EP15 Greg Amundson, Conversations with a Modern Day Warrior
You have to train like a warrior. You have to eat like a warrior, and you have to think and speak like a warrior.” - Greg Amundson
This is a total knock your socks off episode with Greg. I met Greg through a mutual friend Rolf Gates and hadn’t talked much before this recording but was totally blown away by Greg. We talk food, prayer, marriage, nutrition, CrossFit, military and so much more.
This interview with Greg Amundson is full of interesting and hysterical tips. Check out Greg’s video about his book and life work: https://youtu.be/40Qt6WDrmJk.
- Greg’s appreciation for the power of mind-body-spirit connectedness and prayer from a young age [03:26]
- How mind-body-spirit connectedness is the foundation of everything Greg does [05:21]
- The myths and misunderstandings around CrossFit and how it works with relative intensity [07:32]
- How CrossFit builds strength for functional movement [09:00]
- Greg’s work with training the public service sector and how that has impacted the way that he trains [11:08]
- The warrior spirit within all of us [11:53]
- The importance of managing your intensity in workouts [15:25]
- Training to enhance to quality of your life; not just for the sake of training [17:32]
- The two types of nutrition and Greg’s philosophy on nutrition [19:50]
- Unleashing your potential by shifting your thinking from what you don’t want to thinking about things you do want [25:32]
- The power of speaking and thinking with positive expectancy [26:29]
- The morning rituals that help Greg to sustain a positive mind, body and spirit [31:41]
- Mantras to start your day [35:02]
- Greg relates your mindset to the challenge of pull-ups [38:29]
- The amazing power of gratitude [39:31]
- The power of listening to the sounds of our thoughts [41:11]
- How the quality of our body affects our mind and our words, and how everything is interconnected [44:23]
- How Greg was inspired to write the book “Your Wife is not your Sister” [46:33]
- What is the original fire breather [52:25]
- Greg’s warrior quest drill [56:50]
- Greg’s remote training options and offerings [58:32]
You’re listening to The Business of Life podcast. Practical advice for creating the life you love to live. Here’s your host, Keith Callahan.
KC: Alright, so welcome to The Business of Life Episode number 15. So, today we have on Greg Amundson and this was just, I’m recording this introduction right after finishing the interview with Greg and I got to tell you guys. This was the funnest episode for me. I learned so much. You know at the end of it, we talked about Greg’s book and talked about an online community that he has. I’m signing up for both of them. In the show notes, we’ll have all of the links for everything that Greg talked about. You can find those at KeithCallahan.com/episode15 and that’s just episode and then 15, KeithCallahan.com/episode15. What an amazing, amazing episode, so much stuff. You know, Greg is, he’s one of the original members of the Original CrossFit Gym. He travels the world teaching CrossFit but he’s just so much deeper than that. He teaches nutrition. He’s authored a book on relationships. You know, we talked about Yoga. We talked about the mental toughness and setting your mind right for the day. We talked about underwater training, just so many amazing, amazing things in this episode. I could ramble on because I’m so fired up after I just got off with Greg but I’m going to go ahead and get us started. You’re going to love this one.
INTERVIEW WITH GREG AMUNDSON
KC: Alright, so I am excited to introduce to you guys Greg Amundson. Greg, welcome to the show.
GA: Thank you, Keith. It is awesome to be here.
KC: So awesome to have you on. So, I was, you and I were just chatting before we hit the record button then we sort of got connected through one of our mutual friends, Rolf Gates, who his episode’s going to air a couple of weeks after this one, So, I’m excited for that one. But, anyways, Rolf had made a post on Facebook and I had seen that and it was about how he was working with you for his diet and that led me into poking around on your Facebook page and then into your website and it was just amazing, amazing content. And then, you and I connected and here we are. So, it’s awesome to have you on the show and if you don’t mind, I’d love to just really dive right into asking you a couple of questions.
GA: You got it. Let’s do it.
KC: Alright. So, I was going through and I was looking at everything and really the question that I always like to start off with and always like to know is I can go online and I can see who you are and where you are now and what you’re doing but I love to hear the back story. Like, how you, what was it like growing up? What was your family life like and sort of what led you to where you are now?
GA: Great question. Really, the journey that I’ve been on and everything that I’ve learned and accomplished up to this point and everything I’ll continue to learn down the road that I have to travel is credited to my mom and dad. And, when I think back about mom and dad, the earliest childhood memories I have are my dad and I going to the YMCA and working out together. And, my dad was a former Naval Officer and then he became a chiropractor and he had this amazing appreciation for the connectedness of the mind, the body and the spirit. And so, there my dad and I are at the YMCA and we’re exercising and fast forward an hour and the next memory I have my dad and I are coming home from the gym and we’re sitting down around the dinner table and mom’s prepared an amazing meal. And then, as a family we all joined hands and we’d pray. And really, nothing’s changed to this day. I mean that’s still what I do.
KC: It’s interesting that you say that because that was the piece, I watched one of your videos with you doing the food prep and then you talked about the prayer that you do before the food and that was the piece that got me really interested and got me to want to follow you and learn more about what you’re doing. So, it’s interesting.
GA: Yeah, really it’s all about the mentorship that I had with mom and dad and so much of the way I think, the way I behave, my character values, all of that was shaped at a very, very young age by my parents.
KC: Got it. So, that’s sort of the mind, the body and the spirit is the package that everything that you’re doing is going into. Is that sort of a fair assessment?
