase your running, you can’t be doing a lot of volume on the supplemental lifts or even the main lifts, OK. That make sense?
But there’s a tradeoff. And there’s a trade off in every part of training. So when you do a lot of, for example, one of the programs which 5/3/1 is going to fix, and you do a lot of five sets of 10 at a given weight, you know, squat, bench, deadlift, whatever. So when you do all that, you can’t do a ton of running because you’re doing all that work.
OK. When you’re doing—let me think here. When we do more jumps and throws as part of the training, then we lower the supplemental volume as well. OK. So everything needs to be balanced. And I think that’s one of the key principles that I’ve just added in the last year, it’s actually in the new book I’m writing right now is the idea of balance. You can’t just throw a one pound of shit of carrots and meat and whatever into a stew and think it’s going to taste good. It’s got to be evenly proportioned. And that’s what I was trying to get through to him. And I remember it because I had a big fucking grin on my face when he texted me that, he’s like, “Now I get it. All right. All right.” So that’s the principle I think he really understood.
Do you think a lot of people lose sight of these, you know, these meaningful outcomes? Like this guy has to qualify for the SWAT team. Do they lose sight of that in favor of like correlates, like my power clean went up. You know.
Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. You see it a lot of times in football. I’ll give you an example. We had a guy who could easily bench 500, squat 700. I mean, easily, like a fucking joke. He’d also have like 46340 at 308 pounds or something. He’s a first-round draft pick. There’s a reason why. So I think what happens is at a certain point, the efforts to raise that level is not worth it. Not worth it. But I also think that I don’t strive to make people strong in the sense that they are 500-lb. benchers or 800-lb. squatters, I just want them to get a little stronger. And of course, there’s always a point of diminishing returns, like I said. But if you take a kid for example, who was a miler in track and he squats 120 pounds, which I’ve had happen here, if we can get his squat a little bit stronger, he’s just going to be naturally faster. So yes, to a certain point, I think their chasing numbers gets a little ridiculous, but you gotta be somewhere before you do that, before it becomes a problem.
Does that make sense?
Like we got a kid do his military testing, and we kept things so fucking basic and he blew everything away, and you know, we didn’t do anything terribly special. We just got him stronger and we made sure that he was mobile. I understand what you’re saying. But at the same time, man, you’re training, you kind of want to put some more weight on the bar so you gotta kind of marry that stuff a little bit. That makes sense?
Yup. So, on that kid’s first day, I mean, are you going to talk about philosophy or are you going to say—
Every fucking day anyone’s in here it’s always, I just preach and preach about why we do stuff and how we do stuff and why this is important and what I’m looking for. I mean, it’s a constant barrage of information. And I never tried to, for example, when they’re squatting or something, I’m never yelling 9,000, you know? So it’s not so much seeking perfection in a lift and yelling at them and coaching like I’m a fucking drill sergeant, but in order for them to get the most out of their training, they got to know what they’re doing a little bit, and there’s no plan to what I’m saying, but it’s just understanding, you know, they need to understand a little bit because ultimately I want them to go off and train on their own when they go to college. You know, not fall into the, you know, bench and curls on Friday night, you know, before they go out.
So that kid who’s a miler, he’s probably read “Once a Runner,” you know, he thinks that running volume is going to make him faster. What do you say to that kid?
Well, it’s funny because I’m not gonna drop names here, but I’m friends with a pretty massive figure who trains a ton of athletes from high school all the way up to probably the biggest names you’ve ever heard in the NFL. So we were bullshitting one day, he called and I said, “Here’s my plan to get this kid better at the mile.” And I told him the plan as far as the running that we do. And he started laughing. I’m like, “Dude, what’s so fucking funny?” He’s like, “Dude, that is exactly what we did.” But he was a strength-and-conditioning coach at a real university. He owns his own private place now, because of the head football coach wanted to institute the mile in there. So the one thing I felt like–here’s the best way to say it, is if you come to me, and I’m not trying to be a dick about this, then you have to trust me. I’m not gonna sit here and battle with you.
