Muscles don’t grow without stress.

Math problems aren’t solved without erasers.

Endurance isn’t established without pain.

Character cannot be made without hardship.

Stress, hardship, pain, toil. These are all forms of suffering.

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The New Year is upon us.

How will you leverage your mistakes and past failures from liabilities into assets?

The New Year is significant because it represents new beginnings. We tend to forget though, that each new day brings new beginnings as well.

If you can keep a perspective that ALL HARDSHIPS are gifts, that they will surely pass, and that they are there to teach us new skills and learn more about ourselves, we can dedicate ourselves to forward motion, one step at a time.

Failure is a teacher. In the end, you have “more data about what works and what doesn’t.”

You have the power to control your thoughts. Once you commit mentally, actions follow.

Don’t let past mistakes ground you. Use them for what they are; a learning experience, and let them go. You can’t move forward if you’re always looking back.

“Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.” – Shane Caniglia

“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Here’s to making 2014 and every day of your life exceptional, as it should be.

Never Let It Rest,
Brendon

I was tired.

I didn’t want to train.

Instead of accepting the fact that I was tired, I started making up stories in my head. I got on the rower for my warmup and kept thinking, “I’m too tired. I’ve had a hard week. I can take it easy. Maybe I shouldn’t train today.”

Being tired was my excuse for staying in my comfort zone.

And then I became aware of what I was constantly saying to myself…”I’m too tired…I’m too tired”. It became a self fulfilling prophesy!

Once I became aware that I was actually entertaining my demons rather than exorcising them (ha, lame pun), I immediately became stronger. I made a choice to listen to them or not.

I thought about Sebastian Coe, who’s father used to tell him, “No matter how fast the race is, you can always go faster.”

It reminded me of the 20x factor.

The premise of the 20x factor was developed by Navy SEAL Marc Divine. You are capable of 20x more than you think you are. It’s centered around your belief system, behaviors and attitude.

Belief System

Our belief system is based upon our own personal experiences and background. We all see the world through a different set of eyes. It’s important to remember that we all have a decision in how we view each situation. Creating self awareness in how we handle tough decisions or conflicts can give us insight into the best method of resolving them. Monitor your internal dialogue to gain some insight on your hard drive’s belief system.

“Most weak beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies because the belief leads to behavior that reinforces the belief…” Marc Divine.

Behaviors

Behaviors are a product of your belief system and thus create your habits. Monitoring your belief system (internal dialogue) will inevitably shed some light on what your habits are and why you do them! Behavior factors are the connection b/t mind and body. It’s where the rubber meets the road.

Often times, changing your behavioral system will change your belief system. Getting in shape, eating the right food, losing weight, gaining muscle foster a hard work ethic and yield confidence in oneself. Doing things that you weren’t physically able to do before can have terrific positive effects on your internal dialogue.

However, your attitude determines the balance b/t the two.

Attitude

Your attitude, whether positive or negative, happy or sad, determines how you interpret the world. Do you play the victim, where bad things ALWAYS happen to only you? Or do you choose to see situations as merely life experiences, neither good nor bad? Depending on your attitude, it will shape your actions/reactions (behaviors) and your belief in yourself and others (belief system). Again, your internal dialogue is a great indicator.

One reason I love martial arts (inparticular Taekwondo) is that it teaches discipline of mind and body. The 5 tenets of Taekwondo are: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirt. Two of those things are pretty much the same thing!

Rule of thumb: Attitude. If you possess a “don’t give up” attitude, anything is possible!

“Often times the race is not given to the swift or the strong, but to he who endures till the end.”

Never Let It Rest,
Brendon

“Coach, I went on an 8 mile hike with my girlfriend the other day and my legs are really tired. Do I have to squat tomorrow or can we move it to Tuesday? Sorry, Coach!”

This was an email I got from one of my athletes recently and it’s funny how many different emotions it elicited from me. My initial reaction was, “Suck it up, we’re squattin’!!” Next, it was, “Why is he apologizing?” Then, it was “Poor guy…he thinks I’m going to be mad!” I went from feeling angry, to remorseful, to apologetic, to almost sad. It was a rainbow of emotions!

