Sean: 00:00 – Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I speak with two-time CrossFit Games athlete and co-owner of CrossFit Pallas in Ithaca, New York, Tim Paulson. Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland is brought to you by Two-Brain Business and to learn how to generate profit and take your business to the next level, check out “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief,” by Chris Cooper. It’s available now on Amazon. Tim Paulson made his CrossFit Games debut in 2017 and he finished 19th his rookie year. He returned again in 2018 and he will be competing again in Madison this year. We spoke about how he found CrossFit, why he gave up a job as an accountant with a nationwide firm to open his own gym and what high-fantasy novels and authors are his favorites. Thanks for listening everybody.
Sean: 00:56 – Tim, thanks so much for joining me today, man. How are you doing?
Tim: 00:59 – I’m doing great. How are you, Sean?
Sean: 01:00 – I’m doing all right. I’m doing all right. First thing I always like to ask people. How did you get into CrossFit?
Tim: 01:07 – So actually my to-be business partner, so a friend of mine on the hockey team in college, he introduced me to CrossFit. So we had played on the team together and when I transferred to Ithaca College, he was like, “Hey, you should try this workout with me.” So we went over to the school gym, we did like a deadlift, push-up box jump triplet. And I got hooked, fell in love with it. And then we actually just started training together, you know, four or five days a week for kinda off-site stuff, and then we actually ended up opening a gym together a couple months after that.
Sean: 01:36 – What do you think it was about it that hooked you so quickly?
Tim: 01:40 – Honestly, for me it just became a new competitive outlet because I was kind of, not that I was falling out of love with hockey, but it was just like, you know, as I was going through my business degree, I didn’t like spending as much time on the ice and I was finding myself studying a lot more so I wanted to just get into more of a normal gym routine and just the variance of CrossFit was really kind of the first thing that drew me in and the fact that there was, you know, this kind of this competitive mindset to it. You know, and like I said, coming off my hockey days, kinda dwindling down to an end, that was a big draw for me as well.
Sean: 02:10 – You were training CrossFit while you were still playing hockey, correct?
Tim: 02:14 – Correct. There was a little bit of carry over and then honestly, once I kind of really fell like head over heels into CrossFit, I started to love it so much, that was what drew me away from hockey.
Sean: 02:25 – How did training CrossFit affect you on the ice while you were doing the same at the same time? The two at the same time.
Tim: 02:32 – Oh, I mean I felt great. I honestly, I wish I had done it longer. Like I wish there’d been more overlap because if I could take my current fitness and apply it to like who I was as a hockey player, my hockey journey would have been very, very good. Like, my desire to put real work in the weight room and just, I mean my raw capacity and athleticism is just something that I did have back then. And like I said, I wish I’d had even a year or two of CrossFit to training to carry over to hockey because man, it would’ve made such a difference.
Sean: 03:03 – Yeah, you hear that from a lot of people who played high-level competitive sports. Why do you think you sort of fell out of love of hockey?
Tim: 03:11 – Honestly for me, I think it was just, I played so much when I was younger, just kinda got burnt out. It all really kind of culminated in my senior year of high school. I went away to prep school to play like basically Junior A-level hockey on the North East and we were there and we were on the ice, we were in the weight room four days a week. We were on the practice, you know, practicing four to five days a week. We were playing three games every weekend and we played, it was something like a 58-game season or something like that. And by the end of it I just like, I had no desire to get on the ice anymore. I got burned out. It was too much for me and you know, that was kind of where the love affair stopped and you know, it was just kind of a slow dwindling from there.
Tim: 03:51 – You mentioned that you fell in love then with CrossFit and made the transition there. When did you figure out that “You know what, I’m actually pretty good at this.”
Tim: 03:59 – I guess it was like so 20—I started CrossFit in 2012, early in the spring. It was like February of 2012. And I just kinda did it recreationally throughout the summer and then when the fall semester started and I was back training with my buddy again, like we were like, all right, what about—he had found a coach over the summer and was like, “Hey, do this program with me.” So I jumped on and like started like an actual, you know, well-rounded program and was like, wow, I actually really love this kind of like style of training, this mix of strength and gymnastics and skill and conditioning, and I just found it really fun. So, you know, we kinda did that together through the fall and the spring and I did my first or second Open in 2013 and I ended up being the last man in to qualify for Regionals back in the 48-person format. And so, yeah, 2013 was my first Regional. And like that was when I was like, “All right, well I guess I’m pretty good at—I’m one of the better guys at this.” And that was when I really kind of fell in love, it was like all right, let’s, you know, let’s give this a real shot. You know, like I met guys like Spencer Hendel and Tyminsky and like all of them in the North East. Like those like, OGs of CrossFit, and I kind of was like, wow, those guys are really fit and this looks really fun. And that was kind of what like inspired me to really take it more competitively, more seriously.
Sean: 05:08 – How did that then affect your training in the gym as you look to get more serious in your competition career?
