Take Chances. Venture Outside of Your Comfort Zone. You Never Know Where It Will Lead.

There are times when playing it safe is the right move. Then there are times when you just need to say “Fuck it” and take a chance. I have been known to do both and quite honestly I probably tend to the former. This is a tale of the latter and where it led me.

In 2010 I was the Sport Director for the Hagens Berman Domestic Elite team. The mission of the team was to provide a platform for young amateurs to race the National Racing Calendar (NRC) races and hopefully get noticed by a pro team and picked up the next year. In August of 2010 the team was invited to The Tour of Utah which at that time was a UCI 2.2, the highest level race that an amateur team like ours could participate in. 

One evening as I was nailing down logistics for the race I had a thought (always a dangerous thing). In a previous life I had been a climber and had spent more than a decade teaching it. During that time I had come across the writings of Mark Twight. Kiss or Kill was (and still is) one of my all time favorite reads. Twitching with Twight was printed out and hung in my office. Mark’s references (Joy Division, Black Flag, Dune, Rollins) all of them spoke to me. I also had read Extreme Alpinism and knew that Mark was ahead of his time with his approach to training especially as it related to climbing big mountains. A few years prior to 2010 an old roommate sent me the link to the Gym Jones site and I immediately liked what I saw. I also took note that Mark had ventured into cycling. Now, I am not a “hero” guy especially when it comes to people that you only know through what you read or what you hear but based on Mark’s writings and how I identified with a lot of what he had written I knew that he was definitely a guy that would be cool to meet some day. So, one evening as I was working on logistics for the team I decided “fuck it”, surfed to the Gym Jones site and fired off an email to info@gymjones.com, put “attn: Mark Twight” in the subject line and proceeded to tell him that I was director of a team coming to the T of U, was a fan of his writing and if he was around and had the time it would be a real honor to have him ride in the team car for one of the stages and maybe if he had the time we could go for a ride. I had a response from Mark in less than hour. He would love to. Deep inside I was giddy.

So, Mark and I made plans to meet for a ride up in Park City. We ended up doing an 80 mile ride with over over 5500′ of climbing. After the ride we talked quite a bit with Max Jenkins and Morgan Schmitt of UHC. Mark has a nice post about it in the Calendar Section of the Gym Jones site under August 15, 2010 for those of you who can access it. Mark and I ended up riding together a few more times that week and he rode shotgun in the team car for 2 stages. I won’t speak for him but from my point of view we seemed to hit it off immediately. Mark was the genuine real deal. We met at Mark’s house for one of the rides and I had the pleasure of meeting his wife Lisa and fortunately passing the poseur test with their dog Echo. I even made it to Gym Jones. While there I saw Rob Macdonald (a.k.a. Bobby Maximus) do one of the most impressive things I have ever seen: box jumps from a kneeling position onto a 24″ box, landing silently….like a ninja. Rob did this over and over again. It’s possible my jaw actually dropped.

One other thing that Mark said to me on one of our rides hit home. It was around this time that I was really starting to think about trying to do the full blown coaching thing. I had been an instructor over the years and had helped some people with their cycling but more in a mentoring type of way. As a racer I was pretty average, in fact in the great-good-shitty-sucks scale I would say that I am shitty in the grand scheme of things. But Mark made a comment, something to the effect of “you’ve been doing this for so long and know so much from just doing it that you don’t know what you know”. I’ve probably butchered exactly what he said but the gist of it stuck with me.

Fast forward a bit. Mark and I stayed in touch. (Rob would joke a Bromance was brewing and even ask if we had met on Match.com). We ended up riding together on a number of occasions in Southern California while he was working on The Man of Steel and I was there for either races or training camps. We would chat to each other on line about topics ranging from training to music to any number of other things. Then in 2012 I decided to take a chance again and I signed up for both the Fundamental and Intermediate Gym Jones Seminars held 1 month a part. To say that I was stepping outside of my comfort zone would be an understatement. The Fundamental Seminar just happened to be on my birthday. Mark told me “under no circumstances let Rob know that it’s your birthday because you don’t want to do 45 of whatever he comes up with”. Rob found out. “Fortunately” I caught a stomach bug and spent a lot of time heading to the bathroom the 2nd day and generally trying to not pass around whatever it was that I caught. Unfortunately Rob has a long memory and I had to settle my account at the Intermediate Seminar the next month.

