Give and Take

We see it all the time.

Aspiring athletes see their heroes doing something in training and think “the only way to beat him/her is to do more than he/she is doing.” It’s a natural reaction – we all think that more is better. If you want to be better, work harder, right? Yes and no – we covered some of that in our last post.

If “work harder” means make your performance a priority and do whatever it takes to improve it (including managing recovery), then YES. If “work harder” means pile on additional training every day until you turn yourself into a quivering pile of overtrained goo, then NO.

In training, there should always be a give and take. The more time our athletes get to be on the bike, the less high intensity training we do in the gym. We don’t just keep adding additional work. If you’re trying to burn the candle at both ends, it won’t last long. Some athletes get this and some don’t. The ones that don’t get it now will get it eventually, when their bodies force them to stop.

One of the laws of athletic performance is that you don’t get stronger/faster/better-conditioned in the gym. Those things develop during your recovery periods, as your body adapts and responds to the training that you did in the gym. If you constantly interrupt your recovery periods with additional training, you never give yourself the chance to fully realize the gainz from your training sessions.

That’s where the give and take comes in. To get the most out of training, we have to strike the right balance between work and recovery. That balance is different for each individual athlete, but once we find that balance, we have to maintain it. If we put in more work somewhere, we need to take some away somewhere else.

That’s why, as coaches, we have to make it a priority to know our athletes. Training is not an event, it’s a process that keeps on going whether you’re in the gym, on your bike, eating dinner, or sleeping in your bed. If we just focus on what happens during the few hours our athletes are with us, we miss the big picture.

So, when we ask you “how are you feeling?” or “did you ride this weekend?”, it’s not just small talk. We genuinely want to know so we can adapt your training (if necessary) to account for that additional work/stress. Technology is now taking this to the next level, as Heart Rate Variability monitors are able to tell us more and more about athlete’s recovery and baseline stress levels before they even step foot in the gym…more on that in a later post!

Does Hard Work Pay Off?

“Well before you freak out on me and think that I am going to tell you that success in any area of your life has nothing to do with hard work, I PROMISE you that’s not what I am saying.  One thing I will say is that sometimes we may miss the mark on what we decide is hard work and leave it as something that is purely a physical state of exhaustion and miss the important part of the mind.

Last week we got to sit in on a Panel with some of the most innovative minds of Human Performance that are around today.  The Thin Air Park City event was mind blowing.  To hear what some of these incredible people are doing to push human performance beyond all realms thought possible was tough to even wrap my head around.  I was just hoping that they would randomly come up and ask me to be a guinea pig and see if we can get this ole noggin back in line. Im still holding out for that.

One of the interesting things though was that none of these incredible scientists left out the idea that understanding our athletes as coaches is still and will always be one of the most incredible tools we have as a coach.  One thing that is for sure though is that if we aren’t innovating we are doing a disservice to our athletes and that is unacceptable.  So I promise you that we are and will always be improving our methods at Sisu Strong Training Facility.

Back to my initial point though.

We’ve all said it.  We have looked over at what someone else was doing to prepare and said I am going to work “harder” than that person.  If they are riding for 2 hrs a day, I am going to ride for 3.  I don’t care how much it sucks, I am going to push my body to the limit and have no regrets because I know that I gave it my all.  I gave 110%!  

Well, my argument is that going about it like this may leave you short of your goals.  Your “HARD WORK” didnt pay off like you had hoped.  What’s even worse is that what if because you never took the time to get your mind right, you were never able to get your body to where you believed it could be.  

I 100% believe that the greatest athletes in the world are the ones that are willing to do what the others aren’t.  But we have to stop believing that means we  look at what others are doing and do more.  The greatest in the world are the ones that are doing exactly what they need to do.  They are not worried about what the person next to them is doing, they are completely focused on what it is that they need to do to get the job done.  They are setting the standard. They are the one that everyone else is trying to copy,  and I say let them try and copy you.  

So for me, “Hard Work” and athletes that are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed means just that.  They will do whatever it takes. Nowhere in that statement does it say you must run yourself into the ground until you can’t anymore.  That is much easier than having the mental fortitude to be able to not go 100% all the time.  It is being mentally strong enough to do the boring tedious things that not everyone is willing to do.  Working hard physically is easy on your mind.  Train your mind and then your body.