Sean: 05:13 – Yeah, so I stuck with the same—so our first coach was this guy Steven Hit, he owns a gym out in Seattle. He was programming for us from a distance and I stuck with him for about, I think it was from 2013 until like early 2015 maybe. And went to my first two Regionals under his tutelage. It was a program for a gym with some supplemental stuff. So it was just their general fitness program, like no individualization, specialization, anything like that, just like be good at everything. And so I kind of stuck with that for the first like year and a half or so, my first two Regional appearances, and then starting in 2015 I found my current coach, David Charbonneau. And that was when I started getting into digital program and started taking training a little more seriously, putting in like, you know, two, two-and-a-half-hour sessions every day rather than a typical like 60-minute class plus a little bit of accessory stuff.
Sean: 06:07 – You finally had that moment where everything pays off in 2017 where you make it to your first CrossFit Games. What was that like for you to finally get over that hump?
Tim: 06:16 – Oh man. It’s like the best way I can describe it, and like, my dad actually describes it like this. He’s like, you know, it’s rare in life that you get to work really hard for something and it actually pans out exactly the way you want. Like it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes life throws wrenches in there like things happen. But it’s like, it’s really cool when you get those kind of moments where it’s just like stars align and you know, hard work pays off and it all just kind of like happened. And like the actual moment of qualifying was unreal cause my parents were there and my wife was there, you know, family, in-laws were there. I have 40 people or more from my gym were there, so it was like there was just so many people there that supported me and my training journey and who are like, you know, close
friends. So that was really just such a special moment in kind of like my, you know, my CrossFit journey was that first, you know, Games trip, and I found out after the fact, thank God no one told me, my parents and three couples from the gym had bought Games tickets, bought flights, and booked hotels in November, before the Open had even happened. So it’s like they had invested all this time and money because like they thought that this was going to be my break-through year, and they told me afterwards and I just lost it. Like I just cried and I was like, oh my God, that’s so cool. And then I got angry and I was like, thank you for not telling me and putting that pressure on me. I wouldn’t have—oh no, thank you for not telling me. That’s all I had to say.
Sean: 07:46 – Yeah. No pressure on that one, no doubt. Yeah. I would definitely not want to know that that was hanging over my head. You finished 19th your rookie year. What were your expectations going in?
Tim: 07:58 – Yeah, I mean, going into the first year, you know, as corny as it was, I just really wanted to enjoy the experience and perform to the best of my ability. Like there wasn’t, you know, we wanted to finish top half because we were like, all right, you know, first year at the Games, there was gonna be a huge learning curve. There’s lots of guys who are veterans, they know what to expect, know how to handle the weekend, like understand how Castro kind of messes with you and the schedule and et cetera, et cetera. So, you know, the goal is just to have a blast and really soak it in because you know, I mean your first trip to finally get over the hump, it’s such a surreal experience being there because you watch it on TV, you follow all these guys on Instagram. You have friends who’ve been there and you know, it’s just like, it’s kind of this mystical thing like this unicorn that you don’t really think is real. And then when you finally get there for the first time, it’s like you’re seeing your first unicorn. Like you really want to, you know, you just really want to remember that and like really kind of embrace, you know, the ups, the downs and the whole trip behind it. So that was kind of the mindset that we went into and I was pretty happy with how it went. You know what I mean? Like finishing top 21st here at the Games after, you know, a couple of years of really hard training. I was pretty stoked with it.
Sean: 09:05 – You mentioned seeing all these people you follow on Instagram and feel like you’re seeing your first unicorn. When did you feel like, you know what, I actually belong with these guys?
Tim: 09:14 – I still question it. I guess after 2017 like to have a full season kind of come to fruition, like to have a good Open performance. And then for me the biggest thing was like, you know, to be at Regionals with Pat and Mat and to like, you know, I mean, to hang with them, like, to be like a very solid third place, to be like, OK, like, you know, I was with these guys in a lot of events. Like yeah they beat me but like I feel like I’m where I need to be in a lot of these events. I had well-rounded finishes throughout the weekend and then to go to the Games and same thing like, you know, not have an outstanding performance but to have like a solid weekend. I think after that was the first time where mentally, I was like, you know what? Like I think, you know, like I deserve to be here and like, you know, the next couple of years of my life are going to be dedicated to, you know, making sure that I continue to deserve to be here and I keep putting in the work that’s going to keep me here.
Sean: 10:04 – You go back in 2018 for your second trip. How did expectations change, if at all, when you returned to Madison that year?
Tim: 10:12 – Way too much honestly. You know, like going back into the second year, had a great Regional performance, was really happy with how that kind of panned out and I was feeling great going into the Games. And to summarize it, I think I just got, I put too much pressure and too much expectation on myself. You know, I got a little more focused on the result and what I thought I should be doing and a little less focused on kind of the process of the weekend, individual event execution, things like that. So there was a lot of mistakes. Like the 2018 Games for me were filled with some super high moments. Like, you know, two of my best finishes ever and a lot of, you know, low moments and not just low on the leaderboard but low as in like I really just mussed up the game plan. Like the event just didn’t go the way that it should have. And you know, it was whether it was a mistake on my part or like poor execution or whatever it was, there was just a lot of missteps and I think a lot of the it came down to me focusing more on the expectations of myself rather than what I should have been doing in that moment.
