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Hello everyone, and thanks for listening to the Alpha Hippie Podcast. On today’s episode, I have obstacle course racer, gym owner, podcaster, and all around badass, Dave Robinson on the show. We talk about his journey into becoming a gym owner, and being inspired to affect millions for a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle. We also dig deeper on what it was like to run a 50-mile race, what it was like to leave his job as a financial planner and become a gym owner, and what that’s like for him. And we just dig deep on his different ideas of success, and money. This was an amazing conversation that we had.
I felt like we were able to go down a few different rabbit holes, and go deeper into certain topics. And I love the freedom that Dave and I were able to have on this, and I really hope that you do as well.
Enjoy the show and as always, thank you for listening.

About Dave

A Richmond, Virginia native, Dave Robinson is an elite Spartan Obstacle Course Racer and fitness consultant who founded his inspirational, life-changing company GS Nation in late 2016. Making waves in the fitness industry with his deep passion for nutrition, exercise, and wellness, Dave is constantly pushing himself as well as others to realize their maximum potential. Dave’s philosophy derives from his tag line “Grind On” where incorporating hard work and dedication to your daily grind yields positive results in all aspects of one’s life.

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Making Waves
Angelo: Dave Robinson, how are you brother?
Dave: I’m doing great Angelo, how are you man?
Angelo: I’m doing really well. It’s a cold as fuck day in Chicago, but other than not walking outside, everything is good.
Dave: I kind of forgot you were in Chicago for a second, because I was bitching about it being like 12 or 15 degrees here, but that’s it’s nothing compared to what you guys got, I would imagine.
Angelo: You know what, it is the time of the year where you are just running to your car and running out of your car. It’s just brutal.
Dave: Yeah, yeah. It’s awful.
Angelo: Yeah, it definitely is. So it’s 15 there?
Dave: Today it’s 15, but that’s a very low number for us.
Angelo: For you guys I’m like, shit.
Dave: It’s scaring a lot of people, scaring a lot of people.
Angelo: Scaring the natives guys, everybody is sitting in the house.
Dave: You don’t know what to do man. It’s funny.
Angelo: I was introduced to you from a mutual friend of ours, Mark England, who has been on the show, and is my dear friend. How do you know Mark?
Dave: This is kind of a funny story, and I’ve had a lot of things happen recently that have me questioning whether lack, or chance or—basically, there is no such thing as coincidences, and I’m starting to believe that much more based on some recent happenings. But I actually met Mark England through a buddy of mine Bryan Muca, who has a business called [inaudible 0:02:47]. Bryan and Mark sat next to one another on an airplane two or three years ago and struck up a conversation. If you know Bryan, and you do know Mark, it would be very easy for those two to sit down and have a conversation.
I think it was a cross-country flight, San Diego to Richmond, and they get to know one another, they stay in touch. Mark is Bryan’s coach and a couple of other things. Bryan introduced Mark to a network that we have here in Richmond. It’s a networking group in town that’s actually very unique, it’s called Synapse. What Synapse does is, it marries non-profit partnership with business networking, stuff that all of us have to do, but instead of it being very transactional and very like ’hey, here’s my card, how can you help me, yada, yada, yada’, like a BNI would be, or those typical Chamber of Commerce type things.
This is an organization where link up with, or the organization links up with a ton of different non-profits around town, things like The Animal League, and Habitat for Humanity, and then very Richmond centric organizations as well. They are bringing awareness exposure etc. to the non-profits while also doing business networking. I saw Mark speak at one of these networking events, and I went up afterwards and said, “Yo, you and I need to sit down, and I’m taking you to Thai food because you are an interesting dude.” Then we have developed friendship from there over the past year and a half, two years or so.
Angelo: That’s awesome. That Synapse sounds amazing. Do they have those everywhere?
