“We had to show people what ‘Intensity’ meant.”
Greg Amundson is the original CrossFit fire breather. He did Fran before it had a name. Sixteen years in, he’s learned a few things about coaching, fitness, business and brains.
Greg shared some big concepts. Some of my favorites:
“A principle felt is understood.”
“The 10 physical domains do not exist in a vacuum or solely on a physical plane.”
“What really starts to separate people has more to do with what’s happening in the mind and spirit than in the body.”
The “Three Moments” of a class, according to Greg:
Moment #1: The greeting.
Moment #2: The brief, practice and set-up.
Moment #3: The actual workout.
“Your Wife Is Not Your Sister,” on Amazon
Recommended by Greg:
Recorded on October 14, 2015.
Speaker 1: 00:00:00 – 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.
Chris: 00:00:17 – I knew I wanted the first guest on Two-Brain Radio to be somebody special. And this guest, although he hasn’t been with me my entire fitness career, which reaches all the way back to 1996, he’s been there at all the high points of my CrossFit career. When I first found CrossFit in 2007, this guy was featured in a lot of the videos that were online at the time. And when I say a lot, I mean a large percentage because there weren’t that many. And then when I got hired by HQ and put on the CrossFit for Hope Committee, this guy would travel around with me to places like Saint Jude’s in Memphis, Tennessee. And I remember one time we were down there in Tennessee and the hotel gym was kind of laughable. It was a higher-class hotel and the gym was in this former bank vault, you know, in the sub-basement of this hotel.
Chris: 00:01:05 – And a couple of the guys were complaining because there was just nothing there. And it was this tiny little room and we were all these powerful CrossFitters. And this guy says, “Well, is there a wall?” in a way that only he can, and you’re about to hear that kind of stuff from him, very shortly here. And we wound up doing this Tabata handstand push-ups and squats workout that absolutely smoked me using nothing but this solid old wall of a vault in the basement of this building in Tennessee. And a few months later, he and I were in Kenya and I got to see some of this stuff that he’ll be talking about firsthand, his morning routines. What he does first, how he practices thankfulness. One of my favorite things that happened on that trip was, we arrive in this village and it’s the middle of the night in Kenya, and we’re all exhausted from 20 hours or so of plane travel.
Chris: 00:01:57 – And we’ve just gotten off this shaky airplane ride from the Nairobi airport, which had been burned down a week before. And we roll in and before we get out of the van, this guy talks to our guide and he says, “Dalen, how do you say ‘thank you’ in Swahili?” And so Dalen is teaching us, you know, say thank you. Say thank you, Asante Sana. And he says, “Okay, how will I say it in the morning to the women who bring us meals?” And he says, Dalen says, “Well, just say ‘Asante Sana, Mama.’” And so this guest that you’re about to meet showed us all that being thankful no matter how tired we are, was the most important part of his day. So he knew that establishing that morning routine the next day would eventually help him get through that day. So my guest has a lot of—you have probably guessed is Greg Amundson, the quintessential original fire breather, the guy who was featured in probably about 50% of the original CrossFit Journal videos. The guy who’s been doing CrossFit for 16 years.
Chris: 00:03:00 – You’re going to learn from this guy as a coach, as an athlete, as a CrossFitter, as a human being and as a spiritual being. I hope you enjoy it. I know I sure did. Welcome Greg Amundson to the show. Greg, for those who haven’t heard of you, the new kids, just tell us a little bit about your story.
Greg: 00:03:17 – I was so blessed to find CrossFit at the inception of its birth, early 2001, and I was mentored and coached by the founder of CrossFit himself, coach Greg Glassman, for nearly seven years. The original, first in the world CrossFit gym.
Chris: 00:03:39 – OK. And you appeared in a lot of the early videos. What was the start of that like?
Greg: 00:03:47 – When I first started the website as we know it, CrossFit.com, had not yet materialized. And when it did, there was a need for a visual explanation of what the workout was. Essentially what we had to do was show world what intensity was. And the best way to do that coach decided was to film me and some of the other phenomenal early athletes like Dave Lees, Mike Weaver. Soon Annie Sakamoto was on, seeing Nicole Carroll . And by filming the efforts of these athletes, Coach was able to show the key characteristic that really separated CrossFit from any other program. And that is this mix of intensity with mechanics and consistency, the true CrossFit recipe.
Chris: 00:04:46 – Beautiful. So, you were doing other physical training at the time too, right Greg?
Greg: 00:04:52 – I was, I had a background in mainly aquatics. My Dad was a former naval diver and chiropractor. And so he really mentored me at a young age and I had a great appreciation and understanding for what I would call holistic training. And so my dad inspired in me to train holistically between the mind, the body and the spirit. And when it came to the body application, my dad understood as a chiropractor the importance of compounds multi-joint movement and gymnastic-based movement. And so even from a very young age I was doing handstands and pull-ups and bench, and shoulder press, deadlift. I was doing these great skills that we still do today in the CrossFit program.
Chris: 00:05:40 – So what was that initial visit like? What made you seek out Greg Glassman in the first place?
Greg: 00:05:47 – Yeah, you know what happened, it’s embarrassing to tell the story now, but I was, I was working as a deputy sheriff for the Santa Cruz County sheriff’s office and I was about one week or so off the train and I thought I was in shape. I thought I was tough, big, bad deputy sheriff and I just got my ass kicked and, and in that fight for my life. I realized that all the fighting skill in the world wouldn’t help me if I didn’t have the engine and the machine to continue to fight. And so I started to look for a program or a means of training that would provide for me that feeling that I had on the street. I looked for a workout program that would feel like the workout was a fight for my life. And during that, that quest, there was a rumor that was circulating through the Brazilian Jujitsu community of Santa Cruz. And the rumor was, hey, there’s this crazy gym, crazy coach and crazy workouts. And that was intriguing to me. I found the phone number, called the phone number and none other than Greg Glassman answered the phone and I said, “Hey can I come work out?” and he said “Tomorrow morning, 6:00 a.m., be here.” And the next morning I showed up for my first CrossFit workout and really that day changed my life. You know, that was the day that—from that day forward, the direction and course of my life significantly changed.
