Sean: 00:00 – Hi everybody, welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I talk with eight-time CrossFit Games competitor James Hobart. But first, If you know me, you know I like hockey, wrestling, pro football, dogs and fitness, and I also like podcasts every week. I am fired up to bring you the very best of the fitness world on Two-Brain Radio. I’m always digging for the best stories from the most interesting people in the industry. We are also cranking out other great shows that can help you run a successful business. Every Monday, the clever guys from Two-Brain Marketing are showcasing success and serving the secret sauce that gets leads into gyms. And every Thursday we’ve got the best of the business world, people who will educate you and inspire you. So if you haven’t, please subscribe to Two-Brain Radio. Leave us a rating or a review. I would certainly appreciate it.
Sean: 01:03 – James Hobart has been a longtime fixture in the CrossFit community. He has competed at the CrossFit Games five times on a team and three times as an individual. He has won the Affiliate Cup three times with two different teams and he is also a co-owner of CrossFit ONE Nation – Boston. Hobart has been on the Seminar Staff for a decade and now he runs his own programming service for gyms and athletes called the HAM program. We talk about his early days in the sport and on the Seminar Staff, what makes a gym’s programming good and how his mother once beat him in a workout. Thanks for listening everybody. James, thanks so much for joining me. How are you doing man?
James: 01:46 – Really good to be here, Sean. Doing well. Nice to see you.
Sean: 01:50 – Nice to see you as well. It’s been a while.
James: 01:51 – Feeling good.
Sean: 01:51 – How did you find CrossFit?
James: 01:56 – Probably in the most unexciting way possible, but I feel like it was the old-school way. So at the time I found CrossFit I was training with a friend of mine, Mike Bissaillon, who now owns CrossFit Great Barrington, and that’s where my mom trains back home in Western Mass. So there’s the full-circle story. But, Mike and I were training together and at that time we were really into the whole kettlebell scene. If you guys remember Pavle, he had a couple of books like “Power to the People” and this one, “The Naked Warrior.” And then through getting more involved in like looking into the kettlebell stuff, you didn’t actually train naked in “The Naked Warrior,” it was just a lot of body-weight training. But kind of through there and then we stumbled on, actually Mark Twight’s website, Gym Jones. And then through that we found our way to CrossFit and found our way to the.com. And this was probably around 2006, 2007. And then from there we went to our Level 1 together, Mike Bissaillon and I, I think that was April of 2008, I want to say. And then the rest is history.
Sean: 03:04 – Why do you think it connected with you?
James: 03:08 – You know, it’s funny that you ask me this question, Sean, because I was talking to somebody yesterday about how much I used to never like being in the gym. And I love being outside. I played multiple sports in high school. I was always pretty active, but to like put me in to put me inside of a gym and like have that confining piece there I just wasn’t a fan of.
James: 03:27 – So I think the biggest thing that connected with me is I played a lot of sports, but I was pretty bad at all of them. When I got to college, I played a little bit of intramural soccer, but what I really missed was being super competitive in a collaborative way, being competitive in an individual way. And what I liked most about CrossFit was the fact that, you know, you could compare yourself to yourself or others. And I liked the competitive training part of it.
Sean: 03:53 – How did that lead you to the L1 Seminar Staff?
James: 03:57 – Yeah. So like I said, I think it was 2008, I’d have to fake-news check me on that, but I think it was April-ish of 2008 that I decided to go to my Level 1 and my friend Mike Bissaillon, we drove from Massachusetts through Canada out to Ann Arbor, Michigan because at that time, you know, there just weren’t as many Level 1s as there are now.
James: 04:22 – And I had zero expectation. I never wanted to train people. I had no desire to like, you know, there wasn’t really, I mean they had the CrossFit Games. I remember the 2007 flyer, that was a PDF that was posted on crossfit.com. So they had had the 2007, not 2008 yet Games. But I had no desire to be involved in any of that. I was just kind of interested in it. And then I went to my Level 1 and I really, really loved that. And more so what I loved was just the environment that the coaches created. I decided to kind of throw my hat in the ring and just go home and try coaching. And at my Level 1, I met a couple people. I met Adrian Bozman, who now does a lot for CrossFit Seminar Staff.
James: 05:10 – He’s been the head judge of the Games, just been around forever in the community. And then I also met Jon Gilson, who at that time was working at CrossFit Boston. And so I had told Jon at that seminar who—I said, hey, I’m moving to Boston to go to school. And then I said, can I get a job at CrossFit Boston? I hope I phrased it better than that, but I probably didn’t. And he said, well, you know, I can’t offer you a job, but if you want to come down and learn something, cool, do it. And so I went to Boston, started going to CrossFit Boston, at that time which was owned by Neil Thompson, who had been in the community for a very long time, but also at that gym, so Jon Gilson was there, Eva Claire Synkowski was there. So both who had spent a lot of time on Seminar Staff and were very senior trainers.
