Werewolves, Peter Pan, and Neverland. Or, How To Stay Young Forever

Every Sunday for the past decade, my family and I have gone over to my parent’s house for supper. We’ve missed the odd week here or there for vacations or kid’s activities, but we’re pretty consistent.

It’s a great way to see everyone, relax, and catch up on what went on in our lives the past week. As enjoyable as it is, though, I try to make sure we are out the door as close to 7 pm as possible.

You see, my kids are werewolves.

At the stroke of 7 each night, they begin to change from daytime kids (humans) to bedtime kids (savage wolves). I’m sure most parents can relate.

If we can have the kids in bed – pajamas on, teeth brushed, stories read – by 8:00, the wolves can be contained.

If not… we’re in trouble.

Not unlike the savage transformation from human to wolf, there’s a lot of howling involved.

A couple of weeks back, I was hustling everyone out the door as bedtime neared. We said our good-byes, hugged and kissed Grandma and Grandpa, and rushed into the van.

The countdown was on.

I gave the kids their pep talk, “Ok, as soon as we get home – wash your hands, brush your teeth, pajamas on…” and hoped for the best.

About halfway home (it’s only a five-minute drive, so I really need to get the pep talk out in a hurry), that Lost Boy song came on the radio. You know, the one about Peter Pan, playing in the woods, and being free.

And I started thinking…

Here’s the thing – On paper, I am a married man with a beautiful wife and four great kids (so long as it’s not past bedtime). I am a business owner who needs to make payroll and file taxes. My hair is turning grey and I need glasses to see straight.

And I cook, clean, drive, pay bills, volunteer in my community, and generally do a lot of “adult things”.

In my head, though, I’m none of this. In my head, I’m just a twelve-year-old boy who wants to run around, play in the woods, and never grow up.

In my head, I’m Peter Pan.

As I sat there giving orders in the van that evening, I couldn’t help but notice this dichotomy between the person I am and the person I think I am. Or, rather, the person I am and the person I want to be.

Peter Pan wouldn’t give pre-bedtime pep talks.

Don’t get me wrong. I take my adult responsibilities very seriously. I need to provide for my family and I need to be my kids’ father, not their best buddy. But at the same time, I don’t see any harm in having a little Peter Pan in me.

Let me rephrase that… I don’t see any harm in having a part of me that “never grows up”. That’s better.

Thankfully, I have fitness to keep me young. By lifting weights, swinging kettlebells, dragging tires, and sprinting up hills, I’ve been able to keep from “growing up”. I realized this during our short van ride home.

And then it really hit me – What I do for a living is actually pretty damn important!

Conviction Fitness isn’t about looking good in a swimsuit, being a great powerlifter, or setting a land speed record. I mean, we win a lot of races, and I regularly have pretty solid showings in the Tactical Strength Challenge, but that’s not the point.

Our goal is to get the most out of our lives. Our goal is to be able to go out on adventures. Our goal is to be strong, fast, mobile, and fit enough to LIVE.

Our goal, in a way, is to never grow up.

I couldn’t imagine how “old and grumpy” I would be if I wasn’t able to let my inner 12-year-old run-around and have fun. I’m so grateful that I get to unleash that version of myself – and help others do so, too, every day.

When you’re truly fit, i.e. strong, fast, and mobile, you can do pretty much anything. You have the opportunity to unleash your inner child and be physically free.

While you’ll still have bills to pay and adult responsibilities, you don’t really have to “grow up”.

And that’s why I’m changing the name of our gym to Neverland!

Ok, not really. But can you see what I’m saying?

The gym – when used appropriately – is the fountain of youth!

I’ve coached 40-year-olds who can run circles around 22-year-olds. And I’ve met 40-year-olds who struggle to bend down and tie their shoes. They’re the same age, but the fit, energetic 40-year-olds are the ones who live in Neverland – at least for an hour or so each day.

The fit residents of Neverland run, lift, and stretch. They eat vegetables and drink water. And, heck, they look and feel great because of it!

Being able to run, hike, swim, bike, and play with your kids at the drop of a hat is freeing. Taking the dog for a long walk without worrying about stiffness, pain, or loss of breath is the way it should be!

If you can’t do these things, I’m afraid you’re missing out. You may be alive, but you aren’t truly living.

Sure, if you’re 90-years-old, I’ll give you a break. But otherwise, we should all be running around and having fun.

And before you start listing all of the reasons why you’re the exception to the rule, I beg of you – try to find just one reason as to why you can, and should, take your health and fitness seriously.

