Friday, October 7, 2016

Tales from the front - how did we get here?

Too long. Its been too long since I last posted. With good reason, I, like many of you, have been busy. But even that excuse falls a bit flat these days, considering what I witness others with less time than myself accomplish every day. So let's dive in.

Let's get the business out of the way - I have won some races, the Zoom Race Series, secured a spot for Powerman Nationals, and have created some new programs at CrossFit Iron Flag. The one I'm most proud of, a Competitor's Course, designed for athletes looking to find out how far they can go in the world of Functional Fitness competitions. Its provided me more reason to learn more, to study, to strive to give the best possible coaching to these individuals. They are pushing the boundaries of fitness, and its an honor to guide them on that path. At the same time, we are witnessing more and more endurance athletes cross the threshold and enter the gym. With each day, the leave with more purpose, drive, direction and confidence. Knowing that all the coaches and members are providing that sense of community, support, and drive is powerful. Its more than a feeling, its palpable. Its home.

I had the opportunity to be on a new podcast -, Episode 8, where I was able to share my story with others, hopefully to make people realize that if I, a not very talented or gifted individual can overcome adversity, than so can anyone. I mean that. I'm not much different from anyone who reads this. I just decided I wasn't going to stop living because I turned 30. I didn't feel like sleepwalking through the next 50-60 years of my life, only to be on my deathbed wondering why I didn't contribute more. Why I didn't help more people. Why I didn't share what I had learned so that others could avoid similar mistakes and pitfalls. No, that was not going to be me. But the coolest part of the interview, I got to talk about my 6 month old son, Lorenzo Gaetano Petruzzelli. Yes, I am a father. And I never, ever knew I could love someone so much. My world changed for the better the day he was born. He is my smile. He is my saving grace.

His birth helped heal my family, reeling from the loss of 2 uncles and 1 cousin in less than 15 months. Too much sadness, all to be experienced by the same people. Watching my mom mourn the passing of her 2 brothers in less than a year was beyond heartbreaking. Watching my son breathe new life into her is a true joy. Watching my father hold him, smile with him, laugh with him, kiss him, I'm brought to tears just thinking about it. Best of all, watching my 104 year old grandmother hold him, play with him, watching him stare at her, as if he remembers her from somewhere, its magic. Those moments are treasures. They are the true gifts in my life. Everyone who has met him remarks that he is the happiest child they have ever seen. Not only did I not think I would have kids, I never thought my child would be so happy. Because I know myself. But he is truly happy. His smile is infectious. He is the happiness in my life. My hope is that I am the same to him.

So even with taking on more work, studying, growing, I've also been, with the help of my coaches, pushing my own boundaries of fitness. And what I am discovering (because my coaches already knew) is that once I allowed myself to believe that anything was possible, then any work thrown at me becomes doable. Is it a home run every day? No, absolutely not. There have been some epic fails along the way, mental, physical and emotional. But not one of those failures has been in vain. They have given me a better perspective on health and fitness, and more importantly, have shown me that we all are capable of a great deal more. As long as we get out of our own way. Then comes the important part - what do you do with that knowledge?

Some, like my coach Cody Burkhardt, write a very heady blog about his research, his revelations. You can find it at - N=1. I can't recommend this enough. Not only for athletes, for everyone. Others, like Brian MacKenzie continue to evolve their business, their knowledge, their testing and create companies like XPT life; a collaboration of some heavy hitters - Laird Hamilton, (yes, that Laird), Gabby Reece, and Brian. They are, as I like to say, "on tour" teaching camps across the country. No doubt this show will be international soon. And people need it. Its enlightening in ways that your basic company retreat will never be. It goes beyond "trust falls".

So what does this all mean? As I've watched and learned from these individuals, including some other special folks- Louie Simmons, the crew at Barbell Shrugged - McG, Alex, CPT, Doug, Mike, and the writings of Chris Moore - thanks to all of you, I've sharpened my skills and mindset. And I was able to define it recently when one of my athletes asked me my philosophy on life. It was for a school project. Initially, I was my typical course self, spitting out a one sentence answer in the midst of a busy day at work. When I sat with it though, I realized I shorted her an answer to a very important question. I want to share my answer here because it will make what I say after it, that much clearer.

