Interview: Byron makes big changes in a year

Byron at 255 before the RRL

Byron at 255 before the RRL

TR: Hey Byron!  Congratulations on your 1 year anniversary at the RRL.  
I have loved getting to know you over the last year, but for those who might not know you...Introduce yourself…( Job, family, #kids, ages, background in sports…)   Can you describe where you were in your life, your physical condition (weight, energy level, blood work, cardio shape) how you felt one year ago?

BW:  This is my fifth year living in Chattanooga, and I moved down here from Virginia to teach physics at Baylor School.  I am, 29 and married to my wonderful wife (and great supporter of the last year of early RRL workouts), and we have an 8 month old son, John Henry David. We live on Baylor's campus, as I am also a dorm parent.

A year and a half ago, I decided to start working out, mainly cardio, and some body weight workouts.  However, I had hit a plateau, and was not making a lot of progress.  I weighed 255 lbs., had trouble sleeping, and my energy was crashing at the end of the class day.

TR: That is a very similar situation to so many people in the United States right now.  People get focused on their job and forget about their physical health.  What was the motivation to make a significant change in your life?

BW:  I was motivated to change my life and my health for my future children and my family.  I was finding myself worried about my health, and I could see myself getting heavier and heavier.  At my heaviest, I weight 268 pounds in the summer of 2014, and it was then that I started to turn around my diet and my level of activity.

TR: Having children or considering having children in the near future is certainly a major motivating factor to improving your health.  I know that was the primary reason that I regained my athletic life after a layoff to focus entirely on my job.  When I realized that I would be responsible for another life, it lit a fire.  When that fire starts, there are lots of things you could do to make a change, but you chose to check out, perhaps the far end of the scale.  How did you hear about the RRL?

BW:  Mike Drew!  One evening he told me about his workouts, and while it shocked me what he was describing you all were doing, I thought, "I want to be able to do that!"  Mike challenged me to join him the next morning, offering to drive.  I took him up on it, and was a crazy workout day.

TR: That is awesome.  Mike is a great role model.  He gives it everything he has and has also made some significant improvements in his strength and conditioning.  I often hear guys talking about their first day at the RRL.  I would imagine that it could be a little intimidating by all outward appearance, but exactly the opposite once you are a part of it.  What was it like for you?  Do you remember what we did?   How did you feel?  What did you think?

BW:  When I got into Mike's car to drive over, Mike said, "well, you picked a good day."  Mike showed me the board, and explained where the warm-up was listed and the spot for the day's workout.  There I read, "Young."  I remember doing the "warm up" and thinking, "Woah, this is what I do to 'work out,' and there's more?"

Young was a challenge.  I ended up doing 2 rounds of Young, and it was painful the whole way.  Also, that was the first day I did a burpee...

(Young is a workout that we do on a beautiful gradual hill that is about 1/2 Mile long.  We do 5 burpees at the bottom of the hill and 5 burpees at the top and we repeat this 5 times for time)

That day at Baylor, I had more energy all day than I had had in a long time.  I was fired up!  Now, don't get me wrong, I was also in pain!  I do not think I made it to the RRL the next day.

TR: That is quite a change from doing nothing or very little to Young x 5!  Good job.  I am sure you were sore. met a whole new group of guys willing to get up at 5 am and get after it.  What made you come back?

BW:  I thought the RRL was crazy.  But I was also attracted to the challenge.  I wanted to get stronger, and I wanted to push myself, and that's what happened on that hill.

TR: You have become extremely consistent in attendance.  How did you do it and what is your schedule like now?

BW:  At first, I was pretty inconsistent.  However, I found that the more I came, the better I felt.  I found myself growing stronger and stronger, and no doubt does this motivate me.  But, in addition, the RRL community is a motivating one.  When you miss a day, you not only miss out on getting stronger, but you also miss out on sharing that workout with the great men at the RRL.  They challenge you to grow, they help you learn how to work, and we have a great time.  

In all seriousness, whether it is Kevin running with me on my first 5k, or Matt Greenwell helping me pace my first 5 miler, or any guy motivating me with a kind word, the men at RRL build each other up.  I am grateful for all of them.

In the last couple of months, I have landed on coming Monday through Thursday.  I would come on Friday, but I am usually up until 12:30 or later because I have dorm duty on Thursday nights.

TR: Making big changes in your physical activity is one thing.  Over the last year, how has your diet changed?  How do you eat today?

Weight on the decline but still eating the cheese

Weight on the decline but still eating the cheese

BW:  I eat more vegetables and fruit.  I eat less bread, consume less sugar, eat far less fried food, and I have tried to be more mindful of how much cheese I eat, but really, I still eat a lot of cheese...I like cheese.

Anyways, In general, I am more mindful of what I am eating, making some changes.  But I do not feel like I have drastically changed my diet.

TR: Just looking at you, it is obvious that you have transformed in one year.  How much weight have you actually lost?  What results have you had inLifting, Running, Skills, etc…?

