This is something that has been a long time coming for me and I am excited to share more of my ideas and philosophies with you on a platform where I can go a little bit more in depth. If you follow me on social media, you have probably figured out by now that giving you practical content you can apply immediately is something I take a lot of pride in.
Of course, with all of that content comes a lot of continuing education to master my craft.
My mom still says that trying to get me to do my homework was like pulling teeth. Funny how things have turned out right? From D’s and F’s in school to now being excited to learn and become the best at what I do – helping real people transform their body and taking back control of their life. It’s a very surreal feeling to be in the position that I am now as a professional. I feel incredibly fortunate to have started my career at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance ‘The Healthiest Building In The World’.
Like many other coaches in the industry I’ve had my stupid phase but it’s been significantly shorter than most and that has a lot to do with me surrounding myself with the people that make up my family at Vigor.
The Jedi, Luka Hocevar – my brother/mentor who has taken valuable time over the last 4 years to train the young Padawan. Thank you for believing in the kid.
Feels like yesterday that I was an intern, training with you and Hieu till 12am every night doing the most ridiculous workouts, bumping Wu Tang in the loud speaker and eating sweet potato pie. Those nights were full of some crazy stories.
Next time you see Luka, make sure you ask him about his pro ball days in Europe and specifically his plane ride in Russia. It’s fascinating to me to hear other people’s stories and to think that everything that both that individual and myself have experienced has lead to this exact moment where our paths have crossed.
So, I want to share mine and hopefully it will result in our paths crossing one day over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
Where It All Started
If you’ve ever flown into Seattle, you actually probably flew into SeaTac – which is where I was raised. I am the youngest of 4 kids which to me gave me a pretty solid advantage. “What are you talking about, Theo? I got my ass whooped and was the subject of countless experiments where I lost several teeth and an eyebrow!?”
I FEEL YOU! But think about it…
How long did it take you to finally win at something? I can’t remember even scoring a basket on my brother till 7th grade.
How much dumb shit did your sibling(s) do and you learned to not do it, or in some cases, do it better?
The way I see it, you face adversity and learn to fail at an early age as well as cut your learning curve.
Some of our most valuable lessons come from our childhood.Growing up I played sports pretty much year round – basketball and soccer being the sports I fell in love with.I even played baseball long enough to drop my drawers and take a leak in centerfield then gave it up to run track for a couple seasons.
I started to type this sentence by saying “I had a natural talent for basketball” but then remembered the first practice I went to, I got the ball at the free throw line and heard my dad say “shooooot!”. I turned my back to the basket, held the ball granny style, and hurled the ball over my head…and the hoop.
Luckily, I stuck with it and got pretty good. I expressed to my dad at an early age that I wanted to be a professional basketball player and I’ll never forget what he told me.
“You have to work harder than everybody else. There will always be somebody that’s bigger than you, stronger than you, faster than you and more talented than you. You just have to outwork them.”
Cliché, I know. Pops is old school.
I was 12 years old and we were up in the attic weight training and doing bodyweight exercises three days a week.Being as young as I was I wanted everything right away. I wanted to be jacked!
Picture that – A 12-year-old kid at recess looking like a grown ass man. Pop never let me lift heavy but we sure got creative. There weren’t too many dads out there making plyo boxes for their sons. I learned how to jump, how to land, how to sprint – all in the front yard of our house. I loved it. So much so that I invited a few of my neighborhood friends to start training with me.
This wasn’t the start to my career as a strength coach though. In fact, I had no idea what a personal trainer/strength coach was. Like most kids that age, my focus shifted from time to time and I wasn’t as consistent as I could’ve been. After high school I had lost my passion to play basketball and no longer wanted to pursue a career as a professional athlete. That was a pivotal moment for me.
My whole life I knew I was going to be an athlete. I had no back up plan and no clue what I was going to do next. Basketball guided me and gave me structure – without it I was lost. I got kicked out of community college and started working multiple dead end jobs which to me was a death sentence.
No mentor, no coach and no vision. Mentally I was in a bad place.
This was 2008-2009, the market crashed and desirable jobs required a college degree. I battled back and forth with myself about going back to school as soon as I could be reinstated.
I had failed at school ever since I even walked in a classroom but I had to do something to change the position I was in. I told myself that if I was really going to do this that it was going to be for something that I really enjoyed and not to be totally driven by money.
I went to the local community college and they had a wall of pamphlets, telling you about each one of the programs offered. The last one I picked up was the Personal Fitness Trainer Program. I took it home and the first thing I did was google the average salary for Personal Trainers. $24,000 a year…
12-year-old kids make more than that monetizing their YouTube channel. I wasn’t too fired up about that number but I decided to give it a shot. My second quarter in the program I was taking a Business of Personal Training class. The first day, my soon to be mentor/instructor Tim Vagen asked me “why are you in my class”.
A simple question I didn’t have an answer for. I had no idea why I was there. Truth be told, I still didn’t know if this was a path I wanted to follow.
So, what changed?
Tim talked about things that interested me. He asked questions that got me involved and broke down the business in a way that got me to believe that I could crush it in this industry. He got me to think, participate and have discussions both in and out of the classroom.
Tim, in 2 weeks, did more than any other teacher did for me in my whole life. His approach was ‘outside the box’. He went above and beyond to make sure we stayed engaged and introduced us to some of the greatest minds in fitness.
That’s how I met Luka Hocevar.