"So I've been pondering this question you asked yesterday, and I think I gave an incomplete answer. So allow me to give you a much more thorough definition -

It starts with this principle - 'The world is a good place and worth saving'. Earnest Hemmingway

I was an English major, so indulge me the above quote. To experience life, to truly live, you must be prepared to do things that will make you uncomfortable, unpopular, unwanted, unkind, and completely joyful, ecstatic, confident, proud, unbreakable, all at the same time. If you really look around, more than 90% of the population, including your classmates, are already dead. They won't be physically buried for another 60-70 years, but they have already given up on life.

Life requires you to be prepared to go it alone, to pick yourself up, and to stand for something, even if you stand alone. A majority of one. It means to contribute more to this world than just showing up. The greatest gift you can give society, is the truest expression of yourself. Recognize that what you do affects your immediate world. And those actions are powerful. They can motivate someone else to break new ground because they have seen you do it. They have seen you be unrelenting, constantly grinding, constantly striving to be the best version of you possible. It doesn't mean lose hours of sleep, but it might mean some sleepless nights. But it also means experiencing some of the best sleep of your life because when your head hits the pillow, you know you have given the day all of you.

Personally, I don't like being comfortable. It means I'm not growing. It means I'm not contributing. I'm not doing my part. I have a responsibility to give each day, and every person I encounter the best of me, whether I'm coaching, with my son, or doing my own training. That means you must give the best of yourself to you everyday. It doesn't mean every day will be super awesome. In fact, many will suck. But the light, the true light, is always inside you. You will encounter people who are looking to snuff it out. Those people can be family, friends and strangers. Some do it subconsciously, others do it out of jealousy. The important thing is to know when to cut ties with that dead weight and move on. Its not going to be easy, but its going to be worth it.

Life is about investing in yourself so you can give the world a chance. The world isn't in a great place right now. Your immediate world may not be that great right now. But it can be better when you believe it can be. Humanity will disappoint you, and I'm sorry to say that. But you have to keep fighting to help those who can't help themselves. And do the one thing I personally don't do enough of - smile. Your smile can light up a room."

Unless you have had your head in the sand the last few years, things aren't great out there. In Chicago, we reached a rather distasteful milestone, 500 murders by mid-august, the most for any year in quite some time. As a south sider, that hurt to hear, read, see. And I promised to not make this blog political, however, the issues in Chicago are very personal to me. Its why I believe that we need to encourage each other, especially the younger generations, to give back, and stop the overwhelming sense of self-involvement. Technology stopped the conversation of "how do we make the world a better place?" It stopped the "how do I make my world a better place" conversation. Lost in texts, videos, social media, we've become so isolated in a crowded world that we don't even see the issues on our own streets.

I've made the conscious choice to live. In doing so, I know I am not for everyone. I will rub some people the wrong way. That's true of all of us. I'm good with that. But it doesn't mean I stop contributing. Simply by sitting on the sidelines of life, you are making a choice. You aren't Switzerland. You are just as much a part of the problem. If you aren't contributing, then you are most certainly taking, and that compounds problems, not helps them. Understand, this isn't about saving someone. Remember the analogy, "give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for the rest of his life"? Same thing. You aren't going to do someone's homework for them - they learn nothing. You teach them how to go about saving themselves, so every time they fall, the first hand they reach for is their own. We don't need more band-aids, we need the stitches. This is the world we live in now. And it can be better. It has to get better.

A little deep for you? I know. Wanting more science, nerdy, technical talk about training, racing, nutrition, sleeping, etc? It will come. But I'm not letting go of the request to ask each of you to live. Not just for you, for everyone around you; which will include people you don't know, and may never meet. That's giving the world all of you.

Stay strong,