BW:  I now weigh about 240, having lost over 25 pounds.  However, I have lost a lot more than 25 pounds of fat.  I know I am getting more fit when all of my pants are too big.

While I do not know all my numbers, a year ago, I scaled every weightlifting workout we did 50-70% Rx.  I am now doing a lot of our workouts Rx, which is a lot of fun.  It has taken a long time to build up to it, but it feels great!

Before coming to the RRL, I had not run a mile on actual pavement in about five years.  Today, February 6th, I ran over seven miles on Stringer's Ridge (the longest run I have made to date).

TR: Man...that is incredible.  Great work!  Those are significant improvements.  Making big changes and getting better is alot of fun.  Is that your favorite thing about the last year or is there something else that you really like about the RRL and what we do here?

BW:  The community and the challenge are my favorite parts without question.

TR: What is your least favorite thing?

BW:  We don't play enough Coldplay during our workouts...

TR: Ha!  That is hilarious.  (Everyone at the RRL knows that I really don't like Coldplay on the workout playlist) It seems that everyone has at least 1 skill (bear crawls, cleans, handstand pushups, double unders, etc…) that they are pretty good at or even the best of the group.  What would you consider your best skill?  Is it picking the workout music?

BW:  I get low and dominate those squats!  I can kill some wall balls...

TR: You definitely can!  Rest assured...there will always be plenty of squats and wall balls.  We have done so many different things and types of workouts in the last yearCan you tell me what workout sticks out as the most challenging to you over the last year?

BW:  I am remembering a slog of burpees and thrusters...over and over and tough.

1 year later, Byron is a stud

1 year later, Byron is a stud

TR: Do you have an absolute favorite workout that we have done? 

BW:  My favorite is has a special place in my heart!

TR:  Ah...Young.  That is a good one on its it was your first with us.  How about a least favorite? 

BW:  I don't have one.

TR: Really...I take that as a challenge...just wait til Monday.  Do you track your workouts?

BW:  I track my runs, but not my numbers for our other that you mention it, I am going to start!

(We use  You can search Toms Garage/RRL and see the workouts and results daily.  You can also join the gym by sending me a request)

TR: Tracking is an excelent way to stay motivated by seeing your exact progress to this point.  Also, you can easily point out places where your training is not working based on your results.  Maybe you are going too hard, maybe you need rest.  Generally, your results speak volumes on the effectiveness of the training.  I really like to track everything because I can quickly see if I have done a workout before and I can have a target time or weight to strive for.  It makes it more fun for me.  Tracking is also a great way to set goals.  You can see your progress and forecast what an achievable goal might be and what a far reaching goal would be. Speaking of goals,,, What are your goals for 2016?

BW:  My goals this year:
Be able to do pull-ups unassisted,
Run in a race (and maybe more after that)
Get down to 230 pounds.

TR: You will be able to accomplish all of those, and I will help.  Here is a way you can help other people.  There are lots of people who find themselves in a very similar situation to where you were last year.  What advice might you give them?

BW:  You can do it!  It will be tough, but totally worth it!  The expense of time it takes to workout is paid back many fold by all the energy you gain!  All areas of your life will improve!  You will sleep better, you won't lose your breath when walking up steps, you will feel smarter, you will pick up your kids without worry of not being able to!

TR:  Thanks so much Byron!  Great work!  So glad to have you in the RRL.

Matt Lawson Interview after SealFit Kokoro 40

Matt Lawson SealFit Kokoro AAR

I graduated SealFit Kokoro 30 in October of 2013.  It was a deeply powerful experience that has transformed my life in many ways.  Very few days go by that I do not think about the camp, the friends I made there or the lessons learned.

It is extremely exciting to me when one of my friends wants to experience this for themselves.  Recently, Matt Lawson decided to give it a go and has just returned from Kokoro 40.  Having successfully passed and graduated, I am excited to learn much more about his experience.  We will start with this interview, but hopefully we will return to discuss more with Matt about how he is using Kokoro in his everyday life.

So, if you are considering taking a real challenge in your life, SealFit Kokoro wont disappoint.  Check out this interview with Matt Lawson:

Name:    Matt Lawson

Age: 41 years old


 Co-Owner of Lawson Winchester Wealth Management

TR-What kind of athletic background do you have?

ML-I grew up playing basketball, football, baseball and golf.  I played basketball and golf in high school.  I received a golf scholarship for college.  I worked out regularly from college to age 28.  From age 29 to 38 my workouts were spotty and inconsistent at best.  At age 39 with our second child being born in March of 2013, I decided it was time to step up and make a change.

TR-How did you find SEALFIT:

ML-I was randomly searching the internet in May of 2013 for something different than the typical bodybuilding workout.  I was looking for a philosophy that incorporated more than just lifting weights.

TR-Have you done any other events like this?  Maybe a 20x, Goruck or other events?