Chris: 00:07:31 – Okay. And we’re really gonna circle back to what you refer to earlier as the holistic approach that your father, I guess, started with you. Can we just go through a couple of other highlights of your career? You know, the goal-setting seminar, CrossFit for Hope and up til today.
Greg: 00:07:48 – Sure. I mean, it’s coming up on almost 16 years now, so I’ll do my best. You know, I think, and this might lend itself to that next question you asked about holistic training, but because I was on the ground floor of the birth and the movement of CrossFit and because I had such great proximity to Greg Glassman and such insight into his genius, I realized early on that as amazing as the physical training program is in CrossFit, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And when we pull back the layers, what we find is an equally compelling program that strengthens the mind and the spirit. And that’s where I really started to direct my focus and my attention and ultimately my teaching ability through what I called Across the Goal Setting course. And then my work on the nonprofit side of the house, the work I do now is with law enforcement departments in the military where I inspire and educate officers to realize that on the street their greatest assets will be their mind and their body and everything else such as a weapon system or technology is a distant second to the strength that they will have through the CrossFit training of their mind and body.
Chris: 00:09:22 – Okay. So there’s a lot of stuff there that I’m really looking forward to probing a bit deeper. Before we do that though, do you think that a trainee has to be aware of the mental and spiritual conditioning as they’re going through it, or does it just kind of happen as a side effect?
Greg: 00:09:39 – Well, that’s a good question. I was just talking to my coaches about this very concept and so I’m a visual learner and therefore a visual teacher. So imagine that you have a scale and on one side of the scale you have intangible qualities of a training program. And on the other side of the scale you have tangible. Now, undoubtedly what happens is as an athlete begins the CrossFit program, the reward of the physical and therefore tangible training is so exciting. You know, the first few months of training, an athlete will go from one or two pull-ups to 10 and they’ll lose weight and they’ll experience maybe for the first time strength in their body. And so we get very focused on the tangible return of the program. And then ideally that same athlete comes across a coach or a mentor who can inspire them to realize that there’s in fact equal part progress taking place.
Greg: 00:10:50 – And the way I explain this, I teach that principle felt is understood. And so for example, strength or endurance or stamina or balance or accuracy coordination, the 10 physical domains that we train in with CrossFit do not exist in a vacuum nor fully on a physical plane. And so if an athlete is to get into experience strength physically in the gym, that will transcend every area of their life, suddenly they have the strength to stand up for themselves in a former vulnerable position. And if they are flexible in their body they achieve flexibility in their mind, in life. And so these qualities transcend every area of the athlete’s life. And, and for more on that, there was an article I wrote in across the Journal of forging mental toughness and it was my experience at the SEALFIT Kokoro camp. And I wrote a great deal about how once the body started to break down all the other training that these athletes had achieved mentally, emotionally and spiritually started to come into the highlight and started to reap the benefit that all the former training had produced. And so to succinctly answer your question, does the intangible happen simultaneously? Yes, it is happening simultaneously. However, what we know by the law of attraction is that unless we bring our awareness and our focus and our concentration to those qualities, they may never surface to their full potential.
Chris: 00:12:39 – And I’m sure that you would list Mark Divine as one of the mentors that you have that would help bring that to the surface. Tell us a little bit more about Kokoro.
Greg: 00:12:50 – Yeah. Mark Divine is instrumental mentor and leader and friend in my life and the Kokoro experience, Kokoro means heart merging of heart and action. And the Kokoro experience for me was really a capstone course. I’d say the Kokoro, that 50-hour immersion camp that I did and a 30-day assessment and selection course I went through when I was aging with the PDA. Those two were real capstone, pivotal moments in my life where I realized that not only is the physical and the mental and the spiritual, like not only are those three qualities to a training program essential, but that what we find, what really starts to separate people has more to do with what’s happening in the mind and the spirit and the body.
Chris: 00:13:55 – Okay. And how does Mark Divine teach that to somebody who hasn’t had that kind of experience before?
Greg: 00:14:04 – Well, the best way to experience that is the philosophy that Mark and I both teach. And that’s this idea of principle felt understood. And so we can talk, for example, we could talk about intensity of the CrossFit program. I could explain to a group of people that CrossFit is obviously very high intensity functional movement. I can provide them with a mathematical representation of force, distant equals power. However, unless we do Fran and they wither like a fish on the floor, they just won’t know. They won’t feel intensity. And that is the same thing that happens in Kokoro, is what Mark teaches is that we are always 20 times stronger than we think we are, it’s the 20x factor. But in order to find that 20x, you have to be in an environment that forces the 20x to be the difference between failure and success, life and death. We have to just be in that environment where we can experience what we practice.
Chris: 00:15:19 – Okay. So take me back to a young Greg and your father’s introducing you to weightlifting and the holistic training approach. Tell me what it meant to have his mentorship and get an early start in this stuff.
Greg: 00:15:36 – It amazing, brother. So you know, here my dad, you know, he was a math teacher, he was a chiropractor. He was a Navy diver. And he ultimately later in his life, he became a pastor and a spiritual teacher and he raised me, you know, from a very, very young age to appreciate the power of the spoken word. And even though I didn’t know it or what it was like I do now, what he was teaching, it was the law of attraction and the law of manifestation and he was teaching me the parables that Jesus teaches in a way that I could understand is as a five or six years old, and so a typical day with my dad, he, you know, he’d get home from work at the chiropractic office, I’d get home from school, he piled me in the car and we’d go to the YMCA and we would exercise together and he would have me doing mainly bodyweight skills at a very young age. And I had to be able to master things such as the pull up and the dip before he introduced weights for me. I had really show that I could control my body. Now, on the drive to the YMCA and the drive home, my Dad would listen to cassette tapes at the Wayne Dwyer and Deepak Chopra.
Greg: 00:16:59 – I was learning, I was hearing at a very young age, these ideas about what speak what you desire, focus on what you want. Be positive, believe in yourself. Those were the lessons that I was learning
Greg: 00:17:19 – at a very young age. And as I grew, thank goodness I met another mentor in my life, coach Glassman, who continued to provide me an environment where I could learn those skills.
Chris: 00:17:35 – And were there mentors in between too?