James: 05:56 – And so I learned a lot from both of them. And really, I mean there were some courses coming through CrossFit Boston, Level 1s and Level 2s and I would be able to watch those courses or attend as like a test dummy, if needed. And so from there that got me introduced to a lot of trainers on staff and eventually, you know, I tried out for staff and went through the internship and earned a position on staff in October of 2010.
Sean: 06:29 – So you’ve been there nearly 10 years. How has the L1 seminar and really all the seminars, how have they evolved over time?
James: 06:39 – That’s a really cool question. They’ve evolved a lot, especially the Level 1 and the level—I mean all of them have, and the Level 2, the ones I see the most, Level 1, Level 2. So the Level 1 has evolved, I believe—I wasn’t really around then, but in 2005 when Level 1s first started, they started off as three-day seminars. And you know, if you do some digging, the interesting story behind seminars is that I don’t think Coach Glassman really had a vision for, you know, starting a Level 1 seminar curriculum. I mean he had been penning a lot of really thoughtful and interesting articles for the CrossFit Journal that they were developing. But anyway, I believe the first Level 1s were three days long and it was really just a trial by fire style course where you’d roll in and, you know, if you were left standing at the end of it, you got a high five and a chest bump and cool, you’re a Level 1 trainer. And you know, now fast forward to you know, 2019 and we have, it’s a two-day course. It’s jam packed with info. It’s very well balanced between movement and lecture discussion. Participants get a chance to coach each other, they get some insight into how a class is run, how to write class plans. And then now there’s a test. And even the test I think has been around for just about as long as I have now. So, I joke a lot of times at seminars, you know, especially cause we have revalidation, we have people who come back through, veterans of the community. And I always say like, look guys, it’s still heels down, knees out. Like we haven’t found a better way. You know, it’s not like touch your knees together and round your back. Like we haven’t changed that.
James: 08:15 – But there’s a lot of refinement. There’s a lot more polish. When I went to my Level 1 in 2008, they just gave you a tome, which was essentially every Journal article that had been written, and you know, it was 500 pages long and if you decided to print it out, you probably had to check your baggage when you went to the seminar. Cause it was just enormous. And now it is just this really, you know, you can go online and get it, but it’s this really beautiful document which parses down, you know, the most essential important information and then references the original documents. So, I mean, that’s changed massively for anyone who remembers going to a Level 1 and experiencing that. So I would say it’s much more polished. And it’s continually refined by, you know, the attention to detail from the Seminar Staff, department, our heads, as well as the participants. You know, people involved in the community, coaches, affiliate owners, providing a lot of constructive feedback. So it’s changed a lot.
Sean: 09:16 – I know that when you’re on the staff for a while, you experience a lot of different things and a lot of different cities, a lot of different people. What’s your craziest story from your time being on the Seminar Staff?
James: 09:28 – Man, I don’t know if I could share my craziest story. Here’s one really—not really, kind of interesting story. But I did a seminar in, where was I? It was somewhere in the States. And I met a young man and just nice guy, you know, saw him. There we go. And two day into the seminar, see you later. And I was flying to Okinawa. So I was going over to Japan for a seminar, and seminar starts and there is this young man again, back. And we’re thousands of miles away from each other. And so I kind of pause when he’s coming to the check-in and I freeze and I point at him and I don’t remember his name and I wish I did, but I go, I looked at him, I said, what are you doing here?
James: 10:11 – And I was like, you’ve already passed the course. You took the course in the US and here you are a week later in Japan. And it was his twin brother. And he said that, and I was like blown away by this, you know, like what are the chances, one I have, you know, that course over there, and then two that you have a twin brother and it’s you and you’re here now in Japan. So, I think what has always been really interesting to me on Seminar Staff is just the, you realize it’s kind of small world but maybe, you know, even smaller community and as many people as are involved now, you know, over a hundred thousand trainers have gone through the Level 1 course, as many people as are involved, it’s still a pretty tight-knit group, which I find really amazing. I think that was an interesting safe-for-work story.
Sean: 10:58 – I know there are quite a few not-safe-for-work ones out there as well.
James: 11:01 – Yeah. Yeah. Just crazy stuff happens when you travel. And, you know, some of my friends, I get pretty lucky, I think. I have some friends on Seminar Staff where it’s like, and I always get jealous, the crazy stuff always happens to them. You know, just being on planes and having other passengers on planes, like lose their minds or just some crazy thing happening. And, you know, I think I’ve been, I guess for better or worse, I’ve been pretty lucky with not having too much of that kind of stuff happening.