Man I messed this up as a kid.  I just didn’t quite get it.  I never had the right coach that could really get thru to me to understand this.  But I am glad I have learned it now because I still have a lot ahead of me.  Whether it is in athletics, business, relationships, just life.  Being able to take risks and push through when its necessary and dial it back in and say not today are incredibly valuable traits.  There needs to be a healthy combination of the two though to make greatness happen.
Are you ready to put in the “Hard Work?”  For most of us the “hard” part is about truly being accountable to ourselves for what we really have to do to be great.  Because those are never the most fun things to do. But man they sure are worth it when its all said and done.

Lessons Learned

Over the last 8 months as we began building Sisu Strong Training Facility out here in Utah it became very clear that this wasn’t going to be a normal deal.  I promised myself that I would stay true to where my passions were as a coach, but that I wasn’t going to try and fit it into any real particular mold.  The goal was to let SSTF turn into whatever it turned into because I knew it would be amazing.

I definitely never imagined how unique it would be though.  Our OG’s out here were Nick Thompson, Rich Larsen, Sophia Foresta, Joey Foresta, and Cody Kelley.  It pretty much came about by meeting them and asking if I could train them.  Why they said yes, I have no idea.  I can only assume that it was my amazing good looks and boyish charm.  

From there we slowly began to build an amazing team of athletes that we have been able to work with.  The one thing I didn’t see coming was that we would quickly become involved with some amazing adaptive athletes.  I also never imagined the impact these athletes would have on my personal issues of satisfaction with where I was physically.  I began finding it very hard to find time to consistently train and that was causing me to shrink about 20 lbs, lose a ton of strength, and fall into a spot of being pretty bummed with the way I looked.  I don’t have a huge self image issue, but for some reason this was getting to me quite a bit.  I would go train when I got the chance and then get bummed that I was so far off from where I was that I wouldn’t even finish my workout.  It was becoming a vicious cycle that was affecting me on all sorts of levels.  I knew that for me to feel better on my dirtbike being 20lbs lighter was a bonus, but that was still hard to wrap my head around because I liked being the big guy.  The more athletes we began to work with, the more I began to come to terms with my silly image issues because I also knew that I was helping them reach their goals.  No matter what, we will never look the way we want.  The people we see on TV and say “man, I wish I looked like that” go home every night and see flaws just like you and I do.  Probably even more so.  Then pop in Kolleen and Tyler.  These two quickly put stuff into perspective for me personally.  Kolleen is a below the knee amputee and Tyler is a parapalegic from T-6 down.  Here I had two athletes that I knew no matter what they said would always look in the mirror and just like me be unsatisfied with their physique, but they had way more reason to be than I did.  Neither of them accept that excuse either, which I love.  But these two athletes were jacked.  It was clear they loved the gym, but I could easily see the lack of carryover to performance in how they were training and I felt like I could help them.  What an arrogant jerk.  I had no two feet to stand on (sorry guys, had to) to justify that thought but I felt like I could and I told them that.  

I began working with Kolleen Conger, and was very nervous about it because who was I? What knowledge did I have of an amputee?  I went through lots of self doubt about whether or not I was qualified to work with an athlete without a leg, but worked hard to push those doubts aside and help her exactly how I would any other athlete.  There was and still is lots of troubleshooting to figure out how we get her to move as efficiently as possible with good movement patterns, but I can’t even begin to brag about her hard work enough.  She has gone from struggling to do a box squat to just the other day knocking out 100 goblet squats for time with 20% of her bodyweight.  Not just getting work done, but doing it with good mechanics.  She is on her bike out there racing in the desert and kicking some serious ass.

Kolleen has been tearing it up in the desert these last few months and came away with a first place finish.  Out there in the desert she has literally battled everything from bumps and bruises to her leg falling off, yet she got the job done.  Pretty badass person to be around.

