Stage 1: Sport Performance
My fitness journey began in the summer of 2007. At the time, my life revolved around sports, specifically soccer and volleyball. In order to prepare for the upcoming season, I began working with a local strength and conditioning/sport performance coach. Prior to working with this coach, I had ZERO training experience. Being a 16 year-old kid, I envisioned that working with a strength coach would involve dumbbells, barbells, steel plates, weight belts, and squat racks. I assumed that my program would consist of Leg Press, Squats, Deadlifts, and Bench Press. I firmly believed that by the end of that summer, I would be bigger, stronger, faster, and look like a Greek God. That sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Hell, I even think it’s hilarious, but it’s the truth.
So, what actually happened that summer?
In summary, I. GOT. BETTER.
That’s right, I got better, I became fitter, and my performance drastically improved without ever utilizing the equipment, or performing the movements, that so many people have deemed essential in fitness.
Moral of the story: I was extremely blessed to have an incredible start on my fitness journey.
Stage 2: P90X
Eventually, the facility at which I had been training with my coach closed and I was forced to find an alternative. As I previously mentioned, much of what my coach had taught me could be completed with minimal equipment (e.g. resistance bands, medicine balls, and dumbbells), so for awhile, I made do with what the local YMCA had to offer. In retrospect, the YMCA was more than adequate to complete the program that my coach had prescribed, but my knowledge and training experience was still extremely limited. I didn’t feel confident in the weight room, I didn’t feel like I belonged, and I felt that people were judging my program.
After a few months of training at the YMCA and following the same program, I decided that it was time for a change. In the months preceding that decision, I had heard and seen dozens of ads for an at-home fitness program called P90X. The program was unlike anything I had seen before, especially as it relates to at-home fitness, and the founder, Tony Horton, had an incredible physique – the dude was shredded. I cannot remember if my mom bought the program for herself or for me, but eventually we became P90X fanatics.
When I started P90X for the first time (yes, I completed the program multiple times), I was only able to perform six consecutive Pull-ups. After finishing the program, I shattered my previous PR by completing 18 consecutive Pull-ups! Needless to say, that was incredible progress for only three months of training. From that moment on, I was hooked. In the next 18 months, I completed the program three additional times. I loved everything about P90X: the workouts, the way I felt after the workouts, the changes in my physique, and the fact that I could train at home. However, after completing the program for the third consecutive time, I sensed that burnout was on the horizon. It was time for change.
Stage 3: Bodybuilding
In the fall of 2009, I began my undergrad at Slippery Rock University. As I navigated the transition from high school to college, my primary concern was fitness:
These questions were answered before Thanksgiving break. I met my training partner and future roommate, Brian, at the first floor meeting in our dorm. Brian, who we all called Stumpf, was significantly bigger, stronger, and more experienced than I was in regards to training. I cannot remember what program we followed or why, but eventually, we started training together at the gym on campus. Our programs, which if I had to guess, were probably thrown together each month based on what we thought looked and sounded the coolest, consisted of the stereotypical bodybuilding exercises:
Bodybuilding rapidly transformed from a hobby into an obsession. From 2010-2012, our lives revolved around split routines, supplements, and physique. In fact, we loved bodybuilding so much that Stumpf and I both committed to competing in the 2012 Mr. SRU Bodybuilding Show.
Preparing for Mr. SRU was incredibly fun and challenging, but also downright miserable at times. Leading into the 2012 “season,” I was the largest I’d ever been, weighing in at 207-lbs. That may not sound like much, but considering that I walk around at 175-lbs, and 207-lbs is a significant jump. In preparation for the show, I began “cutting” (i.e. dieting) in January 2012. Again, as I mentioned, I was 207-lbs. and approximately 10% body fat. In March (12 weeks later), I weighed in at 178-lbs. and 3-4% body fat on the morning of the show. It was an incredible transformation and something that I’m still proud of to this day. I went on to take 1st place in the light-heavyweight division and 3rd in the middleweight division. Needless to say, I was thrilled with my performance and highly motivated to train and compete in more prestigious shows the following year.
Stage 4: CrossFit
Following the Mr. SRU competition in 2012, I stumbled across a rerun of the 2011 CrossFit Games on ESPN 2. Now, at the time, I had never even heard about CrossFit – I legitimately didn’t know a damn thing about the methodology, the brand, or the sport. I’ll never forget the thoughts that raced through my mind as I watched Rich Froning, Josh Bridges, Ben Smith, Matt Chan, and the rest of the Games athletes compete in the ultimate test of fitness:
Thank God for Google! After a quick search, I found crossfit.com. Now, if you’ve been around long enough, you know that the original crossfit.com site was archaic! In fact, I wasn’t even sure that it was the official site for the brand. Yet, regardless of the rough exterior, the site was a goldmine of information. Interestingly, the focal point of the homepage wasn’t an “About Us” section or blurb about the methodology. Rather, upon landing on the site, your attention was immediately drawn to a central feed titled, “Workout of the Day.” The WOD, which is still a focal point on the main site, was exactly as it sounds: a singular workout posted once per day for the masses to follow, but these workout didn’t look like anything I had seen in my experience. Rather than a laundry list of exercises, sets, reps, and rest, the workouts were written as “rounds for time,” “AMRAPs,” “EMOMs,” and other acronyms that appeared to be a foreign language.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I continued my research on CrossFit. The further I dug, the more intrigued I became. CrossFit seemed to contradict most of what I had learned in the Exercise Science curriculum, yet it also made complete sense, at least in my mind. Plus, the founder, Greg Glassman, repeatedly cited credible and valid research that supported his claims and the methodology. Not to mention that every CrossFit athlete, both men and women, had unrivaled work capacity and incredible physique. I remembered thinking, “Maybe there’s something to this whole CrossFit thing.”