Greg: 00:17:41 – There were so many. I hope I can remember all of them. You know, there was, there were mentors through my career in law enforcement, there were amazing mentors in my career as an army officer and as a young soldier going through boot camp, there were athletes that I had the good fortune of training along side and meeting, through the CrossFit program. And there’s scholars. And so one thing that I’ve learned is that a mentor doesn’t need to be alive. You know, through the power of reading books we can transcend time and we could be mentored by people who are no longer living, and a great example is like the Bible. It’s a profound
Greg: 00:18:21 – resource for learning the skills that more modern teachers are sharing with them.
Chris: 00:18:28 – Yeah.
Chris: 00:18:28 – What was the common thread that runs through all these different mentors, alive or dead for you?
Greg: 00:18:36 – The biggest one for me is thoughts become things.
Chris: 00:18:42 – Okay.
Greg: 00:18:43 – And so you know that’s the easiest way a child can understand that, right? Thoughts are real.
Greg: 00:18:51 – And there’s a hierarchy. So these are the words of God. But I first heard this in boot camp, so this is a great follow up answer to your question, brother. My first day of boot camp at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, a guy named staff sergeant Oliver, my senior drill instructor, walks in front of my platoon and he says, listen up, privates. In my army, I want warriors. And warriors think a certain way. In boot camp, your thoughts will become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions will become your habits. Your habits will determine your character. And your character will determine your destiny. And I want warriors. And that was the first time I had heard that. Those are the words of Gandhi. Isn’t that profound? That my drill sergeant in the US Army is quoting Gandhi.
Greg: 00:19:49 – And so we think about those words and if we were to layer those words in the form of a triangle the foundation, the base of that triangle is thoughts and words. At the tip of the spear, we have destiny. Now, another example, that CrossFit lifters will be more familiar with what Greg Glassman teaches is a theoretical development in the hierarchy of athletes. and what’s on the bottom? Nutrition. And what’s on the top? Sport. That’s a direct correlate to what I learned from drill sergeant Oliver through the work of Gandhi. And so if your intention is to be a world class athlete through the theoretical development of that athleticism, everything rests on nutrition. Now, Glassman was referring to physical nutrition, the food that we eat. However, what we realize is that it’s equal parts physical and mental and spiritual nutrition. So the physical food is only one part of it. The other food is our thoughts and words. That is a fuel source that is the nutrition of our life and our destiny.
Chris: 00:21:03 – Okay.
Chris: 00:21:03 – So when you’re providing this, this emotional, spiritual nourishment for your clients, because I’ve been around you, I’ve been lucky enough to be around you, to know that you talk this way all the time. Are you consciously providing this nourishment for them? Are you speaking things aloud for your own benefit? Is it both?
Greg: 00:21:27 – Both. I first and foremost have to be a living example. And so I practice in my life positivity, the law of positivity, which is another way of explaining the law of attraction. And so I focus my mind through the use of my words and thoughts on positive expectancy. I simply entertain what I desire for myself and for others. I focus on the solution.
Chris: 00:21:58 – Okay.
Chris: 00:21:59 – I find it interesting that you say I practice positivity instead of I am positive. What’s the difference?
Greg: 00:22:07 – It is in fact a practice. It’s a daily dedication, a daily practice. I used that word and that word has, has, has taken on more and more significance as I, as I get deeper and deeper into yoga. I teach yoga, and you know, Yoga is something that we practice and we practice it on our mat. But a practice of yoga can transcend our mat and it can become radiant through our entire life. And so every day I practice positivity and through that practice I am positive and I’m positive because I practice positivity. And that seems to work in the CrossFit culture as well, you know, and, and athlete practices their double-under, and through their practice they achieve some assemblance of mastery at the double-under. But they’re not the double under they practice.
Chris: 00:23:05 – And practice also infers that sometimes you’re challenged to be positive.
Greg: 00:23:13 – Absolutely. There’s certainly challenges, there’s ebb and flow. And in the same way that we challenge ourselves in the gym with heavier weight, more repetitions training alongside more competitive athletes, what happens through the law of attraction is the universe will provide us continued opportunities to enhance and strengthen our practice. We attract into our life what we’re ready to receive.
Chris: 00:23:46 – Do you think then Greg, is it the responsibility of the coach to encourage the practice of positivity? Is it kind of just a bonus if you can find a coach, mentor like that?
Greg: 00:23:58 – Ideally the coach realizes, and keep in mind that we’re using a very, very powerful word. So in the martial tradition, the word coach is synonymous with Sensei or great teacher. And so we’re using the word coach as opposed to trainer. And that’s a key difference. And so if an athlete is fortunate enough to find a coach, a great teacher, a Sensei, then that coach will naturally be in alignment with the laws that I am explaining now. And if they’re not, they have not yet arrived at the level of true coaching, true leadership, a true leader must provide leadership through every facet of life experience. And so a trainer can train you to be physically strong. A coach, a Sensei, A great teacher can provide you with inspiration and education across the mental, the physical and the spiritual.
Chris: 00:25:17 – Wow.
Chris: 00:25:19 – I think that’s really profound. And you talked about mentors a couple of times. And how important is it for the athlete and the coach to have models to imitate in their path to becoming a coach instead of just a trainer?
Greg: 00:25:34 – It’s exceptionally important. And what’s incredible is that even those mentors whom I turn to have mentors. When we go into the most impactful books ever written, I would encourage the listeners to purchase a copy and keep a copy at home and at the gym of books like “Think and Grow Rich.” The Bible, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen, like these are books that must be read and understood by a coach. What’s amazing is that even the scholars in these books, cite their teachers. And so be wary of coming across a coach who doesn’t have a coach.
Chris: 00:26:26 – Wow. So Greg, let’s talk about you as a model. You know, walk me through your morning. What time you getting up and what’s the first thing that you’re doing?
Greg: 00:26:37 – Sure. I’ll share with you what’s been one of the most profound lessons that I’ve learned from Mark Divine. And this is what Mark and I now refer to as the morning practice or a morning ritual. I again really enjoy the word practice cause it’s something I practice every day. So in the warrior tradition, every warrior tradition since the beginning of time has realized the value and the power of the spoken word. You know, think about the movie Braveheart. All the amazing scenes in that film that have nothing to do with the sword but everything to do with the spoken word. There’s incredible speeches. And then if we look at Shakespeare and some of the most amazing plays like “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” the series of King Henry, there are amazing speeches where what we see is that the warrior speaks a certain way.