Then came Tyler Kilmer.  I had been following Tyler on social media and new that he had been paralyzed for 4 years and was actually on a little bit of a downhill with some of the health and physical issues that come from his injury. I finally reached out to him after I saw a post that he wasn’t able to ride his dirtbike anymore because of spasms and other health issues.  Again I was putting myself in a situation where I had a lot of doubts on whether or not I was qualified to be working with an adaptive athlete like Tyler.  I mean, I’m basically just a self-taught strength and conditioning coach with lots of really smart friends that I reach out to all the time with questions.  We talked on the phone. I was very open that I wasn’t an expert in dealing with adaptive athletes but that I did think I could help him.  The only other reservation I had about working with Tyler was that his arms were way bigger than mine and it kind of annoyed me a little. But, I just reminded myself that I can out squat him and found a little self-respect again.  I do have to flex my quads at him sometimes still since we have begun training him for more performance than bodybuilding and he doesn’t like that all the time, but hey jerk, your arms are still bigger than mine. HAHA!

With both of these athletes we had to address some imbalances and movement patterns.  They had both fallen into the rut of “I’m gonna move this weight by whatever means necessary” instead of “I’m going to get stronger in the manner that will best carry over to performance on my bike and also just in life”.  With Kolleen we had to drastically change our training focus for her to get her backside more involved.  She was jacked, people looked at Kolleen and saw this strong badass mom, with one leg riding a dirtbike better than 90% of the riders out there with two legs.  But me, being the asshole that I am, saw a chick that was jacked everywhere except where she needed to be.  We tell all of our clients all the time that we don’t move for the sake of moving in the gym and we don’t just get strong to get strong.  We want to move right and get strong in the correct movement patterns that will benefit them and improve performance in life and sport.

So when Tyler came to us it was the same situation.  Here was a dude that was huge.  I am not joking when I tell you that I still get jealous of this dudes muscle development in his upper body.  But as we began going through some movements it was glaringly obvious that he had a shit ton of muscle that wasn’t serving him much purpose at all.  My only hope was that he would stick with me long enough through our boring ass workouts to see the benefits in his overall performance.  I knew this was going to be tough.  Because I myself had been struggling with the fact that I knew I had to give up some size and ways that I liked to train to be where I wanted to be on my dirtbike.  The first few days with Tyler we had to find ways to stabilize him because he would almost fall forward out of his chair just doing scapular retraction and protraction.  Basically, he had to reach out with one arm as far as he could and then retract his shoulder blade as far as he could.  Tyler has no feeling below his ribs, so there was no core stability to hold him up.  Starting out, we had to have him either be strapped into the chair with a belt or use one arm to brace on his leg so he didn’t fall forward.  I remember having the thought of “no wonder riding his dirtbike isn’t fun for him anymore.”  

After weeks of me grinding him through boring workout after boring workout, and very rarely ever letting him get a good swole session in (which we all love), we were progressing on to med ball throws, cable rows, band rows and tons of other exercises that were much more fun.  We used a squat belt to strap him to his chair to keep him from falling forward.  A few months in we had him doing med ball throws with my business partner and other coach, Acy Watson, who hadn’t worked with Tyler much and hadn’t watched the struggles we had at the very beginning with Tyler just being able to hold himself up.  As they were progressing through the series of throws I hear Acy ask him if he needed the belt fastened or not. I quickly looked up to realize that he had been doing the med ball throw with no belt holding him into the chair and he was sitting in perfect position and 100% stable.  We looked at each other and my excitement was actually even higher than his.  I had to actually walk out of the room because that was a huge deal and it made me pretty emotional.  It was a monumental step for someone who had quickly become like a brother to me and I knew that he also realized how big that was.  He just kept on with his workout and just like Tyler does, he worked.  We now having him doing cable rows without a belt, he was ripping through the desert on his dirtbike a few weeks ago with me and his dad. I was following way behind more than anything, and now we are onto bigger and radder things.

So I guess my point with this blog post is that we will never be satisfied with the way we look.  It’s always very easy to focus on the areas we can improve, but it’s about focusing on the things we can do.  I have been told so many times in the last few months how skinny I look, and man it drove me nuts.  I’m 230lbs of straight up sexy bearded ginger love, but definitely smaller than I used to be.  I may not get to spend the time in the gym getting swoled up all the time anymore, but as long as I can perform at the level I need to be able to train with our amazing athletes in and out of the gym, I’m good.  Hell yeah, I lose sight of that sometimes. But perspective on what is important to you is the most vital part of happiness and self-satisfaction. If I was back to 250lbs jacked and strong but not getting the chance to snowboard with my wife and daughter, ride mountain bikes with our MTB crew, rip through dirt with our MX racers and chase our BMX athletes around the track, and help them improve in the gym I would be way less happy with my life.  