Luka came to speak to our class and within 10 minutes I knew that if I was going to continue my education outside of the gym and seek mentorship from anybody, it was going to be him. Luka, and everything he had built at Vigor Ground, was calling me. Not too long after that I started training with my Ace Goon Coon, Cody ‘Boom Boom’ McBroom as he became a part of the Vigor Ground Family. When I first talked to Luka about an internship he told me that he wasn’t expanding his team at the time and recommended I talk to other gym owners. I wasn’t hearing it or even interested in coaching anywhere else.
I saw signing up for training as getting my foot in the door. One way or the other Luka was going to notice me and I was going to be apart of his team. I became obsessed. Training, nutrition, the whole lifestyle. I hadn’t wanted anything so bad in my life.
I saw Adrian Peterson, who was and might still be a running back for the Minnesota Vikings, on the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine. At the time he was at the top of his game and you couldn’t watch Sports Center for five minutes without seeing him. Not to mention he was jacked. Not the juiced up bodybuilder look. He was built like an action figure.Growing up playing playing sports I sort of identified with that and told myself I wanted to build my body to achieve that look. 6 feet 1 inches tall, 200-205lbs and sub 10% body fat. Achieving this was going to be a goal and half. I consulted Cody who was training me at the college prior to me joining Vigor, and we got to work.
Growing up playing playing sports I sort of identified with that and told myself I wanted to build my body to achieve that look. 6 feet 1 inches tall, 200-205lbs and sub 10% body fat. Achieving this was going to be a goal and half. I consulted Cody who was training me at the college prior to me joining Vigor, and we got to work.
Day 1 I weighed in at 150 lbs., didn’t know how to deadlift or squat properly, mobility was atrocious and only had about eight exercises in my repertoire, five of them being pressing variations.
The more I trained, the more I learned not only about fitness but about myself as well. Optimizing the human body, building myself physically/mentally, taking a path to become an elite level coach and connecting with people just like me, gave me the structure I needed. Fitness became the vehicle to the ultimate transformation of both mind and body.Everyday I woke up with a winning mindset and brainwashed myself to achieve success. I learned that I had the power to design my life in every aspect.
I won’t go into every detail about my physical transformation as that would be a book in and of itself but I will tell you that from November of 2013 to March of 2015 I went from 150lbs to 202lbs and about 8% body fat.
I once heard someone say “your body only builds muscle because it has to”.That’s absolutely true. My body became a test subject. Every time I stepped in the gym I pushed myself to the limit. In 17 months I took my deadlift from 225lbs to 525lbs and my bench press from 185lbs to 360lbs, just to share a couple numbers that I felt were pretty significant.Those numbers no longer mean shit to me as the valuable lessons that I extracted along the way carried a lot more value.
Although I achieved my goal, I had to battle every step of the way – low back injury, food sensitivities and gut health issues being the major players.It wasn’t my ideal path to the body I wanted but those experiences have taught be to be more aware of my body then ever before.
I’ve done intermittent fasting, the ‘see-food-diet’, tracked macros and implemented refeed days. Quick story before I wrap this up.
I was stuck at 195lbs, just 5lbs away from my goal weight. Cody was still helping me with nutrition at this point and mentioned that a ‘refeed’ day could help me break through the plateau. He suggested that I eat anywhere from 800 to 1,000 grams of carbs one day a week. Easier said than done.
You want to eat starchy carbs for a refeed as carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source and will allow you to perform at optimum level. I’ll dig deeper on this topic in another time. I started my day off with a few handfuls of homemade granola, 4 servings of yogurt and a protein shake.
An hour later, 8 homemade buttermilk pancakes. About 2 hours post pancakes I prepared hash browns, 6 eggs and I believe 8 pieces of bacon all mixed together in one big scramble. It’s 11am at this point and I’m starting to regret my commitment.
My day continued with Mongolian grill, 2 cups of white rice (by itself), a large pepperoni pizza and dozen fuckin’ Krispy Kreme donuts.I can’t give you the exact macronutrient breakdown from that day but I think we can agree it was probably pretty ridiculous.
Why did I share that story?
It’s an interesting conversation when I discuss this with people. I often hear “Wow, that’s great. I wish I had your body type, it would be so much easier for me”. Here’s the thing, friends – whether you’re overweight or a ‘hard gainer’ like me, you have to DO THE WORK. There is no way around it.
The Three Actions I Took To Level Up My Life
Commitment – I declared what it is I wanted to accomplish and went ALL IN on the process. Too often we hold ourselves back. I was tired of where I was and knew I was meant for more. I’m here to tell you that your commitment will be tested. Embrace it. It’s an opportunity for growth and expansion.
Hired A Coach – accountability is arguably the biggest component to becoming successful in anything that you do. Having a coach and having mentors on my team that actually cared about my interests changed the game for me and I wouldn’t be where I am today without those people in my life.
I Did The WORK – Relentlessly. Hours of deliberate practice with an understanding that my goal was over a year way. Like I said above, there’s no way around it. I can write you monster programs all year long but if you’re not in the gym doing the work it’s pretty hard to get results. Your goals should be significant and sacred to you. When you have clarity it makes the work rewarding. You’ll notice that you talk less and do more because focus doesn’t have time for anything else.
Ready for that cup of coffee?
I’m opening up 10 spots to committed individuals that are finally ready to transform their body once and for all. If that’s you, reserve your spot now.
Talk to you soon.