GA: Yes. You know, I think that what I’ve learned over the years is it all has inclusive in our practice. And so, many times we compartmentalize the training of the body, the training of the mind, the forging of the spirit, those are compartmentalized. When, in fact, those all have to be interconnected. They all support each other and one will strengthen the other which is fantastic news because I can be exercising and using my body while simultaneously strengthening my mind and all of the mind and body strengthening will then be supported by my nutrition and my hydration. So, everything is interconnected.
KC: Got it. Got it. So, I guess it’s a perfect segue to jump into a few questions that I have. So, I have some experience with CrossFit and I know that’s a big part of your background and the experience that I had, I actually fell in love with it and the time that I was doing it, I had up in or on the East Coast particularly the North East, we have something called the Lyme disease. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. Basically, I got bit by a tick and I got really sick and I wasn’t really able to or I hurt myself with CrossFit but it wasn’t, it was because I exerted myself a little bit too much. It wasn’t a form or a technical injury and I guess one of the myths or the pieces that people say that CrossFit can be dangerous or CrossFit can be bad for you. And, I wanted to sort of bring that up right away. That wasn’t my experience. It wasn’t where my injury or I shouldn’t even say injury, it was really just fatigue. It was adrenal fatigue that I was dealing with and I have to pull back. So, yeah, what are your thoughts on that and how do you sort of answer that and look at that?
GA: It’s a great question. Because I travel all over the world teaching CrossFit and the methodology, the theory, the practice of CrossFit, if you remove the name CrossFit and we discuss the formula of the program, the formula is constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement. Now, those 3 things are absolutely foundational in a holistic physical fitness training program. I mean think about that formula. The variance of the program meets and exceeds the demands of what we would expect in our life. Nothing in the life that we live is routine. There’s variety. There’s variance. There’s challenge. There’s ebb and flow. And so, of course, we would want a training program that prepares us for the demands of life. Then, we have the intensity factor. The key with intensity is relative intensity. And so, at my gym in Santa Cruz, I train right alongside people who have never worked out in their entire life and they may be doing an exercise using a PVC pipe that weighs all of 1 pound and I may be doing the same exercise next to them using a barbell that weighs 95 pounds. But, either way, we’re both pushing ourselves to the best of our ability in that moment.
GA: Relative intensity.
GA: And then, the key to the type of movement that we do and that I advocate and teach is functional movement. And so, the movements that we do in the gym and that we learn in practice, they are movements that we would see in nature. And so, a squat, a dead lift, a press, those are all movements that we would do during the course of our day even if we were not trained in them. So, now everything comes full circle because we’re learning how to do skills that life demands of us. We’re engaging in a program that is constantly varied. Again, like life will call us to experience and then we add the intensity which quite frankly is the most fun of the program, the challenge, the battle, the internal struggle of the workout itself. And so, if we remove the name and just look at the formula, it’s brilliant. It’s an amazing program and I think sometimes we get stuck on the name.
GA: Yet the methodology of the program is absolutely brilliant. I’ve been doing it for nearly 15 years and I continue to excite myself with the never ending opportunity to improve.
KC: So, touching on that. One of the things that I did learn when I was there and it was probably, it was such a profound thing that I learned with going forward and pushing to your max during a particular work out and then pulling back and doing like 70 or 80% for the next day or 2 after that, can you touch on that a little bit and sort of how you, like how you work with your students, your clients in that philosophy of like pushing really hard and then intentionally not going all out after that?
GA: Well, that’s a great question and I have a unique background and when I found CrossFit, I was about 1 week into my career as a Deputy Sheriff in Santa Cruz.
GA: And so, what I believed and what I continue to teach when I travel because most of the athletes that I work with, 80% conservatively are in the public service sector. They’re military. They’re law enforcement. They’re firefighters. And so, my mindset when I train is this is the last workout that I’ll have before the fight for my life. And so, I have to do my best right here, right now and so that I have a mental reference point for myself if following this workout my life should be on the line. If my life was on the line and I go 80%, I’m going to have a major problem.
GA: Now, that mindset is unique to the warrior culture. However, here’s what’s so exciting to think. Even if you do not carry a weapon and serve and protect in a professional capacity, I believe that within us we all have a warrior spirit.
GA: And, the thing about the warrior spirit is the warrior, when they engage in life, they have to be at 100%.
GA: That’s commitment and that’s what separates a warrior from every other class of society. And so, I in fact teach and encourage the athletes that I train, “Every time you work out, do your best. You’ve got to do your best.” But keep in mind earlier I prefaced that by discussing relative intensity. And so, my best changes day to day but I still do my best. I still give it everything I have.
KC: So, I guess going deeper into the question because I love this philosophy and I get it and I love the warrior analogy. A big part of my life is I follow a Native American spiritual path and one of the ceremonies that we do. Well, we go out to South Dakota and we’re out there for a couple of weeks and there’s a big 4-day ceremony that leads up to it and it’s a very intense ceremony but it’s not something you could do every day of your life. So, sort of thinking about that and listening to what you’re saying and sort of thinking about it, are you modifying the workouts that which, so you’re bring full intensity every time but the workout is not as extreme? Does that make sense, that question makes sense?
GA: Absolutely and that’s the complimentary component of the program is the variety of the program allows you to experience intensity every day.
GA: And so, a skill that most of the listeners would be familiar with is bench press. If we bench pressed at full intensity every single day, we’re going to have a major problem with our shoulders.