Find a reason to feel young again. I’m telling you, it’s worth it.

Find a reason to let that inner child free.

Find a reason to seek Neverland!

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Do You Want to Be Challenged, or Do You Want to Succeed? Why Consistency Will Always Trump Intensity.

I started training people online about four years ago. Our Spartan Race training group was having great results and I was getting inquiries in regards to distance coaching. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but figured I’d try to help.

After my first few clients saw great progress, I decided this was a good way to help more people reach their goals.

And I started taking it seriously.

I enrolled in the Online Trainer Academy. I became a Certified Online Trainer and have continued to grow my roster of online athletes ever since.

It’s been a great journey, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

And while there has been a heck of a lot more “ups” than “downs”, I had to fire my first client this week.

We could get into all the details, but what it came down to was this – my workouts weren’t challenging enough.

Now, I completely understand wanting to be challenged. I thrive off challenges! I’ve quit jobs in the past simply because they weren’t challenging.

But I’ve also come to learn that “success” is more important than “challenging”. And we simply can’t “challenge” ourselves every workout.

I’ve done workout programs that left me breathless and unable to walk. They were challenging, and I felt accomplished. But my training journals prove that I wasn’t making progress.

According to my training journals, my clients and I have made the most progress when we’ve trained “reasonably”. We always see better results when we are more worried about tomorrow’s workout than today’s.

It took me nearly twenty years of training to realize this, but it’s true – progress comes from consistent, reasonable workouts.

Back to the client…

This individual came to me hoping to be pushed and beaten down. They wanted military boot camp. And five years ago I would have been all over that! But, that’s no longer my style.

Yes, my athletes and I have some fun and challenge ourselves once in a while. Challenges are an important part of training and life! But more often than not, our workouts are pretty reasonable.

If you take a look at my Instagram story, it’s far from exciting. You’ll see me rucking, lifting weights (reasonably), and carrying heavy stuff. You’ll also see pictures of the book I’m reading and maybe a shot of my kids.

I don’t post this stuff because it looks cool.

I post it because it’s my recipe for success.

If I ruck often, I will get good at it. If I front squat a few times a week with a reasonable load, I will get stronger. If I read daily, I will get smarter. And if I play with my kids often, our relationship will blossom.

And this is exactly what I try to get across with my clients. Consistency will always trump intensity.

It doesn’t make for the most exciting social media, but contrary to the norm these days, I try to post the truth.

Everyone knows that social media is full of lies. Most of what gets posted is for show. The crazy stunts and ridiculous techniques aren’t how athletes actually train.

When a workout on Instagram makes you jump out of your seat and yell “Whoa!”… that was the point.

That “workout” wasn’t about getting better. It was about showing off.

Coach Martin Rooney put it perfectly in an old T-nation article:
“Think about it – if I’m training Jim Miller for a fight in two months, when the cameras arrive do I show how we really train, or do I try to psyche out my opponent’s camp by having Jim swim in shark infested waters while I shoot flaming arrows at him?”

Remember – the videos look cool. But they’re more action film than documentary.

So, here I was in this difficult situation. I had a client who wanted brutal, Instagram worthy workouts. Ten thousand burpees. Nine thousand push-ups. Eight thousand kettlebell swings…

The workouts I was programming were reasonable. But they wanted “more”.

I could have easily thrown some gut-wrenching workouts their way and watched my bank account grow. But that’s not who I am.

Over 370 years ago, Miyamoto Musashi told us that “Too much is the same as not enough.” This is a lesson I have learned over and over again through my career. And now, as a coach, it is my responsibility to prevent others from making the same mistake.

Giving this individual “more” – both in intensity and volume – would have gone against everything I believe in.

I tried to explain my philosophy and point of view. I shared my experiences and where I’ve gone wrong in my career. But, at the end of the day, I couldn’t change this individual’s mind.

They wanted to be pushed. I was unwilling to do so.

So we had to break up.

It’s tough for me. I know I could have changed this person’s life. With their history of repeated injuries and setbacks, it was so clear to me what the issue was. But, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

We left on good terms and I sincerely wish this individual nothing but the best. Perhaps we’ll cross paths again and I’ll have a second opportunity to help.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to keep programming reasonable workouts and sticking to my principles.

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You Have To (Choose To) Earn It

I never thought I’d be doing burpees until my fingers bled, but there I was – living the dream.

It was 6:00 pm on Friday, February 26th, 2016.