Dave: They don’t. It was started in Richmond, a guy by the name Keith Reynolds was a banker, had a great connection, realized he needed to do networking, but also was volunteering. The reason I got into is I was doing some volunteer work with an organization called Connor’s Heroes Foundation; they directly help every family of children affected with cancer in the Richmond metro area, direct support. I was already volunteering with them, I was a financial planner at the time, I needed to network, I need to meet my attorneys, and my realtors, and my CPAs and etc. etc.
Selfishly/unselfishly, I figured, well, shit, why don’t I join Synapse, bring Connor’s Heroes into the equation, help expand the awareness and knowledge around what Connor’s Heroes is doing, but I’ll also lead a networking group that I can mold and tailor based on what I as a financial planner at the time needed. Also the organization, they’ve just expanded out into Virginia Beach, into DC, and into Charlottesville. So the concept is really good, it’s a matter of how they scale it because the people really matter. You are going to get a different type of person in Synapse than you would in a traditional Chamber of Commerce or BNI type networking, because you actually have to give a shit about other things other than making money.
Angelo: Yeah, I love this idea. I think it’s so great because—I’m sorry I cut you off. I’ve hated every single fucking Chamber of Commerce meeting I’ve ever been to, because you walk in there and people are just jamming business cards in your fucking face. I don’t know the way to say it, I get so annoyed by it.
Dave: Same.
Angelo: It’s just like, you are going there and all you are going to do is say, ‘I’ve got people, do you have people?’ It’s ingenuine.
Dave: It is. It’s incredibly ingenuine. I did the same rounds; I did Commerce, I did Rotary Club, I did BNI, there’s another group 212 that’s decent here in Richmond, but I’ve built a ton of great relationships through Synapse because I think the individual is going to be somebody that cares more about themselves and more about just making money. Dude, that’s obviously that’s very important, we all got to eat, we can’t help people if we are not making money. But at the same time I found it incredibly valuable, at the time I was 23 or 24, I didn’t have money to give to Connor’s Heroes at the time, and I could spread awareness. I don’t have the dollars to give, but maybe I can connect somebody who does have the dollars to then give and then help positively affect kids in the area with cancer.
Again, it’s cool because you can find the thing that matters to you. Sure, I love dogs, and cats, and everything, but I’m probably not going to be the guy that goes and volunteers and raise money for the Richmond Animal League, that’s not my thing, but that’s somebody else’s thing. So if that’s your thing, you go and be a part of that group and network etc. etc. Mark kind of did his rounds in and around the Synapse. Synapse is here in Richmond, there’s groups in Richmond, and I heard him talk and was fascinated on his view, and the way he looks at language, and the way he looks at how that shapes everybody. Now in the background of my phone that I look at a thousand times a day like everybody else, I have “what we think, we become”, and I believe that shit.
Angelo: Yeah man, absolutely. How old are you now?
Dave: 31 in two weeks.
Angelo: Oh, awesome. Have you always been this open to networking, and going to all these groups and stuff like that? Was this something that’s always a part of you, or something you sort of forced yourself into overtime?
Dave: In the beginning I forced myself into it. I’m kind of one of those extroverted introverts, where I’ve got to have my alone time, that’s how I recharge. My alone time is non-negotiable, but at the same time I know how valuable it is to meet people and to help people, and that’s how I get my feel. I love empowering people, giving people confidence, and then being able to help people. Sometimes, you can help people out by, ‘hey, I know a good roof, this is guy is somebody I trust’, I’ll go call Jim.’ You need a roof, Jim’s your man. It’s nice to be able to pull those strings. I’ve always seen the value in it, and the deeper you network, the more often you network, the more everything comes back around.
Angelo: Yeah, absolutely. It was very awkward for me at first to be able to do all that. I’m not the greatest at very surface-level conversations. I still don’t do extremely well at parties, because I don’t ask, I don’t want to say silly questions, because if you do this, I don’t want you to think you are silly, but for me, just to talk about the weather, or my family, and then just stop there, and that’s the conversation and you move on to someone else, to me it’s useless. So it’s so hard for me to do.