GA: And so, we can bench press with maximum intensity today and perhaps 4 days from now and then another 4 days after that and in between those days we’re going to be climbing the rope. We’re going to be going down and doing sand sprints. I’m going to have you doing pull ups and on the concept2 rower and all those things will be done at maximum intensity but there’s so much variety in the program that we’re not going to have repetitive muscle use injuries.
KC: Gotcha. I want to actually talk about what you have that you guys offer online because there’s so many of our listeners are not in the Santa Cruz area so I want to touch on that. But, before going into that, one of the things that I really noticed about your gym in particular is you’ve brought in a bunch of other programs, not just, like you said, using the traditional word CrossFit and when you and I were just chatting we were talking about Yoga and then I also something with Jujitsu that you guys are bringing in and what was your, so what are the different programs that you guys have there and is it, like are a lot of your students circling through those or is it more like there’s just different individuals that do those?
GA: We have a variety of programs. So, imagine this, I’ll give you a picture of what CrossFit is. What’s the point of the training program? So, imagine this. Imagine you have a pyramid.
GA: And, on the bottom of the pyramid, you have nutrition.
GA: And then, just above nutrition, you have what we’ll refer to as metabolic conditioning. So, that’s things like running, rowing, cycling, swimming. And then, above metabolic conditioning as the pyramid continues upward, we have gymnastics. And, gymnastics is a very broad and inclusive term for any type of exercise that uses the body as the means of resistance. So, we’re essentially learning how to control our body in space and time.
GA: Once we do that, the next level of the pyramid is weight lifting and that just means that we add an external object to our body. So, now that we can control our body in space and time, we control an external object in space and time. And then, at the tip of the sphere, the very top of the pyramid, we have sport and the whole point of the training is to progress you to a point where your body is in what I would refer to as a ready state. You are so well-trained, that you can pick up and play any sport at any time. You have the foundation to allow you to express the fitness that you’ve achieved. And, that’s what I do in my gym. And so, at my gym, the programs that we offer are simply designed to allow you to enjoy the level of fitness that you’ve achieved. And so, we offer yoga. We offer martial arts. We do outdoor adventures. We swim in the ocean. We’ve got paddle boards that we go out on and it’s just designed to reward the fitness that you’ve achieved.
KC: Gotcha. So, those different pieces are underneath the sport part of it?
GA: Exactly, exactly and so, right now in this day and age, CrossFit has taken on the sport of CrossFit. And so, if you look at the CrossFit games for example, fitness has become a sport and that’s amazing, what a beautiful concept. However, when I started in CrossFit, 2001, the point of CrossFit for me was to allow me to achieve a state of fitness, mental, physical and spiritual that would allow me to protect and serve on the street. And so, it wasn’t fitness for the sake of fitness. It was fitness for the sake of service. And, my training partner, Eva was an Olympic gold medal downhill skier. So, the point of CrossFit for her was to excel in her sport. My other training partner, Garth Taylor was a Jujitsu competitor. The point of CrossFit for him was to excel in his sport. And so, when I teach CrossFit, I encourage my athletes to use the training to enhance the quality of their life, not just for the sake of CrossFit but to enhance the quality of their life. They are able to experience life in sharper contrast because of their mental, physical and spiritual fitness.
KC: And, when you’re using the word CrossFit, does so the base of your pyramid was the nutrition and I want to dive into that.
GA: Yes. That’s huge, brother.
KC: Is that falling under what you’re talking about for CrossFit?
GA: It is. That pyramid is what, is referred as the theoretical hierarchy in the development of an athlete and it all starts, the nutrition is abso-, let’s go into that because that’s something that all of your listeners can really benefit from regardless of the physical training that they’re doing.
KC: Can you explain your philosophy with nutrition without having, like can you do it just over right now or do you need a board and sort of the numbers to like the visual to be able to do it?
GA: No, I’m good. I could paint pictures with my roof.
GA: We’re good. So, imagine this. There’re 2 types of nutrition.
GA: Both are absolutely vital. The first type of nutrition, most of us are familiar with. That’s what I refer to as physical nutrition. So, that is literally the food that we eat and the liquid that we drink, physical nutrition. The other part that’s equally important is what I refer to as mental nutrition and that is the thoughts that we think and the words that we speak. Both are critical in the foundation that we seek with our nutrition. We have to have both. And so, let’s start with the physical nutrition. So, this is what I worked on with Rolf and it’s profound. I’ve been doing this again for nearly 15 years and this is really life changing and what’s so exciting is it’s so simple. What I teach is that every time you make a meal, you simply want to divide your plate into thirds. One-third of the plate would need to be protein. Any type of protein would suffice. It works for vegetarian and it works for people that are eating dairy and meat. One-third of the plate is protein. The remaining two-thirds of the plate are carbohydrate. Now, the key for the carbohydrate is that we want fruits and vegetables. The other way to think about this is you want your carbohydrate to be what I refer to as one ingredient. And so, if you look at a Fuji apple, you know how many ingredients are in a Fuji apple? Well, there’s one, Fuji apple. If we look at broccoli, how many ingredients are in broccoli? One. And so, you want your carbohydrate sources to be from one ingredient and we’re going to eliminate from the body all processed food. So, food that has a shelf life of more than 7 days we’re taking out of our nutrition. We want fresh, whole, perishable food.
GA: And then, we also are going to include just a little bit of healthy fat and that can be in the form of nuts and seeds or oil such as olive oil and every time we eat, our food is balanced. So, our meal is balanced between those 3 macronutrients: protein, carbohydrate and fat. And, it’s really as simple as that. So, what we’re seeking is the quality of the food and the quantity of the food. We’re combining both of those every time we eat. And then, in terms of hydration, some of this depends on activity level and body weight but generally speaking, for men, I encourage three-fourth of a gallon to 1 gallon of water a day, no alcohol, no soda, nothing with sugar in it and, for women, approximately half a gallon of water a day, again eliminating all sugar and alcohol.
