Jody Shows His True Colors

This past weekend, four of our Spartan SGX athletes went down to the Central Florida Beast weekend.

Our man Jody Darren Wolford, 56 years young, decided to take on the Spartan Sprint the day after his Beast. And he did incredible!

Not only did he finish 6th out of 34 in his age group, but he did so while stopping to help other athletes get through obstacles along the course.

It’s just so typical of this guy to jump in and lend a helping hand, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have him on our team.

Jody works his butt off in the mornings as an integral part of our Conviction Kettlebell Club, and attends as many of our Spartan SGX workouts as he can. He’s always asking questions and refuses to settle for “good enough”.

Jody dedicated himself to getting healthy this year, and after losing over 50 lbs, competing in several running and obstacle races, 5 Spartan Races, and his heart warming efforts during the Food Bank Beast, he has become an inspiration to us all!

Thanks for being who you are, Jody!

2017 Food Bank Beast

The 2017 Food Bank Beast was everything we hoped for!

20 of our athletes from our Spartan SGX, Kettlebell Club, and Online programs, gathered to carry a grand total of 1,891 pounds of food all the way from our gym to the Regina & District Food Bank, 20 km away.

Undergoing challenges like these makes us who we are. These challenges provide us with the realization that we can push through anything – that our bodies will take us wherever our minds are willing to go.

The obstacles we had to overcome as a team yesterday were tough. But we managed. We grew closer together and proved to each other that, without a doubt, we are family.



Jacquelynn Crushes Her First Half-Marathon

Our Spartan Race team had a really great weekend across multiple events, but today I wanted to highlight one individual in particular.

Jacquelynn shared some statistics with me after completing her first half-marathon this past Sunday that blew me away.

About one month before she started training with us, Jacquelynn went for what she considered a long run at just under 5km. Her average pace for this run was 7:43 per km. Not bad.

Fast forward nine months to the 2017 Queen City Marathon.

After training with us three times per week since January, back when 5km was a long run, Jacquelynn fearlessly took on the 21.1 km half-marathon and finished with an average pace of 6:32 per km!

Now, taking 71 seconds off her pace for a 5km would have been incredible in just 9 months. But improving her pace that much, and maintaining it for 4x as long is unheard of. Unbelievable.

How did she do this? Through dedication, hard work, and her commitment to a training plan built around improving strength, speed, and endurance.

Jacquelynn focused on becoming a better athlete, and through that, became a better runner.

Proud of you, Jacquelynn! Thank you for trusting us with your training!

No Time? No Equipment? No Problem!

We recently partnered up with the Saskatchewan Science Centre to help promote their new visiting exhibit – BODY WORLDS RX.

In this video, Riley walks Ryan through a quick and easy workout that can be done almost anywhere.

While Ryan and Riley use rocks in the video, this same workout can be done with a sandbag, kettlebells, dumbbells, or whatever else you have available to you.

Never let a lack of equipment keep you from training!

Prevent Burn-Out and Injuries With Auto-Regulation

I was feeling pretty good yesterday and was looking forward to a great workout. After a solid warm-up of loaded carries and light mobility movements I was ready to rock. Focused, limber, strong, and moving well.

And it was at that exact moment that my sons’ school called.

Immediately, I went from ready to crush my workout to, “Oh no, I hope everyone is ok”. From focused and ready to rock, to ready to take on a medical emergency in a split second.

As it turned out, my kids were ok. One of my boys was being a goof at recess and his teacher wanted to fill me in on what happened and why he wouldn’t be having recess the rest of the week. While I was relieved that everyone was fine, I was a bit upset my son made a bad decision.

So to recap, in a matter of 40 seconds I went from:

  1. Focused and ready to attack my workout, to
  2. Concerned and taken aback, to
  3. Relieved, but disappointed.

Think I was still ready to crush that workout? Not even close.

But that’s life. We’re constantly being thrown curve-balls. Nothing is ever perfect and we shouldn’t expect it to be.