Sean: 11:12 – What has been your best memory of the Games so far?
Tim: 11:18 – I would say probably hands down the clean-and-jerk ladder last year. The speed ladders at the Games are like, same thing, like going back to like the early days of me watching the Games, like the squat clean ladder in Carson in the tennis stadium, you know, like just those events, like the energy, the environment, just such a cool, like—I look at those events and I was like, man, this is quintessential CrossFit for me. Like the tennis stadium was like what I dreamed about, you know, when I finally made the Games. And then ironically, the first year I made the Games it was not in Carson, so I didn’t get my tennis stadium moment. But yeah, so that like the clean-and-jerk ladder was definitely for me, I think my crowning, you know, memory of CrossFit, just because same thing, just the noise, like the stadium’s completely filled and like, you know all that aside, getting into the, I think it was the the second round where it was like, you know, the moderate loads and it was the top five guys, it was me, Mat, I think Nick Urankar may have been in our heat, maybe Panchik as well. And just like, you know, we’re standing there getting ready to start. Like everything starts to get really quiet and then like next to me you hear Mat barking. Like firing himself up, he’s like “HRHMPHF!” And the second he did that I was like, full-body goose bumps. I was like, “Oh shit, it’s on.” And that was like—so actually the round before the final was like probably my favorite memory. Cause again, it was like, you know, like I remember getting to the 315 bar, Mat had this one, you know, miss that he’s ever had on a lift in the CrossFit Games next to me. And then like sliding in with Scott was like a photo finish. Like it was just like a really cool, it was definitely the coolest event that I’ve ever had, racing against some guys who are, you know, who I’ve looked up to and who’ve been original sports since, you know, well before I had made the Games.
Sean: 13:02 – We all know about the changes that have been made to the competitive season. What’s it been like for you now trying to navigate those and figure out what your training looks like?
Tim: 13:12 – This year was definitely really hard. I think the biggest mistake we made this year and we will not make it again next year, is that we kinda chose my Sanctional schedule based off of what I had done in the past and what was convenient to my life. So like I went to Wodapalooza because I go to Wodapalooza every year. I went to South Africa because I was hosting a training camp in South Africa and I was like, oh well the competition’s the next week, I should just do that event. You know, so there was a lot of travel kind of bunched in there right before the Open that kind of I think affected and hindered my Open performance. So we learned a lot of lessons in terms of how to schedule out my season and you know, I mean frankly, my training suffered this year as a result of this new season for sure. Because from basically November, end of November, through the holiday season, essentially all the way through the Open, I had very little consistent training because there was travel
because of competition because of tapering because of just trying to stay healthy, getting in the Open, like it was just a complete mess. So that was, yeah, that was how it affected my year. It kinda turned it into a mess. But you know, we were kinda able to finally, not finally, I guess not after the Open, after Iceland, because after the Open I didn’t have a spot. So after the Open, we were still just kind of holding onto the threads of humanity that I had left, trying to stay at peak performance for a couple more sanctioned events. And, you know, luckily I ended up getting my invite when I was in Iceland because I ended up getting there, and then finally in like, you know, after not having trained normally since basically December, in May, I could finally take a step back and like take some time off, rebuild the basics and really like, you know, hopefully get myself into peak shape for the Games this summer.
Sean: 14:52 – If there was one thing that you could change about the way the season plays out, what would it be?
Tim: 15:02 – I mean it definitely, I mean the communication and the schedule would have definitely been the biggest thing. Like, you know, just having a little more time to plan as an athlete. So like this whole unknown, unknowable thing of CrossFit. I get it, I appreciate it, but I don’t necessarily love it when it comes to the competitive side of it and like the big picture. So I mean, that’s definitely the biggest thing I think I would change just from a, you know, a general execution standpoint would just be knowing what’s going on. And honestly, even right now, I mean, we’re only, you know, at the time of this recording, we’re just over a month out from the Games and we know essentially nothing. And you know, that’s like all we can do as athletes is, you know, control the controllables, focus on training, focus on being as well rounded as possible. You know, like we know roughly what Dave’s gonna throw out at us. So there’s like, you know we’re doing all the right things, but it’s still just always looming in the back of your mind, like, how many cuts are there going to be Day One? There’s just so many unknowns that like, you know, at least in the past you knew that when you showed up there was going to be an athlete dinner and then we were going to go do fitness and then you were going to compete all weekend. And that was it. You know, it’s like there was at least—you didn’t know what the events were, you didn’t know what to expect, but you at least knew generally what was happening. And you know, we don’t even have that this year. So it’s kinda like, just trying not to think about that as much as possible.