KC: Got it. Hey, Greg, is there, I know we’re touching on this but what’s the easiest place for somebody to find the information that you’re talking about? Because I know, like I’ve been on your YouTube page, your website, like where should people go as they’re looking to get a little bit more information on this part.
GA: You got it. What I’d recommend is on my website or on my YouTube channel, maybe you could provide links for the listeners.
GA: I have a lecture that I give. I go all over the world teaching this. It’s a 2-hour lecture and it’s called holistic nutrition and the first half of the lecture is an expanded version of what I just discussed and it’s around my whiteboard. And so, I’ve got diagrams. I’ve got charts. I really go into great detail and then the other half of the lecture is on the mindset, the type of thinking and the use of our words and how that affects our body and our life experience. So, the next component, once we understand the physical nutrition, where it gets really exciting, this is where lives change in a very, very profound way, is the mental nutrition. And so, when I’m in front of a group of officers teaching the concept, what I tell the officers is “You have to train like a warrior. You have to eat like a warrior and you have to think and speak like a warrior.” And, warriors think and speak a certain way and we think and speak with positive expectancy. And so, you can imagine a warrior preparing to engage in battle. The warrior is contemplating the ways that they will be victorious, not the ways in which they will be defeated. Right? That’s what separates the warrior is they have a tendency to use their mind to engage in a theory of positive expectancy. They think and they speak positively. Another way of thinking about this is using our words in what I refer to as the positive tense. So, a real easy example of this is in terms of physical training. When I’m coaching my athletes, if they’re going through a grueling workout, I always encourage my athletes in the positive tense. So, I say “Keep going.” And, it may seem so simple yet what I hear people saying many times in those challenges is “Don’t quit.”
KC: Gotcha. Yeah.
GA: And that’s a key difference and in its simplicity there is immense opportunity for growth because we have a tendency as a human society, one of the habits of our mind, unless we condition it accordingly is to think about things that we don’t want and opposed to thinking about things that we desire.
KC: Yeah and I just want to put an exclamation on that because the piece that you’re hitting on really is like, you know, you’re touching on the nutrition and the mental nutrition. But, for everybody listening, it’s and correct me if I’m wrong here, Greg, it’s really the, if you’re focusing on not wanting something, whether you’re saying like “I don’t want this. I don’t want this.” It’s going to come more and more when you have to constantly focus on what you do want.
GA: Yes. What we focus our attention on will increase in our life. So, I’m going to say that one more time because that’s like a golden nugget for your listeners. What we focus our attention on will increase in our life. And so, for example, with prosperity, if we want prosperity we have to focus on prosperity. If we focus on the lack of prosperity we will only increase the lack. If you want health and wellness, you have to focus on health and wellness. If you focus on the lack of it, if you focus on sickness and injury, you will increase the sickness and injury you are experiencing in your life. It’s like a magnifying glass. Imagine, you have a magnifying glass and anything that you hold the magnifying glass over will increase. It’s the same thing with our mind and our words and our thoughts. It’s almost like a new language. I was just speaking with my girlfriend about this and when we really become masters of the way of thinking and the way of speaking, we begin to communicate with ourselves and others in a foreign language. It’s a very foreign concept for people to live in a state of positive expectancy. It’s amazing. And, here’s another interesting factor. I wrote an article about this a few years ago. The reason that we eat the way that I recommend is the food that we consume whether we like it or not, it has a very real chemical and hormonal effect on our body. Well, guess what, the thoughts that we think, the words that we speak, they also have a very real chemical and hormonal effect on the body. And so, we can use our words and our thoughts as a means of literally altering the hormonal effect and the chemical effect in our body and in our brain. Words are like medicine. They are extremely powerful.
KC: Before continuing, I just want to share this quick message about our sister podcast. Okay, before continuing, I want to quickly let you know about our sister podcast, All About Beachbody Coaching. So, partnering with Beachbody, the makers of P90X, Insanity, the 21 Day Fix, Shakeology, you know, the Shaun T/Tony Horton Company. It’s played a huge role for Amy and I in creating freedom to do what we want, when we want, with who we want and not only has it helped us to achieve our goals, it’s how I’ve mentored hundreds of others just like you to achieving their goals and ultimately living the life they love to live. So, if you’d like to learn more about how you can partner with me and be mentored one-on-one by me for free, check out the All About Beachbody Coaching podcast. Alright, back to today’s episode.
KC: So, diving into that a little bit deeper and I kind of know what your answer is going to be but I’d like to really hear your opinion on this and maybe even a little bit of what you’re, what words you’re using so we’re talking to ourselves all the time every day anyways, right?
KC: Do you chunk your days into certain mantras or things that you’re saying over and over to yourself in your mind? Or, how are you setting up your day with your mental nutrition?
GA: Oh man, brother, you get me so fired up. You are the man. Okay, so here’s what I do. When I was growing up, my mom would tell me, “Greg, most important meal of the day is breakfast. It’s going to set your whole day.
KC: Yup, yup.
GA: And, my dad would tell me, “Son, the first thing you say in the morning will shape your whole day.
KC: Love it.