You know, and what the fuck does he know? He read a book. You know, I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years now, so I kind of have a no-nonsense policy towards that. The the funny thing is when I was at Kentucky, when I first got there, you know, kids were always skeptical. Like yeah, he played football. But what does he know? I’ll never forget the day my buddy Kevin and I, who also worked there, we were squatting, and I think, you know, we were working up to five or six or 700 pounds and stuff, and a few kids happened to see this, because we trained on the off times. And we also did like a, we were benching one day and I remember that it was 455, and from that point on the kids were like, holy shit, this guy knows what he’s talking about. Having a little credibility. You can talk about squatting a thousand. But it certainly helps when you’re coaching kids, when they see—sometimes I’ll do a few sets with them. I remember I did dips one day with them and I knocked out like 38, you know, they’re like, holy shit. I’m like, yeah. So just listen to what I have to say. Like I might know something.
Models are super important when we’re starting, and clear instructions and stuff. At what point do you think in the maturity of a lifter or an athlete do they do best by coaching themselves? Does that ever come?
Yeah. It’s funny because I saw this on the sheet that you sent to me and I started thinking about that because even when I was with Darren, even when I was in college, my strength coach Dan Wirth, he recognized that I was like a ridiculous savant with this stuff. At least trying to be. So he expected me to do the workouts but I always talked with him, like “Listen, do you think I can try this?” You know? He took me aside my third year there. He’s like, “Jimmy, I want you to know that the best way to learn about training is training yourself. So here’s the workout, but I want you to just run shit by me. You can try different stuff.” He kind of recognized that, right? It’s not for everyone. So I think that maybe if you’re kind of in that world where this is all you really think about, maybe, it’s important. But I also think that you need to be prepared for the time maybe someday when you’re not going to have a coach, you can’t afford a coach, you don’t have access to one. So I think it’s important that everyone kind of develop that ability, because when the shit comes down to it, the only person you can really rely on is yourself. But for a lot of people who are just, you know, for example, a football player who doesn’t really love training that much, but you know, he still knows he needs to do it and stuff like that, you know? He’s probably always gonna need a coach, because he shouldn’t have to waste all his time thinking about training and what he’s gonna do. He needs to, you know, pass that off to someone else that actually knows their stuff.
You know, one last thing on their plate, which is exactly what my business models. You asked me a question here about running a business and one of the best things I ever learned was someone asked me who I would hire as an assistant if I was the head strength coach somewhere. And as much as I would love to hire my friends who do the same things I do, the first thing I’d do is hire someone who’s really adept at speed and conditioning, who really knew their stuff. And same thing with business, like my wife is a genius with all that other shit that I don’t want to do, you know, the money and all that little stuff, I have someone that—so I delegate responsibility that I know I suck it. You have to know your strengths and your weaknesses. I know this is probably way far off than what the original question was, but I think it’s, you know, you can’t be good at everything, right.
Right. So do you think that like the weakness of a lot of trainees who try to train without a coach is that they over analyze or they don’t know enough?
Oh God, yes. Holy shit, dude. You know it’s funny because I’ve been doing this for so long and I talk about taking a step back, and there’s so much shit out there. So much static, and we talked about that earlier, before we started recording. And I think what happens is they lose—they second guess what they’re doing because the new flavor of the month, or they think to solve one problem, they think they need five solutions when they only need maybe one. And when it comes down to it, no matter what anyone says, if you run or you know, just some kind of conditioning, if you do some kind of strength training that’s progressive, that’s why the barbell is so good because you can easily add weight. You could add a rep, you know? You know what I’m saying? And some kind of mobility or flexibility work, no matter what you’re doing, you’re going to be well off. The problem is, I think people try and shove more shit than that, or they devote too much time into one of those areas instead of what I said before, balancing those three things.
One of the quotes I picked up from one of your lectures was “When you’re in doubt, squat and run hills.”