Sean: 11:27 – What led you to become a competitor?
James: 11:30 – What led me to become a competitor; right place, right time. I really think, I mean, I love being competitive, but I think if I rewound the clock and if I had never like tried to go compete at the CrossFit Games and just kept doing CrossFit, I still would’ve been very happy and satisfied because I love competing whenever I get the chance. But, I would say so what led a friend of mine, Patrick Cummings, who was a young budding content creator at the time, we kind of met each other and you know, he’s worked for various companies and personalities in CrossFit. But, Patrick said to me, hey, I think you should do this competition. I think you’ll do pretty well. And that’s kind of what got the ball rolling. It was a competition out at CrossFit New England. It was just like a local get-together, throw down.
James: 12:20 – And I did, I did all right, like I finished, you know, top five at some little local competition, but there were some other really fit people there. And then, you know, cause I was like Pat, I don’t really know man. Like, you know, I vividly remember when I still couldn’t back squat, you know, 225 pounds. And this was early in me coming into CrossFit, cause I had never weight trained. And I did gymnastics stuff pretty well, but that’s just cause I was a little skinny string bean, you know, like gymnastics is easy when you’re 160 pounds. So I went out there and I did that. And then, you know, Patrick kind of encouraged me and some other people encouraged me to go try, that was when they did Sectionals, not Sanctionals, Sectionals. And that was out in Albany in 2009, and I won, against some big jacked studs, which was really fun.
James: 13:11 – But, and then I rolled out to the 2009 Games. And the first two events were the two things that I trained and still to this day, I clearly am not a good learner. You know, I haven’t learned my lesson on this, still train the least, it was a 7k trail run, which I think I got pretty close to dead last. This is 2009 and then there was a heavy deadlift and I got cut, I got cut in the first cut after those two events and spent the rest of the weekend just enjoying the event. It was held at the CrossFit Games ranch, the Castro ranch at the time. And I got to meet a lot of people who would eventually, you know, make their way into CrossFit and make bigger name for themselves where they’re competing or training side or at the HQ side.
James: 13:54 – So crossed paths a lot of people, which was very fun. But, since I sucked so much in 2009, I became kind of hell bent on whether or not I ever did do well on competing, I at least had wanted to go out and just put forward a better effort and say to myself, well, at least the reason I got cut wasn’t because I didn’t try hard or train a certain thing. It was just cause I wasn’t as good as everybody else. So, that’s what kind of got the ball rolling and then, you know, anybody who’s been to the Games or competed in a sport like that, I think once you kind of get the bug of competing at that level, or you know, you get a little taste of success, you get really addicted to it. At least that’s what happened to me. And I also had a lot of fun doing it. So my foray into competing started with me being a really bad competitor.
Sean: 14:41 – You’ve been on a couple of really good teams, CrossFit New England, Mayhem. Obviously fitness plays a huge role in success. What makes a team really successful?
James: 14:54 – I love this question and I love talking about this because I felt like physically in all of those teams, the people I trained with were really fit and you know, I felt fit physically when I competed on those teams. But when I would be out there competing with them, when I would be training with them and I would kind of look at us and then compare us to other teams, I would know just there was something different. And my favorite example of this, if I could digress a little bit, but my favorite example, this was in 2015 there was an event where, in teams of three, I think it was either it was male, male, and then female, and then female, female, male, you had to work your way across the field. And there were a bunch of tire flips and jumping over a tire. And then there were these two different rope climbs and one was on a normally sized rope and another one was on one like this big fat pirate ship rope. And I was with Matt Hewitt and Lauren here, and we got to the rope climb and we knew the rope climb was going to be hard for us and hard for Lauren to get up the second rope. And I’m looking around. And so I think she had got her first rope climb on the skinnier rope and then she had to get the fat rope climb. And I’m looking around and I’m watching other teams left to right just having meltdowns, and anyone who’s judged at the CrossFit Games just has the best impressions. I know you’ve watched thousands of hours of competition, so it’s like, you know, it’s like one guy, you know, he’s just screaming, he’s like, I’m calm, just be calm. Sally, you need to chill out. You know?
James: 16:29 – And there’s just like, there’s that going on left to right, like people just yelling at each other cause they can’t flip the tire or so and so’s failing the rope and it’s chaos. And in my head I’m kinda like, well, we got here, we did well, you know, maybe this is where we fall behind because we didn’t know if Lauren was gonna be able to climb the rope. And I look over and Matt Hewitt is massaging Lauren’s forearms. And meanwhile around me, these other teams are like, you know, one step away from probably fighting each other to death. And so Matt has just decided to run a day spa in the middle of the CrossFit Games. And in my mind I’m like, well shit, if this doesn’t work then nothing will work, but this is the thing that has to work. And it was kind of at that moment that I realized, you know, we really do things differently.