GA: Yes. And so, again, you know, wow, I just love my mom and dad because they taught me is that the food that we eat and the thoughts that we think are going to literally shape our day and the first meal of the day, both mental and physical is the most important. And so, what I do in my own practice and what I teach is what I refer to as the Morning Practice. And so, I’ll just run through my practice to answer your question and to paint a picture for your listeners. So, I awake in the morning and the first thing I do when I wake up is I simply become aware of the fact that I’ve made a transition from a sleeping state to a waking state.
KC: Can I interrupt you for one sec?
KC: Is there any time between your, you realize you’re awake and doing this, like do you have that 5 to 10 minutes sort of wallowing in bed or is it immediate?
GA: I do not do the snooze button.
GA: And so, when I’m awake, if I awake because I’ve set an alarm, even before I turn the alarm off, I just have that moment where I realize I’m awake. You know, I’m awake, I’m aware that I’m awake. You know, it’s developing awareness.
KC: Yeah, that’s the powerful word, right?
GA: Yes. Yes. And then, if I have a day where I wake up before my alarm, I’m awake.
GA: And, I’m aware that I’m awake. And then, I begin my practice. And so, what I’ll do and I do this even when I’m traveling. You know, there’s always an opportunity to abide by this practice. So, I’ll go into my kitchen and I’ll pour myself a glass of water and I’ll drink the water. And, granted now I have not said anything yet. So, I’ll drink the water and then after a few swallows of the water, I’ll say my first word of the day or my first mantra or my first affirmation. Now, I’m a Christian and so what I’m saying now, what I’ve said for years is my first word is usually “Jesus” or I’ll say “God” and I’ll say that first word with reverence. And then, I’ll continue drinking the water. So, what I do in the morning, what’s happened so far is I’ve combined an action with a word or an affirmation or a mantra. And so, drinking the water, I’m feeling, as I drink the water, gratitude. I’m appreciating the fact that I’m drinking water and I’m welcoming the hydration and I’m welcoming the water through my body. I’m sparking the internal fire with water.
KC: Yeah. So, you’re not just saying the word, you’re getting into the feeling nature of the word.
GA: Absolutely, absolutely. And then, I’ll offer up my first word or mantra or affirmation. Then, I’ll leave my kitchen and I’ll go into a part of my home that to me is very sacred. I’ve decided that this part of my home is for my meditation and that is a charged part of my home and I’ll go into child’s pose. And, I use child’s pose and I teach child’s pose as opposed to seated meditation because child’s ensures that I will become very, very still. And so, I’ll go into child’s pose and I’ll take several deep breaths and then I’ll continue to repeat out loud a series of mantras or affirmations. And again, because I’m Christian, many of the affirmations that I repeat are from scripture. But, I’ll share a great one with you that I teach and a lot of the athletes who use this are just blown away by the resounding powerful effect that it has on their life experience. So, a great one is “I believe in myself. I love myself and I constantly reaffirm my ability to succeed.”
KC: Can you repeat that?
GA: Absolutely. So, I believe in myself. I love myself and I constantly reaffirm my ability to succeed. That’s a great way to start your day with that mantra, with that affirmation.
KC: I just want to say one thing. For all the listeners, as you’re listening, there’s, you know, this episode’s chock-full of information. All the show notes I’ll give you the link and everything at the end of this but this is all going to be saved for you on the website. So, don’t feel like you need to type this in your phone while you’re or anything like that. We’ll get it all put aside for you. Alright, sorry Greg, go ahead continue.
GA: That’s okay. You got it. And so, I’ll repeat for myself a series of mantras and affirmations and what I’m doing in the morning is I’m taking control. I’m bringing awareness and discipline to the quality of my thinking and the quality of my words and it’s just like when I teach physical movement. It’s just like warming up. I always teach people to warm up their body before they engage in the challenge of the workout that awaits them and if they warm up and if they practice the movements that the workout will demand of them ahead of time, when they do them with weight and with a level of intensity, they’ll be safer, they’ll be stronger, they’ll be more efficient. Same thing with the morning practice, when I start my day with awareness to the quality of my words and therefore my thinking because I think the affirmation before I say it. I’m disciplining myself and as I leave my home and go into the day, I am much more likely to continue to engage in speaking and in thinking with positive expectancy because I practiced. I’ve started my day that way. Here’s another way to think of it. I just love painting pictures. So, imagine that you’ve got a very, very still body of water and into the center of that body of water, you drop a single stone. Because that water is absolutely still, that stone will create a ripple effect and it will ripple evenly through the entire body of water. And then, the water will become still again and at that point you could drop another stone and another stone and another stone. And, that’s what we’re doing with the morning practice. We’re just creating stillness, both physical and mental and then we’re dropping the stone and the stone is in the form of an affirmation. And, it will literally ripple throughout your entire day. You will ride the wave of that positive expectancy as you go through life that day.
KC: This is awesome stuff. You got me bobbing my head up and down saying “Yes” over here, so. I love it. So, now you’re going through your day and you notice that your mind wandered and what do you do now?
GA: Great question. So, imagine this. Imagine that we are engaging in a workout and we’re doing pull-ups.
GA: I’m sure all your listeners can understand the nature of a pull-up. So, you start on a pull-up bar. You’re at full extension, meaning that your arm is completely straight and your intention during this workout is to do 5 pull-ups and on the fourth repetition as you’re pulling yourself up you do not get your chin over the bar. Therefore, the repetition would not count. And so, in that moment, the athlete, we have a choice. Do we beat ourselves up over the fact that we did not complete the repetition? Of course not, all we do is we do another repetition and we make sure that the repetition is complete. And so, we don’t count the bad rep, we just do a good rep. Same thing with mindset. And so, if during the course of my day I become aware that my thinking is negative and negative is a broad and general term. But, basically we have darkness and light. We have negative and positive.