Having lost focus and intensity, I knew I couldn’t go through with my workout as originally planned. I’m sure I could have gotten through it no problem but I didn’t think the risk of injury (from a lack of focus) and the additional stress to my nervous system (after the roller coaster it just went through) would be worth it.

And as I had just told our Spartan SGX crew the night before – the most important workout is tomorrow’s.

So rather than risk the next day’s workout, or the one(s) after that, I decided to tone it back a bit. I kept the volume low and spent more time on tumbling and mobility than I had originally planned.

Live to fight another day.

Auto-Regulation

This concept of changing a workout mid-session is known as Auto-regulation. And it’s the best way I know to prevent burn-out and injuries. Through listening to our bodies and adjusting on the fly, we are able to stay within our limits, keep things fresh, and stay healthy.

Basically, what you do is change your workout (i.e. volume and intensity) based on how you actually feel, rather than just doing what your program calls for.

I’ve done structured workouts in the past. I’ve written them (and still do). I believe there is value in trying to follow intelligently designed programs. But it’s important to remember that life isn’t always going to allow for us to follow them exactly as prescribed.

Trying to set a personal record or lift a heavy weight when you’re having an off day just isn’t a good idea. This is typically when injuries happen.

It’s a pretty simple concept. The most difficult part, though, is having the guts to follow through with it.

It’s easy for us to go through a workout and just do what the training plan says to do. When we train with a group or a busy gym, we’re worried about what others will think of us.

No one wants to be seen as weak or wimping out. Psychologically it can be hard to take a step back and stick with a light weight, run a bit slower, or just focus on mobility. Sometimes we feel like we cheated ourselves if we don’t do all 8 prescribed intervals or lift 80% of our 1RM for three sets of five.

But often times, a little bit less is exactly what we need. One step back, two steps forward, as they say.

How We Incorporate Auto-Regulation In Our Training

Sometimes our Morning Warriors or Youth Athlete warm-ups last over twenty minutes. We do a variety of loaded carries, animal movements, bodyweight work, and light weight training. The length and intensity of the warm-up is based on what I see and hear.

Are people squatting to proper depth?
Are they breathing heavy after just a couple bear crawls?
Are they conducting their suitcase carries walking tall and straight?
Are they taking and having fun, or still trying to wake up?

The answers to these questions determine not only what we do for a warm-up, but also what we do for a workout that day. I always have an idea of what the workout will be, but nothing is written in stone (or dry-erase marker, rather) until after that warm-up.

Our Spartan SGX program works a little different.

In this program we have multiple class times, as well as online athletes all across Canada. This makes it difficult for me to auto-regulate anyone’s workout. So instead, when appropriate, we provide three different options for the workout of the day. If someone isn’t feeling great, they can go down a level. If they’re feeling awesome and want to push themselves, they’re more than welcome to try that next level up.

We also encourage our athletes to listen to their body and use an appropriate level of intensity for that session.

How To Incorporate Auto-Regulation In Your Training

Auto-Regulation is not an excuse to skip a workout or be lazy. I’m not saying it’s alright to miss training just because you don’t feel like doing it. Instead, on days where you aren’t thrilled to workout, start the warm-up and see what happens. You might discover that you were just having a bad day and a good, hard training session will set you straight. Or maybe you’ll decide to run a bit slower or lift a bit lighter because you just aren’t feeling it. But skipping training all together isn’t necessarily the answer.

“Fatigue or stress are no excuse for skipping a training session.”
– Pavel Tsatsouline

On the other hand, there will also be days where weights feel light and running feels effortless. It’s equally as important to take advantage of these days as it is to respect the days you’re not feeling it. Go for that new record and be proud of your accomplishment. You deserve it.

Just keep in mind – you’re not invincible and will come back down to Earth soon enough.

As World renowned strength coach Dan John says, out of every five training sessions, one will be terrible, three will be “alright”, and one will be amazing. Once in a while we string two or three fantastic workouts in a row, but with that comes the inevitable two or three terrible ones in a row too.