Greg: 00:27:43 – And that starts with the first things a warrior says in the morning. And so when I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is I pour myself a glass of water. And then I’ll drink the water. And as I’m drinking the water, I am feeling in my body gratitude. I’m starting my day right away with this feeling of gratitude and thankfulness or water and for my ability to drink water. Pretty cool too, brother. Cause you and I have been in parts of the world where that doesn’t happen, right? Think about our experience in Kenya, you know, and so to drink water and to be grateful for pure, clean water, you know, we have to realize that although we live in a culture in a country where that’s a luxury in other parts of the world, that’s not the case.
Greg: 00:28:37 – So I start with drinking water and feeling grateful. Next thing I do is I go into a yoga pose called child’s pose, and I could, email you later a photograph of child’s pose. With child’s pose, I use that for my meditation as opposed to a seated meditation I use child’s pose. And the reason for that is that I found I can become more still in child’s pose because more of my body is in contact with the earth and it’s also very, very private. You know, my head between my arms and my shoulders are near my ears. And so it’s very quiet, it’s dark, it’s peaceful and it’s still. I’ll do a series of breathing exercises in child’s pose. And then I bring my awareness to my first offering of words. I literally become aware of the first thing I’m going to say that day.
Greg: 00:29:36 – And so imagine this because I, again, I’m such a visual learner and teacher, imagine that you come across a body of water and the water is, is very, very turbulent. There’s waves crashing through the water. You could drop the Eiffel Tower into the water and it would make no difference because it’s so turbulent as it is. However, now imagine can you come across an absolutely still body of water. So still it reflects everything that looks into it now because that water is so still even a very small pebble dropped into the water will have a rippling effect. And that’s the purpose of child’s pose and breathing and becoming still in the morning is I’m creating stillness in my mind. And then the first thing that I say is that pebble that I drop into the stillness of my mind that that literally has a rippling effect throughout the course of my day.
Greg: 00:30:45 – Now, I’ll use just because of my spirituality, I’m a Christian, so I will use Bible verse. And so the first thing I say in the morning is the scripture. However, an athlete nondenominational, they may choose their first words to be in the form of a mantra or an affirmation or maybe even a singular word, such as health, courage. Strength. The key, however, is regardless of what you say, the athlete is aware of what they’re saying. They’re taking ownership of their first offering of words and that is the start of the practice for the day. And so because I started my practice in the morning, now as I go through the course of my day, I’m much more vigilant of I’m everything I say. Therefore everything I think, therefore everything I do. We come back to the hierarchy of how these things work, our thoughts become our words, become our actions.
Greg: 00:31:46 – That’s how these things work. That’s the hierarchy of the power.
Chris: 00:31:51 – So who are you saying this to? Are you saying it aloud?
Greg: 00:31:55 – I say it aloud and I say it to myself. This is a private practice, or I also practice this and it’s very, very powerful. I practice with my girlfriend and we’ll go into child’s pose side by side together. If you practice this with a loved one, wow get ready for real, very powerful, sparks like spiritual sparks to fly. And the way that my girlfriend and I practice with is we go into breathing exercises together and then when we feel the impulse, one of us will start saying the Bible verse. The other one will repeat it. It’s extremely powerful, it’s as if you’re hearing your own echo,
Greg: 00:32:40 – it’s very, very powerful, I recently started doing that with my girlfriend Cottey and it’s just been, it’s taken our intimacy and our love and also the power of the practice to new level.
Chris: 00:32:54 – Okay.
Chris: 00:32:56 – Then from there, you know, when you and I were in the dark on a porch in Kenya. You know, you went through a very short circuit of push-ups, pull-ups, squats, sit-ups. Do you still do some dynamic parts to this morning routine too?
Greg: 00:33:14 – The morning practices is I am focusing on the spiritual, mental, development.
Greg: 00:33:19 – I’m setting the course of my day.
Chris: 00:33:23 – Okay.
Greg: 00:33:26 – That’s, that’s truly what I would call internal practice. And then when I step foot in my gym later in the day that I go into my physical practice.
Chris: 00:33:36 – Yeah.
Chris: 00:33:37 – And I’ve been lucky enough to be in that gym with you three times. And every time when we started our warm up, first of all, the greeting that every person receives from you is not only deep and genuine, but very hearty, you know, you’re one of the best greeters I’ve ever met. Does that come naturally or do you have a game face when you enter the gym?
Greg: 00:34:01 – It comes naturally, you know, that that is part of the way that I teach, and that’s also part of, that’s part of the class. And so I want to provide an environment for people that is happy and that is encouraging. And I’ve learned through life experience that we never know if the one word of encouragement or positivity or love or compassion that we share with someone on any given day. We never know if that’s the first time in that person’s day or that week or that month or that year. We never know if that’s the first time they heard that. So I always make it a point to welcome and to greet to people with real sincere love and appreciation and encouragement and enthusiasm. And that carries over into the physical experience they have. You know, if you get into the mind and then it carries over into their physical experience in the gym.
Chris: 00:35:11 – And so how does that tie into the actual, you know, CrossFit group or, or client that you’re training? What does the start of that session look like?
Greg: 00:35:21 – It starts with either me or one of my other coaches at the door greeting the athletes. And it’s usually a verbal and physical greeting. So welcome, great to see you. And then some form of appropriate physical greeting, whether it be a high five or or a hug. There’s, there’s some type of, of a relationship that’s being built physically and verbally and that the next step is, is the warm-up. And, and the way I divide this, my in-service training for my coaches is I call it the three moments of a class. And the first moment begins with the greeting and it carries all the way through the warm up. That’s what I call moment number one. Moment number two is just the brief and the explanation of the workout the practice of any skills in the workout and the set up of the workout space. And then moment Number three is the actual workout itself. And I divide it into those three moments.
Chris: 00:36:27 – So tell me a little bit about that first moment. One of the great epiphanies that I’ve learned from you and I think that you’ve learned from Greg Glassman was to explain to the client how the workout’s going to benefit them that day.