Sean: 16:14 – Everybody knows about the physical tests that the Games present. How do you deal with the mental fatigue and the mental challenges that are thrown at you during those three or four days?
Tim: 16:27 – I mean, you fall to the level of your training. I spend the other 12 months a year really making sure that my mental game is strong when I’m attacking workouts in the gym and you know, kind of planning out my days, my weeks, you know, recovery, things like that. But yeah, the Games is—I mean it’s really hard, and especially like last year was the, you know, for me, 2018 was like the ultimate mental test because like I said, highest highs and lowest lows. I mean, there was, you know, I got back from events and I went into my hotel room and I’ll just laid on the floor and looked at my wife and I’m like, what am I doing? Like, that performance was just not me. And like I was just kinda like in shambles cause you’re just like, what? Like, what’s happening? Like this is the biggest stage, this is what I’ve trained for all year and I’m not executing. And like, you know, that was very unlike me. I mean the biggest thing is, I guess for me it was just learning how to develop amnesia, like selective amnesia, and learning how to be like, all right, like, we’ll analyze that event later. Like we’ll have plenty of time to analyze when the weekend’s over, but right now you got to pretend that you just won an event and you’re rolling on some momentum into the next one. You know, and last year was a great kind of application of that, you know, going off of a 35th-place finish and then going into the clean-and-jerk ladder, being able to outperform, you know, like kind of having those big swings, while not ideal, it was good mental growth for ,e.
Sean: 17:49 – Along those lines, what has your career as a competitor taught you about yourself as a person?
Tim: 17:57 – I mean it’s definitely kind of shaped who I am as a person. You know, it’s allowed me to develop habits that carry over to the rest of my life to, you know, running our business to being a husband, being a family member, you know, just like I guess dedication and consistency and realizing that that’s a very important aspect of training, but it’s also a really important aspect of, you know, anything and all of my relationships. You know, I try and be positive about my training every day. I try and focus on the process, I try and really kind of keep my head in a good space. You know, and just stay dedicated to what I know is right. And I’ve tried to carry that to the rest of my life as well. And you know, whether it’s again, being a good husband or trying to be a good coach, a good gym owner, you know,, whatever else have going on, just staying dedicated to the people that matter and trying to give, you know, give them a consistent version of myself.
Sean: 18:51 – A lot of the news unfortunately that’s coming out right now surrounding the Games and the athletes in the season has to do with performance-enhancing drugs. What do you say to people who just automatically assume that every CrossFit Games athlete is using a performance-enhancing drug?
Tim: 19:08 – I mean, I can see why they would think that because like it’s impossible to see the level of dedication and effort that, you know, these athletes are putting in. You know, because unless you experience it, you just don’t know. Especially if you’re not someone who’s willing to put in that work and then you just assume that no one else is willing to put in that work either and they’re just cheating, because that’s kind of the easy way out. You know? And I guess for me, like the way I’ve always kinda like looked at it is like, you know, are there people on drugs? Yeah. Like I’m not an idiot. Like I’m not naive. It’s like, yeah, someone’s on drugs, of course. Like someone’s always wanting to take the easy way out. You know, but for me, I guess it comes—I mean it’s just a moral compass thing, you know? I feel like being a CrossFit athlete is more than just being an athlete for a lot of people. Like for me, I run an affiliate, I’m a coach, I preach the message of CrossFit, of hard work, of consistency, of dedication, of like doing all the right things in and out of the gym, like that’s my entire life. You know? Like I do that for a living every single day as well as an athlete every single day. And so I think there’s like, you know, in addition to my own moral compass, there’s this sense of like, I want to make the people around me proud and I want to show them that like no, dedication and hard work works, like we’re doing this the right way and you know, if it yields the results we want, hopefully it does, you know, I guess that’s my thought on it. Is that not—it’s really frustrating.
Sean: 20:36 – Yeah. No, for sure.
Tim: 20:38 – For people to think that like all of us are just, you know, gassed up because they don’t want to put into work.
Sean: 20:43 – Yeah. You mentioned your gym and trying to preach the right way to do things there. What made you decide to start an affiliate?
Tim: 20:51 – Oh, funny enough, we didn’t really know—so my business partner and I, we didn’t really know if we wanted to start an affiliate. We were getting weird looks in the school gym, and we didn’t have ropes and rings and you know, it just kind of became a bit of a hassle and we were like, you know what, what if we just rented a space and then spen
t a couple grand on some equipment until we were done with grad school. You know, so like we did that. We just rented a one-car—or, a two-car garage, tossed a bathroom in it, we hung some ropes and rings and put a pull-up bar in, I had a friend build one for us and we were like, alright sweet, we have a space to train now. And so we kinda just started training and we were like, you know what, we should affiliate, and we should see if we can have some other friends come work out with us. And so it just kind of like, you know, grew, and at the time there was no other gym in town, and it took off and I mean, before, within like just over a year we had a 135-member affiliate out of a dingy, two-car garage, in you know, middle-of-nowhere New York, and that was basically, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. I had no plans. Neither of us had any plans of staying and running an affiliate. My business partner had a job lined up with [unintelligible], I had a job lined up with KPMG which is an accounting firm and our plan was when we finished grad school, you know, close the gym and get out of that, and go work in the corporate world. But the gym took off and you know, basically an opportunity presented itself to do something that we love, to do it full time. So we stuck with it.