Yes, yes. You know, there’s obviously a bigger meaning for that. I mean, taken at face value it does hold a lot of credibility, but when you’re in doubt, you know, you’ve got to get stronger. You have to be mobile. We do a ton of mobility work, both in our beginning and in our recovery work. And not just mobility, I want to say movement stuff that we do. And, you gotta run, you gotta condition. You gotta ride a bike or push a prowler, or just actually run, I know running is a dirty word in this industry now. But yeah, when you your doubt yourself, just stick to what’s worked for millions—not millions of years, hundreds of years. If you ever want to read a great book, there’s a book by George Hackenschmidt, and I don’t know the exact name, but it’s probably the only book he’s ever written.
The guy who’ the hack squat’s named after, it was written like in 1918 or something like that. And you will laugh your ass off at how the same shit is being preached today. I mean, it’s unbelievable. In fact I highlighted it, and I remember like holding my stomach, I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t wait to show my wife. I’m like, “You’re not going to believe this, people still don’t believe that this is true.” You know, it’s just simple, simple ideas. So that carries over. If you decide do a program, 5/3/1 program’s pretty simple on its outset and you can make it a little more complicated. But at its core, you want to be stronger. You want to be in better shape and you want to be mobile. That’s how we program everything.
OK. I can remember 20 years ago, reading you know, Mel Siff had his forum and Louie and Dave were both in there.
Oh yeah, supertraining.org. I remember that. Oh, it was pain in the ass to read. I remember putting shit out on there—
But one of the powerlifters in there was Eddie White, and he was getting a lot of criticism because he was running five and 10k races on the weekend and then competing in USAPL, I think.
So you do write a lot more about conditioning than you know, the usual dogma, which is don’t do a lot. So talk a little bit about that, Jim.
OK. I said we have three areas that we try to balance, and there’s a little bit more to each one than just what it is. There’s strength, mobility/flexibility and conditioning. Now, some people might need more shit. Like if you’re a football player or a tennis player, you might need more agility and speed work. But for the most part, if you’re a football player or a soccer mom, I like to say, you’re going at least need those three things. Now with conditioning, and you have to understand that in fitness or strength training, whatever you want to say, the pendulum always seeks middle. Nature, you understand that, right?
It always seeks homeostasis. So, I don’t know how old you are, but back in the 80s, running was all the rage in the seventies and eighties, everyone jogged and that was the epitome of fitness; in fact, today it still somewhat exists, and you know, marathon runners are the, “Oh, look how healthy he is.” You know, he looks like he hasn’t eaten a meal in 10 years. So now the pendulum more recently has swung all the way over to the other side. So you have to understand, if something swings all the way to the right, it’s gotta swing to the left. And that’s where we were about 10 or 15 years ago, where not just running, but just conditioning in general was frowned upon. And now I think it’s starting to come back to the middle where people say, yes, we do need some, you know, conditioning. The problem is those people don’t pick the appropriate conditioning for their goal. And for example, I see a lot of people—I’m trying to think of a good—often their goal is to get stronger in the squat, bench and deadIift. Maybe they’re not powerlifters, but that’s what they want. And they’re doing all this volume work on the squat and trying to kick ass and they’re out pushing the prowler and running hills.
Like I love running hills. I come from Walter Peyton man, you know, and he used them extensively. So the problem is, is those things maybe at the right time will be good, but done at the wrong time are really bad. And so you need to pick the appropriate conditioning thing because not only is it going to improve your recovery between workouts but it’s gonna improve your recovery from set to set, you’ll definitely be less sore, providing you pick the right conditioning thing. And overall you’re just going to be healthier. And the healthier you are, within reason, you’re going to be a stronger person. So, you know, a majority of my audience, 99% of my audience, are people don’t compete in powerlifting or don’t compete in anything other than they just want to get better physically. and that is, to me one of the best—is essential to becoming better physically.
It’s just being able to do stuff. My wife always laughed at people who call skiing exercise. I thought exercise is part of your life, you know, but they called gardening exercise. It’s like, no, that’s just what you do. So all the stuff we’re trying to do is to prepare you better, not just for the lifting but for life in general. You know. I’ve seen both sides of the extreme. Me personally. You know, when you play football, all you do is run and lift. I could do anything. Like, it’s funny because people are like “How do I pass this law, you know, the firefighter exam?” You know, the physical stuff. And I’m like, “How can you not?” And I have to realize that I have that massive training background. But then when I wanted to squat a thousand, I just let all that shit go.