This interaction brought up some very important experiences for me. One, training should NEVER consume you to the point that you can’t enjoy the rest of your life (to a point, an Olympic caliber athlete is an exception on some, not all, notes. However see point two). Two, if you are truly living your VALUES (and you have taken the time to identify them), there will never be a struggle of what “I should be doing” vs. what “I want to be doing.” Meaning, everything you do is because you really want to do it. No apologies necessary! Third, sometimes your values may “bump” into each other. In other words, every training day isn’t going to be “peaches n’ cream.” It takes work (both in your own perspective and effort!)

Live your life and Take the hit

1. Training should never consume you to the point that you can’t enjoy the rest of your life.

As an athlete who has competed at the highest levels of his sport, I am guilty as charged. I wanted to make an Olympic Team and let all my other dreams and wishes fall by the wayside. Before long, I was resentful, angry and tired.

2. Live your Values

After one takes the time to identify his/her values, he/she will have better clarity around potential decisions. In our athletes case, he made a decision to go hiking based upon the value he placed on his significant other and the time they spend together.

However, he also values his fitness and the progress he has seen in the gym. Ironically, valuing fitness and actually using it by going out for a hike clashed in this case.

3. Sometimes values “bump” into each other

When I stay up late finishing emails, addressing athlete’s concerns, spending time with my daughter or significant other, it’s easy for me to complain about how tired I am during the next day’s training program. One thing comes to mind:

“Take the hit. You are living your life according to your values. Accept the consequences or rearrange your priorities.”

So instead of complaining, I put a smile on my face, pick up the barbell (maybe groan a little bit) and go to work.

In our athlete’s case, he was a little sore after frolicking through the woods with his loved one. Does he regret it? (Well maybe at the moment he’s at the bottom of his fifth set of squats…hehe). The answer is no, he doesn’t. He made that decision because spending time together and nurturing his relationship is aligned with his values of providing and creating a family someday. Therefore, my answer to him is, “Take the hit. We’re squattin’ tomorrow!”

Obviously discretion has to be used in this case. If he were to tell me they spent the night out and didn’t get back until the wee hours of the morning, I would have told him to take the day off and come back tomorrow. However, if this is a reoccurring situation, his goals and values are out of line and need to be reassessed.

This brings us to my last point, which summarizes everything all up in one. Some days (most days for me more recently) training isn’t going to be “super awesome”. Some days you are really not going to feel like lifting. Some days you are really NOT going to feel like going for a run. And somedays, actually sticking to your values and HONORING them takes a little extra work.

You’ll know you are on the right path when the immediate outcome after finishing a specific task is gratitude for honoring yourself.

Never Let It Rest,
Brendon

We recently kicked off our annual Turkey Challenge in the gym. This 6 week team competition gives our members to a chance to dial in their nutrition while receiving two more workouts per week in addition to goal training and value identification. For most of them, it will be an intense 6 weeks!

Along with determining each athletes values, one of our questions we ask is “What is your internal dialogue?”

This is a very powerful and insightful question!

The answers vary of course and while some of them are down right funny, they all offer a glimpse
into my athlete’s mind.

Coach and Navy Seal Marc Divine describes it as the “background of obviousness”. This is the little chatter we carry around with us from day to day that governs every one of our actions. It forms our habits, influences the decisions we make and ultimately affects our confidence and self esteem. Be wary of this little voice!!

Are you aware of this little voice? How often during the day do you take to reflect on exactly what you are thinking? Most of us just run on auto pilot, busily scurrying from one task to the next, worrying, planning, solving, operating along the way. I am not exempt.

So, it is not surprising that this question, “What is your internal dialogue?”, was left blank or not completely filled out by nearly all of my athletes. Actually, none of them answered the questions properly!

The correct answers are terribly revealing. If we were honest with ourselves, I’m sure some if not most of them are probably not very nice.

They can be slightly different for varying occasions, however, most of them will have a similar ring to it.

“I’m too slow.”

“I suck. I’ll never get better.”