Back to the comfort zone. I have been an athlete for most of my life. During that time I have become pretty proficient at cycling, climbing and Nordic skiing. My only experience in a gym was back in Ohio when I was a member at a local Global Gym but I restricted myself to the machines. I did have a circuit of sorts that I would do in my home gym consisting of mostly body weight exercises, some gymnastic rings stuff and stiff leg dead lifts but nothing with any real weight. Now here I was at Gym Jones where I didn’t have a clue of the proper technique for ……well really anything. Every single time that I picked up a weight I set a PR (because remember, any number is greater than zero). A couple of the things like FLR and ring push ups I was ok at because I had some experience doing them but others I was….terrible. Riding thousands of miles a year makes you pretty decent at …..riding and not much else. I was spectacularly terrible at the overhead squat. Here’s the thing though, at no time did I feel self-conscious about any of it. Everyone there was supportive of everyone else. In my youth I probably would have been self-conscious but in my youth I probably would have postured in some BS sort of way. Genuine people can spot BS. The people at Gym Jones are genuine. It really was humbling the amount of knowledge and support that was present there. Rob, Michael, Shawn, Eric, Matt, Josh and everyone else assisting with the seminars were awesome. I came with my cup empty and left with it overflowing.

After those seminars I took all of the new information and digested it. I went home and practiced some of the new (to me) exercises. I could tell immediately that the dead lift was beneficial to cycling and made that a regular part of my circuit routine. The over head squat….well…baby steps. I also had in the back of my mind that I wanted to take the Advanced Seminar but the timing wasn’t great because that was usually held when the cycling season was in full swing.

Then in November of last year I was at a coaching seminar with USA Cycling in Colorado Springs and met up with Shawn Kingrey and his wife Laura for a ride. Shawn had recently become a Fully Certified Instructor at Gym Jones and was present at the Fundamental Seminar I had taken. Shawn and I were talking about GJ and he made a comment, “I was talking with Rob and it came up that he thought you would make a good Gym Jones Instructor”. Huh? Really? I went home and let that comment germinate a bit in my head. Finally I took another chance and got in touch with Rob and asked him if there was any possibility of me coming to the gym and doing a one on one. He replied “absolutely” and plans were made for me to come to the gym in February of this year.

So the second week of February this skinny cyclist spent a week of one on one with Bobby Maximus. It was great. Again, the level of knowledge was humbling. Rob tailored the week to address my weaknesses. The endurance stuff and the basic programming for that I am pretty solid on. It was the supplemental stuff that was my biggest hole particularly what exercises were best suited to supplement areas of weaknesses that I and the athletes that I work with have. By the end of the week I felt that I had a much better understanding of the supplemental stuff. There were a lot of highlights that including a trip to Pago with Rob and his son Landon and a new DL PR of 305# (over 2x my bodyweight) but the biggest highlight for me was when Rob presented me with my Advanced Seminar Certificate and my very own Gym Jones t-shirt. Earned. Rob then informed me that he had the trust in me to make me a Fully Certified Instructor. Humbled.

I can not over state how humbled I am and how proud I am to be a Fully Certified Gym Jones Instructor. This is way bigger than when I got my college diploma. I also feel a bit empowered by it. I have always used self-deprecating humor as a crutch. I believe in humility, not bragging and I have a real hard time with people who take themselves too seriously. That said, if you don’t take yourself seriously at some point, how do you expect anyone else to? At the time of this writing there are 15 Fully Certified Gym Jones Instructors in the World. And I am one of them. That might not be a big deal to you but it is a big deal to me. And I am going to do my best to live up to that designation and walk the walk. I am going to continue to push myself and stay open to new possibilities. I also want to thank Mark Twight, Lisa Twight, Rob Macdonald, Michael Blevins, Shawn Kingrey, Matt Owen, Josh Vert, Preston Wood and everyone else in the Gym Jones family who has helped me on along the way.

And so it is that by making a simple decision of saying “fuck it” and firing off an email to an “info@” address and stepping outside of my comfort zone I embarked on a journey that has opened up a whole new world of growth and allowed me to meet and become friends with some inspiring people. Try it sometime, you never know where it will lead……

Let the evolution continue.

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy Birthday to Me

 

Earned

Earned

Struggling With OHS

Struggling With OHS

Rob's Thoughts on Bike Riders

Rob’s Thoughts on Bike Riders

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