I just tried to be as big as I possibly could because I knew that’s what I needed to do. You know, it might not be right for everyone, but I didn’t really care. I just wanted to squat a thousand, so I just cut that all off and that was horrible shit. I was—you know, I’m 5’10” and I am right now, I don’t know how much I weigh, but maybe 220 or 230 or something, in that range. But for me to squat a thousand, I needed to be heavier. Weight moves weight. That’s why the super heavyweights lift more weight than anyone else, you know. In general they do; I’m talking about at the elite level. So, but yes, you know, it’s that—if you take one of those pillars away, the table will fall. That’s what I’m saying.
I asked as athletes do we tend to overthink this, do you see coaches trying to get too fancy, too novel with the same concept?
Yeah, and there’s generally probably three reasons why. One, they don’t know any better. They’re unqualified. Which is probably kind of mean of me to say, but it’s the truth because I can tell you right now, I started when I was 15, so let’s add 10 years to that, so I was 23. At 23, there’s no way I was qualified enough to run my own program. Does that make sense?
And you know, I was watching Louis Kincaid the other day; they asked him how long it takes to become a good or a great community. He said 25 years at least. So there’s a lot of unqualified people who think they’ve got all the knowledge. Because, believe me, when I was 23, I believed I had all the knowledge, too. Now I look back and I’m like “Oh my God, I was a fucking idiot.” I just didn’t know. All right, so that’s one. Number two is I think a lot of people overdo this stuff because they want their job to see more important to others. Cause let’s say you walk in the weight room and you don’t know a fucking thing about anything, like you’re a coach. The position coach on the football team. And you see a guy’s doing chains and bands and running with a pair of shoes and you know, hooking electrodes up to their balls. You know, making ’em jump. They’re like, “Oh, this guys is doing something!”
And so I think it’s a way of justifying their job. But I don’t think anyone needs to do that because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters in this business is results. And if you get your kids, you know, better athletes, that’s the number one thing. And you don’t need a lot of fancy shit to do it, so I think a lot of times it’s just to justify. And maybe the third one to a point might be because they’re fucking bored too, because training, for the most part, I’m sure you’ve seen, had people said say to you like, “Training’s so fucking boring. Like why would you want to do that?” You’re like, “What do you mean?” But from the outside, if you do some of the most basic stuff and keep on doing it for 20 or 30 years, it’s not terribly exciting. So I think maybe they just want to add some spice into their life. And there are certainly ways to do that, by the way, without abandoning all the basic principles, you know, and that’s where we do a lot of the assistance work, we do a lot of different stuff. So you know, so we’re still gonna squat, bench, deadlift and press do chin-ups and dips, but we can always throw some little stuff in there that’s really not gonna matter in the big picture. That makes sense?
And you know, that way now that you’re—the goal is still the goal and you’ve appeased the people. It’s kind of like you know, with a baby. Dangle the keys in front of them, they’re pretty happy. That’s probably a really bad evil analogy, but it’s kind of true.
Are you seeing the same thing with gym owners, too, like are they really pursuing novelty because they’re bored or because they need to look expert at something different?
Probably a need to look like an expert. I mean, think about this. If all you had in your gym was some squat racks and some dumbbells and a place to run, you know, prowler and stuff like that. It doesn’t look very impressive to the outside eye. Now if you had all kinds of fancy shit, you know what I’m saying? So, yeah, I think part of it is bringing in people, which is fine, I really don’t have a problem with that, because you’ve got to make money, you know. And a majority of gym owners, you know, my wife told me this as well as everyone else that owns a gym, the majority of your money can be made through just average people. People just want to get in better shape or you know, lose their beer gut or whatever you want to say.