GA: And so, if I realize that I’m in darkness and that I’m not thinking positively, the first thing I do is I actually have a moment of gratitude because I’m aware of the fact that I’m not thinking positively. And so, because I’m aware of my thinking, I’m not my thinking. So, that’s slam dunk number 1. Just like in fitness, if the athlete is aware that they did not complete the repetition that is awesome. That means that the athlete has achieved the ability to feel their body in space and time. That’s a slam dunk for the athlete. So, first, there’s appreciation which automatically shifts me into the light. Then, I replace any negative with positive, simple as that.
KC: And, I want to take that one step deeper because I know that this is, like this is huge stuff for a lot of people and this is the piece that can literally ruin lives when you don’t capture your thoughts and nurturing them in the correct, you know, nurturing them and taking them in the right direction. Can you touch on a little bit about, I’m sure there’re people that are listening that are saying “But, my mind just runs. It just goes. I can’t control it.” Can you touch on how the mind can only focus on one thought at a time and how you, when you’re bringing that back, that you can with intention and with awareness bring it back to a positive thought?
GA: Yes. Imagine you are in a room and inside the room you hear, how can I describe this, you’re inside a room and everyone likely knows what a conch shell is. And so, you hear the sound within the room of a conch shell. Anywhere that you stand inside the room, the sound is evenly spread through the room. That’s the same thing with the mind. And so, a thought is evenly spread through the mind and we’re only able to hold one thought at a time. The first thing that we do is we simply develop an ability to listen to the sound of our thoughts. And, in that moment of listening and hearing the quality of your thoughts, that moment is life-changing because if you are listening to yourself think, you are the listener not the thinking. Then, what you do is you ask yourself the question, “What is the quality of that thought?” And, the person who answers that question is awareness, the awareness, your awareness is going to answer the question. It will let you know the quality of the thought. And then, you focus your mind and your thoughts and your words on positive. And, many times the way to do this is through speaking. The words that we speak are in vibration. They literally vibrate and they calibrate. And so, if you are experiencing negativity in your thinking, speak positively. Stop what you’re doing. Stand still. Take a breath. And then, say something positive. Go back to your morning practice. Go back to repeating for yourself the first thing you said that day. And so, in my practice, many times during the course of my day, I have awareness that I’m not thinking at the level that I intend for myself. I take a breath and I might say, “I believe in myself. I love myself. I constantly reaffirm my ability to succeed.” And, I won’t just say it. I will feel it. I will feel belief. I will feel love. I will feel success. And, what do you think happens to my thinking, when I start to believe in the words I just said?
KC: Yeah, it slowly starts going back up, right? Because you were doing a little bit of a spiral down and then you start slowly spiraling back up, right?
GA: Exactly. And so, I can use my words to capture the attention of my mind.
GA: Words are very, very powerful. Just because you’re thinking a certain way doesn’t mean you have to speak that way.
GA: One can affect the other. So, our mind, the way that we’re thinking will affect the quality of our speaking. However, the quality of our speaking will affect the quality of our thinking. Now, brother, here’s where it gets really exciting. The quality of our body, the physicality of our body, the way that we are standing, the way that we are seated, the way we are walking, the way we are breathing, that affects our mind and our speaking. And so, again, we go back to the way that we started our segment together, “Everything is interconnected.” And so, if I’m not pleased with the quality of my thinking, I’ll bring awareness to my body. How am I standing? Oh my goodness, my shoulders are rounded. I’m slumped. I’m breathing very shallow. I take a deep breath in, a slow breath out. I roll my shoulders back. I stand tall. All of a sudden I feel better. All of a sudden the quality of my thinking is better. All of a sudden I’m speaking with light and love. Aha, everything is interconnected. That’s the point of the holistic training is everything compliments everything else.
KC: I love it man. This is such good stuff and I know everybody listening is eager. They’re either writing down right now like I am or they’re going to be grabbing all the show notes for this. There’re a couple of other questions I want to sort of switch direction because I want to touch on a couple of other things. You just, you’re such a multifaceted guy and I want to touch on some of the other stuff just for no reason than my own curiosity.
GA: You got it.
KC: Tell me a little bit about the book. I haven’t read your book, Your Wife Is Not Your Sister, and to be honest I like just happened by it today when I was on your website and I watched your, there’s a little 2 or 3-minute video about it and I’m going to order it. But, tell me a little bit more about that.
GA: You’re asking all the right questions. I appreciate you asking. So, that book has had a profound effect in the law enforcement military community. The law enforcement military firefighting, the public service community in general is plagued with a very high disproportionate divorce rate and I fell into that trap, sadly. I recall in 2004 I was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma going through boot camp and my drill sergeant gathered all of these soldiers together and said, “Alright, privates. You will all experience the 3 Ds in my army. You’ll deploy. Some of you will die and you’ll all go through a divorce. And, I thought to myself, “My goodness, what have I gotten myself into?” And, sadly, he was right. You know, I lost a lot of friends and I went through a divorce and that’s because no one ever taught me how to love a woman. No one ever taught me how to nurture and care for a marriage. And, after my divorce, I was at the lowest point in my life because I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong. I’ve been successful in every endeavor yet I failed where it really mattered most. And, God provided me an amazing opportunity to have silence and isolation. So, following my divorce, I was transitioning out of a job. I was working as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and I was transitioning out of that role and the universe provided for me an airstream and an amazing plot of land in hills of Aptos, California.