Sean: 22:20 – You just mentioned that the KPMG thing, I mean, you get out of school, and you graduate Magna cum laude, from Ithaca College, you’ve got the job at KPMG waiting for you, which seems like it would be a great opportunity. Why say no to that to run the gym?
Tim: 22:34 – I have no idea. Yeah, I mean at the time it was like, obviously I was young at the time, you know, it was just kind of a—CrossFit was fun. Like, you know, I love being in the gym, I love coaching. I love just like, you know, the kind of the lifestyle of making people, you know better. And I think it was just like I was undergoing a little bit of a change personally. Like just, you know, again, just growing up, you know, becoming an adult. Like I was realizing that I didn’t, you know—I had chosen accounting because it came naturally to me and because I was good at it, not necessarily because I actually really wanted to do it for a living. I just, I liked that it came easy to me. And I liked that I was good at it and I liked that it would provide a stable income for, you know, me and a family one day. And you know, that was really kind of where the love for accounting ended. There was no real love for the, you know, the process of what I would do every day. And so after working for like four or five months, going through a busy season and realizing that like, oh my God, this is like, this is hard. This is a 70-hour work week, six days a week. And you know, not that—I didn’t quit because it was hard. I just quit because I wasn’t gonna love doing it, and you know, an opportunity presented itself to do something that I love. And I was like, you know what, I can always go be an accountant. I mean, to this day I could still, you know, if I needed to, I could go, you know, take the CPA exam and I could be a public accountant if I wanted to. So, you know, I have the base of knowledge, but you know, so far this whole fitness thing’s been very successful and a lot of fun. So I’m gonna keep doing this.
Sean: 24:01 – At what point did you guys stop running your affiliate as a place where you and your friends could work out and start running it as a business?
Tim: 24:09 – It happened pretty quickly. So we opened in October and we had so much buzz just kind of—I mean the first couple of weeks of classes were slow. You know, we had like four or five classes a day with like a person, and we were like, maybe not, I don’t know. Like we had a lot of, you know, kind of second guessing ourselves and a lot of doubts, but, you know, then things kind of really started to pick up and word of mouth started to spread and you know, within, we had a period of massive growth from like that spring until the summer of 13 and that was when we were like, OK, like, you know, let’s expand the class schedule, let’s look at hiring coaches that aren’t, you know, my business partner Eamon and I, you know, let’s bring in some other people and kind of see what we can do here. So I mean after I guess maybe three months in, we were still kind of like really testing the waters and figuring it out. And then we were like, OK, we need to reform this a little bit and run it like a business. And part of it on our end was like, this is a cool case study. We’re in business school and why not run a business while we’re in business school? That sounds kind of fun.
Sean: 25:06 – Yeah. What were some of the biggest challenges that you guys faced early on in making that transition?
Tim: 25:11 – I mean the biggest thing was just the time. You know, so our classes were all at night, so, you know, we would be in classes from basically like 3:30 or four o’clock until like 7:30 every night. So, you know, basically how it would work is like I would get up early, coach the early classes and then I would start training after a couple hours coaching. At that point, my business partner would come in, he would coach, you know, and then we will basically both be at the gym until like one or two in the afternoon. And then, you know, we had a couple part-time staff who were covering our evening classes while we were in grad school. So, you know, just combined like an hour of working out for ourselves. And then three or four hours of coaching with a couple of hours of studying and then a couple of hours classroom. You know, the, the days were just really long. You know, so that was definitely the hardest part was just the time management piece of it. You know, especially early on because we graduated in the spring of 2014? When did I graduate? I have no idea. I think it was 13. Yeah. So like, you know, as during that piece where we were finishing up school and like the gym was really growing and we were still in classes, like that was definitely the hardest part, time-wise, just kind of balancing all of that.
Sean: 26:18 – What were some of the things that you did to help build your clientele after you opened your doors and you said, OK, this is now a business.
Tim: 26:26 – I mean, the biggest thing, and like we still focus on this to this day is like we just try to develop our coaches and then try to develop our community. You know, we focused on making sure that when people came in, they had a really positive experience. You know, they had the best hour of their day. They feel like they got better. You know, we did all of that with a giant smile on face. You know, so especially early on, like we didn’t do a single piece of marketing advertising. We barely had a social media. You know, so it was like the first, you know, hundred members that we got were just through word of mouth, through talking to people at the business school, through current members talking to their friends. And, you know, that was like really kind of where it took off, was just treating our current clients as well as we could. And like, even if it’s a one-person class, you know, giving them, you know, interacting with them, building a relationship with them, making sure that they, you know, again, they had a great hour and they got better. And then they tell someone else about that. And I mean, that’s largely how we built what we have today. I mean, we have more social media presence and there’s a lot more to it now, but you know, that’s always been the mission and that’s kinda been the core focus.