There were dozens of garbage bags packed in our garage. Each bag filled with clothing donations for Community Living.

A few teammates were coming over for an all-nighter. The plan was to go through the donations and have someone do 15 burpees as a thank-you for every item donated.

Fifteen burpees for a pair of pants. Fifteen burpees for a t-shirt. Fifteen burpees for each and every unmentionable donated… And, oh, there were some unmentionables.

I had no idea what I’d gotten myself, and my team, into. We had a ton of items to count and a ton of burpees to get through. And the donations were being picked up in just 24 hours.

With an enormous task ahead of us, we didn’t have time to strategize. The only thing we could do was grab an item, do our burpees, place the item in the “done” pile, put a check on the board, and repeat.

This was not a pleasurable experience.

Pleasure vs Satisfaction

In his book, Off Balance, author Matthew Kelly touches on the difference between pleasure and satisfaction. He says that pleasure comes quick but doesn’t last. And satisfaction lasts, but it takes effort.

For example, eating a cookie is pleasurable. We enjoy the cookie as we eat it, but as soon as it’s gone, so is the pleasure. Rather than having a lasting beneficial effect, we’re simply left wanting more.

Studying for a final exam, conversely, may not be very pleasurable. However, we’re satisfied once we’ve passed the test. We have a sense of accomplishment and are happy with our decision to study.

I see it this way.

Pleasure is tricking myself into feeling good for the moment. For example:

  • Eating a cookie
  • Laying on the couch watching TV
  • Buying things I want but don’t need

Satisfaction comes from doing something I don’t necessarily want to do now but will pay off later. Things like:

  • Eating broccoli
  • Doing laundry
  • Investing in my retirement

The pleasurable activities are easy. They give us a quick shot of dopamine and make us think we’re happy. The activities that lead to long-lasting satisfaction, though, are difficult. They require effort and are often uncomfortable while we do them.

Pleasure comes quick and easy, but it leaves just the same.

Satisfaction must be earned, but can last a lifetime.

I think deep down we know this. We know the “right” thing to do in most situations, yet we struggle to make that choice.

Because it’s hard.

It’s hard to choose broccoli over pizza. It’s hard to get up off the couch and do the dishes. It’s hard to invest in our retirement rather than buy a new phone.

But more often than not, making that hard choice pays off.

Hard Choices Easy Life

Jerzy Gregorek went from an alcoholic to a world weightlifting champion. He is the co-author of The Happy Body, and is famous for his line, “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”

Another way to think of this is – choose satisfaction now, and life will be better in the future.

By making the hard choice to do the right thing, to choose satisfaction over pleasure, our future selves will benefit. Looking back at our options above (choosing broccoli over pizza, getting up to do the dishes, and investing in our retirement), we see that making the hard choices will leave us healthier, wealthier, and with a kitchen full of clean dishes. Life will be better.

Even though, deep down, we know this, it’s still difficult to make the hard choice.

It’s too easy to find instantaneous pleasure these days. Junk food is available everywhere. And we all walk around with a constant source of immediate gratification in our pockets. Whenever we get bored or come across a challenge, we can just scroll through social media and ignore it.

Choosing pleasure over satisfaction has become an almost unconscious decision. A bad habit we aren’t even aware of.

Putting the phone down is hard. Avoiding donuts in the office is hard. Turning the TV off when Netflix has already started the next episode is hard. But, like Gregorek suggests, making these hard choices will lead to an easier life.

To have the best life we can tomorrow, we need to deliberately make these hard choices today.

24 Hours of Burpees are Hard

After the first hour or so, every single burpee was painful. Agonizing, really.

Picking up a t-shirt and committing to another 15 burpees was a consistently hard choice to make. Taking a break to stretch or eat was always an attractive option, but we had a job to do.

As time went on, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the donations were in the “done” pile, and it looked like we would pull this thing off. Our commitment to acting instead of resting was paying off.

Because we kept making the hard choice to do another 15 burpees, we were able to finish on time.

Twenty-four hours, and just shy of 34,000 burpees later, we were very satisfied with what we had accomplished.

Sure, we could have spent our Friday night and Saturday doing something else. We could have gone to the bar or movies and enjoyed ourselves. But that’s not something we’d be looking back on with pride. Going out that night instead of doing burpees wouldn’t have brought us satisfaction.

As Kelly wrote in Off Balance, “Satisfaction comes from emptying ourselves into things”.