James: 17:09 – And the lesson I took from that moment, in the chaos around me was that our team had a really, however you cultivate it, especially at Mayhem, I think the team of people and the culture that seems to continue to be there, and this is one of the reasons I think they continue to win. There are other reasons, but the team had a very awesome understanding of like when it hit the fan cause eventually it will hit the fan, what can we do? What’s the thing we can do immediately to take the next step forward? And everyone on the team had that mindset, but they also had the mindset of, well, if I need to step up to do that, I will. And if I need to step back to do that, I will. And, you know, they have such awesome poise and I think that’s one thing they do and really great teams do than everybody else.
James: 17:55 – And when I was out at the Games watching this year and there was that toe-to-bar, synchro toe-to-bar event, and I believe the teams had to push the Big Bob again, which for anyone who’s never done it, is the most diabolical piece of equipment on planet Earth. But, you know, I just saw Mayhem get out there and as usual, they got off to their kind of slow, methodical start and everybody was way ahead of them, but they just look so smooth, you know? And in my head I was like, well they’re going to win, this was Event 1, I’m like, they’re going to win the CrossFit Games again, cause they just have this really wonderful, you know, well if stuff goes wrong, cause it will go wrong, we’ll figure it out together attitude. And I really don’t think a lot of other teams out there try and cultivate or train that attitude or know how to train that attitude. So that would be one of the biggest things I think is the difference.
Sean: 18:38 – What was it like training on a regular basis with the Mayhem crew?
James: 18:44 – Oh, I mean, it was a full-time job. I mean, training with those guys. It was really interesting and I think we got smarter as we got a little older. Cause you know, I had the lucky opportunity for a lot of reasons. You know, it was a lucky opportunity to train with Rich in 2014, his final individual year. And at that time, I think the two of us had this mentality of like, you know what, we’re just going to train until we don’t have any more energy. It was this idea of like, we’re gonna make it, you know, if we get to the Games, neither of us, I think wanted to walk away or have a failure and be able to say, well, I could have done more.
James: 19:26 – We could have done things more intelligently, but it was like, you know, there were days where like, hey, do you have some energy left? Yeah, let’s go do something. Regardless of what time of day or night it was. And I think the attitude was like, we’re just going to work out till one of us dies or we make the Games, or win. And we slowly got smarter with that. But, yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to just treating it like a job and not just the physical training, like go in there and do the reps. But if there’s an area you’re not good at your job, you’re gonna work that area and we’re gonna check in on it together and we’re gonna make sure that, you know, you get some body work done to recover efficiently.
James: 20:07 – And even if we weren’t all always doing the same thing, we tried to spend enough time with each other so we knew each other in and out really well. Oh, you know, this person, when they get to 50 pull-ups, they break down. So that’s when I need to step in or this person can close hard on a row or he’s our best runner. So, it felt like a full-time job, but it was also a lot of fun. You know, it’s just having that environment of shared suffering, especially with people who are lighthearted and have a sense of humor is really special. I think anyone who’s trained on a successful team knows exactly what I’m talking about. So those are just, you know, those were some insights, but man, to say it was a lot of work is an understatement.
Sean: 20:48 – What are the moments that stand out to you the most when you think back on your time competing at the CrossFit Games?
James: 20:57 – Moments that stand out to me most time competing. There’s, I mean there are a couple of little glimpses of moments. I think one of the biggest ones was in 2015, and it was right before the final event, because we were still out on the floor and that’s when David announced, I think we had to do some like Worm clean and jerks or something like that, or team Worm cleans and, and the points were really close between us and CrossFit Milford and, you know, Rich kind of, right before, it was like 10 seconds before we’re about to start, you know, Rich kind of taps me on the shoulder and he says something to the extent of like look at the scoreboard. And I look up and he kind of whispers in my ear, we can win. And I was like, that was this moment of like, oh shit. Like we’re gonna win the CrossFit Games as a team right now. That was one moment that was just so cool cause it was that, you know, you always see those moments, like you hear about them, but to like be in one is really exciting. And it was also kind of fun cause—maybe the rest of the team knew. But I don’t know if they did know and I don’t know if he told anybody else. So it was just cool to just kind of like, have all the people around us, the stadium full, all the other teams, to kind of have this like, hey, you know, like we’re going to squeeze this thing out and no one else knows about it and it’s going to be really cool. That was one of my favorite moments. One of my other favorite moments was in 2016, they had the teams do this Murph version.