So you kinda have to appease them more than anyone. It’s just the sad reality of it, you know, look at any—you know, I haven’t really been in a public gym in probably 10 years, like 24-hour Fitness or whatever they call those places, I don’t even know if that’s still around. But you go in there and it’s like, it might be 10,000 square feet and like there’s only like four things that are pretty useful. But they make money, you know? So there’s obviously something to it. Just owning a gym is not something you do to make a good buck, you know, you can make a good buck but it’s going to take some time. You know, that’s the reality of the situation. And I think, real quick, I think one of the big problems that people have when they open their own gym is they’re 100% qualified to train people, but they’re 0% qualified to run a business.
I want to hear more on that. Forget what I was going to say.
Yeah, well it’s just, you know, Dave taught me this, you know, Dave and I, if you could combine us or work with us, our training knowledge is really good. We could work with just about anyone and get them results. Now, if you take me now or me 15 years ago and Dave 25 years ago, we couldn’t run a fucking business to save our life. Now Dave is an awesome business guy and he’s worked at it. I can tell you that from experience. I mean, he works his ass off for that business, not just to make money, but I really, I know for a fact Dave believes in the cause, let’s put it that way. But you can’t spread the cause without some kind of business model and someone to help out. And I think if someone did open their own gym, if they can afford it or work with someone who does have business experience, who is able to do like, you know, marketing, which the best marketing is obviously the people that you’re training, you know, word of mouth.
So he was able to say, listen, we need to charge this. They need to be able to do this. You need to run these kinds of groups, stuff like that and keep, you know, keep the lights on. But I think that’s one of the biggest things. I’ve seen, I can’t tell you, I probably—we used to do a lot of sales with gyms. You know, people buying all the equipment for their gyms, and I can say the failure rate is easily 50%, easily. Probably even more so, and I think it’s not because they weren’t good at coaching or training people, it’s just because they just weren’t good business people. So my advice to everyone if they want to do what I do or start a gym, I call it the Darkthrone model, I know you have that on there. Darkthrone is a black metal band and I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but they kind of rewrote a lot of the rules of metal. They released some really seminal albums and they always did whatever the fuck they wanted. And one of the reasons why is because there’s two main members of Darkthrone. They never quit their day jobs and they asked the main guy, his stage name is Fenriz, why he did that. He was like, that way I would never have to compromise what I wanted to put out. So it was never ever about the money. So if you could open up your own gym or you know, become a professional in this industry, the best thing to do is have another job as your career and build this up slowly and build this up organically until you can quit your job, if you have a gym. Because you will never have to, you know, bend over for anyone. And that is pretty much how I did this, but I didn’t really realize it. Because again, I don’t have much of a business sense. But I see that of all the people I’ve talked to and worked with, that seems to be the most sound and basic principle for doing this as a job.
Are you selling out as a gym owner? I was a powerlifter, and I wanted to teach people to deadlift. And I became a CrossFit gym owner because I thought, well that’s how I’m going to get people in the door. And it’s true. I mean, nobody else in town teaches women to deadlift and gets them 300-lb. Deadlifts, you know?
And now, people are taking that a step further and they want to have like yoga and Zumba to get people in the door to teach them to do CrossFit, to teach them to powerlift. I mean, is there a point where you’re selling out there or not?
You know, being involved in the music community for as long as I have, there’s a big emphasis on like a punk and hardcore world about doing everything DIY and keeping things—like not selling out. That was the dirtiest wor din the world. And then you get a little bit older. And honestly, I know this is gonna sound bad, but I have no problem with people selling out because I don’t do my—because their thoughts may have changed. So I really don’t care. The other thing is that the end of the day, if you’ve got enough mind to live how you want to do and you’re able to live with yourself, look yourself in the mirror, then fine. I just don’t have an issue with it like maybe I once did, because everyone’s got a family, the economy’s stuffed in a lot of places, it’s tough. And you know, being a martyr I think is one of the worst things in the world because you end up dead. And I guess I just don’t see it the same way I did. You know, I was very lucky because I’m able to support my family on writing and I don’t—I never received any money for something I didn’t believe in. You know, since it’s always my writing, if that makes sense. But man, if you got a family, you’ve got bills to pay and you know—I just don’t think it’s a big deal, you know? I don’t know. My thoughts have completely changed on that.