ML-Yes.  I completed a SEALFIT 20X Challenge in November 2013.  I ran the Ragnar overnight trail runs in 2014 and 2015.  I ran a Marathon this past March in Knoxville.

TR-Why did you choose to do Kokoro?
ML-When I first read about Kokoro on SEALFIT’s website I was very interested.  I wanted to challenge my mental toughness. You really don’t know until you step up.  I wanted to see if I had what it took to make it through 50 plus hours of mental and physical stress.  I also thought this type of event would be a good example to use for our children to show them that anything is possible if they are willing to put in the work and follow thru on their commitment.

TR-I can remember the moment that I made the commitment to do Kokoro.  I put my credit card info into the website and hovered my finger over the submit button.  Finally, I presssed the button and knew there was no turning back.  What was your decision like?  What challenges did you have at home?  Work?
ML-I made the commitment to myself the first time I read about it in May 2013.  I just had a lot of work ahead of me.  My wife, Megan was hesitant at first.  She wanted to know what the point was in subjecting myself to something as demanding as Kokoro.  As time went on she became very supportive and encouraging which helped tremendously.  My business partner, Bill Winchester was great through the entire process especially with the amount oftime that was required to properly train for Kokoro.  My home and work environments were very supportive.  I am very grateful.

TR-Kokoro is not something that you can just do without significant physical and mental preparation.  What did your training look like?

ML-My morning workouts were at the RRL.  I did SEALFIT OPWODs in the afternoon and Saturdays about 4 months out from Kokoro .  I also did lots of running and rucking.

TR-Were you prepared?

ML-Yes.  There is always room for improvement but overall I felt pretty good.  I read as much as possible about Kokoro.  I really appreciate the information that you (Tom Rowland) shared with me about your Kokoro class 30 experiences.  That was very helpful.  Also having the support from friends and family goes a long way.  Especially when you are cold, wet and sandy.

TR-What one thing were you the happiest that you had done in training?
ML-Run, run and run with BDU pants and wet boots.

TR-What one thing would you add to the training?  

ML-More rucking while carrying heavy objects

TR-My experience was filled with many high points and lots of low points, but I can clearly remember several that stand out as the highest of the high or the lowest of the low.  Did you have a noticeable high point in the camp?  How about a low point?

ML-I felt unstoppable early Sunday morning after about 35 plus hours on the beach carrying my 50lb rock up and down countless stairs.  It was amazing and a testament to what we are all truly capable of accomplishing once we conquer our minds and remove the limitations that we place on ourselves. Of course when Coach Divine said we were secured after 52 hours of work that was very special too.  This was the culmination of 2 years of intense training, focus and sacrifice.  


TR-Tell us about your lowest moment

ML-It was Friday night after a 27 mile ruck up and down Palomar Mountain under significant load.  We were all cold, wet and sandy bear crawling 200 yards up and down hills along with other drills that pushed us beyond our perceived limits.  The intensity and pace were relentless.  Then came the countless rocking chairs in the lake coupled with the cold winds.  It was tough but that is when we started to come together as a team. Our communication improved greatly and we started focusing on the person beside us. That was an awesome feeling.  We still had a long way to go but that was a big first step.

TR-What was your diet like in preparation?  

ML-Fat boy special with extra protein and creatine.

TR-Between the lack of sleep, cold water or endless running and rucking, which was the most challenging?  

ML-All of those represented their own unique challenges.  The rucking under load plus carrying additional objects at a fast pace over a long distance was challenging.


TR-What one lesson will you take back to your personal life?  

ML-I learned countless lessons through the pain and suffering.  
We are all capable of 20, 30 times more than we think is possible.  We have to remove the self-imposed limitation on ourselves.  Teamwork is the key and lifting each other up with positive reinforcement is everything.  We are so much stronger together than as individuals.
100% effort, 100% of the times.  We will all need assistance at one point or another and we should be quick to reach and lift up each other.  A positive gesture or comment goes a very long way in helping your teammate and yourself.  Always be positive and encourage others.  Kokoro is very special and I can draw upon the lessons learned for the rest of my life.

TR- 50 hours of non stop exercise makes a person hungry.  I can remember eating a TON of food, ordering 3 milkshakes at once, eating 3 hamburgers and then going out for dinner.  What did the next 24 hours look like for you and your diet?

 ML-My first meal after being secured was the buffet spread SEALFIT provided just off the grinder.  It was chicken, beef and barbeque tacos and rice.  Plenty of extra sides, fruitand desserts.  They had beer and just about any other beverage you can think of.
It was really cool because all the coaches and interns stayed and ate with us.  It was fun.  That lasted for a couple of hours.  I went back to my room and slept for about 5 hours then ate a large pizza and went back to bed.  The next morning I killed some waffles and eggs.  I drank tons of water.   I really could not eat enough for about a week after the event, my body was so depleted and broken down.
TR-What one thing would you take to Kokoro?
ML-Since I had consulted you before leaving for Kokoro, I was very prepared on what to take.  The towel came in very handy.  The funny thing is we traveled and packed like Spartans, meaning coach Cummings had us place a couple of pairs of shorts, BDU’s and tee shirts along with our running shoes in a plastic garbage bag.  We were wearing boots, BDU pants and tee shirt.  We left SEALFIT HQ Friday morning with only our garbage bagsand traveled to some remote mountainfor the first 24 plus hours of evolutions.