GA: And, I just started in isolation and what God put on my heart was start to write down when I make you aware of the lessons that you learn and write these down, record them and so that when I bring another woman into your life you will not make the same mistakes. And so, I started to make notes to myself and the note-taking became journaling and the journaling became typing and all of a sudden I had a manuscript and I’m like “My goodness, where did this come from?” And, I have 3 younger brothers. So, I e-mailed this very rough manuscript to my brothers and said, “Hey guys, here’s some of the things I learned. Read this over and in your relationships, make sure you abide by my recommendations and my action steps.
GA: They emailed me back after reading it and said, “Whoa, thank you so much. I was doing the same things you were doing and I was headed down the wrong road in my relationship.” And, I thought, “My goodness, if my brothers were making the same mistake, I better send this to a few other friends.” And, I sent it to 2 friends who were in the law enforcement profession and they e-mailed me back with the same thing, “Man, Greg, we were about to just run it. Thank you so much.” And, at that point I said, “You know what, I might be onto something here.” And, I ultimately published that work and the feedback, especially from the law enforcement community has just been amazing. The book has literally saved families. It’s saved marriages. It’s really been a great contribution. I’m grateful that and what’s so funny too, brother, is that when I reread the book or when I receive correspondence from someone, thanking me for something that I wrote, many times I’m like “Man, I do not remember writing that.”
KC: That’s amazing, isn’t it?
GA: Yeah and I really think that God helped me formulate the content of the book for my own benefit but then for the benefit of other people.
KC: Yup, yup. Yeah, you were really connected and in the flow when you did, huh?
GA: Exactly, yeah.
KC: That’s amazing. When you did the book, did you publish it, self publish or did you have a publishing company do it?
GA: I self published. There’s an amazing publisher I connected with in Los Gatos, just over the hill from where I live and we just worked on it together. It was a collaborative project and it’s been awesome because I’ve been able to retain control of the book and I’ve been able to line up my own speaking engagements. It’s been really an awesome experience. I’ve learned so much.
KC: Yeah, it seems like that’s sort of, more and more people are going that way now because of the control piece.
GA: Yeah. You know, it’s, I’m creative by nature and I wanted to retain control over what I put my name on. And, it was an amazing experience. I learned so much and I plan on writing another book. I’m in the process now and it’ll be interesting, if I do it the same way or if in the next book I try doing a piece with a more prominent publisher, I think what the publisher helps with is dissemination of the book. I was blessed with an audience already. And so, I was able just to make people aware of the book on my own, which was really a great blessing. It really allowed me to share the message of the book with a large audience.
KC: Yeah, I’m looking forward to reading it. Like, I said, I’m going to grab it after we finish up here. And, I got a couple of questions. I know that I’m taking up a bunch of your time. You’re a busy guy. The original fire breather, what does that mean?
GA: Oh, fire breather. So, years ago, in CrossFit, we had just finished and by we, with some of the original group. So, when I started CrossFit, there was no website. There was no Reebok CrossFit. I mean it was one gym and the gym was all of 800 square feet.
KC: So, you started in the first gym?
GA: I did.
KC: No way.
GA: I did. Yeah, my mentor in CrossFit, when I started CrossFit, it was Greg Glassman, the founder, the creator.
GA: Of CrossFit. So, I learned from the man himself. So, there I was I just finished this workout that was just, it annihilated me. I was on my back and trying to capture my breath and I had been breathing so hard during the workout. It felt like my throat was just on fire and I looked at some of the other athletes who were in the same position and same agony I was and I said, “Whoa, I feel like I’m breathing fire. It’s like I’m a fire breather.
GA: And, that word just stuck and we started to use that word as a means of accolade in the gym and if someone gave a really good effort, regardless of their score, you know, regardless of how they did, we were looking at the effort of what they were trying to do. And, if the effort was, if it was just such a powerful effort, if they really put their heart and spirit into the effort we would say, “You were a fire breather.” And, that word just started to circulate among the gym and as CrossFit grew, the word grew with it. And so, it’s not so much original fire breather as it is just the word fire breather.
KC: Fire breather, yeah.
GA: Fire breather, yeah, and I think what, you know, sometimes I’m referred to as the original fire breather. I kind of coined the term but usually that word is just fire breather.
GA: It’s just singular.
KC: Yeah, I love it. So, one of the other podcast episodes, I interviewed a guy named Darin Olien. He’s actually out in your neck of the woods and he was telling me about a workout that him, another guy named Laird Hamilton, who is like the king of big waves surfing and Rick Rubin, I don’t know if you know who Rick Rubin is, sort of the king of music and he partnered with, he’s partnering Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons. So anyways, one of the things that they started doing, he was sharing with me the water workouts that they’re doing and I saw a couple of the videos but what are you doing, I noticed on your website for the water workouts, how are you incorporating that into your workout?
GA: Oh, great question. We do a lot of water borne activities. I was a water polo player throughout high school and college. My dad had me in the water and had me really appreciate the water for what it can offer our body and it allows you, water allows you to fly. You know, it’s one of the most amazing ways that we can experience movement with our body. I love swimming and what I found as I travel and teach is that many people are not comfortable in the water. And so, the first thing I do is I just get people wet. I get them in the water and it’s fun. It brings back a childlike quality to our life, just being able to play in the water. And then, what I start to do with athletes, once I get them comfortable in the water and swimming on the surface of the water is I get them on the water and we do a series of drills underwater and many times the drills that we do are partner drills, where one person is swimming in a weighted object underwater and their partner is swimming on the surface above that and they communicate non-verbally with hand signals. And so, that as one person is in need of a breath, the other person who’s on the surface will swim down, take the object and they’ll switch places.