Sean: 27:25 – What do you think makes a good coach?
Tim: 27:30 – I think the biggest thing is just genuinely caring about people. You know, we’ve got 11 or 12 coaches now, varying between part time, full time, et cetera. You know, and whenever we take anybody through our internship, we can teach anybody how to coach. Like we have people who are teachers, we have people who are, you know, trained athletic trainers. We have coaches from all walks of life. We’ve taught them how to coach a snatch. We’ve taught them ho
w to progress through a movement in a logical fashion, that stuff’s easy to share and develop over the course of, you know, years of practice. But the thing you can’t teach is just for someone to actually come in and like want to interact with a client and you know, actually care about them and learn about their life and develop a connection with them. So that’s kind of always been the first thing that we make sure that anybody that we hire as a coach is that we understand that they have a genuine level of care for our clients and they’re going to, you know, they’re going to exude that every single day. And I think that’s, especially in a CrossFit gym where you have like, you know, community is such a huge focus in and a large part of what keeps people coming back. You know, I think that’s probably the most important thing for us.
Sean: 28:33 – A lot of elite athletes sometimes have trouble relating to your average Joe. How do you relate to your clients who may not be the most gifted athletes or movers?
Tim: 28:44 – Yeah, I mean honestly I think for me, what it’s always come down to, and my business partner and I agreed on this, like, you know, from the start. Competitive CrossFit hasn’t—like my journey as a competitive CrossFit athlete doesn’t matter to anybody in the gym. And like that’s just the principle that I’ve always coached on is what I’m doing doesn’t matter, what matters is like the process that I’m going through. Like, you know, showing up every day trying to better myself. Like, you know, looking at the other aspects of my life, my recovery, my nutrition, things like that. And that’s all our clients are trying to do every day. You know, it’s like we’re just doing it on a different scale. So, you know, relating to them on the level of like, how do we hone and improve the process of them getting healthier and getting fitter. You know, and that’s something that no matter what level of fitness, you need to do that. And I think that’s the easiest thing to relate with your clients on is just, you know, that journey of trying to get 1% better every day.
Sean: 29:35 – When you first started, you said how you were the only game in town. Now there are many more CrossFit gyms in your area. How do you get your affiliate to stand out?
Tim: 29:48 – Yeah, I mean, the two biggest things you know, again is like the coaching and community, the experience in the gym, like you want that to speak volumes. And then what we’ve done a lot more recently is to try and, OK, how do we convey this message through our website and through our social media channels. So making sure that, you know, our social media is highlighting how diverse our membership is, highlighting how many walks of life people come from, you know, the small victories and kind of why they love coming to the gym because the members who are in the gym, you know, they’re our biggest proponents. Like they know how successful CrossFit is. They know how much they love being here. So what we’ve really tried to do recently is make sure that we’re adequately communicating that message to the general public who don’t know that and they can see, you know, like it’s not us talking about ourselves, it’s our clients being like, “Hey, I love this place and this is why I love it.” And I guess that’s been kind of the biggest piece in helping us stand out in the local—not just local CrossFit community, but the local gym community. In our mind, we’re not competing with just CrossFit gyms, we’re competing with globo gyms. You know, it’s like if you want to work out, we want your business and you know, so that’s making sure that like we’re using our current clientele to show everybody just how awesome what we’re doing is,
Sean: 31:01 – You’ve mentioned social media a couple times and how that’s such a good tool for you. What did you make of the move by CrossFit HQ to just basically shut down all of their social media?
Tim: 31:13 – Oh man. Honestly, that to me was like, you know, all the other things that CrossFit is doing. Like, you know, I’ve kind of been like, OK, if I take a step back and I think about it, maybe they’re doing this, maybe they’re doing that. OK. Like I get it and I kind of wrap my head around it. I just can’t see a world—like our modern-day world is, I mean, social media is pervasive to our lives, whether we like it or not. And for a large company to not have a social media presence like that is just, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not good for your brand if you’re not providing value to your clients. So, you know, as an affiliate owner, one of the good things that CrossFit did was just put the word CrossFit in people’s faces. Like, you know, more people saw the word CrossFit and then they would Google it and they would look for our gym. Like so, you know, they would inadvertently help drive us clients, you know, it’s our job to find their own clients obviously, but like more is better. The more people see the word CrossFit, the more likely they are to one day maybe try it. So now the fact that there’s just no messaging coming out from CrossFit on social media is like, again, it’s just, CrossFit is less in people’s faces and I don’t think that’s a good thing for them and I don’t think it’s being helpful for us either as the affiliate.
Sean: 32:27 – How have you dealt with that?