James: 22:24 – We had to carry each other on a litter and it had a lot of Worm in it. And we as usual started off middle to back of the pack in the workout. And we finished far ahead of the other teams and we came running back into the stadium, the soccer stadium out in the StubHub Center. And it was just us by a long shot. And just to kind of—it was first event of the Games. It was nighttime, you know, and it’s like, I think I still get goose bumps now and we came running in as a team of six and everybody was cheering and it was just looking around and it was just us. And it’s a really special thing to be a recipient of like that kind of positive energy. And just know it’s just you. And, to share that with five other people is amazing.
James: 23:07 – I always think that those moments of like excitement or even sometimes moments of excitement are always, I think always bigger when you get to share them like that, you know, it’s like, it’s amplified. So I don’t know. Those were a couple of big team moments that stuck out to me that were really powerful.
Sean: 23:23 – Why did you know it was time to step away?
James: 23:26 – Man, you know, why did I know it was time to step away? So I don’t know if I knew, but I think it was really tough and there are still times this day where I’m like, man, it would’ve been fun to squeak out another victory, but there were just other things I had wanted to kind of do in life and I think, you know, whether it was work-related, you know, personally, and I wasn’t sure that I could do all of those and still compete at that level.
James: 24:01 – And I think my method of doing it was like, all right, well, I’m going to tone the competing way down and pour some other energy into these other areas. And, I feel like that was the right choice for me. You know, I look back at it and, you know, I’ve had a couple of really successful years. You know, I bought an affiliate, which I love and I still always traveled on Seminar Staff, but you know, I bought into some other businesses and I’ve been able to do some projects with other people and share my competitive experience in a different way with others, which I really appreciate. I mean, I’ve been able to be much more attentive in my relationship with my now wife. I hope I’ve been more available for my friends, but I don’t know, I’m still working on that.
James: 24:46 – But, I think that was my attitude toward it. And that was definitely, you know, you see some competitors post about it. I mean, there’s definitely some ups and downs to that because you define yourself in a very specific way for a long time. And there’s anyone—you know, it’s just like a job. You commit a lot of hours a day to do it. So sometimes it’s like hard to find yourself again amongst that and be like, well, you know, competing was just part of James Hobart. It wasn’t who he was. So it kinda took a while to get used to that.
Sean: 25:19 – We’ll be back with more from James Hobart after this.
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Sean: 26:20 – Where did the idea for the HAM Plan come from?
James: 26:29 – Yeah, so the HAM Plan is now mine, well, Spencer’s, Austin, Spencer’s and mine, programming platform, online programming platform for individuals and affiliates, and Spencer and Austin started it a handful of years ago together and I think HAM stood for Hendel and Malleolo, Spencer might have some other definitions for that acronym, but they had wanted to try and share with people originally just a certain, I think culture and attitude toward training but also their experience. I mean both of those guys similarly really, really, really accomplished individual competitors with nice long careers in competing in CrossFit. So they also wanted to share this notion of like, you know, people who had different weaknesses and strengths could still train together and benefit from that. So a lot of the programming originally started on sharing like there’d be a main workout and then there would be Spencer’s twist on it because Spencer had weaknesses and strengths that Austin didn’t have.
James: 27:24 – And then Austin would have a twist on it cause he had weaknesses and strengths that Spencer didn’t have. So that’s kind of how they started. And Austin had asked me a couple of years ago to work with them and I was very reluctant, for no other reason than probably I’m just stubborn. But it just seemed like the right time in the last year or two. And so I came on with them and we’ve had a lot of fun trying to grow it and we’ve learned a lot about working with each other and trying to grow a small business. And it’s been really exciting.
Sean: 27:55 – When you look at a gym’s programming, what stands out to you and makes you think, you know what, that gym is doing things the right way?
James: 28:07 – That’s actually a really good question. You know, and it’s something I should do more. When I look at a gym’s programming, probably don’t assume too much. You know, for me it’s more of a, cause I’m a strong believer that like when applied appropriately, even the most haphazard programming could be really effective. But I think I see a gym’s programming, and I need to look at it like a week of it, and I see it’s well varied and it’s not too stuffed. You know, I think, you know, some gyms might not necessarily a trap but fall into the habit of programming lots and lots and lots of volume in a class, and not to think that they’re not doing it right, I just think it’s way harder to do things right and by right, what do I mean?
James: 28:56 – I mean provide an immersive class experience where every single ability level learns something for that day. They stay safe, they get fitter and they have fun. I think it’s harder to do the more stuff you plug in. So I think when I look at gyms, I’m kind of looking for this less is more, keep it simple, stupid, approach. But I think you got to take the class. You know, I think it’s hard to—it’s not a mistake, but it’s rough to judge a gym just on its programming. And when I roll into a class and you know, when I can step back and see like, oh, the newbie athlete coming in who’s only been here for three months and the advanced athlete who’s been here for three-plus years, both are learning something. Both are being challenged in the right way and both are having fun, you know, then I see, I’m like, wow, this place is doing it.