Don’t let it get to you. Training is a roller-coaster ride. The sooner you come to grips with that the better.

Key Takeaways

Auto-Regulation is a simple idea, but an important one. My hope is that you take three things away from this post:

  1. Life happens, it will affect your training, and it’s ok. Using a lighter weight or running a bit slower some days doesn’t make you any less of a bad-ass. It makes you a smarter, healthier athlete.
  2. Following a plan is good, but keep in mind that training ebbs and flows. Just because a training plan says you should train hard or go easy doesn’t mean you have to. Some days will be great, some not so great. Do what you can that day, accept it, and move on.
  3. Staying withing your limits through Auto-Regulation is the best way to train as often as you’d like while staying injury-free and preventing burn-out. Learn to listen to your body and it will reward you greatly.

Montana Beast 2017 Race Recap

Over 20 km of rough terrain, more than 30 challenging obstacles, and just under 3,000 feet of elevation gain made the 2017 Montana Beast another unforgettable experience.

Fifteen of our athletes made the trek down to Bigfork for the Beast this year. Our team did amazing as everyone finished with big smiles, lifelong memories, and a new sense of accomplishment.

A few highlights from the weekend:

  • Team #TrainWithConviction came in 12th overall. We would have finished 2nd overall had a couple of our athletes not forgotten to join our race day team, but what can you do? 30 Burpee penalty coming their way :p
  • Matt Yarnton and Nick Dalrymple both broke the 3 hour Beast mark, coming in at 2:55 and 2:57. Clay Bakke was just shy, coming in at 3:05.
  • Cynthia Fiori and Ara Steininger finished tied for 7th in their age group in Elite with a time of 3:50
  • Ara also ran the Sprint on Sunday and finished 16th overall in Elite Female
  • Amanda Isted improved from 71st in her age group last year, to 22nd this year
  • Courtney Ellis-Toddington, Divyesh Patel, Jacquelynn Dobson-Brown, Samantha Paisley, and Tiff Hersak all finished their first Beast races
  • Cynthia and her husband Justin took on the Beast Saturday morning and the Hurricane Heat later that night
  • Adnan Khandoker, Ara, Clay, Matt, and Nick all completed their first Spartan Trifecta of 2017

After a long day on the mountain, our athletes drove in to Kalispell to help set a new Guinness World Record for most people doing burpees at once. And while we were all tired and starving, it was worth it.

A few more thoughts from this weekend…

Twisted Ankles

The terrain in Bigfork is tough on a good day, but the fact that it had rained for what seemed like weeks leading up to the race made it an even bigger challenge.

I’ve never seen so many twisted ankles in my life. Everyone, and I mean literally every single person I talked to, said that they twisted, tweaked, or sprained their ankle out on the course.

While nearly everyone twisted their ankle, some were able to bounce back and keep on going while others were forced to slow right down. If you were one of the thousands with a damaged ankle during this race, I would suggest throwing some ankle rotations into your daily regimen. For an added bonus, do your ankle rotations while in the Bird-Dog position.

Slip Wall

The Slip Wall was actually a challenge for once. Not because it was slippery, but because they switched from a long rope to one just a couple of feet long. If you did not sprint up that wall, attacking with all that you had, you weren’t getting over.

People struggled to get up that wall, and I loved it – Obstacles should be tough, not a minor inconvenience.

Walking

Obviously there is a lot of walking that takes place during a Beast. There was tons of it in Montana.

I have to wonder, though, was everyone walking because they were truly exhausted, or because they saw other people walking…

 

With Montana in the books, it’s time for our athletes to buckle down and get ready for the Vancouver and Red Deer weekends.

Over the next few way’s we’ll be Running, Lifting, Carrying, and Climbing our way to the best version of ourselves!

These Two Rings

Earlier today I came across this photo from two years ago. It’s from the day we put the very first set of rings up in our garage. My wife thought I was crazy…. I kind of thought I was, too.

