Around SOFLETE HQ we don’t really pat each other on the back much. We certainly don’t spend a lot of time basking in the light of our own accomplishments. We weren’t raised that way, and it’s a toxic trait that has driven most of our discontent over the years. As an older guy with a soap box in a physical career field, I’d like to spend the next few hundred words talking you through my physical growth over the years, not to toot my own horn, but to encourage you in your own journey. The road to where you want to be has a beginning, and you should embrace it.
I recently set some PR’s, after a major downturn in my time in the gym and a fundamental shift in my thinking on the priority I put on training. I spent most of the last six months working out half as much, half as hard, and turning out numbers that put younger me to shame. It made me realize how far I’ve come, and how hard it is to see progress because life often gets in the way. Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane to fill you in on where this started and explain why change doesn't happen overnight and growth is the product of consistent adaptation to your environment. Too many people see success and think it is beyond their reach, it’s not. Achieving your goals is in your head and in your execution.
I grew up the small kid. This shouldn’t shock anybody. I didn’t hit 5 feet until my Junior year in High School. As a classic “late bloomer,” I played team sports, but my status as a starter had a lot more to do with my attitude than my ability. I grew up working manual labor jobs and got used to being picked on for being the runt. I didn’t grow much In college where things like mechanics interested me more than my actual schoolwork. I drank too much, never even entered the fitness center, and thought being skinny and using leverage to turn stuck bolts was the truth. When I decided to join the Army and pursue being a Special Forces soldier, I was 23, 5’9”, and weighed 130 pounds. I was naturally lean and had never truly worked out in my life. In fact, I saw physically fit people as mentally inferior. That was all about to change.
Before I left for Army One Station Unit Training, I half-heartedly followed a few guides to getting selected, but mostly I went out and walked with a backpack on. It was hard, y’all. I was slow. My back hurt. My feet were sore. I convinced myself I was faster and stronger than my body and watch told me. I persevered. Then I got to Basic. It wasn’t easy! WTF? Basic was supposed to be easy. Why was I getting shin splints and not leading the fast group of runners? Now, here’s the thing… pride… it’s a bitch. I may not have led the fast runners, but I was with them. I was adapting. I showed up and I put out. Every step of Army training prepared me for the next challenge, but I was always a half step behind my physically fit peers who had more capacity than I did, and to make things worse I wasn’t strong either.
I found people who were better than me and basically badgered them to show me how to get stronger, faster, and less fragile. These relationships didn’t always look like friendships. It took me 14 years of knowing some of my mentors before I realized they were ACTUALLY my friends and that they recognized me as more than an annoying expenditure of time. I grew. I got larger, I got stronger, I got slower, I lost weight, I gained speed, I gained weight again. Rinse. Repeat. Some things worked, and some things were counterproductive. I learned through experience and figured out a lot of people telling me what to do and asking for money had no idea what i needed for my particular job. A lot of the time the things I spent the most money and time on were the things that held me back from my ultimate goals the most.
I don’t want this to be a plug for SOFLETE (Well, not entirely), but this is the part where I pitch training programs. To be candid, a lot of experts are far enough removed from their clients target experience that they give bad advice. If you want to know who is worth listening to, look at the results coaches get from others; not their personal success. We all need structure and daily direction from a workout regimen that has an end goal in mind. Most “programs” are a mindless collection of circus tricks and volume for volume's sake. Bad reps don’t build better movement, and chasing someone else’s numbers for a spot on a board is only a small part of the growth process. Identify your weak areas, be real about how much time and capacity you have, find a program that tells you what it will improve, then be consistent for the entire 12 weeks, plus or minus. You will not see the changes you desire in one week, but you will absolutely be able to track growth over three months if you are smart and honest in how much you put out AND how much you recover.
I suppose I’m lucky that COVID hasn’t affected me that adversely. It would be foolish to say that it hasn’t changed how I allocate time and pursue adventure outdoors versus the constant social whirlwind I entertained before people got scared to gather. By chance, I was on the long hybrid training cycle of one of our shorter time requirement strength/endurance focused offerings from the app and I was able to be really consistent in my training and activity. I spent four months resetting myself with a workload that, quite frankly, didn’t feel like I was working out at all. Physically, I felt healthier than I ever have. Mentally, I kept telling myself I was being lazy and setting myself up for a hard comeback to be ready for work as a Green Beret (even a part time one). But this year, at 39 I have routinely tackled physical challenges and activities I wasn’t training for and have thrived in the environment and found a lot of joy in the process. When the endurance cycle wrapped up I committed to re-doing a cycle I completed on my last deployment where I felt almost invincible in my strength and mid-distance performance.
Circling back to a known training cycle and comparing it to my past numbers kind of blew me away. I’m faster than I have ever been in my life, at a weight I never thought I could maintain, with respectable strength numbers, and much more efficient breathing and movement. I am not special, in fact I am the archetype of the little engine that could. My fitness has always been enough for the task even when it stretched me past my physical limits, but, as the face of a fitness company, I’m pretty unimpressive. Mental fortitude has carried me through a lot but the end product of SOFLETE programming is something I am genuinely happy about. My experience is the same as thousands of other people who have resolved to accomplish something, broken down the task, and then started into it one bite at a time.
I’ve hit the ups and downs of my personal growth, but how did we as SOFLETE get here? Why should you believe that our home built training/nutrition app will work for you?
Experience. We aren’t re-packaging training programs that we tested on other subsets of athletes. We have all lived this life. We know the demands of normal guys working in stressful environments, and we know the negative effects of stacking stress long term. The programs we put out are meant to build you, not break you.
Mindset. None of us are here to hype you up or bullshit you about what lies in store in any pursuit you may choose. We are all about minimizing the bandwidth that physical demands put on your ability to allow you to make good decisions under stress. Can you get selected for Special Forces at 135# of hate and determination? Absolutely, but wouldn’t you prefer a more relaxed experience you are mentally and physically prepared for? We aren’t building an empire based on one man’s ego. Our coaches engage in battle royale group discussions on programming for the best overall general physical preparedness of the specific population we want to build.
Results. None of us may be role models, but we have all performed at a high level in our fields and known success within them. Our athletes may not wear gold medals or have a million instagram sycophants, but they are viewed as prepared for whatever presents itself by the mortals they encounter in their daily lives. We will always proselytize that gross numbers aren’t as important as durability, a strong self-image, and overall capability.
The next time you see someone who is faster, stronger, or more knowledgeable than you, fight the negative voice in your head that tells you that you “could never” get there. We all start as blank canvases. Write down where you are then write down where you want to be, find someone who has achieved what you want, have them help you build a plan to get there and accept that the path isn’t linear or brief. The rest is on you.