Mental Meat Heads

I’ve got that after Christmas feeling. Not the one where you’re all bloated from too much turkey and sweets and disappointed that you didn’t get that pony again this year, but the one that’s the natural denouement that comes from getting all ramped up for something awesome, and it was awesome, but now it’s over and you’ve got to start thinking about going back to school, maybe even finish that book report you were putting off.

This past weekend was nothing short of amazing – the culmination of several months effort and planning, but also the high point of my career. Somehow I manged to pull off what should have been inconceivable (sorry, Vizzini).

I convinced four of the industry’s biggest trainers, my dream team, the four guys who have made my business what it is and from whom I have built my training systems (read: stole from) to come to my gym for a weekend of workshops and idea sharing.

Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenace speaks of the Chautauqua, a kind of traveling lecture circuit or a traveling school where speakers on various subjects would gather for a number of days to espouse on their subjects of interest and spread their ideas. Think today’s TED talks as a good analogy.

This weekend, I realized halfway through, was my own version of this. At a certain point ideas need to be experienced viscerally, especially those of the fitness industry. We need to get up and move and try it out ourselves. Having a master at hand to guide and instruct you through his introduction into these kind of ideas is invaluable.

Jay Brown, Elliott Hulse, Matt Wichlinski and Chip Conrad are all masters of their particular niches and having them together in my gym for two days of lecture and practical movement is a memory I will carry fondly to my grave.

Jay, like myself, has a very strong martial arts background. What he brought to the table was strongly reminiscent of the traditional martial arts training I had experienced in younger years. The difference was what he brought was fresh and alive and playful, not stiff and dogmatic like what I had experienced. We crawled and played with bands with an understanding that pleasure and enjoyment were the keys to sustainable involvement.

Elliott’s mission in life is to help people to become the strongest version of themselves. Though his journey began with the external – football strength, strongman strength – it has always had an element of the internal, first in terms of the physiological and now in terms of the psychological. Elliott understands that the mind/body connection is an artificial construct based on a misunderstanding. Mind and body already ARE one. You can’t effectively have one without the other and you can’t influence one without the other.

Matt is a master technician. His understanding of proper progression and that you cannot effectively move a client or athlete into complex movement patterns before they have mastered basic movements is a major influence on my work. He took us from the very simplest movements into more and more complex ones, culminating in some of the coolest gymnastics. Now, with a clear sense of progression, I can see myself moving into complexities I always thought were beyond my scope.

Chip’s mission is to expand his tribe, both in terms of numbers but also in ability as well. Time and again he came back to what is clearly a central tenet of his, “How useful are you?” He taught us that through movement and play and effort we can joyfully become more useful, first learning to improve ourselves and then how to improve our world. The more able we become, the more effective we become, the more effective the more confident, the more confident the happier, and happy likes to share it self.

As Jay Brown pointed out, the shortest distance between two people is laughter. Through joyful people, confident in their abilities, playful in their curiosity about themselves and their world we grow, we become stronger but we also become smarter, more compassionate, we care about others as we care about ourselves and before you know it, the world has changed and become a place we always wished it could be.

Now, isn’t that a good reason to go to the gym?

To our perfect imperfection,


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