Greg: 00:36:45 – Yeah. First thing we do is though, let’s, let’s associate people coming into this gym as athletes as opposed to clients.
Chris: 00:36:53 – Okay.
Greg: 00:36:55 – Athlete changes everything. If someone comes in the gym, and they’re called an athlete, that’s a life changer. I know many people in their, 30s, 40s, 50s, that have never been called an athlete until they heard it from me, and that alone was a life changer for them.
Chris: 00:37:15 – Wow.
Greg: 00:37:16 – Isn’t that awful? Remember the power of words. If we associate ourselves with athlete, well, athletes train a certain way. Athletes have a certain nutrition plan or hydration plan. Athletes are holistic athletes.
Chris: 00:37:38 – I’m just going to say, how do you prepare athletes mentally for the task ahead of them that day?
Greg: 00:37:44 – Yeah. So the brief is critical. And I get this from Greg Glassman, but I also get the brief and I, I leave the briefing in such a way that it feels like I was back on the job in the PDA or in the military where I was briefing a team on a mission we were going to have to accomplish and I treat it that way. You know, I’m serious about it. I bring people in like here’s the workout, like here’s our mission. This is what we’re going to do and here’s why we’re going to do it, here’s how it’s going to benefit us. Here’s what it means. And you know, you can only imagine how much deeper and more profound this can be if it’s a hero workout. Or if it’s one of the famous CrossFit girls like Fran, Diane or Helen. Like the history, the longevity that that carries. That’s something that I call whiteboard management where, and I learned this from Greg. It’s like, you know, you look at a whiteboard and the uninitiated, all they see is a name. Some workout written down and then some numbers next to an athlete’s name that signify their score.
Greg: 00:39:04 – What we have to remember is that that number is symbolic of someone’s heart. You know, someone just put their heart into the effort that is then represented on the whiteboard is their score. You know, that there’s immense meaning, like Greg Glassman used to say at the CrossFit Level 1 course, men will die for points. And so there’s an immense meaning like when, when we gather around the Whiteboard, you know, what I imagined is, hey, we’re a group of warriors we’re soldiers and we’re going into battle. And it’s very important that everyone understand the mission. Like we have to understand the workout. That’s the mission. We gotta be on the same page and therefore we have to organize and set up our battle zone. We have to create an environment that is conducive to the accomplishment of the mission.
Chris: 00:40:02 – Yeah.
Chris: 00:40:03 – So, you know, tell me a little bit about your relationship with some of these workouts. I mean, you’ve been doing it for 16 years.
Greg: 00:40:11 – I mean it’s amazing. I was doing Fran before Fran took on the name Fran. Fran for many years, was 21-15-9 nine repetitions, thruster, pull up. You know, Greg had the genius epiphany several years after the inception of the workout that wow, what would happen if I named these workouts after storms? But I was doing these workouts before they even had a name.
Chris: 00:40:40 – Wow. So how would he—it’s amazing. How would he mentally prepare you? So you’re, you know, you’re doing Fran for the 12th time in your life and you’ve got an amazing score and you know what it’s going to take to beat that score. How do you mentally prepare yourself? Or what would Greg say to prepare you to do even better?
Greg: 00:41:02 – Well, I brought a unique mindset and you have to remember that I was doing CrossFit, the purpose of my CrossFit training was so that I could protect and serve to the best of my ability on the street as a deputy sheriff, and so I wasn’t doing CrossFit for the sake of CrossFit. I was doing CrossFit because I knew that very likely it would save my life or the life of my partner or the life of a member of this community whom I was sworn to protect and serve and so think about what that does to the mindset of a young athlete when they engage in a workout. It’s no longer a matter of being one second faster or a matter of first or second place in a group. It’s a matter of life and death. That was my mindset, my mindset. Even to this day when I train and when I teach at the law enforcement seminar, my mindset is this is the last workout that I will have before a fight for my life and so I have to give it 100% the only gear that my mind and body can know is 100% the only gear that I want to familiarize myself with is my best effort gear.
Chris: 00:42:23 – Yeah.
Greg: 00:42:24 – Make sense?
Chris: 00:42:26 – Yes.
Greg: 00:42:26 – Someone in my career, no warrior can afford to know anything but best effort. What happens if we practice, oh, 80% effort and then we carry 80% effort into an environment where our life is on the line, that’s going to be a major problem.
Chris: 00:42:46 – So how does a coach –
Greg: 00:42:48 – The key here, and I don’t mean to cut you off, it’s easier for the listeners to understand that what we’re focusing on is the effort, not necessarily the data that’s the result of the effort.
Chris: 00:43:05 – Okay.
Greg: 00:43:05 – Right. And so it’s like our effort should always be as prescribed. We could modify and scale the workout. And I might do a workout slower today than I did a week ago. That’s fine. But I know in my heart that I gave it everything I have. Everything I have, that’s the key. Never scale your effort.
Chris: 00:43:29 – So how do we draw that from people? And you had the external motivation of, you know, being a law enforcement officer and, and knowing what was on the line. Do you find that other people who don’t have that external source of motivation to, to give them that push to get Rx effort, how can the coach leverage, you know, their desire for weight loss or their desire to get off Lipitor?
Greg: 00:43:54 – Yeah. I mean, so much of it has to do with leadership by example. And so I, every day I train them alongside my athletes and I fluctuate the attendance. And so one day I train in the morning, the next day afternoon, the next day evening so I’m exposing myself to as many athletes as I can during the course of my week. And so they see my effort, they see the way I pour my heart and soul into the workout. And that is a source of inspiration. Just like Greg Glassman, years ago, by videotaping the effort. You’ve got to show people what it means to go 100%. They’ve got to see it to understand that, oh, that’s what you do.
Greg: 00:44:46 – So number one is leadership by example. And then number two would be, I try to inspire the athletes to realize that again, the principle felt is understood. And so if they can come into the gym and if they can dedicate themselves for that hour to do their best, they’re teaching themselves how to apply themselves at their best in any other endeavor they choose in their life.
Chris: 00:45:17 – So they’re gaining perspective on what Rx effort means in their relationships, their workplace.