Sean: 29:45 – Other than trying to put too much stuff into a class, what are some of the mistakes that you see most often when affiliates try to program?
James: 29:56 – I think they focus on certain elements too much for a short period of time. So whether it’s like a strength bias, you know, I think that could be an issue. I think—here’s the thing, I don’t think enough affiliates program their warm-ups. And there’s a balance. You know, I don’t think you should be doing something completely different every day that’s like dialed in to the T. But I also don’t think that if you’re just rolling in and you’re like, well, let’s just row for five, go on a 400-meter run, come back and we’ll do some sit-ups and some arm circles and we’ll be ready to go. You know? I really like when I see affiliates who have thoughtful warm-ups, you know, they have a warm-up, again, that kind of speaks to all levels of athletes, keeps them engaged, teaches them something new. It’s relevant to the workout. I think that’s something everyone could do a little bit more of. And the reason I say it is because I see it often where if you have a warm-up that’s too complicated, too much on the coach’s schedule, I think it can be boring for the advanced athlete. And I think it can be intimidating, not intimidating, but it can be overwhelming for the novice athlete. And when you can balance those two things, you know, you can balance a warm-up where my athletes get to move a little bit on their own time, but they’re also going to move some on my time, I think you can create something really special and meaningful that speaks to multiple skill levels of athletes coming in the gym.
Sean: 31:26 – How does somebody become a good programmer?
James: 31:30 – How does somebody come to become a good programmer? First I would talk to whoever is currently programming for your gym. Second, I would start writing programming and doing it yourself. And then if you get the opportunity, I would start writing programming for the class and taking the class and doing it for the course of like a week to two weeks. And the reason I say that is because we all might have some really thoughtful variants written out and we all have may have fitted to the confines of the hour class. But you know, you don’t always see the details of it and maybe you do your week and despite as varied as it was, you find out everybody’s shoulders are smashed to bits or man, my feet or whatever, whatever the specific detail is. So I think doing those three things can be really helpful for a lot of programmers out there. You know, having walked the walk slightly and consistently cause you learn what stings, what doesn’t sting, and in being in the class environment you can kind of look around and be like, wow, I thought this was fitness gold and it was a 30-minute AMRAP and I think we should scale it to a 10-minute AMRAP right now. So you learn a lot by actually by actually doing it, which I think is really cool.
James: 32:43 – How did you get your mother into CrossFit?
James: 32:45 – Yeah, my mom getting into CrossFit. Right. So she’s going to turn 60 in February. Been doing CrossFit for six years now. Osmosis? So I had been doing it for a while and my mom had always been involved in like, she always liked to walk in the mornings and she started to get into yoga around the same time when I got into CrossFit. So you know, she was definitely interested in taking care of her body through physical activity. But there was just weird stuff that happened, Sean. So like I rolled home once and I think that an AbMat was in the house from our garage gym outside where I grew up and I kind of asked, what’s the AbMat doing in here?
James: 33:22 – And she said, well, I like to use it to practice headstands for yoga. And I was like, well, whatever. And then I came home and there was a 45-pound plate in the house and I said, what is, you know, I was like really blown away. Like what could she possibly—one, just one plate. She said, I like to just pick it up and carry it, from, you know, kitchen to the living room and try and make me stronger, she said. All right, roger that. Then I came home and there was a barbell in the house. And I was like, all right, the jig is up. And I said, why is the barbell in the house? And she said, well, I like to practice my deadlifts with it. And at this point I was like, in my head, I was like excited, cause you want people you care about to take care of themselves, you know, I believe in CrossFit and in physical fitness.
James: 34:02 – And so at that point I got kind of excited. So I was coaching on Seminar Staff at the time. And I was coaching a seminar on Thanksgiving. I decided to work that weekend. So it was kind of coming up on the anniversary of that. And I told my mom, I said, hey, look, I want you to see what I do and I want you to take a Level 1 and I’ll get you signed up and we’ll take care of it. And she said, fine, sounds good. Which I was surprised that, but she kinda said, I don’t want to look like an idiot. And she said I want to be more familiar with it. So she said I want to take a on-ramp program, a one-month on-ramp at the local gym, which was my friend Mike Bissaillon’s gym who I went to my Level 1 with.