TR-I saw some amazing things in my camp.  Was there one thing that you can remember as the most impressive thing that you saw someone do or endure?

ML-There were several things that impressed me over the 52 hours at Kokoro.  Teammates breaking down only to be picked up by others and come back stronger than before.  The overall support and encouragement from all team members is hard to put into words.  It is truly amazing what we all can accomplish when we remove ourselves and focus on others.  The class was constantly rallying around teammates to lift them up, not to their load but to provide words of encouragement.  All that being said, there was one situation where the coaches wanted to drop an individual.  They put it up to a vote.  We voted to keep him.  That was not good enough, so the coaches said if there was anyone in our class that can complete the “FRAN” in less than 3 minutes then the individual can stay for now.  One of our teammates stepped forward and after roughly 20 to 24 hours of evolutions (while being cold, we and sandy, no sleep) he completed the “FRAN” in 2:48.  To say it was impressive is a gross understatement.  The coaches were speechless, which as you know is rare.

ML-Thank you Tom for the interview

TR- Congratulations on completing Kokoro.  I look forward to seeing how you incorporate the lessons you learned into your everyday life.  Hooyah!

Matt Lawson

Goruck Selection and SealFit Kokoro Interview with Jonathan Hurtado

When I was getting ready for Goruck Selection Class 015, I set up this blog and began documenting my training.  I didn't really think that anyone would read it...I didnt care.  I just wanted to document the training.  Along the way, I met a guy named Jonathan Hurtado who came across my blog.  We conversed via email and through the comments and started to kind of train together for Selection. 

We posted our times and weights to the blog.  I could tell that Jonathan was a serious athlete and in some events was killing me.  In others, we were even and others, I was ahead. 

When leaving for Selection, Jonathan and I set a meeting place and got together to discuss strategy and gear.  We probably should have had this talk much earlier because we both made mistakes.  Who knows...if we had talked more, maybe we would have made even worse decisions that we did.  You can't second guess, but rather just learn from your mistakes and continue to move forward.

I liked Jonathan right away and was impressed with his resume of Goruck events.  I learned a few things from him right away.  We shared a couple of meals before the event and then had an awesome meal of 4 cheeseburgers, 3 orders of fries, and 2 large chocolate milkshakes after of my favorite meals of all time.

Jonathan aced the fitness test and made it a long way into the Welcome Party.  I saw him throughout the event and drew comfort and motivation from a familiar face.  I went there with 3 friends, but in a dark and uncomfortable place like Selection, you draw from any little thing.  A familiar face goes a long way.

Jonathan and I have stayed in touch and I recently sat down and got to ask him a few questions about the last Selecton, the next one and a possible stop at SelFit Kokoro.

Hey Jonathan,  great to hear from you.  Thanks for sitting down and talking for a few.

TR:  Tell us a little about yourself…where do you live?  What do you do for a living?

JH: I currently live near San Francisco, working as a programmer at Crystal Dynamics, a video game studio.  I've been in the video game industry for four years, having worked on games like Grand Theft Auto V and the recently released Lara Croft & The Temple of Osiris.  Prior to that, I worked as a web developer in New York City.

TR:    What was your athletic background?

JH: I got into weight lifting when I tried wrestling in high school and later biking when I moved to Washington (state).  I was in decent shape, but it wasn't until I started training for my first Tough Mudder in 2012 that I improved my fitness.  Besides running, I purchased some kettlebells and did a program of two handed swings and Turkish get-ups.  That got me into incredible shape and I was able to finish my first Tough Mudder.

TR:  How did you get interested in Goruck and what events have you done to date?

JH: I remember when I first read about GORUCK well before I did my first Tough Mudder and thought how stupid it sounded. "12 hours?  While carrying six bricks?  Why would anyone do that?"  After finishing my first Tough Mudder, I was hooked on obstacle course racing and immediately started looking for other events to finish.  After completing another Tough Mudder and a Spartan Super, I reconsidered the GORUCK Challenge as the next event to do.

My first GORUCK Challenge made a huge impact on my life that I still feel to this day.  The stories Cadre "Big Daddy" told during that event taught a powerful lesson of appreciating how my life is going (as others unfortunately have it worse), and completing the event instilled confidence in confronting matters that are outside my comfort level.  I have since finished seven other GORUCK events, including a back-to-back Light & Challenge and an HCL (back-to-back-to-back GORUCK Heavy, Challenge, and Light).