Well, we truly emptied ourselves into those burpees that day and learned what it meant to make the hard choice and earn our satisfaction.

By fighting the urge to do what was comfortable or seek pleasure, we did something pretty cool. The payoff, the satisfaction, will now last a lifetime.

It Only Sucks If You Think It Does

Did you know you can be allergic to the cold?

I didn’t either, until I showed up for school one day covered in hives.

It was ninth grade, it was freezing out, and I was walking to school. After I arrived, took off my coat, and settled into my first class, something felt… weird. Like the skin was tightening all over my face. And, judging by the horrified looks from my classmates, my skin looked weird, too.

I went to the washroom and saw that my face was covered in hives. I looked like the Elephant Man. I stayed at school but was extremely uncomfortable.

By second period the hives had gone away – the only remaining growths on my face were those typical of a 15-year-old boy. The experience left me confused and embarrassed, though.

After walking back through the cold home for lunch, the hives returned. Now I was freaking out. I called my parents at work so they could come home and take me to the doctor.

Cold urticaria is what they called it.

It’s a skin condition where coldness causes the release of histamine into the blood. Essentially an allergic reaction to the cold. Cold weather or cold water can cause it, and it results in the breakout of hives.

I’d never heard of it. And I’m still not entirely sure how to pronounce it. But I had it, and I didn’t like it. High School was tough enough without being the kid that’s allergic to the cold.

Looking cool didn’t matter anymore. Wearing a big winter coat and neck warmer was fine with me. Anything to stay warm. Anything to keep the hives away.

Thankfully I grew out of it. In fact, don’t recall having another reaction after that winter. But the experience taught me to hatethe cold.

For years I avoided cold weather. As best I could while living in -40°C Saskatchewan, anyway. The cold didn’t like me. I didn’t like it. We had an understanding, and it worked.

Everything was fine, until my early twenties.

I was volunteering for a business plan competition. Each participant had to describe their business idea and sell us on it before moving on to the next round.

The participant I was interviewing was a kiteboarder. His business was kiteboarding related and he wanted to get more people in Saskatchewan kiteboarding.

Kiteboarding is kind of like wakeboarding or snowboarding. Only, instead of being pulled by a boat or sliding down a mountain, you use a giant kite to propel you. So wind is important.

During his pitch, he said something along the lines of: “Why would you live in the windiest place on earth if you can’t get out and enjoy it?”

That’s right… Not only is Saskatchewan one of the coldest places on earth, but it’s also one of the windiest. No wonder real estate is so expensive here.

We shared a laugh over his comment. But the guy had a point. Why would anyone live somewhere where they can’t enjoy being outside?


Obviously I had to ask. Why did I choose to live somewhere where I can’t enjoy being outside nearly half the year?

Suddenly, my “understanding” with the cold no longer made sense. It felt more like a punishment than an agreement. I realized I either had to move somewhere warm or learn to get out and enjoy the cold.

And seeing as moving wasn’t an option, it looked like the cold and I were going to get to know each other a bit better.

R.I.P. Buck

While hesitant at first, I eventually eased my way into being outside in the winter. I started with cold weather walks with our shepherd cross, Buck.

Walking Buck when the weather was nice was no problem. But I always told myself it was “too cold for him” when the weather dropped. After my conversation with the kiteboarder, I realized I was lying to myself.

Though they were cold, I began enjoying our hikes through the snow. We started going for longer, more frequent walks together.

The crisp, cool air actually felt good and I liked the sound of snow crunching under our feet. We were having fun, and my face wasn’t covered in hives.

This was good.

Buck and I learned that we were able to head out in basically any weather. As long as we dressed for it and kept moving, we were fine. It turned out that all that time spent avoiding the cold weather was wasted. We could have been outside, enjoying ourselves.

I learned that the cold only sucked because I thought it did.

After finding a way to enjoy it, my perspective changed. The cold, actually, was pretty nice.

When I look back, I see I’ve made the same mistake more than once. I’ve let preconceived notions prevent me from success, happiness, and reaching my best.

Reading sucked, because I thought it did.

Aerobic training sucked, because I thought it did.

Eating vegetables sucked, because I thought it did.

I was wrong. And I’m happy to admit that.

As I’ve grown as an athlete, being able to enjoy the cold has become invaluable. For years now, I’ve spent time outdoors training in all types of weather.

These days, I refuse to let something like cold weather prevent me from reaching my goals or living my life.