James: 34:44 – And so I said, that’s fine. I’ll pay for your one month free trial. So quick, fast forward to the end of this story, at the end of her month free trial before she came down to her Level 1, she called me up and she said, hey, I finished my one month free trial. I said, really, cool. And she said, I bought a membership and then that was it. So it was a slow, progressive approach. I wouldn’t say I really got her to do it, you know, I was just kinda there as a sounding board and encouraged what she told me she did. And since then, you know, I couldn’t be happier that she stumbled into CrossFit community. And I think it has had a huge impact on her life. So it was a very slow approach, which I recommend, you know, for everybody who kind of wants to get their parents into the gym like that.
Sean: 35:29 – Yeah. Actually, I wanted to ask you that question is that with the focus on health and getting people who usually don’t go into a gym into a gym, how do people—I mean, my mom would rather hit herself in the head with a hammer than get into a gym. What advice you have to people to get their loved ones moving?
James: 35:46 – Yeah, I think this is really good. I think it’s just trying to find what the lowest barrier of entry is and, you know, instead of telling them what you should do, hey, what is the least you would do? You know? And then from there it’s just slowly baiting them. Well, I would walk 30 minutes in the morning. Beautiful. Would you try and pick up that PVC pipe? Yeah, sure. Would you show me? Sure. Let me show you. I think as a coach it’s accepting how big the spectrum of intensity is. You know, and for you and I and whoever who have spent years and years watching the Games, you know, that is so at one end of what intensity is.
James: 36:31 – But when we say that CrossFit is infinitely scalable, we really mean it. And for someone who may have never worked out before, maybe they’re 60, 70 years old, a PVC pipe could be intensity for them. But it’s still, you know, if it exceeds the capacity of their daily lifestyle ever so slightly, it’s going to make them fitter, and that’s all it takes. So instead of telling them what to do, I would ask them, you know, what would they be willing to do? What is, you know, what is the least you would want to try? Yeah. And I think that can be really helpful. Cause the proof is in the pudding. I think once people start moving even a little bit, they feel a little bit better. So that’s kinda how I’ve always approached it. And just to remind coaches to like peel back, keep peeling back layers of intensity until they find the one that matches up with that individual they want to get in the gym cause it’s physical and psychological. Right. If I mentally don’t want to go fast, lift heavy, you know, I don’t have to, and to some extent you might not have to see results from the program, which I think is really, really, really cool.
Sean: 37:30 – You actually got to coach your mother a little bit. What was that like?
James: 37:33 – Terrible. Push your knees up. My knees are out. I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out of it kind of thing. No, it was good. You know, I’ve coached my mom a little bit here and there. She listens well to me, looks to me for advice. What I found more amazing was in the 2014 Regionals leading up to that season Games, she would send me these, she would coach me, she’d send me these emails. Like now I know your strength is not very good. So this first event you’re really gonna have to prep for and practice and try very hard on, cause it’s a one-rep-max hang snatch. And she would send me emails like that and they were actually pretty pointed and spot on, but they were always very like very like, derivative in the sense that like, oh, it’s a lift, so you’re going to have to be strong. Thanks mom for, you know, like that constant reminder like, well you failed that test so you’re gonna have to pass the next one. But no, coaching her is always fun. It was really fun, this is probably one of my non-Games related favorite memories, is when she beat me in Isabel. And obviously, you know, she scaled it, and I’m competitive and I’ll tell you this, if I work out next to you and you scale a workout, you can be damn sure I still want to just crush you. So I hadn’t been—we’ll use this as an excuse. I hadn’t been training, this was after I kind of stepped away from competing at the Games and I hadn’t been training consistently and we went home and she wanted to do Isabel. We did Isabel and she beat me and I was so pissed. And then like I came back to Boston and I went on a tear of training cause I was like, never again, you know, but whatever. I guess that’s a good sign that happened.
Sean: 39:23 – What is on the horizon for you now in the CrossFit realm?
James: 39:25 – In the CrossFit realm. To continue to really grow and nurture my affiliate. So, two years ago, myself and Austin and another partner of ours, JC, we purchased CrossFit Boston and we brought it into our CrossFit ONE Nation family. So we have three locations, Boston being one of them. And that was one of the last things, like I hadn’t had the benefit and the fortune of doing inside of the community.
James: 39:57 – And I’ve absolutely loved being a part of an affiliate like that and helping run affiliate and develop coaches and just watching the members grow and just have fun and be awesome. So that’s going to be one of my huge focuses for a long time. I just absolutely love coaching and on top of that, so the HAM Plan that I do with Austin and Spencer, you know, our programming platform. Last year we programmed for the Asia CrossFit Championship sanctional, this year we program for Asia again and we’re programming for the SouthFit CrossFit challenge down in Argentina, which we’re heading to next week. I can’t even believe it’s already here. So to continue to just grow HAM Plan and nurture our affiliate community, we write programming class plans for a lot of affiliate gyms as well as competitors.