We weren’t a business. Just some friends that liked working out together. We’d do bodyweight circuits, taking turns on the fancy rings, and pushed each other to get better.

Twenty-four months later, our now fully licensed garage has become something much more meaningful.

This simple garage has become a place where people can come to escape the stress and headaches of their day to day lives. A place where busy professionals, parents, students, and kids can turn themselves into athletes. A place where people can focus on themselves, and push to become better than they were the day before.

We’ve seen people lose fat and gain muscle like you wouldn’t believe. Kids have become bigger, stronger, and more confident in themselves. We’ve had over a dozen World Championship qualifying athletes train in this garage. People in their mid 30’s have gotten in the best shape of their lives. Grown adults have gotten off medications, drastically improved their health profile, and completely changed their lives.

And it all started with these two rings.

Our New Book is Out, and It’s Terrible

Our latest book – “Run, Lift, Carry, Climb” – has been out for about two months now and sales have been pretty good. It actually became a #1 Bestseller in two different categories on Amazon.ca back in March.

The thing is, though, like our first book “Predator“, “Run, Lift, Carry, Climb” is a terrible book.

I know this, because I wrote it.

It’s not that the workouts in these book are bad or that the nutrition advice in “Predator” doesn’t work. Quite the opposite.

These are the exact workouts that helped over 70% of our Spartan SGX athletes qualify for the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships last year. The exercise and nutrition advice in these books absolutely works.

I say these books are terrible because as far as books go, they are.

They’re short and contain no story or narrative. I’m sure they’re filled with grammatical and formatting errors that I didn’t catch. They probably read more like poorly written brochures than books. And I’m ok with that.

I don’t mind if someone critiques my writing style. I can handle someone saying my book “sucks”…. heck, I agree with them. I know I’m not a good author. But I’d like to be a good one in the future.

And so I could sit back and lie to myself saying I don’t have time to write a book. I can make excuses and say, “I don’t know where to start”. I could come up with a list of a hundred different reasons why I shouldn’t write a book or tell myself I’ll do it “one day”.

Instead, I decided to just get started and learn along the way.

Sure, there have been some hiccups along the way, but I want to be a good author so I need to start writing and publishing. This is a much better approach than waiting until I’ve read every article, watched every video, and listened to every podcast about writing books.

The only way to get good at something is to start doing it.

And wouldn’t you know it – after I started actually writing, good things started to happen.

Both books have become #1 Bestsellers and I’ve touched the lives of people literally all over the world. I’ve sold books in more countries than I’ve ever been to and have received some pretty great feedback and reviews. So I’m going to keep writing books and keep getting better in the process.

I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be as an author, but the only way to get there is to keep putting time in.

Cool story, Riley, but how does it help me?

Here’s what I hope you take from this.

If you want something, or to change your life in some way, you need to just get started. Don’t worry about how good or bad you are at something because you’ll get better. You don’t need to be good to start.

Dedicate yourself to the process. Find a coach, mentor, or teacher that can help you. Give yourself permission to fail along the way and understand that it’s part of the process.

I think you’ll find that by just getting started, good things will happen.

As Paulo Coelho wrote in his classic “The Alchemist“, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Maybe you want to learn a new language or become a better public speaker. Maybe you want to get in better shape or run a Spartan Race.

Whatever it is you hope yo accomplish, you just need to get started.

40 Pounds in 14 Weeks

Congratulations to our athlete Ryan hit the 40 pounds lost mark today!

Ryan started our Spartan SGX Lite program in January, just 14 weeks ago, and has trained with us twice a week since then.

He’s stronger, faster, lighter, and healthier because of his hard work and dedication.

Ryan is a huge asset to our team. He works hard, pushes himself every workout, and is an inspiration to all of us. This guy just refuses to give up. And it’s awesome.

Keep doing what you’re doing, Ryan. You’re going to crush that Spartan Race in July!