Dave: Yeah. Your original question is, I think I’ve always been open and able to open myself up and be vulnerable, and have those deeper conversations. That’s what gives me a lot of feel as well. I’m not the type of person that’s going to come up to you in a party and be like, “hey, what’s up man? I’m Dave, how are you?” I’m probably going to be the guy on the wall who has been in some conversation and somebody comes up and introduces himself to me, great, but I’m probably not going to be the one who goes in and instigates that, or initiates that rather.
In these groups it’s not forced, but it’s almost like a round-table discussion, it’s not like you are milling about, everybody has the floor, you’ve got your two-minute time frame, the non-profit partner speaks first, that kind of opens up the floor to discussions and everything else. Then it’s a matter of trying to make those connections. So you give your two-minutes spiel, everybody gives their little deal. You’ve got the mic, so to speak, and so you can say what you want to say, and then people ask questions and bounce stuff around afterwards. So it is a very intimate thing, but again, I’m like you man; I’d rather dive into some deep stuff right off the bat, and I’m totally cool wearing the heart on the sleeve and then people think what they think, right there.
Angelo: I love it. How did you get involved in fitness? Is it something that’s always been a part of you? Were you athletic growing up? How did you get involved with it?
Dave: I was talking to my mom about this the other day and she said that, “you were always the kid that was leaping and falling on the ground, and loving every second of it.” I remember running around and calling my buddies up, being eight years old, “Hi Miss Carmen, can Dave come out and play? Can we go play football?” I was always active, but I was never really like a great athlete. I was always the hustle guy that plays really good defense and annoys the shit out of you in a basketball game.
Angelo: Sure, sure.
Dave: Dive for the rebounds, and I’m sure as shit not dunking. I played a lot of sports, got really into soccer especially in the youth leagues and stuff like that, and played pretty competitively in high school. Went into playing in college, wasn’t technical enough; I had the physical ability, but wasn’t technical enough to play. But then when I got into college, my random roommate freshman year, ended up being my roommate all four years, was a 4-times National Junior Powerlifting champion. I went to school as 155 pounds skinny ass soccer player and left at 210 deadlifting 600 and squatting 500, and benching 350, yoked as shit.
I’ve always been active, but it’s ebbed, and flowed, and changed, and my definition of fitness has kind of evolved and changed overtime as well. I think that background of playing basketball and then playing tennis, and then playing insane volleyball, and swimming in the pool, and tossing the football in the backyard, and knocking the soccer ball around—I can move, I don’t look out of place throwing a ball, but again, I’m not going to dunk on you.
Angelo: Sure. Was the powerlifting roommate your first introduction to strength and conditioning, or were you already working on that because of high school sport?
Dave: I was what-do-you-bench-bro type guy.
Angelo: Sure.
Dave: Maybe that was 185 or something like that, thinking you are the man, 155 pounds. We were doing a lot of dumb shit from a strength and conditioning standpoint, and now looking back on it I spent a lot of time—I think in college that’s when I really dove into things. Are you familiar with Teen Nation?
Angelo: Yeah.
Dave: I got a job sophomore year in the library so that I could sit on the computer and read Teen Nation articles, and then walk around and make my rounds and find nutrition books, and a whole lot in the corner to the library. I did that for three years, I started nodding out on stuff, but at the same time we maxed five days a week, like if it was leg day, it’s your one RM, if it was overhead press, what have you got today? I dug myself into a hole over that time frame. Obviously I was drinking and having fun, and staying up late and eating college food. I didn’t really look at things from that holistic approach that I do now, that I do, all of athletes, I think a lot of us are doing, like sleep matters, and nutrition matters, and your mindset matters.
It was just numbers in the gym. 2010 the beginnings of CrossFit that was very much what was going on. That was my intro into strength and conditioning. I got a really good education with real strength and conditioning the year after I graduated, I interned at The University of Richmond for a year working with football, men soccer, women soccer, a little bit of field hockey in the cross. That went from, okay, let’s max every day, to how do you build a real program? What does real dynamic warm-up look like? Where does recovery come into play? How do you look at instructor strength over the course for a year or more? What’s in season versus off season? Etc. So, definitely college is my first foray into that, but I became more educated as time went on.