Our new dog, Benji, and I have shared hundreds of miles in the cold this winter. We’ve had a few adventures and have bonded like a dog and his owner should.

I can’t even imagine being cooped up indoors all winter anymore. The cold weather I used to hate now makes me feel alive.

The beautiful feeling of a heavy ruck on my back and cold, crisp winter air in my face is one I’d never had experienced had I not pushed myself past my ignorant preconception.

The cold never sucked. I did.

Success in My Drawers; or, How to Finally Create New Habits

Big goals require big action.

Check that… Achieving big goals requires big action. Anyone can say they have a big goal, but it takes a different level of commitment and dedication to see it through.

The dedication part has never been my issue. I’ve never been one to skip a workout. I do, however, have a history of neglecting things like stretching and injury prevention.

I’ve always struggled with little things like rolling out my feet to prevent plantar fasciitis or putting lotion on my hands to prevent torn calluses. I’ll walk for miles with 45-pounds on my back, but putting lotion on my hands seems to be “too difficult”. Go figure.

This year, though, things are different.

For the past few months, I have (finally!) managed to incorporate some injury prevention habits into my routine.

No longer do I roll my feet out “when I think of it”. Now, I do it daily.

In his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear offers a simple formula on how to create new habits.

To create a habit, all we need to is fill in the following:

I will (Behaviour) at (Time) in (Location).

For example: I will stretch my quads for five minutes at 7:00 in my living room.

This is good. Making a recurring appointment with ourselves can help get us going. We know the action, time, and place and should be set up for success.

For many people, that’s all it takes.

For others, it’s not quite so easy. Sometimes, despite the appointment we made with ourselves, it ‘s still not a priority. There’s always some resistance when trying to kick-start a new habit.

I know from experience, setting an appointment has never been enough for me to incorporate a new habit.

Thankfully, Clear provides us with an even easier way to get the ball rolling. He has an almost “For Dummies” approach to creating new habits.

He writes, “One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top”. He calls this “Habit Stacking”.

The Habit Stacking formula looks like this:

After (Current Habit), I will (New Habit)

With Habit Stacking, “I will stretch my quads for five minutes at 7:00 in my living room”, becomes, “After my workout, I will stretch my quads for five minutes”.

We’re already going to do the workout. There’s no question there. So “stacking” this new habit of stretching onto the current habit makes it more likely that we’ll succeed in following through. In this example, the workout essentially isn’t over until I’ve stretched my quads.

Habit stacking is how I’ve finally managed to incorporate some injury prevention habits into my routine.

Habit stacking is why my drawer looks like this:

In it, you’ll see beeswax lotion, body glide, deodorant, a massage ball, dental floss, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and an index card.

Each of these items has a very specific reason for being in this drawer.

Deodorant, Tooth Paste, Dental Floss – These items are the most important in the drawer. Besides the obvious health and hygiene, they are my reason for going into the drawer in the first place. They’re my “Current Habit” and lead me to use the other items in the drawer.

Beeswax Lotion – Kettlebell training leads to calluses. There’s no way around it. If we don’t take proper care of our calluses, we’re likely to tear them. And a torn callus means a loss of quality training time.

I have found beeswax lotion helps control my calluses and keeps my skin both smooth and tough. With the lotion now in my drawer, I remember to put it on my hands every night. I see it, so I use it.

Body Glide – Chaffing sucks. I’ve gone on too many rucks having forgotten to put Body Glide on. I now keep it in my drawer so that I see it every day. When I see it, I know if I’ll need it or not. Having the constant reminder has saved my thighs from much unnecessary torture.

Rumble Roller Beastie Ball – A lot of rucking can lead to a lot of issues. It’s imperative to keep good care of your feet. Rather than trying to make time to roll my feet out during the day, I keep this ball in my drawer. Every time I brush my teeth, I roll my feet out at the same time. Habit stacking at it’s finest.

Index Card – The upsidedown index card has my 2019 goal and some positive self-talk on it. The words written on that card are between me and my drawer. I read this card to myself every morning and night while brushing my teeth and rolling out my feet.

Positive self-talk, even when you’re feeling good, is more important than you might think. As Zig Ziglar says, “It’s easier to stay up, than to get up.”

It sure doesn’t seem like much. But placing these items in this drawer has been huge.

By putting my “good habits” in the drawer I use daily, I make sure I roll my feet, take care of my hands, prevent chaffing, and give myself a pep-talk, every day. And by doing this, I give myself the best shot at achieving my 2019 goals.

Success in my drawers.