TR:  We trained virtually for Selection through the use of my blog.  We were both using the Military Athlete program to get ready.  Tell us about your road to Selection and how you prepared for the training that we did.

JH: When I found out about GORUCK Selection, I thought it was insane and I wouldn't even consider doing it.  After finishing my first Challenge, I went back to view the Selection promo video and its “This probably isn't for you.  Or is it?” tagline goaded me to consider doing the event.  I purchased my Selection entry on January 2014, giving me ten months to train before Selection 015 at Jacksonville Beach in October.

I was a fan of Military Athlete’s GORUCK Challenge plan, so I purchased their Heavy and Selection plans.  The training strategy for GORUCK Selection was to use one plan to train and do its corresponding event in order to be strong enough to do the next plan.  Thus, I start with their Challenge plan and do a GORUCK Challenge, then follow their Heavy plan and do a GORUCK Heavy, then go through their Selection plan before GORUCK Selection.

I ended up doing an HCL instead of a Heavy due to a scheduling conflict, which was good and bad.  Good in that it gave me experience in exerting myself for 48 hours with very little sleep, but bad in that I sprained my ankle near the end of the Heavy portion of the HCL.  I was able to finish the entire event despite my injury, but I thought that my injury was going to prevent me from doing Selection.  After the HCL and some rest, I started the first couple of weeks of the Military Athlete Selection plan while avoiding exercises that would put weight on my foot.  I had an MRI done on my ankle and decided that if the results were not good, I would not do Selection.  The MRI indicated that I had no torn ligaments on my ankle, so I resumed the full training once it was feeling better.

TR:  Do you have training partners?  Where do you train?

JH: I mostly work out alone.  There's a gym near where I work, so I go there early in the morning to train.  There's also a trail right next to where I live, so I use that for my runs and rucks, although it's mostly flat.  I have done a few training rucks with a friend who completed a Challenge with me.

TR:  I saw you throughout the fitness test and then through most of the Welcome party.  You were doing great.  I had heard before Selection that you never really see how people exit, you just look around and they are gone.  I looked around for familiar faces and they were all gone.  What happened to you?

JH: There were three issues during the Welcome Party that broke my resolve.  The first was my gear set-up.  I went with GORUCK's recommendation to use a GR0 for Selection, but the boots I planned to use did not fit in the rucksack with a full hydration bladder and other items.  I concocted a set-up where I attached a GORUCK brick bag to the GR0 with carabiners so that I could store my boots (and later shoes).  This was a terrible idea in retrospect because it made the rucksack heavier and certain exercises more difficult than they needed to be.  Also, the reflective belt I used on my rucksack kept coming off (tip: don't use velcro belts), and that warranted special attention from the cadre.

The second was a weakness that came up during Selection, overhead squats.  I did not have the flexibility to do these properly, and this affected how I perceived my performance during the Welcome Party.

The third were the warnings of being performance dropped after finishing last in a couple of Welcome Party events.  At that point, I was tired, my legs were feeling heavy, and I felt I couldn't perform to standard.  I was already fighting doubts on whether I trained hard enough for Selection, but I was able to keep those doubts at bay as I progressed through the PT test.  The warnings, however, psyched me out.

Those three issues created a perfect storm where I doubted my ability to continue and convinced myself that I was better off quitting, address my weaknesses, and come back stronger for the next event.  Was that really the case?  It's debatable.  I probably could have stuck it out longer, but my gear and flexibility issues would have made that very difficult.

TR:  What lessons did you learn from Selection?

JH: Test my gear thoroughly.  Due to time constraints, I didn't have an opportunity to fully test my final Selection load-out before the event.  If I did, I wouldn't have gone with the brick bag set-up. I might have used a GR1 over a GR0.

I also learned that I needed to work on my flexibility.  I saw a personal trainer after Selection and he pointed out areas where I was really tight.  He recommended a variety of exercises to loosen up, so I now incorporate those into my workouts.  I'll also be working on my overhead squat.

TR:  Looking back at Goruck Selection in Jacksonville.  Do you consider it a success or a failure in your eyes?  Explain why…

JH: While not finishing Selection was a disappointment, I still consider it a success because I got to see what my weaknesses are.  I have a clear idea on what I need to do to address them, and I'm excited at the thought of getting even stronger.  I've learned that failure isn't necessarily a bad thing if you approach it as a learning experience and use it as an impetus to make yourself better.

TR:  Are you going to try Selection again?  What will you do differently?

JH: Yes, I have registered for Selection 017 at Bozeman, MT in August 2015.  Jon Eytchison, the sole finisher of Selection 015, described his Selection training plan in his AAR.  That will be the blueprint for my Selection training plan.  I’m also doing a Pre-Selection prior to Bozeman to gauge whether I'll be ready for the actual event.  What I learn from Pre-Selection will guide the final months of my Selection training.

TR:   What pack do you expect to use in Bozeman Selection?  Which did you use in Jacksonville Selection?  How do you think you will prepare your gear differently for Bozeman Goruck Selection considering what you have learned from the Jacksonville Goruck Selection?