Angelo: Did you major in Kinesiology or something like that to go get an internship, or what was that like for you for college?
Because that’s the first thing I would think of it you get a year internship.
Dave: Things always work out and happen for a reason, back to that there are no coincidences thing. I was a history major and political science minor, and in April of my senior year I’m applying for Masters programs, and we have our caps-on class on Mondays, Wednesday, Friday 8:00 am senior history caps-on class. Monday we talked about Christopher Columbus, Wednesday we talked about Christopher Columbus, Friday we talked about Christopher Columbus, and I was getting very fed up with history, like why does this matter? I don’t give a shit about this anymore. I liked it in the beginning, now I don’t. I really wanted to be a history teacher so I can have my summers off, and then I matured a little bit from 18-22, and realized, well, I’m going to be a really shitty teacher if I’m aiming for the weekend and aiming for my summers off.
So I had this big freak out, and I declared to my roommates and everybody who would listen that, “if I go back in there on Monday, if we are talking about Christopher Columbus again, I’m out of here. I’m not doing this shit.” Sure enough, we opened the book Monday morning, it’s Christopher Columbus, 1492 sailed the ocean, I knew about the shit since I was on 2nd grade, what more do we need to know? I packed up my shit, I leave mid-class. Obviously I come back on Wednesday and I graduate, finish my class, but I’d stopped applying for Masters programs so I didn’t have a plan. I think two or three weekends later, a week or two before I graduated I competed in the Richmond Open, which is a powerlifting meet in town where I’m from and live now.
I met Jay DeMayo, who is the strength and conditioning coach for basketball at U of R, we are in the same class. I think we were both 198 or something like that. Those are 10/12 hour days, so we had the whole freaking day to sit there and talk shit with one another. “Hey what are you doing? That’s cool the way you look at it” “No shit”. He was like, “dude, what are you doing when you graduate? You know your stuff, what’s your plan?” I said, “As of two weeks ago, I was going to be a history teacher, but I’ve got no fucking plan now.” He was like, ”yeah man, we’ve got a spot, we are looking for somebody. I think you might fill that role.”
I was a dumbass, I walked into University of Richmond to interview with my James Madison University sweatshirt on and just didn’t even think about that. They were like, “A) take that off, b) let’s sit down and see what you got.” I ended up interviewing pretty well. I think a lot of people have the technical knowledge to be a good coach, but I think a lot of people don’t necessarily have the people knowledge or the people skills, or the ability to know when to put your arm around somebody and when to smack them, and make them, ‘hey, suck your shit up, and let’s go.’ I’m very empathetic innately, so I think I’ve got a good grasp on when and how to do that, and you can teach people the technical stuff. They liked what they saw, and I hopped on board.
Angelo: Do you really think that it’s innate that you are that empathetic, or is there anything that you could recall that’s happened to you that’s made you that way, or made you even better at it?
Dave: I grew up with two little sisters, and I think that helped a lot. My younger sister is 6 years younger than me, the middle one is 3 years younger than me, so I grew up as the protective older brother, and they looked up to me. I love them more than anything in the world. I think that really allowed me to be more empathetic than a lot of people. I think a lot of people grow up with siblings, but our relationship—we travel together every year. We take a Europe trip or an international trip together. Every time we are out they are like, “holy shit, you guys like one another? You guys are cool with one another?”
Obviously family dynamics are different for everybody, but I think I was really able to learn what it’s like to look at life from somebody else’s perspective very early on, and to put myself in somebody else’s shoes very early on. That obviously translates very well to being a coach. I see it in people’s eyes, I’ve felt insecurities, and I’ve felt doubts, I’ve felt not having confidence, and I know what it’s like to be on the other end of the that equation, and I know the hard work it takes to get to that point. I think I’m good, and one of my skills or strengths, is being able to see that and know again, more often than not when you need the arm up the shoulder and the encouragement versus when you need the slap on the ass, and ‘suck it up buttercup’ type of thing. I think part of it is innate, and I think part of it is learned just based off family environments and things like that.