It’s ok to lose focus here and there, but do not let it consume you.  Remember what it is that truly makes you happy in this life and get after it.

And always remember that your will to persevere through adversity will determine the level of greatness you achieve.

Where the VALUE Is

Man, what a wild week it has been.  At the last minute instead of me flying to Colorado for a quick turn around trip, we loaded up the camper with dirtbikes, dogs, and a Dangerbaby and set out for another adventure.  We went down to Moab, UT where it monsooned for 24 hrs and forced us to go and create even cooler memories together as a family than I could have thought.  We got to enjoy some of the most amazing natural creations in the world that are just mind blowing.  We realized that we wanted to make it an annual trip with Dangerbaby as she is growing up.  It couldn’t have been any more awesome.

Over the last few months we have been really trying to figure out what it is that we want to make sure everyone knows about SISU STRONG.  What is it that people think of when they hear our name.  Ultimately for me I want people to think of us as a company that is built around Passion to help others realize what they can do with their lives.  James and I have always been about going after our dreams.  They are very different and have taken us down different paths but we are both going after what we want to accomplish.

Just Last week someone told me it was funny how reserved James Tatum was compared to me.  I laughed and told them they couldn’t be more wrong. Very often I forget that I am 8 years older than James because I am always looking to him for coaching advice.  But James massively influenced my desire to follow my passion.  A few years ago James began Olympic Lifting and decided he was getting pretty good at it and that he wanted to go to the Olympics.  So many people look at us both and just think we got here by clicking our heels.  Couldn’t be further from the truth.  James moved his family to Charlotte, NC for the chance to train with some of the best lifters and coaches in the country and pursue his dreams.  To make this happen he bagged groceries for awhile to build up his name and support his weightlifting habit.  It wasn’t an easy road, but James had a dream and wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that.

So how does this A.D.D. post have anything to do with where the value is?  Well, it’s because the value in what we do lies in the coaches we have involved with Sisu Strong.  You can get tons of free epic programs for any sport you want on the internet.  BUT…what doesn’t come with those programs is the coaching quality that we offer at Sisu Strong.  James’ is one of the best mechanical improvement coaches you will ever come across in weightlifting.  That is what you are paying for when you are working with our programs.  All of our programs are as good as they get.  But it is our coaching that sets us apart.  These are the exact reasons we have paired up with the incredible Athletes we have as well.

We have some of the most incredible Motocross racers, mountain bikers, BMX racers, wakeboarders and snowboarders involved with us at Sisu Strong.  We work hard with them to provide the most technical coaching and analysis in and out of the gym.  We completely know and believe that we have the best coaches in their specialties and we work together to bring a product unlike any other business out there.

So where is the value?  The value is in who we are as coaches and what we do.  You aren’t buying a training program.  You are buying coaching from some of the best coaches in strength training, weightlifting, and action sports.  Get in touch with us to see how we can help you.

“Your will to persevere through adversity, will determine the level of greatness you achieve.”

Strength Training in Action Sports


The main role of strength coaches in this industry has mainly been either A) Rehab or B) Make the athletes really tired so they feel like they have accomplished something.  It’s time for a change.

These athletes spend countless hours trying to take their sport to the next level every day, which basically means putting their bodies on the line every day. You can watch snowboarders going 20 feet out of a 20 foot half pipe, motocross guys are attempting triple back flips on a 200+ lb bike. BMX guys are building 60ft drop in ramps to get as much air as they can for 1080s. We are training downhill mountain bikers who are going 30 mph over rocks and trees. Our moto endurocross athletes Nick Thompson and Rich Larsen put their bodies through absolutely brutal training. I mean it is nuts. I remember 15 years ago watching Cary Hart huck himself over and over trying to land a back flip off the step up kicker and now guys are hitting double back flips and 360s over 90ft gaps. With the endless need to be pushing for the next level, injuries are bound to happen. This is where having a good strength foundation that is relative to your sport performance needs can massively help improve injury prevention but also longevity of a career.

So what is it that strength training really brings to the table that just going out and riding doesn’t do for you?