Greg: 00:45:25 -Yes, it’s willpower. And so willpower or effort is a very real muscle that can be developed and strengthened and willpower does not exist in a vacuum the same way that accuracy, balance and speed do not exist in a vacuum. So the willpower that it takes for me to push myself to my maximum capacity, in a workout is the same willpower that I will utilize in negotiating a challenging disagreement with my loved one. It’s the same willpower muscle that I’m applying and when I develop it in the gym, I can utilize it in other aspects of my life. The same way as it strengthens in other aspects of my life, it’s therefore utilize concurrently in the gym. Everything is holistic. Nothing is compartmentalized in any part of our life. Everything is integrated.
Chris: 00:46:22 – So this gives me a great chance to ask about how you run your business, Greg. Yeah. How you train your staff to impart these same values on your clients and be just as positive. And tell me about your box.
Greg: 00:46:37 – Yeah, and the great question and what’s so amazing is that we, our initial interview time was three o’clock and I was at three o’clock, I was in front of a whiteboard with two of my top coaches, Melanie and Nate, and I was teaching them the law of attraction. And I had diagrammed for them balance that I had described to you earlier. On one side you have tangible one side, one intangible. And I’m teaching them how to balance the craft of coaching, how to develop the coach’s eye while simultaneously being able to develop their intangible ability to inspire people through the law of attraction through their words and therefore their thoughts. And so the way I do it with my staff is just like I do it now with you on the phone and hopefully there’s a level of inspiration and education provided for the listener. I just teach what I’ve come to learn and what I continue to develop in myself over the years.
Chris: 00:47:45 – Okay. And the way that you run your business, I mean, your original box was I think 800 square feet, right? Including the bathroom.
Greg: 00:47:54 – Exactly. Yeah. It’s the size of the original CrossFit gym. Even some of the original pieces of equipment are here in the gym.
Chris: 00:48:03 – Yeah. I was very lucky to actually see and touch some of those symbols you and I were talking one time about, you were debating capping your membership, you weren’t going to take anybody else and then you wound up opening a second location, right?
Greg: 00:48:21 – Yeah. So what I did was I, for my full-time, CrossFit membership there are 100 full-time membership spots available. And that is true to this day. And then when I reached 100 there was, there was still such a demand. People wanted to train and learn and I just had a hard time telling people no, and so I opened up the two day a week membership program and there’s, there’s about 70 people that are doing the two day a week membership My other location is actually not a CrossFit gym, that’s a yoga studio and that is Krav Maga Santa Cruz. So I also teach yoga and krav maga from that studio.
Chris: 00:49:07 – It’s only steps away, right?
Greg: 00:49:09 – It is. It is. But the CrossFit program is run from what I call headquarters and then our martial art and Yoga is run from the krava maga studio.
Chris: 00:49:21 – And what percentage of your clients would you say do both CrossFit and yoga or Krav Maga?
Greg: 00:49:27 – Nearly 70% you know, it’s an integrated program. And so when an athlete joins they actually joins both, they have access to both. It’s just that some people only have access to CrossFit the two days depending on when they enrolled into the gym. And then some people, if are on a two day a week and a full-time membership spot opens, they’ll transition into that full time spot.
Chris: 00:49:53 – Okay. A lot of gyms that I talk to every week are interested in adding yoga and they’re mostly attracted to the physiological benefits, flexibility, strength, and different postures. What can we really be gaining from a cognitive and emotional and, and other psychological benefits that we’re we might be overlooking.
Greg: 00:50:19 – Well adopting a yoga program is no different than adopting a CrossFit program. If the focus is on physicality, what’s happening
Greg: 00:50:28 – with the CrossFit program, what we know to be true is that even if we’re focusing on the physical, there is an intangible benefit to the mind and the spirit. It takes a special coach to make that aware to the athletes. Yet either way it is taking place. Same thing with yoga. So just incorporating a yoga program for the physical benefit that it will provide, the mobility and flexibility that it will provide. You could be focusing solely on the physicality of the program. Yet, simultaneously there will be spiritual, emotional character growth taking place. Ideally you find a yoga teacher that can be both the same way ideally you find a CrossFit coach that can do both.
Chris: 00:51:15 – Okay. So let, let’s go back to sources of education. Now my real point with Two-Brain Radio and Two-Brain Coaching and Two-Brain Business is to help coaches develop the other side of that coin. And just the way that you were explaining that, you know, the two sides of coaching to your coaches today, this weekend we were down in South Carolina and I drew a picture of a brain and I talked about the left hemisphere being primarily engaged in logic and data processing and the right hemisphere being more closely associated with empathy, you know, and creativity. And then we made a big list of, of all the traits that most people want to develop as a coach and how the vast majority of these things fell on the left hand side. You know, I should learn the technical cues of the clean better. And then we talked about what should a coach have to make them a better coach. And almost all of these traits fell in the right hemisphere of the brain that we should have empathy, we should know how to relate to people in different ways, on different days. What resources, Greg, you know, you’re, you’re really a resource for me on this. Where can coaches go to develop coaching skills and not just tactical cues?
Greg: 00:52:41 – Brilliant question and I love how things are falling in different parts of the brain. I completely get it. The coach or the mentor or the leader or the Sensei is ever evolving. And so everything can be viewed as an opportunity to learn. And everything that we’ve learned, we really start to understand when we teach, and so I would encourage people who have the desire to really become a coach, to continue their education in every move possible. And so CrossFit for example, is a continued source of education through the various levels of CrossFit through the subject matter experts that are available to our community. There’s a great deal of education in the CrossFit umbrella and then there’s also a great deal to learn in the martial arts culture and the culture of Yoga. In the sporting environment. And so this idea of learning and playing new sports, that Glassman inspired in our community,
Greg: 00:53:50 – Sometimes that’s not for the sake of learning the sport. It’s in learning about the community and the lifestyle and the energy of that environment. And so if you invest time in learning about swimming, you will gain immense appreciation for different facets of, of coaching, than you would, if you solely focused on gymnastics or weightlifting. And so this idea of always learning, always pursuing continued education, I think is, is very, very important. And I speak from experience every year. I have goals of continued education every year. I expose myself in challenging environments where I can expand my awareness and therefore teach what I’ve learned.