“This is hard. I can’t do it.”

“I’m tired. I’ll do it later.”

“I’ll never lose any weight.”

“I’ll never have any money.”

“I have no will power.”

My personal favorite, “I don’t have any time!”

CrossFit and all of it’s different scenario’s for challenging us physically, brings out the best (or worst) in our internal dialogue rants. It’s the reason why breaking through physical barriers in the gym carry over to breaking through mental barriers. This can be said for any physical pursuit.

What’s true about ALL of these statements is the fact WE bring them to fruition, whether or not the statement itself is true or not.

For instance, I have to constantly battle and monitor my internal voice that says, “I don’t have the time.” For years, this was my story and it robbed me of the simple pleasures of life. I shamed myself for spending time with my daughter when I could have been working or “getting things done”, whatever that means. The result was a level of anxiety that wasn’t readily apparent until I slowed down to identify it.

While I have made huge improvements, it’s still a work in progress and most likely something I will always have to be conscience of.

This is no different than my own athletes who’s internal dialogue is worrying about money or eating the wrong foods.

If we really dug a little deeper, we would find a different internal dialogue, one that actually is at the helm of our internal ship.

That’s a scary thought! Our background of obviousness is powerful motivator in our lives that determines how we view ourselves in the world around us. It can be tremendously uplifting or depressing.

Whatever it is, positive or negative, it will ultimately shape you into the person you become, whether you know it or not.

One of my roles as a coach is help my athletes identify this internal dialogue and in the process, identify their values to make them the best possible athlete, mom, dad, husband, wife, person etc they can be! Identifying is just part of the process though. Working on breaking down negative beliefs and replacing them with positive ones are the key to fullfillment in life and ultimately determine success in our pursuits.

So, what are your internal dialogue’s? Take a moment to reflect on different scenarios or decisions you have made during the day. Can you recognize any that are consistent?

Take some time to reflect. I’d love to hear some comments on what your internal dialogue looks like.

Never Let It Rest,
Brendon

Reading this past week, I was inspired by a recent blog post by Zak Evanesh, a well known wrestling and S&C coach out of New Jersey. The video he posted was in regards to “mental fortitude” and how it will ultimately determine the success of an individual athlete.

The video is about 10min long and is worth watching. It certainly rang an old bell for me.

To summarize, champion wrestler Cary Kolat goes on to explain the necessary qualities it takes to be the best. It requires drive and the ability to get back up after being beaten.

However, his mental fortitude didn’t come from the common thought trait of “eating lightening and crapping thunder.”

Sure every excellent athlete must have that factor. But this is much easier.

His “mental fortitude” comes from a simple change in perspective.

This perspective shift puts power back in to the hands and heart of each of his athletes and enables them to get back on the mat and fight like a lion, no matter what their score record may indicate.

A simple change in how one perceives things can send an individual down the road to success or forever stumbling in pain and mediocrity.

Get out of the win/loss column

Stop judging your worth on weather or not you win or lose.

I struggled with this as a young athlete for so many years. I would win and be at the top of the world. If I lost, I’d hate myself and carry it with me for weeks.

One thing was for sure, it made me a fierce competitor. I would literally “die” before I would let anyone beat me.

While the short term result of this frame of mind may portray a dominant athlete, the long term consequences are disastrous.

Inevitably, as time progressed and I stepped up to higher caliber competition, I judged myself by my Win/Loss column. This ultimately set me up for failure.

Rather than focusing on how much better I had become, I looked at the end result as the end all be all.

This did not forge me into a mentally tough athlete. In fact, it did the opposite. While I thought I was tough, my mental perspective blocked me from really competing at my best. How can you compete at your best if you’re constantly judging yourself? You can’t and I didn’t.

Before long, injuries took their toll and so did my narrow view of competing.

If drive and tenacity were never a problem for me, what could I have done differently to be successful in the long run? What could I have done to make myself “bullet proof” mentally”?

The answer is usually very simple and so it is here.