KC: Oh man, I love it.
GA: And, it is awesome. I use this drill frequently. We are going to do it tomorrow. So, tomorrow I’m leading 9 brave souls from my gym on a 10-12 hour evolution that we call the Musha shugyo and that’s Japanese for warrior quest and I’ll lead 2 or 3 of these a year and this is life changing for the athletes. It’s absolutely awesome and one of the big evolutions that we do is I get them in the pool and we do a series of these underwater swims. And, what it really forces people to do is to have composure because if you resist the water your resistance is futile. You’ll only exhaust yourself further. But, if you can learn to be in the moment and to relax and to trust, you can experience the most amazing piece under the water. It’s absolutely amazing. And then, that transfers over to dry land training. So, if you can compose yourself when swimming underneath the water, when you go to dry land training, you’ve got the luxury of being able to breathe the entire time.
KC: Yup. You appreciate that oxygen. Awesome, man. And, you know, I wanted to just circle everything up with I’m on your website right now and you offer a and if there’s anything else you want to share as well, but you offer a $49 yearly fee for an online membership where you really dole out a lot of this information, right?
GA: Correct. Yeah, so I have athletes that physically train with me in Santa Cruz and then I have hundreds of remote athletes and those are athletes from around the world that are part of my gym. They are members. They are athletes at my gym. They just don’t live in Santa Cruz but they still participate in the training and in the programs that I offer at their own gym or in their garage or in a park. And so, that’s definitely an option for people that want to do CrossFit. They want to have coaching and guidance but they don’t live in Santa Cruz. They can just join the gym and be a remote athlete.
KC: Awesome. I’m going to make sure we get that link up and sort of put it front and center. I’m actually going to jump on there. This has been awesome, Greg. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us and, you know, one of the cool things about my job and the podcast that I do is I get to find people that I’m inspired by and curious about and get all of my questions answered and, you know, we have a great following that sort of has the same questions that I do. So, I’m looking forward to the book. I’m looking forward to jumping in on this online membership and, you know, getting a little bit more into your world and you know what, everything you’re going through and everything that you were talking about, as I was listening, one of the things that was on my mind the whole time was the importance of surrounding yourself physically but not only physically, the information that you’re taking in on a daily basis, the types of people that you want to surround yourself with and just everything that you’re doing, man. It’s all the stuff that I want to be going into my mind and going into helping me to become a better husband, better father, better mentor, better leader. So yeah. I just really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and if there’s anything, you know, any other, I’m going to pop up your Facebook page and your website but if there’s anywhere else that you want to send people, feel free to, you know, share it with us now and you know any parting advice too.
GA: Alright, appreciate. You know, we have time for a story, can I share a story?
KC: Yeah, absolutely.
GA: I love storytelling. You know, in the warrior tradition, stories and the oral tradition of sharing stories is huge and years ago one of my mentors said, “Greg, if you tell me the truth, I will believe you. If you tell me a fact, I will listen. But, if you share with me a story, I will remember.” Ain’t that great?
GA: So, I want to leave your listeners with a story. And so, here we go. Years ago there was a world famous master of the trapeze and this master was going to certify new students in the trapeze and in order to become a master of trapeze, what you had to do was climb up onto a 50-foot perch. From that perch, you had to leap, grab onto a high bar, make a revolution around the high bar and then dismount and land on another perch also 50 feet off the ground. Now, as crazy as that sounds, that’s actually a very basic skill in trapeze. The difference is that to be master, you had to perform that skill with no safety net. And so, if you made it, you were certified master. If you’ve missed, it’d be a major problem.
KC: You were not a master.
GA: And so, all of these students were going through this test and they were successful. There’s one student left and this climbs up onto the perch. They get ready to leap and they freeze. They’re just terrified. And so, the wise old master, he’s on the floor. He looks up and he sees this and he knows what to do because this happens all the time. People freeze all the time. And so, he climbs up to the perch. He very gently puts his arm around this young student and he says “It’s okay. We’ve all been there. All you have to do now is throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow.” And, with that advice, the young student leapt and successfully made the revolution and sanded safely on the other side. And, I think that story for our listeners today is so important because what we’ve got to do once we gather information is we’ve got to make the leap. We’ve got to throw our heart into whatever it is we’re doing.
KC: It’s awesome, man. I love it. Love the story. Love everything and I really appreciate you taking the time, Greg.
GA: Hey, my pleasure. Thanks for all you’re doing, Keith. I really appreciate you, brother. This is awesome. Thank you so much.
KC: Holy cow. That was awesome, right. I just, I love my job. To be able to be on interviewing guys like Greg and that was just, it was an amazing experience for me. I am all in with anything and everything that Greg’s doing. So, I hope that you enjoyed that episode. To get the show notes, go to KeithCallahan.com/episode15 and we’ll have everything in there, you know, all links to everything that Greg mentioned and usually I ask people at the end of an episode for books and stuff like that, websites that they recommend but we just covered so much, so many good things from Greg. So, I didn’t even want to get those extra pieces. So, hope you enjoyed the episode. Swing over to KeithCallahan.com/episode15 and everything that we mentioned inside of this episode, all the links and everything will be there, full transcript there and show notes. Alright, guys, see you on the next show.
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