Eventually, I tried my first CrossFit workout, “Fran.” Fran is for time and performed as 21 Pull-ups, 21 Thrusters (95-lbs. for the men and 65-lbs. for the women), 15 Pull-ups, 15 Thrusters, and 9 Pull-ups, 9 Thrusters. I’d love to say that I dominated the workout, left the gym feeling invigorated, and never looked back, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I quit the workout after the round of 21. I hated everything about that workout. I hated that you could kip on the Pull-ups, I hated Thrusters, and I hated how I felt – I was suffering from start to finish. I never wanted to do CrossFit again!
Two weeks later, I was back at it. This time around, I tried a workout that appeared to be more accommodating to bodybuilders. The workout was called “Linda.” Linda is performed as 10-1 repetitions of Deadlifts, Bench Press, and Cleans. The Deadlift is prescribed at 1.5x bodyweight, the Bench Press is prescribed at bodyweight, and the Clean is prescribed at .75x bodyweight. I cannot remember how I felt following that workout, but it must have been fantastic because I never returned to bodybuilding.
From June 2012 to March 2020, I dedicated my life to CrossFit and the art of coaching. I completed my CrossFit Level 1 Seminar in April 2013, became an intern coach at Reebok World Headquarters in June 2013, and accepted my first full-time coaching position in October 2013, and invested all of my time, energy, and effort into studying concepts, the methodology, program design, and learning how to become a more effective coach. In 2014 I obtained my CrossFit Level 2 Certificate, in 2015 I earned my CrossFit Level 3 Certification, and for the next five years, I trained using the CrossFit methodology: constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensities, and in that time, I became really, really fit.
Stage 5: Training Smarter and Ballistic Performance
From 2017-2020, I loved and continued to train CrossFit, but I was broken (e.g. chronic knee pain, achy shoulders, and overall fatigue). Now, to be clear, the knee pain was not a result of CrossFit; it was the result of a previous injury (bilateral partial quad tendon tear) from which I never fully recovered. Sure, CrossFit may have amplified the aches and pains, but the primary issue was my inability to listen to my body and modify/scale exercises and workouts to move away from pain and rehabilitate the injuries.
In April 2019, I had a revelation: if I did not significantly alter my training, in the next 5-10 years, I would not be able to coach, get up and down the stairs, or play with my future kids without significant pain and discomfort. That was a serious problem! The next day, I called a good friend of mine, Chris Lefever, physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. I explained the situation to Chris, asked him for help, and thankfully, he was able to provide evidence and exercises that I could incorporate into my rehabilitation. After 8-10 months of diligent rehab, scaling, and modifications, I was finally pain free. For the first time since 2015, I was able to squat, lunge, and even jump without pain. It was an incredible feeling, a feeling that I was not willing to ever lose again.
During that prolonged rehabilitation period, Ash and I started Ballistic Performance. At the time, we only offered two fitness programs: BUILD and MOVE. The MOVE program was designed to be a more structured, purposeful, and progressive general physical preparedness program. We eliminated the excessive volume, overly complex exercises, and high-intensity monotony in order to promote functionality and longevity while simultaneously enhancing fitness and overall health. Upon creating the MOVE program, I made the decision to discontinue “true CrossFit” and drink my own Kool-Aid.
I have been following the MOVE program since January 2020. I have not been supplementing the MOVE program with CrossFit, I have not been following an additional weightlifting program, and I have not trained for more than 60 minutes per day, five days per week. Every day, I wake up, check the TrainHeroic app, write the session on the whiteboard, and following the program to the letter.
So, what has happened since I made the transition from CrossFit to MOVE?
In summary, I’ve never felt better. My body actually feels good. In fact, I feel fantastic. My shoulders are healthy, my knees are nearly back to 100%, and I’m more energized, alert, and motivated throughout the day. Although it was incredibly difficult decision, moving away from “true CrossFit,” was the best decision I’ve made along this journey.
Stage 6: Reflection
It’s been 13 years since I began my fitness journey, and in that time, I’ve been blessed to experience a wide variety of concepts, methodologies, modalities, and training programs. Through those experiences, I’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge and skills, but more importantly, I’ve developed and maintained relationships that have enabled me to become the coach, professional, and individual that I am today. If it were not for my colleagues, mentors, and support system (Ash, Mom, Dad, and family), I would not have been able to immerse myself in those experiences and chase those opportunities. I would not have discovered, through trial and error, what works, what doesn’t work, and what solutions I can present to solve the problem and move people forward on their health, fitness, and nutrition journeys. I am the culmination of my experiences and my relationships, and Ballistic Performance is the culmination of knowledge and skills that both Ashley and I have developed and refined across the last 10+ years. Ballistic Performance is the final leg of our journey and we are on a mission to cultivate as many caring, confident, capable people as possible along the way.