Tim: 32:31 – I mean, so luckily our gym’s had a period of growth over the last couple of years where we’ve been able to bring on, you know, more support staff so we have people who are, you know, helping us now run our social media channels, develop content. We have people in the gym who are dedicated to spending their time to help highlight our community and our members. And that’s been a huge help because, you know, I mean, you can only do so many things well, and you know, so like as an affiliate owner, you know, it’s like you want someone to help you specialize in the areas that really matter. So having someone doing that, dedicating many hours of their week to it, has been huge, and basically, you know, we’re just trying to replace the void. Like there’s less CrossFit content coming out from CrossFit and CrossFit Games. So we’re going to have more content coming out from CrossFit Palace and you know, we’re going to highlight our members and make sure that at least people in our local community are still seeing the word CrossFit an the word fitness every single day.
Sean: 33:28 – I had an affiliate owner asked me why he should be affiliated in this current landscape and I really didn’t know how to answer that question. How would you answer that question?
Tim: 33:40 – Ah, interesting. So fun aside. So we’re actually, my business partner and I are opening a second fitness studio in Ithaca. So we will actually have two gyms. We will have CrossFit Palace and we will have Palace fitness.
Sean: 33:54 – Interesting.
Tim: 33:56 – So yeah—we’re going to be applying the same concept of community-focused fitness with proper coaching, but we’re going to be using different programming. We’re going to be using different focuses and classes, different environments, different vibe, things like that. You know, and part of it is for us, it’s just a business expansion. You know, it’s like we captured and we have a very strong CrossFit base in Ithaca where we are, but there’s a lot of people who, good, bad or indifferent, you know, they just don’t want to do CrossFit. Like they just don’t want to, you know, it’s like maybe they don’t want to learn how to snatch, they have no desire how to Olympic lifts. So for us, we’re trying to cater to that segment of the population that doesn’t want to do CrossFit but wants to work out and they want to do functional movements. And again, we’re going to apply a lot of the principles that we know have been very successful in our affiliate over the years. But kind of circling back to like, why be an affiliate? You know, I think there’s the CrossFit training methodology is something that we believe in wholeheartedly. And I there are still a lot of good vibes around what CrossFit is and what it’s developed into over
the last 10 years. And I think, you know, 10-plus years. And I think that’s basically, you know, on the grand scale of things, affiliate fees are pretty cheap and you know, if you can make a name for yourself and you have a good, you know, you have a good message and a good, you know, execution of the CrossFit methodology, then there’s a lot to be gained by being a CrossFit gym, because as of now, you know, this might change depending on, you know, what craziness comes out from headquarters next, but as of right now, there’s still a lot of value to the word CrossFit. Like there’s a lot of goodwill and you know, kind of intoned with that for a lot of people and a lot of people who want to start exercising. So as long as that’s the case, I think there’s a lot of benefit to being across a CrossFit affiliate because, you know, people want to do CrossFit. They think it’s a cool, unique training style and they want to do that. So as long as that, you know, that sentiment is still there in the general public, then I think it’s still worth people’s time to be a CrossFit affiliate. But you know, who knows if and when that may change.
Sean: 35:54 – What do the next five years look like for you and CrossFit Palace?
Tim: 35:59 – So I mean, right now we’re, so we’re opening, we have CrossFit Palace and we have a business model that we’re really happy with. We have an internship process for our coaches that we’re stoked with. We have a great community that’s constantly growing. You know, we’re growing now more than we have in the last seven years. So we’re, you know, things are going really, really well as a CrossFit affiliate and we’re excited to kind of continue that. You know, this, this Palace Fitness venture for us is going to be something really exciting because you know, it’s going to be tapping into a new section of the population, so we’re going to be offering recovery classes that are yoga, foam rolling, trigger-point focused. We’re going to be offering women’s wellness classes, we’re gonna be offering yoga classes in addition to, you know, kind of core fitness classes as well. So that’s something we’re really excited about to grow this second fitness studio and kind of create a community of like-minded individuals there in non-CrossFit way. So I mean that’s from an affiliate standpoint, that’s where we’re looking at. And then my partner and I are also looking at potentially opening another CrossFit affiliate under the same name in New Jersey where he lives now. And you know, so who knows, there’s a lot of things potentially going on from an affiliate standpoint.
Sean: 37:05 – What is the one big piece of advice that you would give anybody who’s either looking to start an affiliate or sort of take his or her affiliate to the next level?
