Today is my 31st birthday and as I reflect on the history of my exercise and training, I’m thinking about things differently than I used to.

I want to share with you in this article a brief history of my past exercise motivations and methods as well as where I see the next year going and why.


The Origins

The reason I began exercising in the first place was because in 6th grade I had a sleepover birthday party. One of my friends late at night went to get water (shirtless) and somehow my sister saw him and the next day said ‘how does your friend have a 6 pack? He’s buff’.

I started working out the next day doing push ups and sit-ups listening to mix tapes in my room with the door locked.

It probably starts with vanity for the majority of people, myself included. Thank you Ryan Dixon for setting this all in motion for me.



After doing body weight exercises in my room and convincing my parents to buy me dumbbells from Big 5 and using their Total Gym they bought from Chuck Norris, I eventually got a real gym membership.

I did a standard bodybuilding program for years. Back day, chest day, arm day, ‘leg’ day (which was just playing basketball and riding a stationary bike), rest day, repeat.

I bought Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding and my main goal was to just get buff and have abs.

Eventually I got bored trying to lift just slightly heavier weight each week and was thirsty for a change.

I asked one of the trainers at the gym I went to (Kevin Kleyla) what kind of different ‘thing’ I could try and he said ‘You gotta check out this site, they’re doing some crazy shit’.



So I started doing CrossFit with a friend from college (this was in Sept 2007).

We agreed to follow the website for 30 days no questions asked, any workout, anytime.

Yeah...we got into it. We got into it so much that we would walk around our fraternity (don’t worry, it was the ‘smart’ fraternity) yelling that we ‘did CrossFit with a Gym Jones attitude’. We were annoying.

I particularly remember on a day came up when you could either do a workout called Cindy or one called Mary, but you were supposed to choose one.

My friend said to me Dude, I am going to do Mary in the morning and then do Cindy at night

I don’t think that’s allowed..can you even do two workouts in one day? was my response.

Things have changed.

My main motivation at that time was to do workouts fast and post on the comments.

As the competitive side of CrossFit grew I wanted in and did local competitions and competed on a team at regionals in 2010.

Then I started chiropractic school, sat around all day in class, studied too much, and lost the competitive drive and part of my soul.

In 2011 I started having mild back pain that persisted for years to come with major flare ups. Listen to my podcast here for more details. I guess that’s a consequence of having bad form and having your lumbar spine manipulated 1,000 times a month [Did I sign a waiver? I must have]


The Slump

When my back was hurt I woke up every morning for 24 straight months with back pain. Bending forward every morning to lift the toilet seat up was something I dreaded. Putting my socks on was a painful chore.

I did a lot of stretching, walking, planks, bird dogs, and reading about back pain, exercise, fitness, etc.

I got severely de-conditioned, had substantial unfavorable body composition changes, self-esteem issues, and mild depression.

Part of me thinks of exercise as a way to literally self-medicate with endogenously created chemicals and hormones and I had an ‘endogenous-happy-chemical deficiency’.


The Return

2016 and 2017 were good years for me. I was able to consistently lift again with little to no pain, change my body composition, and have all the other positive effects.

My energy increased, I felt better about myself, the world seemed like a positive place once again.

I was primarily doing bodybuilding workouts to put on muscle mass in a controlled environment and avoiding end ranges of motion, especially in deadlifting and squatting as those were provocative for me to a degree and I just didn’t see a reason to do them.

I began running more due to my interactions with Chris Johnson and my desire to beat him a 100m sprint (which I am confident I will do when we actually race) and keep up within 10 seconds of him in a 400m run.

That led to me re-appreciating running whereas I had previously undervalued it.

Throughout all of this I was reading books, making videos, writing articles, and thinking constantly about fitness, movement, and exercise, attempting to formulate what I thought was the best style of programming and mixture of modalities and time domains.

And now, as I complete my 31st cycle around the sun, I am looking into the future and pondering the quality of life that exercise permits or reduces with a focus on the longevity and health of my body and psyche.


Looking into the Future

I can’t help but read books like ‘Tribe of Mentors’ from Tim Ferriss and one of his things was ‘Ask better questions’.

So what questions am I asking myself about exercise, movement, and fitness looking forward?

What do I really care about?
  • Feeling good
  • Looking good
  • Keeping my body as healthy as possible for a lifetime
  • Not having pain
  • Being able to do anything I want with my body on a whim
  • Learning and developing new skills
  • Challenging myself
  • Being happy
What do I not care about?
  • Competing
  • Trying to do workouts faster than other people
  • Working out so hard I think I am going to throw up and pass out (that actually was something I used to say: ‘I want to workout so hard I pass out’...I was 20 and lived in a frat, a smart frat, but a frat nonetheless)
What formats of exercise/training make the most sense given what I care about?

Probably 2-3 higher intensity metabolic workouts per week, running 2x/week (either alone or in a mixed modality workout), accessory hypertrophy work, skill work

What exercises make my body feel worse?

For me, high rep olympic lifts don’t feel good to me after doing them. They bother my wrists, elbows, and shoulders and honestly I just don’t enjoy them. I think they’re important so my volume will be lower with a barbell and higher with dumbbells. Dumbbell cleans and snatches have always felt better for me.

There is no real reason for me to choose barbell snatching over dumbbell snatching. Dumbbell feels better to me, I am not a competitive weightlifter, I am not competing in any way that requires me to be good at high rep barbell snatches, and it doesn’t align with my goals at all and makes my body feel worse afterward. I am trying to have foresight into longevity.

What things do I want to explore more?

I want to understand my own physiology better. In 2018 I plan to get some blood work and body composition testing done, I bought a heart rate monitor to wear during different workouts to better understand my recovery during intervals and heart rate implications, and I want to explore more specific energy system training.

Additionally, I want to include more well-designed upper and lower body plyometric work because as I age I want to still have ‘pop’, let’s say, and I think that’s something that’s frequently lost.

I also have a desire to run really fast, both in short and long distances because it feels good to me and I haven’t explored that modality much in years and it makes me happy.

What about Movement and Mobility work?

This is an important thing that’s included each day before a workout or included as part of my accessory training.

With that said, I’m observing a lot of people doing, in my opinion, way too much mobility and movement work compared to actual strength and conditioning as a percentage of total training time.

Perhaps that is helping that person meet his/her goals, but I want to make sure getting every joint able to move to it’s full bony capacity isn’t the primary focus of people’s training unless their goal is to have full bony capacity of every joint and be weak because they never did any actual training.

Ideally we could all have everything, but I don’t think that’s reality as there are time and energy constraints.

But if you do have full bony capacity in every joint, you better make sure you know how to stop the motion before you repetitively rely on bony end points to stop motion.


To Summarize

That’s a brief history of my exercise background and where I want to take things in the future.

I will be sharing more posts like this throughout 2018 and I also plan on making my own training program that I am personally doing available on my site in some way, shape, or form.

I’d love to hear in the comments below what you want your training to look like for 2018!

- Ryan