Next time you don’t live up to your own expectations, don’t judge yourself on the outcome. Judge yourself by all the other qualities that come with stepping up to meet a challenge. Have you improved? Are you 1 second faster or 1lb stronger than you were the year before? Without making excuses, choose your own perspective that gives you a foot hold to be better for next time.

Forget about the win/loss column.

Adjust your perspective and you can come out of any situation, bloodied and bruised, with a smile on your face, ready for more. Or in Casey’s team’s case, turn a losing team into a winning team, all through the power of perspective.

That to me is an unstoppable athlete.

Never Let It Rest,

Brendon

ac·cept·ance
akˈseptəns/
noun635152779284308797 635152779446498918 635152779629314397 635152779834627123
noun: acceptance; plural noun: acceptances

- willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.
“a mood of resigned acceptance”
synonyms: toleration, endurance, forbearance, sufferance

Recently my buddy, Brett Scharf, and I competed in the inaugural event of the first ever Endeavor Challenge. Excited and apprehensive at the same time, we didn’t know what to expect. All we knew is that we were in for a physical thrashing.

50 teams registered, only 39 showed up on the start line at 0600 Saturday morning.

Each team consisted of two members with varying backgrounds; CrossFitters, ultra runners, adventure racers, endurance athletes and Army Rangers were among the vast pool of experience.

Individuals were expected to carry all of their gear and most of their food for the entire weekend (except the last 10 mile foot race) and throughout the competition. That meant sleeping gear, extra pair of clothes, socks, shoes, protein bars, head lamps and 3 liters of water (their were filling stations throughout). All in all, that meant your pack could weigh anywhere from 20-30lbs. Because I’m a food hog, my pack weighed in at about 35lbs. Fortunately, it did get lighter along the way.

Our first portion of the event consisted of a ruck of undisclosed distance, somewhere b/t 12-20 miles to an 8000ft ridge and back down again. Eloquently called the “Crucible March”, we had to build a poncho raft and swim with our gear across a 200m lake at about mile 15. The last 3 miles were rolling hills to the finish where we awaited our next set of tasks. Everything must be completed as a team.

After the crucible march we went to rappelling review and mountaineering phase. Basically a rock climbing course with easy, medium and hard levels of 5.6, 5.7, 5.9 climbs. We went with a 5.7 which wasn’t bad at all. The last phase of mountaineering included a suspension traverse where competitors are ranked on how quickly they pull themselves across.

We came back from mountaineering to crush the strength event, which was basically moving heavy crap (2x ski lifts, a heavy stone, heavy tires, railroad tie, hay bale, a wooden jump box) from end of a field and back. We finished with the fastest time of the day at 7:08 with me sprinting back and forth yelling at Brett…who also cursed me the entire time. I was having fun!

The next challenge was the obstacle course which consisted of 6 obstacles of rope climbs, wall scaling, etc and then a skill building phase where teams had to use given equipment to make a ladder to scale an obstacle and find a number that sat in a bucket 20ft above the ground. We would then use that number to solve a mathematical equation to unlock a box and finish the challenge.

And then??…Land navigation for 2 hours…which is basically running through the woods (we’re still at 7K ft btw) to find as many points as possible with a map and compass. We did very well and found 4 points.

So all of that is just fluff…The race doesn’t really start until 10pm for Night Orienteering. This is where teams really started to separate. The days trials were noticeably wearing down competitors.

When the darkness falls, it’s easy to get frustrated, start feeling badly for yourself and make poor decisions. Nutrition, hydration and maintaining a positive attitude were huge parts of getting through the night in one piece. We all finished at 4am. Each team had to have a mandatory of 2 points to continue on in the competition. Through proper planning, strategy and some help from our fellow competitors, Brett and I found 3 points. Not too shabby.

We came back, happy to have the night nearly behind us and ready to lay down for some rest. But the organizers had other plans. At 4am, as a team, competitors had one hour to complete:

OPT Challenge
A. Shot put toss overhead for distance
B. Max Broad Jump
C. Max L sit time
D. 5 rounds of: 40 box jumps, 40 HR pushups, log carry 50m (as a team)
E. 5 rounds of: 15, 25, 35m sprint then 50m of burpee broad jumps (each team member does 5 rounds)

My first thought was, “How the f**** am I supposed to broad jump when I can’t even walk??” My hips and my entire body felt like the f’ing tin man from Wizard of Oz.