Tim: 37:15 – I think the biggest thing and like the most common flaw in what I see like other affiliate owners doing, I’m very lucky, so I have a background in accounting. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in there, you know, went to business school and my business partner has a management degree. So it’s like we have a very strong business mindset. We understand a lot of these concepts. Marketing, advertising, you know like accounting systems, running payroll reports, like understanding the numbers of your gym, and a lot of the affiliates don’t do that. And you can get away with it for a little while. Like you can get away with the basics of just really caring about your client, about making sure they have the best hour of your day, but that’s only gonna take you so far. At a certain point, you know you need to start looking at the bigger picture of like how we’re marketing ourselves, how are we branding ourselves? What’s our P&L look like? What’s our growth look like? How are our expenses being managed? Like at some point you have to look at the affiliate as a business, as much as you want to look at it from the softer side of like, oh, this is a community place where people come to have fun and smile and high five. And like that’s what it is when you’re in the gym. But you also have to take time to step out of the gym and look at it from a very analytical, black and white perspective of like, what can we do better and how can we get this message out better?
Sean: 38:25 – You are an avid reader. What are some of your favorite books that you’ve ever read regardless of subject?
Tim: 38:34 – Oh man. So I’m actually, I love philosophy. So I’ve read Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.” That’s definitely one of my favorite, like quick reads, like, you know, pick it up, read one or two pages, like, you know, kind of meditate on it, think on it. So that’s definitely a go-to of mine. And then I’m a big history nerd, so there’s an author, Susan Wise Bauer, who’s written like these massive anthologies of history. And her books, “A History of the Ancient World” and “History of the Medieval World” are probably two of my favorites. And then I love a good nerdy book, so I’m a huge like Brandon Sanderson fan. Anything he writes is awesome. Yeah, he’s who I’m on a kick on right now. But yeah, I have way too many.
Sean: 39:17 – What genre is that? Is that SciFi or fantasy?
Tim: 39:20 – Yeah, it’s like high fantasy. So it’s like not quite science fiction. It’s more like the nerdy swords and magic stuff.
Sean: 39:26 – Gotcha. OK. Awesome. I’ll have to check that out because I’m a big SciFi fan, but I haven’t gotten too much into the high fantasy thing, but I’m definitely willing to learn. You’re also into photography. I didn’t know that about you, but you have a page on Instagram called T-Rex in the Wild. What is it about photography that appeals to you?
Tim: 39:46 – Honestly, so like, I kind of like as this CrossFit journey kind of panned out and we were getting more opportunities to travel and things like that. Like, you know, just kind of seeing how beautiful the world is. I was like, man, my iPhone is not good enough. So I bought a camera and you know, I was like, all right, like I want to try to learn photography. And for me it was something new. You know, I’m a very OCD person, so you know, very detail oriented and I think there’s something really satisfying about, you know, learning how to manipulate a camera, use various settings to get the effect that you want in the photo. And so that combined with just like my desire and my passion to travel, it kind of made sense to me to this be this new hobby that I could, you know, kind of pursue. And then there’s also like editing photos is really fun, you know, getting to like be a little bit more artistic for me because again, I’m generally a very analytical person so to kind of have a little bit of fun with colors and you know, shading and things like that. Just kind of like the creative process. I kind of fell in love with it. So it’s been the last like year or so I’ve really gotten into photography. It’s just a real hobby and passion of mine.
Sean: 40:46 – I know you also love to travel. Where is a place that you would like to go that you have yet to visit?
Tim: 40:53 – Oh, what’s up next? Switzerland is very high on my list. I love mountains. My wife and I went to Banff out in western Canada, the Canadian Rockies last fall and that was like trip of a lifetime. So we definitely want to get over to Switzerland. New Zealand is definitely on my nerd list because Lord of the Rings was filmed there and I have to go see it. And then at some point I promised my wife I would take her to a beach and we would not do an adventure vacation, so we’re definitely, we went to Greece for our honeymoon. So getting back to the Mediterranean, maybe something like Italy, that’s definitely on the list as well. Kind of stay coastal, stay beachy, drink wine, you know, do some normal human stuff.
Sean: 41:31 – Nice. Finally, you’re going to make your third trip to the CrossFit Games here coming up in about a month. What needs to happen for you to say, you know what, that was a success for me.
Tim: 41:42 – You know, I mean I think on a human level I would just like to execute the weekend to my capacity. You
know, like I said last year there was a lot of hiccups for me and that lack of execution really kind of left a sour taste in my mouth and that was really frustrating. So, you know, at the end of the day, if I execute every event as well as I can and to the game plan that is right for me at the time, I will be happy on a human level. But you know, that being said, I want to have my best finish yet and I want to be competing on Sunday. You know, like that’s the external goal is to be in the stadium on Sunday competing with the 10 or 20 fittest men on earth.
Sean: 42:20 – Tim, I certainly wish you best of luck. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Good luck at the Games and good luck with CrossFit Pallas and I hope everything works out for you there.
Tim: 42:29 – Thanks so much man. I appreciate it was awesome chatting.
Sean: 42:32 – Big thanks to Tim Paulson for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate it. If you want to follow him on Instagram, you can find him @trexpaulson and his photography page is @trex.in.the.wild. Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland isbrought to you by Two-Brain Business; for free business tips and advice, sign up for our mailing list at Two-Brain business.com. Thanks again everybody for listening. I’m Sean Woodland and we’ll see you next time.