James: 40:41 – So that’s been a big focus of ours over the year, last year and a half. And just to kind of keep putting energy into that. From there, I probably should have said this, but ,my now wife at the time, I don’t know if we were engaged yet, but now wife, Cassandra, she competed with Reebok CrossFit One at the CrossFit Games a couple of years ago. And that was definitely one of my favorite memories and I totally learned when people say they get stressed out watching their loved ones compete and why it’s, you know, I think I ripped all of my hair out of my head that weekend, but watching her compete was amazing. So we kind of, I’ve always wanted to compete with her on a team, so we’re kind of trying to play around with the idea of maybe doing a sanctional. I’ve been trying to train a little harder and shake some of the rust off, but we would really like to do that together. I guess that’s a little bit more personal and not super big picture, but we’re psyched to try and do it. So working on that, yeah, and I guess, I guess that’s it right now.
Sean: 41:38 – Final question. You’ve been around this sport and this training methodology, you know, for more than 10 years. What are the most important lessons that you have learned from all these experiences?
James: 41:51 – Man, you’re gonna hit this on me as the last question, moments to prepare. Most important lessons. I think from a learning perspective, it’s the idea that continually assess what you do well, what you know, with what you don’t know. I think that’s really important and I think that would go for anyone who’s trying to improve at any task or endeavor or skill set regardless of the subject matter. I think that’s a really important lesson. And you know, I’ve been very, very fortunate and blessed to be around mentors and teachers and just talented people like yourself who regardless of subject matter of skill, who always had this learner’s mindset. And that’s not to say that they don’t recognize what they do well, but they do that, but they also learn, where can I grow? What could I do differently to be better?
James: 42:43 – And that’s a hard lesson to learn. It’s easy to take for granted the things you do well, but I think if you can continually do that day in and day out and practice that it really helps long term. I think the other thing that I’ve learned from a training perspective as an athlete is very similar to that, but consistency is very important. You know, it’s funny, there are certainly some things I am no longer as fit as I used to be in, but simply because I’ve done a million reps of them, there are some things that I will always be better at than I was, you know, it’s just like I have some built-in capacity, some kind of lessons learned, reps accumulated where it’s like that fitness continues to grow and just because of consistency it’s quite strong and that’s, you don’t learn that lesson, I think, until you get there.
James: 43:32 – But, from a training perspective, it’s just, you know, being consistent is so important and being healthy enough to be consistent is really important. And I think the last thing I would learn, you know, that I’ve learned, especially in the CrossFit community, and I imagine we are a little bit fortunate by the nature of this community, there are a lot of you know, good minded, well-mannered, genuine, outgoing people in it and it makes it lot easier. But spend time talking to other people asking that second question. And what I mean by that is just that next question beyond, hi, I’m James. Nice to meet you. How you doing? I’ve met so many incredible people in this community and I’d be one, you know, scintilla of the person I am, you know, now, if it wasn’t for meeting all of these people. So I think that’s, you know, a really big one too is, you know, take time to get to know the people around you in the communities that you like and care about, whatever they may be. I cannot say that enough. I’ve met the coolest people and I wouldn’t be anywhere without the training partners, coaches, mentors, colleagues, teachers, friends that I would be, you know, where I am right now. So that’s probably a huge one.
Sean: 44:48 – James, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, man. That was a fantastic conversation. Best of luck with everything and I hope to see you competing at a sanctioned event here soon.
James: 44:57 – Sean, thank you so much. And it’s great to see you again, so I hope I get to talk to you soon.
Sean: 44:59 – Likewise, my friend. Thanks a lot.
Sean: 45:02 – Big thanks to James Hobart for taking the time out of his day to speak with me. I loved that conversation. You can follow him on Instagram. He is @JamesHobart. Chris Cooper is not the fittest person who ever walked the Earth. He has never recorded a world-record snatch. His Fran time is—it’s just OK. But Chris does hold a gym record. He’s written the best-selling fitness business books of all time. Based on his experience as a gym owner and thousands of free calls with other fitness entrepreneurs, Chris put together four books that can help you make money and live the life you want. This isn’t smoke-blowing without substance. These books have helped thousands, and they can help you. Head over to Amazon and check them out. You’re looking for “Two-Brain Business,” “Two-Brain business 2.0,” “Help First” and “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.” These are best-selling books based on hard data and experience, and they can help you find success. Thanks for listening, everybody. We’ll see you next time.
On Wednesdays, Sean Woodland tells the best stories in the CrossFit community on Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland.
Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories every Monday, and Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world every Thursday.
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