1. High levels of Eccentric Strength are needed in these demanding sports to help control landings. Strength training is the best way to develop this type of strength. The stronger your legs are the better you can absorb a landing from 30 ft in the air and the less likely that landing will end in disaster.

2. Correcting Imbalances – which muscle groups are lagging in strength and which muscle groups are overdeveloped? Imbalances can seriously hinder overall peak performance and greatly increase injury risk in action sports. Where is the greatest risk for injury, or the weakest link?  We use a full movement and performance assessment for every athlete to figure it out.

Where is the greatest risk for injury, or the weakest link?

3. Increased flexibility and mobility – ensuring functional, pain-free movement through a functional range of motion for the athlete’s sport.  A good strength training program supports this by developing stabilizer muscles and dialing in good movement patterns (push, pull, squat, hip hinge, bracing, etc…) that carry over to the sport itself.

4. Improving Sport-Specific Strength – Strictly speaking, a snowboarder may not need a whole lot of upper body strength, but he or she absolutely must be strong enough to withstand the impacts that their upper body absorbs on hard crashes.  Increased rotator cuff strength is extremely beneficial in preventing shoulder dislocations, for example. This is different from a BMX or Motocross rider, who needs a much higher level of upper body strength, as their shoulders and wrists are actively involved in the sport and are a pivotal part of the success of the rider.

Strictly speaking, a snowboarder may not need a whole lot of upper body strength, but he or she absolutely must be strong enough to withstand the impacts that their upper body absorbs on hard crashes.

5. Improving Aerobic Capacity and Work Capacity is also essential for action sports athletes because it allows them to perform at a higher level, for longer, more frequently.  That means more practice runs before exhaustion and greater peak performance endurance on competition day.

The benefits of adding a well-planned strength program that doesn’t take away from sport-specific training simply cannot be overstated.

We want to make sure our athletes are at optimal levels of strength, conditioning, and overall health to be able to maximize their time actually practicing/competing in their sport.

Sign up for our newsletter for more info on how to get the most out of your strength training.

Or, sign up for a Free Intro Consultation with us to get started down the path to feeling better and performing better in your sport.

Giants Among Men and Women

As we have settled into our new home we have had the chance to get to know the area and what it all has to offer.  By far one of the most unique parts of Park City is the Olympic Training Center.  In the last 2 weeks I have met and gotten to train alongside Olympic Athletes from the United States, Australia, Austria, and other countries. I have also gotten to meet and train alongside some of the biggest names in Big Mountain Skiing.  As far as gym time goes for these athletes you very quickly find it easy to figure out which athletes in the gym are on an Olympic Team and who is training themselves for action sports from a professional or recreational enjoyment. Travis gets approached almost daily while training and is asked if she is an olympic athlete but no other moms are getting the same questions.  Here’s the reason why and the differences Ive seen among the training of these awesome athletes.

Training Norms of Olympic Athletes in Park City

1. Mobility and activation drills of some kind

2. Dynamic work in the form of plyometrics or olympic lifting

3. HEAVY Back Squats, Front Squats, Deadlifts, and Push/Pull variations

4. Heavy unilateral and supplementary work

5. REST PERIODS (by far this is the most standout difference. These lean strong badass athletes are taking 2-5minutes between their sets)

Training Norms for the Pro Training Themselves or the Recreational Mtn Athlete

1. Warmup – usually involving a fast row or talking about what they are doing that day, while still trying to figure it out

2. Stacking a stability ball on top of a box and jumping up onto it to balance

3. Some very light barbell complex that actually varies each time

4. Some sort of fast paced metcon

Now I am not saying anything to the extent that one is right and one is wrong. I have my opinions on how I prep athletes for their sports and it works for us. I am simply pointing out what I see on a daily basis in a training facility that caters to world class athletes from around the world. And the only difference is that there are some athletes training with a coach and programming and others doing it on their own.  For some reason the athletes that we see that aren’t working with a coach feel that it is totally unnecessary to lift heavy and follow a structured plan.  We are going to have the chance to sit down and talk with some of these Olympic Athletes over the next few weeks and I couldn’t be more stoked to hear about it from their point of view.  There is a large gap and misconception of the importance of strength training around the action sports community and we hope to do our part to bridge that gap.

Check out our Tech Tip of The Week to fix the bottom position of your squat.

A Better Bottom Position in the Squat

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Have a great week