Here’s the thing; people say Metallica sold out. I stopped listening to Metallica after “And Justice for All,” but they’re not the same people they were when they were 19. I don’t expect them to make “Master of Puppers” every time around. You can’t. And you know what, it’s just—you’re not the same person you were when you were 18 and, I’m 31 now. I’m totally different person than I was five years ago. And so when I see these people and you know, thinking about the integrity—I don’t want to say integrity because integrity is a different thing, but it’s just not that big of a deal to me. You know, I don’t know. You have to understand the business, I love doing what I do, but my way I look at business is different than other people. I don’t like business. I do this stuff so I can support my other life, my life outside of this, and do the things I want to do. So does that make sense to you? I think there’s—like Dave, Dave at his heart is a business guy, but he loves it. He loves the challenging of it. Me, I just like—people are always like, “How do I make more money?. Well, Alan Costco taught me a great thing. He’s like, I just want to want to figure out how to make the same amount of money, but do less.
Alan is a two-time cancer survivor and I’ve had a lot of conversation with him and his outlook on life is completely different than everyone else’s because he’s been on death’s door twice. And you start to see things a little differently I guess when you get a little bit older.
I think so. Yeah, I met Henry Rollins a few months ago, he was actually lecturing at a marketing conference.
That’s a guy who did marketing right, too.
He did. This guy mailed so many letters to fans and got—anyway, we don’t have to go down that road, but let’s talk about how your business creates financial freedom, emotional freedom for you in your everyday life.
OK. We live very simply, my wife and I, and my kids and stuff. We always got to have something that comes up like everyone else. So we manage the money fairly well. And when I worked at EFS, I’m not built to have a nine-to-five job. I would go crazy if I had to work in an office. So that alone that allows me to work from home, allows me to set my own hours. IT allows me to spend time with my kids, like we go to the zoo in the summers during the day. That’s something that most people don’t have the opportunity to do. We are not rich. Trust me, we’re far from rich. But you know, one of the things, I wrote this article a while back about freedom, and I told—my dad asked me one time, like, he asked me, like, “What’s one of the most important things to you about what you do?” And I said, “Well, you know, first, I want people to love this and give them success, and the other thing is I want my freedom.” And freedom is hard to come by. You have to work for it. And for me, how do I put this? Money is the ultimate freedom. And it’s not about making the money.
It’s about managing your money, about saving your money. And that’s the one thing that you always see people talking about, is something like, “I wish I could quit my job, but we always go with the code” or whatever. Stuff like that. Right. I wish I could do this, but you know, my boss is being a real asshole. I can’t do anything because, you know, because of money and stuff like that. And to me that’s like the ultimate loss of freedom is not being able to choose the little things in life. Because you always got to do the little shit in life. You know? But it’s the big stuff and it’s the quality of my life. And I was in a really, really bad motorcycle accident about five years ago; I mean fucking horrible. There’s no way I should be alive right now. And I was laying in a ditch on a highway. I thought I was fucking dead, you know. And I remember thinking like, the only thing I could think of is I just want to see my my wife and my kids. That’s all I want to do. And that was a huge point in my life.I wrote an article one time, a small article like everyone should have a near-death experience because it really, really opened my eyes up to what was important. Now I understand not everyone’s going to have that same idea or I should say same freedom because the reality is we all need to work. We all need to do jobs. There’s always parts of our job that suck.
But to devote so much of your life and time to something that like your boss probably doesn’t fucking care about you. You know, stuff like, you know what I’m saying? But my wife and kids care about me. You know, I value my quality of life more than anything. More than anything. And yeah, I think some people live like live to be in the business and live to do this and live to do that. And it’s just not me, not me at all. And it’s like, a friend of mine who’s in this industry, too, who quit his job, he figured—he worked with the same job for 10 years. The job he was at when he quit, and he one day at a conference, he added up in the last 10 years how much time you devoted to go into work and coming back, his travel time.