Why “Strong is the New Sexy” is a Problem

Instagram is making me sick lately.

Every “fitness” account is filled with half naked people flexing their guns or sticking their butt out.

If these pictures were posted in any other context they’d be deemed inappropriate. But because the account has “fitness” in the name, or there are a few #fitfam or #fitspo hashtags in there, it somehow becomes okay.

I don’t get this.

In defending these posts people will say they’re just proud of their body and are trying to “inspire others”. Frankly, I think that’s garbage. We all know why these photos get posted. Their goal is not to help others.

A lot of these posts have captions like “Strong is the New Sexy” or something along those lines.

And I believe this is a problem.

“Fitness” and “Sexy” Are Two Different Things

I get it. For years we (especially women) were told that we had to be skinny to be attractive. We were sold on the idea that big was bad and small was good.

So yes, it’s nice to see that we’ve changed our minds on this and that the focus has become on building lean, muscular bodies. That’s not my issue – I believe this is a fantastic goal and should be almost everyone’s focus as we age.

My issue, then, is that we are still associating our health and fitness with “sexy”.

And it breaks my heart.

I believe this idea that being fit means being sexy is the reason why the fitness industry is so messed up right now.

I believe it’s the reason why people look for short cuts, try crash diets, and jump from program to program.

When the goal is something non-quantifiable like “to be sexy”, it’s pretty hard to find a clear path to achieving it. So we try diet after diet, workout routine after workout routine and end up going nowhere.

Maybe you lost a few pounds. Maybe your waist shrunk. Maybe you can run a bit farther… but are you “sexy”?

Hard to say. Better try something new.

What’s been lost is what really makes pursuing fitness a worthwhile goal – the improvements we see in every aspect of our life.

We aren’t talking about living pain free and being full of energy. The fact that eating right and exercising are the true fountain of youth never get mentioned. Posts on how fitness makes friendships and family ties stronger are few and far between. Nobody is talking about the increase in self confidence or life lessons fitness provides.

I can’t remember ever seeing a social media post that read, “Finally got that promotion! Big shout-out to my kettlebell for teaching me patience and perseverance!”.

Instead, we get bathroom selfies.

Stop Worrying About How You Look

Health and fitness are not about how you look. Fitness is so much more than physical appearance, and we need to stop equating the two.

Fitness is about living a better all around life. Not how others perceive you.

Sure, most fit, healthy people look good, but not everyone that looks good is fit or healthy. They are not the same thing.

Exercising with the goal of “looking better” is meaningless. You can’t quantify it, there’s no way of knowing if you’re on track, and you’ll never be happy or healthy.

You need to stop thinking about your fitness journey as a way to be “sexy”. And once you do, the results will just come naturally. I promise.

In our Spartan SGX programs we put zero focus on weight loss, muscle gain, or anything like that. We just try to get better – try to become better athletes – and the rest takes care of itself.

Stop worrying about your weight. Stop examining yourself in the mirror every day. Stop following and comparing yourself to weirdos on Facebook and Instagram.

You’re better than all that.

Pick a smart, healthy goal and attack it with everything you have. Try to get stronger, run farther, do more push-ups, or lift more weight. These are goals you can measure and actually achieve.

Enjoy the process and just try to get better at whatever it is you want to do.

Want to be able to carry groceries, pick up your kids, move furniture with ease, and just feel strong? I’d start by checking out these resources (and yes, it’s ok for women to lift heavy weights):

Want to try jogging and maybe run a charity 5k? Think about starting here:

Want to just stop waking up in pain each day? These can help:

Or maybe you really want to have an adventure and try something like a Spartan Race. I’d suggest training with us, but these are good options too:

Whatever you decide to try, whatever goal you choose, commit to it and make it your sole focus. Write a list of all the reasons why achieving this goal is important to you and find a way to make it happen.

But please, once you’re in great shape and have all the confidence in the world, don’t go posting half-naked selfies. Do something positive with your new level of fitness instead.