JH: I used a GR0 for Jacksonville, but I couldn't fit my boots in the ruck with a full hydration bladder.  One thing that was interesting was that Jon had the same problem fitting boots into his GR0, so he didn't bring any to Selection!  I'll either have to find lighter boots (which are hard since ultra wide boots that drain are not common) or consider using a GR1 instead.  I'll also pack as few items as possible.  Since the cadre are going to dump all our gear out at the beginning of the event, having fewer items will make stuffing them back into my ruck a lot easier and less stressful.

TR:  One of the things that we have discussed extensively is the possibility of doing SealFit Kokoro.  Is this something that you are going to do?

JH: Yes, I'm registered for Kokoro 36 in February.

TR:  How are you preparing for Kokoro?

JH: I'm doing a mix of Wendler's 5/3/1 Lifting (for strength), Military Athlete's Murph plan (to prepare for Kokoro's Murph requirement), the running portion of the BUDS Warning Order for Navy Seal Training, and long runs on Saturday.  I have also been taking cold showers to prepare for the Pacific Ocean surf torture.

TR:  Did you have any foot issues in Goruck Selection?  What are you doing to prepare your feet for Kokoro and Selection now?

JH: No.  Despite my ankle injury from HCL, it didn't come up at all during Selection.  I didn't get any blisters during Selection, and I attribute that to my set-up of Trail Toes, Injiji toe socks (as a liner), and Merino Wool boot socks.  I've rucked as far as 20 miles in this set-up without issues, so I imagine that it will serve me well during Kokoro.  As for preparing my feet for Kokoro and Selection, I train in wet boots when I can.

TR:  Do you have any expectations or goals for Kokoro?

JH: A key point that keeps being brought up in Kokoro videos and AARs is to know your why, as in why are you doing this?  There are various reasons why I’m doing Kokoro (such as becoming a better leader), but my main reason for going through a crucible like Kokoro is to give me insight on what's needed to pass Selection.

TR:  I think that the best meal I have ever had were those 3 burgers, fries and 2 milkshakes that I had with you the day after Goruck Selection!  I know you are probably watching your diet now and dreaming of food.  Do you have a meal that you plan on eating after Selection Bozeman, SealFit Kokoro?

JH: It will either be a burger, fries, and shake combo, or a whole pizza pie.

TR:  When I have the opportunity to talk to someone who is into the same things I am  (Selection, Kokoro, heavy training) I always want to know one thing…why are you doing this?

JH: Jason McCarthy, the founder of GORUCK, had said this and it has stuck with me ever since, "Live life to the fullest, because tomorrow is not a promise."  Since there is no guarantee that I’ll be around tomorrow, I have to treat each day as a gift and make the most of it.  Training for these events and testing my limits is my way of fulfilling that credo.  Also, I enjoy a good challenge, and I get pleasure out of completing something that people consider hard or impossible.

TR:  Imagine that it is 3:45 am, you are submerged in the cold Pacific Ocean and you are as cold as you have ever been.  The instructors demand that you continue this beach party for another 4 hours.  What are you going to think about to get you through?

JH:  I'll have to rely on my mental toughness techniques to get through that.  As bad as the surf torture will be, it will end at some point.  Others before me have gone through a similar experience, and if they can complete it, so can I.

TR:    The thing I struggled with most was training for the lack of food and electrolytes.  In Selection, we did not get anything to eat and only a few stops for plain water for 18 hours of intense exercise.  I started cramping, throwing up and having issues related to electrolyte imbalance.  037, ended up in the hospital with very serious Rhabdo, and eventually Tubular Necrosis.  Do you think that you can train your body to be ready for the lack of nutrition and electrolytes?  If so, what are you doing?

JH: I talked to some Selection finishers regarding their diet plan prior to Selection and both recommended Intermittent Fasting, where you only consume calories during a specific period of the day.  One also suggested Ketosis, where you restrict your carbohydrate intake to get your body fat-adapted.  This was the diet I followed before Selection, and I wasn't feeling hungry during the Welcome Party.  I don't know how my body would have reacted if I got past the Welcome Party, but I see myself following the same plan when I'm prepping for Selection again.

TR:    From what you learned from Goruck Selection in Jacksonville, do you think that you could lay out some benchmarks that anyone would need to be able to complete easily to make sure that they made it through the Fitness Test and the Welcome Party?

JH: You need to do 80 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, run 5 miles in 35 minutes, and ruck 12 miles with 45# dry in under 3 hours.  That will give you a fitness cushion that will ensure that you’ll complete the standards regardless of your state.  I guarantee that you won’t be at 100% when you do the Selection PT test, most likely because of nerves.

Proper form is also vital.  Cadre will no-rep any push-up or sit-up that is not up to standard, so make sure that when you’re hitting those benchmarks, that they are done properly.  I strongly recommend asking GORUCK cadre to review your push-up and sit-up form.  Mark Webb has an excellent write-up on push-ups that can also help.  