And it was something like 380 days in 10 years. So he lost over a year of his life in a fucking car. And that was it. That was a real eye-opener for him. It was like man. I’m very lucky. I tell ya, I’m not a religious man at all, but I’m very blessed to be able to do what I do. But I had some great people around me to help me. But at the same time, you also have to make a ton of sacrifice. And I think that’s what a lot of people don’t want to do. We don’t go on vacations, you know, ever. We never do. We never overly spend anything. So that gives us freedom because we don’t need—it’s just like Fenriz did with Darkthrone, he doesn’t need a lot of stuff. So I can go on and on for this man. But someone asked me what my greatest PR in life was the other day. I did like an Instagram QandA. And my greatest PR life is not working the nine-to-five job for the last six years, by far. It doesn’t mean I’m lazy. I just want to do other stuff with my life.
I get it. Well, Jim, I don’t know how we can ever top that answer, so I’m going to leave it there.
I know I talk forever, dude. I can sit here and do this all day.
Yeah. Well, I’ve got a thousand more questions, but that last answer was incredible. So I’m gonna end it on that note.
Thank you. I really appreciate you having me. I appreciate just the confidence to call and think that I have something to say. I don’t have such a big ego to think that people need me, you know what I’m saying? I don’t know how to explain that, but I just really thank you for having me. Let’s put it that way.
Oh, thank you, man. I think you’re going to give a whole new level of insight to a lot of listeners on this show.
Next, it’s Coaches’ Confessional, where Chris shares his biggest mistakes in the fitness business. Learn from his sins. Here’s Chris again with another costly error.
Every second week on Coaches’ Confessional, I talk about mistakes that I’ve made. And I hope that these mistakes are valuable to you as teaching tools. But the truth is that I make mistakes a lot on purpose because without making these mistakes, I would never really get further at all in business. If I hadn’t made all of the early mistakes that nearly bankrupted Catalyst in the old days, I wouldn’t be here talking to you now, frankly. I wouldn’t have half the success that I do and I wouldn’t enjoy talking to, you know, hundreds of you all the time, dozens every week. So I don’t want to encourage anybody not to make mistakes. I want you to make your own mistakes and not struggle through the same mistakes that I’ve already made. This summer, we’re gonna make a lot of mistakes. We’re going to try some new stuff. And the new stuff that we’re doing at Catalyst is called the Pareto plan.
So first a bit of background. Almost a year ago, we opened up our second location and it’s growing really well. The original intent of this second location was to be CrossFit Brain. And then you know, we had some branding and licensing issues and we decided that we would just call it Ignite, which is another company that I own, and we would start running more cognitive stuff down there. So our ignitegym.com program is massive. We have a couple of full-time trainers working on that program now. I think it’s about the only gym program funded by insurance companies in Canada, possibly North America. We’ve got our own set of affiliates worldwide. But we also saw an opportunity in this space to look at programming a different way. This gym is in a former high school. It’s a massive building that we actually considered buying, but I’m glad we didn’t.
We’re tenants. We have one big gym, we have massive change rooms. We have access to another gym. We have a football field, we have a track, and what we’re starting to do is develop into a sports academy where students will come and live in our city for most of the year, they’ll study at the school for about four hours a day. They’ll earn a GED requirement at the end and the rest of the time they’ll spend training. So either, you know, on the ice if they’re a hockey player or on the courts if they’re a basketball player, or on the field if they’re a soccer player. And then in the weight room, the gym with us. What this has given us is the opportunity to reimagine the fitness experience from the perspective of an athlete and also the perspective of a non-athlete, you know, an exerciser like me. What we’ve always done is have a conversation with new clients at Catalyst and if you followed my stuff and read about Bright Spots, you know, generally how that conversation goes.
