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.