After a few good shot throws, I started warming up. I got the 3rd farthest throw with a 16lb ball at 27.x ft. Tied the best broad jump at a whopping 7.75 ft (grass was also wet which is why I don’t think anyone got further) and scored 25 seconds on the L sit before my entire lower body seized up and I went into convulsions. The last workouts were easy enough and as a team, Brett and I finished first in the OPT Challenge.

NOW, it was time for some sleep.

We woke up an hour and half later to, “Competitors have 20min before the start of the final run”, which was a 10mile foot race, 2mile kayak and a 70ft rappel. 20min?? I needed 20min to bandage my feet! Instead of using second skin which had previously been a miracle for the blisters on my feet, I just wrapped my feet a few times with sports tape and spat on ‘em. That oughtta be good enough. I used lots of vaseline too. I kid you not, I was limping to the start line with a packet of pnut butter in one hand, a power bar and a water bottle that was half full when they yelled go.

It took me about a mile and half before my body thawed out and started operating properly.

And then the race began….

For the next 2hrs and 40min, my body and mind operated under a set of circumstances that were for the most part, abnormal. With nearly 40miles behind me done with a pack, everything on my body ached, especially my knees from running the descents.

The road was not conducive to running quickly, with large boulders to jump up and over and slippery footing. The going was slow.

Sometimes we would walk the steep hills.

We didn’t speak much because we were all in pain. We just embraced the suck and accepted our operational status.

At a certain point, where the finish line was didn’t matter.

At that moment, when I could accept that things weren’t going to get better, with no end in sight, I could operate in any given situation (I had actually subconsciously done this during the crucible march). It was a very freeing realization in a moment of distress.

It made me think (which I had a lot of time to do) how a healthy view of acceptance can be an amazingly powerful perspective. Acceptance of what we can and can’t do (at the moment). Acceptance of what is.

Brett and I ended up finishing a very respectable 3rd place overall. In fact, if it wasn’t for the wrong turn on the last run, we would have sealed the victory. Although we were in 1st headed into the last event, our extra 2 mile error cost us the win.

We were 2 points out of 1st and 1 point out of 2nd. C’est la vie!

In the end, the Endeavor Challenge was an awesome test of teamwork, endurance and skill. It took more than just a top end CrossFitter or ultra marathoner to do well and I was excited to share in the experience with my teammate, Brett.

Hats off to the race organizers and volunteers who had a gargantuan job of setting up the courses and supplying water and aid stations for the athletes. You guys are amazing!

Thanks to all who supported us in this “Endeavor” as well including Brett’s wife, Cassandra, who helped pack all my gear at the end of race when I couldn’t walk (or see straight).

I’ll sign off with this….

The fruits of one’s labor are directly correlated to the amount of effort required to attain. The higher the effort, the bigger the reward. I walked away from this weekend feeling like I could accomplish anything, no matter what the obstacle.

Confidence that is fought for and attained is priceless ;)

Never Let is Rest,

Brendon

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Last weekend I competed at the Lalanne Summer Throwdown, a CrossFit competition. It was something that I registered for months back and put in the back of my mind. In the week prior to the event, I was very nervous. The last few months my focus had actually been boxing. I lost 8lbs prepping for my first amateur boxing match that was supposed to go around August 9th. Unfortunately it didn’t end up happening. I only had about 3 weeks on the barbell to prepare. To boot, the competition was going to be very good. I was freaking out! Below is the process I went through to help prep my mind and body for tough competition while establishing clear and realistic goals.

As we got closer to the event, negative thoughts started to enter my mind. What if I really bombed the events? What would people think of me? What if I look like a total idiot? (Not hard for me to do) What if I don’t live up to other people’s standards of me??

So of course, like most people, I made excuses in my head…My shoulder hurts. My knees hurt. I’m not ready. I’m feeling a little tired, maybe I’m getting sick.