I got this tip from Cadre Surfhog after Selection: do the hardest workout imaginable, then do the PT test.  If you can pass the PT test in a fatigued state, you have an excellent chance of passing the Selection PT test.

As for the Welcome Party, it's a non-stop nightmare of ruck PT, so do something like Boot Camp or Crossfit with your ruck.  View the last fifteen minutes of GORUCK Selection (see "1230 Saturday / Shark Attack" in the Selection 015 recap) and do those exercises.  If you have issues with any of those exercises, then you know what you need to work on.

I would also recommend seeing a personal trainer and have him or her review your flexibility.  If you are tight in certain areas, learn the corrective exercises from the trainer and incorporate them into your warm-ups and cool-downs.

TR:  Jonathan, it is an honor to know you.  You are a true inspiration and a great example of someone living his life to its full potential.  I wish you all the best and I know that you will be successful in your quest for Selection and Kokoro.  Can we catch up and do another interview after Kokoro?

JH:  Thanks!  I appreciate the advice you've given me as I prepare for Kokoro.  I will absolutely do another interview after SealFit Kokoro.

Matt Ate Chatt, then became Country Strong

Matt Beach, aka “Country Strong”, is an RRL regular, a social media guru and a hometown, Soddy Daisy boy.  I liked Matt as soon as I met him and I have watched him transform mentally and physically since his first visit to the garage.  Every time he tells a story,  I think I like Matt more.

Matt’s road to fitness has not been all sunshine and rainbows, though.  He has had some of the same challenges that we all do; travel, work and family obligations, but he has also had a serious injury.  Matt recovered from a back injury through surgery and is back to completing really, really tough workouts.  

I sat down with Matt to ask him about his journey.


TR:  Tell us about your background and where you were before you started working out with us.
MB:  I’m married with two wonderful kids. Hometown is Soddy-Daisy TN. I’m an avid outdoorsman – I’m very passionate about fishing and hunting. Love sports but my favorite was soccer. I started playing when I was 6 and ended when I was 23. During that time I played in several rec leagues, select teams, high school, and college. I weighed 155lbs when I graduated high school and could run like a deer. Mid college I got into weight lifting and was also looking for a way to stop smoking. I quit smoking cold turkey, started eating more which went into lifting more weights and other regiments. When I was 24 I had weighed 225lbs and was in great shape. Was soon married – career took off – tons of travel in the many positions I held – then kids…you could say the stresses of life took its toll on my health and I found myself weighing 265lbs, out of shape, and not feeling good about myself. I had started a blog 2yrs ago that was titled “Matt Eats Chatt” – it was a food blog where I would post all my favorites dishes from restaurants that I had been to within the Chattanooga area – one day I was eating lunch with three of my closest friends. One of those guys I hadn’t seen in a while and he had heard about my food blog. The first words out of his mouth when we met was “Matt Eats Chatt huh…Looks more like Matt Ate Chatt – what happened to you?” I’ve heard that being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones. Literally after that lunch I went home and knew I had to make a change.
Side note – whenever I wore a red shirt of any kind my brother-n-law would yell out “Hey Kool-Aid!” if he saw me out.
TR:  How did you find out about us?
MB:  My across the street neighbor and fellow RRL member…Kevin DiStasio (The Colonel) mentioned the group to me. Prior to deciding a change needed to be made, KD nicknamed me “Country Strong” – I told Kev that I was making a big change in my eating habits and wanted to have a great fitness routine and accountability. He said the RRL was the perfect place.
TR:  Do you remember the first workout you did with us?   The first week?  First month?
MB:  Little over 2yrs ago – on a Saturday afternoon – It was me, Kevin, Dougy Fresh, and Wyatt. I don’t remember the exact count or name of workout but I do know it was the first time I had ever done a burpee, thruster, and a wall ball. That first visit was all I needed. I showed back up that following Monday morning and was addicted. I’ll never forget meeting Clay Watson for the first time – after Mondays workout Clay came up to me and said “The hardest part of doing this is getting up in the mornings and showing up.” He was right! Showing up was the hard part – getting thru the workout is easy when you have a group of guys pushing you along the way.