Chris: 00:54:36 – I think one of the biggest gifts Glassman has given us all is he’s made it okay for a generation of adults to learn. He showed us all that it’s okay. You know, we’re done college, learning isn’t over.
Chris: 00:54:52 – So Greg, you know, I’ve given your book, “Your Wife is Not Your Sister” out to my own sister and to my own wife. To a lot of my friends. What books have you gifted to other people in the past?
Greg: 00:55:08 – Books I would recommend, and that I’ve given my own copy of away to people are—the Holy Bible is amazing. I reread it on a regular basis specifically the words and the lessons and the parables of Jesus because it’s when you read it on face value, it’s the most clear direct language available to us. For example, seek and you will find knock and the door will be opened. I mean, I don’t know if it could be any easier to understand than that and in its simplicity is the genius of what Jesus was teaching. Yeah. You got to remember whom Jesus was teaching to and he had to teach in such a way that people could understand and we lose that in our modern culture. We say, oh, it can’t be that easy. But it is, it’s really that easy. That’s why I would recommend people read the Bible. Regardless of their religious affiliation, study the Bible for the lessons that it makes available to us. That’s number one. Number two, “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen, and the title of the book really sums up the message, you know, as a man thinks or as a woman thinks, so will they become.
Greg: 00:56:40 – Another great one is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. That’s a profound book. It really puts our own life experience in perspective and it helps us to realize that regardless of the circumstances that we face in our life, it’s our thoughts about the circumstance that dictate our future, not the circumstance itself. That was a key lesson for me and I write about that extensively in my book. Another great one is a book called the working with the law and the same way that we can, we can abide through our day to day experience. We can abide by man’s law and it, you know, if we’re in alignment with man’s law, life is good. You know, we’re not getting pulled over by the police we’re not getting arrested. We’re in alignment with the law and there’s law that man has created and so that we can be in harmony with the flow of our society. You know, law allows a society to function and what trump’s man’s law is God’s law. Like there’s universal law and when we acknowledge and abide by it, we live in harmony and when we break it, we pay the consequences. And so this book working with the law, imagine that it’s like the penal code of, of universal and God’s law, it outlines the laws for us and ensures that we are in alignment with them.
Chris: 00:58:22 – Okay. Yeah, those are great. I’m just taking notes here. So you know, you do hand books out, you do recommend a required reading for things. If I’m an athlete and I’m coming into your gym, what’s my first day look like?
Greg: 00:58:41 – It might, my model is,what I would call old school. And so I have a program that mirrors my early experience with CrossFit. And so everyone’s welcome in every class and we scale accordingly for the athlete. Yet I want every athlete at every level of ability to feel like they’re welcome from their very first day in the gym. And so my gym does not run the traditional onramp program. There’s no mandatory private training before they can begin with classes they just joined. And the way that I orchestrate our class is every class focuses on the fundamentals. You know, I still adhere to Glassman’s formula of mechanics, consistency, intensity. And so we always practice the mechanics of the skills that will be performed in the workout. So even someone who comes in for the first day, they may do a power clean with a medicine ball and I might do it with a barbell yet we’re all doing the power clean.
Chris: 00:59:54 – Right. Greg, has coaching made you a better athlete?
Greg: 00:59:59 – Absolutely. And that’s, you know, the lessons that the Flowmaster at a level one CrossFit course leaves the attendees with that. Flowmaster will say when you get home, knock on your neighbor’s door and teach them how to fill in the blank. You know, whether it be squat, deadlift, pull-up. That comes from coach Glassman. And so after my second or third workout, when I was getting ready to leave Coach was telling me to teach what I had just learned from him on my second or third workout. And what I realized is that we don’t have to wait until we are experts to teach something. As soon as we learn something, we should be sharing the information that we’ve gained for two reasons. One, it’s a great gift we can give to somebody else. And two, when I share something, I understand it and I learn it better myself in practice. So it’s a win-win. Everyone benefits when you share or teach something.
Chris: 01:01:01 – I think that’s really profound, Greg, and I get a lot of calls every week from people who are asking, you know, what do I do for marketing? Greg, have you ever sold a membership in your life?
Greg: 01:01:13 – No.
Chris: 01:01:14 – No. Where do new clients hear about you? Where do they come from?
Greg: 01:01:21 – Word of mouth. Primarily. They experienced the benefit, the growth, the encouragement, the love, the support of the gym. And naturally they share it with their loved ones because they love it. And that’s, that’s always been my means of advertising, you know, and then, you know, through the law of attraction. Like my gym is featured in books, in magazines, we’re on the front page of the newspaper on a regular basis. And that’s just because the service I’m providing, the love that I provide has to be reciprocated one way or another through the universe. And that’s accomplished through the exposure that we receive.
Chris: 01:02:13 – Okay.
Greg: 01:02:13 – And so, my advice to a business owner is to focus on the service. Focus on what you’re giving. Because what we know from universal law, what God teaches what Jesus teaches is that you reap what you sow. And so I focus exclusively on what I give to other people. I focus on how can I make someone better? How can I improve the quality of someone’s life? You know? And by focusing on that naturally, I am experiencing the value that I’m providing to other people through the flow of gift and return into my life in a variety of ways.
Chris: 01:03:02 – So obviously you’re becoming better at this over time and we’re back to your strong word practice.
Greg: 01:03:10 – Exactly.
Chris: 01:03:11 – What does –
Greg: 01:03:17 – You get, you gain more and more appreciation for the power that we wield through what we can’t see. And again, to turn to the Bible. That’s what Jesus talks about with, with faith, not sight. And so if we focus on what we can see, if we focus on the material world, we are limited by what we can see. And that’s so important to understand because what we see many times is not what we desire. But if we’re focusing on what we see, we attract more of what we see into our life. However, if I focus on on what I cannot see but what I can believe, although I can’t yet see it, I can begin to attract it into my life. And then I can see it and then I can reinforce it with my physical eyes and I have to begin the attraction process first in my mind.