We share the very specifics in the mentoring program, you know, right down to the dialogue that happens. But the point is that we’re asking people why they’re there and what they want to accomplish. In the UpCoach program last week we had a module on meaningful outcomes versus correlates, so if a client comes in and she wants to lose 50 pounds and her power clean goes up and her Fran time goes down and she can run a 5k, these are all amazing things and they’re really important for motivation, but ultimately the meaningful outcome is did she lose weight or not? Now in a lot of CrossFit gyms, she will lose weight. That’s great. But if that doesn’t happen over time, then the meaningful outcome hasn’t actually been achieved. We can go on about that for hours and actually in this interview with Wendler, you heard him talk about meaningful outcomes and football players a little bit.
What’s important, though, is that we’re asking that question at intake and then we’re asking that question again and again and again throughout the lifespan of the athlete: Are you getting closer to your primary goal? What we’re hoping with Pareto plan, which is what we’re calling our little experiment, is that we can identify these goals better. We can test progress better, and we can guide people toward a more customized solution to get them to their progress. We all know the 10 elements of fitness. I’m sure you can probably recite them by heart if you’re listening to this podcast. What we want to do is break those elements up into specific need. So this summer when somebody attends our second location, they’ll be doing something called Pareto plan. The intake will involve an assessment. If it’s an exerciser who wants to lose weight, that assessment is mostly vocal.
We’re asking a lot of questions. We’re using Bright Spots. If that athlete is, you know, a competitor, if they’re playing hockey, we’re seeing a lot of that. If they’re playing basketball, we’re seeing more of that. Baseball. They’ll actually do a physical assessment to determine their need. And then from there the athlete or exerciser will get a prescription, and it might look something like this: Mrs. Jones, based on what you’ve told me, I think, as your coach, that the best solution for you is two days of high-intensity interval training, one day of longer-term, lower-skill aerobic training and a solid nutrition plan. Here are our class times for aerobic training. Here are our class times for high-intensity interval training. And in two months we’re going to reassess and I might prescribe some strength work at that point or I might not. If we have an athlete come in who is a hockey player, you might do an assessment and say, Billy, you have got great strength-to-bodyweight ratio, but you really need to work on your power.
So I want you to attend three power classes per week and one resilience class to keep you from blowing apart. So the different types of classes that we’ll do, and we’re going to group some of these together, are power, speed, conditioning, endurance and resilience. Power is more explosive-type movement, overcoming a barbell weight, and we’ll be measuring that based on speed instead of weight lifted. So we’ve got a lot of power meters that we’re using. Speed, we’ll incorporate more body-weight type stuff, agility drills, sprinting, hurdles, plyometrics, stuff like that. Conditioning will look like high-intensity interval training, you know, constantly varied functional movement across broad time and modal domains. Endurance will look like lower skill aerobic longer duration and resilience might be mobility, might be stability, it might be a BrainWOD or it could be another cognitive trait like Stoic philosophy where we give people a recording to listen to and tell them to do a 10-k ruck while listening to this, you know, audio book or lecture, and Mark Divine is actually helping us out a little bit with that.
And so are some others. Is all this stuff going to work? Hell no. It is definitely not. But we’re at a unique spot here where this will be my last opportunity for three or four years to try something completely novel. And so we’re going for it. I know that if I wait another year, our conditioning program at this second location will be so big, it’ll be too late to try anything different and so that’s why we’re going to try all this stuff at once. We’re bringing some technology in there. We’re going to use power meters, as I said. We’re going to use heart rate monitors and like a big heart rate scoreboard thanks to Polar and it’s kind of like what you’d see at Orange Theory. We’re going to be trying all this stuff at once. We’re also going to be inviting coaches and gym owners to come up and see this stuff later on in the summer and I’ll release some more dates on that soon.
I know you’re going to have questions about this. I know you’re going to want to check in to see how it’s going, see the programming and you can do that at paretoplan.com. That’s great. Feel free to ask questions any time. Next week, Commander Mark Divine is on the podcast, and the week after that I’m going to do a Q-and-A episode, because you guys are fantastic about asking questions. If you have questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and I’ll get to them in that episode. For now, have a fantastic week. Try new stuff. Put it out there. Don’t be scared to fail.
Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.
On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories, and Sean Woodland has great stories from the community on Wednesdays.
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