TR:  What results did you see?
MB:  The pounds started falling off. I was tracking my calorie intake using an app called MyFitnessPal and not missing one morning (when I wasn’t traveling for work) at the RRL. Even when I traveled I would do one of the many travel workouts that are posted on the Fitness Truth website. By working outside at the RRL – my hotel workouts went outside also. In less than a year I went from being 265lbs to being 215lbs.
TR:  Why do you think you stuck with coming to the RRL?
MB:  The camaraderie  among the men. Everyone always pushing each other to be better…whether it be at the garage our outside of the garage.
TR:  How is what we do different than other stuff you may have tried and not stuck with?
MB:  I was trying to do it by myself. Running, lifting weights, Running, and lifting weights in the same route, doing the same range of motions over and over was boring. With the group that we have, the many different styles of workouts, the surprise and anticipation of the Whiteboard (not knowing what the workout is until you show up) makes the RRL great and completely different than anything I have ever done.
TR:  You also had a previous back issue that became a problem.  Tell us about that.
MB:  I’ve had several past back problems. I did heavy construction for most of my teen years and into my twenties. Back problems were common. One morning at the RRL I was doing a back squat. It was more weight than I had ever tried and when I went down I broke proper form. When that happen I ended up with a bulging disk in my lower back. Instead of proper rest I kept pushing myself over the next few months….ruck workouts, GORUCK Challenge, a Tough Mudder, and other scheduled workouts and work travel. It came to a point when I couldn’t even sit down for a short period of time without pain.
TR:  What did you do about it?
MB:  After several chiropractor visits, yoga, stretching/mobility workouts I finally went and saw a local neurosurgeon. Immediately after seeing the MRI results he requested that I have surgery as soon as possible. A few weeks later I went under the knife and came out with immediate relief.


TR:  The other day, you told me that it was exactly 1 year ago that you had surgery.   How did the recovery go?  How do you feel about your strength level/ flexibility and overall health now?
MB:  Recovery was great, but 5 weeks of doing nothing was hard. The majority of the first two weeks was my laying on my back and only getting up to eat and restroom breaks. The remaining 3 weeks I set a goal of being able to walk 3 to 5 miles every other day. The last week I did a total of 14 miles. The last doctor visit I was giving the green light to get back into my normal workout routine, but he wanted me to be a bit cautious and more alert to what I did. I haven’t had any problems. If anything I feel 10x better. But I am cautious. My work travel has picked up a ton and doing hotel workouts seem to be the norm. Since being back I’ve completed a Triple Murph (with ruck), Run-Burpee-Run, and a Tough Mudder with a 30lb ruck (loaded with beer).
TR:  How did you overcome this adversity?
MB:  My family. My wife and even my children are huge supporters and my biggest motivation. Everything I do I do for them. Living a better life mentally, physically, and spiritually so that I can be a better husband and father for them.
Also – if you’ve ever had a “Dicky Do”…then you know that you never want to go back to having that.

TR:  How did you return to regular workouts?
MB:  Slow and light weight. That and Jody Bankston with his watchful eye. Jody was there for the first few weeks when I returned and made sure that I wasn’t over doing it. I also did a 100 day mobility challenge using YouTube videos from Kelly Starrett Mobility WOD Channel.
TR:  What did your Dr say about returning to full activity?
MB:  Be cautious for the first couple of months, listen to your body, and if there was the slightest pinch then he wanted me to back off. Other than that he definitely wanted me to get back to where I was before the surgery. I think he even came to the RRL a week later.

TR:  You have done a lot of events with our group but also outside of it.  Which are your favorite?
MB:  Hands down the GORUCK Challenge. Team building is huge with this event and doing it with 26 of your friends made it even better. Training for the GORUCK was also a blast. Many early mornings starting at 3am or 4am and creating ruck obstacles within down town Chattanooga was very fun and very tough. I’ve done three Tough Mudder events. The first one was with my wife in Kentucky. It was a great experience but even more so doing the event with her. The other two were in Atlanta and my last one was in Charlotte NC. The Charlotte one was a bit tougher as I did it with a ruck sack filled with 28 cans of beer. I was probably the most popular person on the course (due to the beer) but there wasn’t any other rucks that I saw. The only reason I did it with a ruck was due to the GRC and looking at ways to challenge myself even more during the TM event.
I’m looking at doing a Spartan Beast either this year or next. Ultimate goal is to do a Death Race.

TR:  What does your wife think about your workouts?
MB:  She loves it! Its something we have in common and it’s an area that’s helped improved our relationship. When I say improved I mean sex. I’ve increased my stamina by at least 30 seconds. She sees me being more active with the kids and having more energy to do with them which is what it’s all about for me. Being a better family man….and better in the bedroom.
TR:  Are you preparing for an event now?   Is there something you would like to do in the future?
MB:  Another GORUCK Challenge. I’ve done Chattanooga but I want to do a different city. I’ve been looking at Charlotte, Jersey, NY City, or Philly. The GRC will be done with a few of my coworkers. They’ve heard me talk about it and now they are wanting to do one. It will be the same coworkers that I talked into doing the Tough Mudder. The Spartan Beast is definitely in my sights. There’s one in October in SC but I’m not sure I can with my current travel schedule. We shall see.

TR:  Anything else you want to tell us about the group, overcoming adversity, losing weight or events that you have done?
MB:  If you’re ever in Chattanooga and want to experience a life changing atmosphere then visit the RRL! The mental toughness that we as a group have achieved together trumps anything I’ve ever been part of and I’m looking forward to the future of living a better life.