Greg: 01:04:24 – and so you know, it is a leap of faith, you know, to begin to practice and that’s the word practice, you know, to begin to practice this way of living is, is new and it’s radical yet it’s also what we’re called to do. You know, that that’s why Jesus came to Earth. That’s why all these scholars are, are consistently teaching the same things through different means is that this is when we are at our most authentic self. This is when we achieve self actualization, self realization. When we realize that we are one with what we desire, we’re one was the creator, there’s no separation at all and the universe, everything’s connected.
Chris: 01:05:10 – When are you most self actualized?
Greg: 01:05:19 – There’s so think of the word alignment. There’s alignment physically and so imagine you have an athlete and they are in the bottom position of their deadlift. They’re preparing to perform the lift. And if we put that person into a proper alignment, they are going to be successful during the execution of the lift, they’re alignment and when my values and my actions are in alignment, I am most powerful and I am at most when my values and actions are in alignment. The same way that physically I am at my best. When my body is in alignment in the gym, that’s what I perform at my best. So that’s the purpose of my physical warm-up, is to condition my body to be in alignment through the execution of the movements that I will do in the workout, and it can be the same practice mentally and emotionally and spiritually. I want to align my values and my actions and so I can be consistent and that’s when I’m at my best.
Chris: 01:06:44 – Greg, what if you could give one message to every fitness coach, every fitness trainer in the world, what would you tell them?
Greg: 01:06:58 – I would share with them what I just left Melanie and Nate with. And that is that we have to understand and believe that what we are doing at the gym, at the box, at the affiliates, whatever you want to refer to it as, what we are doing is larger and more impactful than we may ever realize. It may take a lifetime for us to understand the impact and the influence that we have as trainers. And then as coaches, we have the ability to make the world a better place. We have the ability to change someone’s life. What we’re doing is adding value to the world, especially when we move beyond the physical realm of the CrossFit program. You know, we look to the word of Greg Glassman once again, we make people better. We really do.
Chris: 01:08:22 – Right. Okay. And for your own sake, right. You know, if you could send a message back in time to the Greg Amundson of 15 years ago, you know, what advice would you give that kid?
Greg: 01:08:42 – Great question. You know, the advice I would give that kid, is the advice that my dad left me with, both my mom and dad have passed away and the advice and the lessons that both have provided me have been influential and instrumental in my life. And, and my dad left me with, with two real pearls of wisdom. One of them is Greg stay positive and believe in yourself. That’s number one. And number two, these are the last words my dad said to me before he passed away. He said, Greg, whatever you do, do it for love. And so if I went back in time to the first CrossFit workout, I would just remind myself of what I had heard from my dad several years prior to that I would reinforce for myself that what my dad taught me is accurate in every way.
Chris: 01:10:01 – Well, that’s remarkable Greg, and it is a testament to your character and also a great illustration of the kind of man you are. So I’m going to leave it there and you know, I really thank you for giving us an hour and five minutes here. This is another indicator of your character and your generosity. If people want to get in touch with you or learn more about you, where can they do that?
Greg: 01:10:31 – I would direct them to my CrossFit website. CrossFitAmundson.com is the launching pad into all the other resources we have, whether it be my book, our YouTube channel, every other means or social media and other websites that we have is available through CrossFitamundson.com.
Chris: 01:10:56 – Okay, I’ll direct them. Thanks again Greg and I really hope to see you again soon brother.
Greg: 01:11:03 – I love you brother. Thanks for all you do for the community.
Speaker 1: 01:11:05 – 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.
Chris: 01:11:18 – Confessional this week focuses on as usual, hard lessons learned because my ego is too big. I was talking poorly about the new generation of hockey players to a professional. This guy was a newly retired NHL goalie. He’d won the Vezina during his career. He’d won the Stanley Cup and I was saying that the younger kids just didn’t have the work ethic and he said, you know, Chris, your job is really to model to your clients the type of behavior they should be able to expect from their coaches and that is that you’ll only ever build them up in public and that includes one on one to other clients when you’re correcting them, you’ll do that in private and hopefully you’ll never condemn them, but when you do that will be in private too. That was a hard blow for my ego to take because I really wanted to show off, you know, for this professional and say like, Hey, you and I are the old timers.
Chris: 01:12:13 – We’re in this together. These young kids are lazy. But what I really learned was I could show off my professionalism by only building up other clients and this is something that I hope you picked up from Greg. Greg would never talk negatively about anybody to raise his own flag. What I’ve learned over time is that I’ve gotten to where I am by collaboration, not competition, by building people up and partnering and giving and helping first, not by trying to compete with people, not by tearing each other down. So if I’m going to give one very practical lesson, this is going to be it in Two-Brain Radio podcast number one, you heard it here first, you build up on the shoulders of each other, not on the shoulders of giants. Put your arm around somebody else. You’re not in competition here. You’re in partnership.
Chris: 01:13:09 – This lesson was illustrated to me by Greg and a couple of Navy SEAL guys. When we were in Kenya we had a pulled up to this ATM machine in a very sketchy neighborhood of Mombasa and somebody with us needed money for something. And so you know the van pulls up just outside this ATM and like blocks the view of everybody standing around and Greg and a Navy SEAL, one of my heroes, Andy Stumpf, get out of the van to stand on either side of this guy. And Greg said the most alarming thing I’ve ever heard him say, and that was, let’s be on our toes here. When Greg Amundson who is capable of extreme violence, he’s a police officer. You’d never know it from hearing from him. But this guy is a fighter who usually ends a shift or often ends a shift with blood on his hands and sometimes on his face when this guy says, let’s be on our toes. You become very aware of your situation and your surroundings. And what you learn in those situations is that you are not competing to be the, the baddest guy on the block. You are collaborating with everybody around you and it requires a team to keep each individual safe. So I’m going to close the show with that today. That is, seek partnerships, seek opportunities, help first.
0:17 – Introduction to Greg
3:17 – Greg’s introduction to CrossFit
7:48 – Holistic approach to training
18:36 – Thoughts become things
23:58 – Coach vs. trainer
26:26 – Greg’s daily practice
33:37 – Greg’s approach to coaching a CrossFit class.
41:02 – The meaning of intensity
46:37 – Running CrossFit Amundson
51:15 – Continued education
1:01:01 – Marketing: a focus on service