My t-rex (giant lizard) brain started twitching. My cortisol levels were rising. My heart would pump really fast every time I thought about it.

So I took a few days off and entertained my t-rex brain. I got a little extra rest and instead of working out, I took some time to meditate.

Yes, that’s right, meditate.

I reminded myself the truths behind my competitive drive. Was it to win? Well, I always want to win, but that wasn’t my drive.

As I thought more about competition and what it really means, I realized that I love to compete because every competition teaches me more about myself.

Am I strong enough? Can I toe the line and give my best? Can I have fun in the process while learning something new?

The answer is always yes, yes and yes. Every time I RE-LEARN how strong I truly am and get more connected to my own warrior spirit in the process. I may be in pain but I feel alive.

I love a challenge. I love to push my physical and mental capacity to the point my t-rex brain says, “ENOUGH!” and then I like to push some more and in the process experience a new break through.

After years of competing at a high level, I know what I need to feel satisfied with my performance.

Whether I end up crushing the event or being the last person to finish his reps, my success is determined by MY OWN PERSPECTIVE. I must give 100% mentally and physically to my task while having fun and keeping a lightheartedness approach to competition.

Once I was clear on my goals; to compete, have fun and enjoy the journey, it was time to dial in my mental drive and clarity so that I could show up to the event with the three C’s of competing: CALM, COOL, COLLECTED.

When I’m tired, nervous, pissed off or just generally angry at the world, I recall a story my Nike Farm Team roommate and one of my best friends Jason Jabaut told me about his college coach at Villanova, Marcus O’Sullivan.

Marcus was prepping for a high profile meet, a World Championship or something of that nature. In the days prior, he was extremely tired and realized that he may have overreached in his training. He was getting nervous that he wouldn’t be prepared for the biggest meet of the year.

But instead of freaking out, Marcus decided to meditate by building himself a wall. In his native Ireland, stone walls are found throughout the countryside. They are used as property dividers and in some cases, as the story goes, were built by the Irish for no other reason than to keep them occupied while under British rule.

So Marcus went in the backyard and started building his own wall. For one week prior to the event, with no contact by others, he stacked stone upon stone and did no other physical activity.

In a zen like fashion, he pictured the outcome of how he wanted the race to unfold. He pictured himself and how he would feel. All the while stacking stones.

Marcus ended up winning the race by a large margin and adding to the victories of his already illustrious career….or so the story goes.

So what did I do to prepare? Did I stack stones in my backyard? Ha. Not exactly.

As a visual learner, I took some time to watch videos of olympic lifters perform great feats of strength. I took at least 10-20min every day of the week to focus on how I wanted to feel during the competition and how I wanted it to unfold WHILE practicing box breathing techniques to control my nervous system and stay relaxed.

Looking at each event, I focused on getting a 245lb clean and jerk. I imagined feeling light and fast on the sled push. And I pictured staying focused on the last AMRAP grinder that would most likely crush most athletes.

In the end, my plan went almost exactly as planned. I scored a 245lb C&J (miss the 2nd jerk). I felt so light and fast on the sled/wheel barrow combo that I paced it too much but still managed to finish within the top percentile of reps pushed. And in the 5+8min AMRAP, the snatches got heavy for me but I was able to stay focused and take 3rd in my heat.

Overall I placed 26th and was very satisfied not just with my performance but my overall attitude, drive and mental clarity I kept throughout the day.

Briefly, here are the list of events:

Clean and Jerk ladder, 155, 185, 215, 245, 265, 285, 305, 315. Must jerk weight twice from front rack position. Must hand stand walk 10ft. Add 10ft at each station starting at 215. (I placed 51st overall)

10m sprint with sled/wheel barrow. 3min max reps. (I placed 6th overall)

5min AMRAP: 5 snatches @135, 200m run (41st overall)
Rest 1min
8min AMRAP: 7 thrusters @135, 200m run, 40 double unders (7th overall)

I’m looking forward to my next event, The Endeavor Challenge!

Never Let It Rest,
Brendon

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