Angelo: What a great quality to have.
You powerlifted basically through college, and then when you started your internship, did your training change, or were you still continuing in that area?
Dave: It changed a little bit, I hadn’t touched Olympic weight lifting whatsoever until I got to U of R. so I started off with a PVC pipe just like all of the athletes did, and I learned how to snatch, learned how to clean, and jerk etc. then I actually started going down the Strongman route with one of the other coaches that was there at the time, Jeff Appel, and we trained for the brute strength gym Strongman Competition in spring of 2011. After that I had been pushing really, really hard for about 5 years at that point, not recovering, not sleeping. I was at U of R, I was training at a sport performance center, I was on personal training at [inaudible 00:20:57] gym, box gym. I was spending 15 hours a day in the gym, and then I didn’t want to be in the gym. So I really burned out.
I think looking back, I had a lot of red flags, probably had adrenal fatigue of some sort. Once I left U of R to get into financial planning I was looking for that freedom and flexibility of both time and income, and I ended up taking about a year, two years off from most or all gym activities. I could have done that probably a little bit better, but I just got burned out. I didn’t want to do it anymore. Then I ended up randomly running a sporting race and that jumpstarted me into what I’m doing now, and started getting back into fitness and everything like that. My training did change considerably from just powerlifting to, okay, now I’m incorporating Olympic powerlifting and actually warming up, and holy shit, what’s a foam roller, those types of things.
Angelo: You stayed at the university for a year then you went into financial planning in hopes of just getting a little bit more freedom, you said?
Dave: Correct.
Angelo: How was that experience?
Dave: It was totally new. Someone from history to sports, and then from sports to business, so I had a whole nother year of just getting licensed. I would secure these licenses series 6, 63, 65, life disability, whole nine yards. It was building relationships with people, it was looking at things from that 30,000 foot perspective, big picture stuff. It wasn’t day trading, it wasn’t slinging insurance policies, we were really trying to do things the right way which became a great model for what we are doing with how I’m viewing health and wellness in general. I needed that flexibility of time. If I want to go run a race, I got to be able to decide that I’m taking off Thursday and Friday, but if I’ve got a 5:30 am Monday, Wednesday, Friday football group, my ass is there at 5:15 Monday, Wednesday, Friday, no [inaudible 00:23:09] about it.
I realized pretty early on that I was ever going to do the 9 to 5, I was never going to do the 2-weeks’ vacation. I read Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week, and go, holy shit, I can do it outside of this 9 to 5. People are successful when they are not working just regular jobs, all I had really seen or been exposed to. I was looking for that freedom and that flexibility while still trying to make an impact because that’s really, really important to me. At the end, it took 7 or 8 years to realize that I wasn’t making the impact that I really wanted to make, and I really didn’t give a shit about the markets or your life insurance policy. What I really care about is empowering other people to do what they want to do, and to step into their own, and I feel like I could do that best from that strength and conditioning standpoint.
Angelo: Very, very interesting for you. You are working as a financial planner, when did you get involved with obstacle courses?
Dave: I think it was 2013.
Angelo: About a year or so into financial planning.
Dave: Two years into financial planning.
Angelo: Okay.
Dave: Two years into financial planning. I hadn’t really done a whole lot other than toss a football in the front yard with beer in one hand with a couple of other buddies. I was living with 5 other guys at the time, out of school, having a good time doing that whole thing.
Angelo: Sure.
Dave: I remember we were all just sitting around playing video games, dicking around, and one of the is like, “Dude, check this shit out”, and he pulls it up on YouTube and we put it on the TV, it was one of Spartan’s thing of rolling under barbed wire, and chucking spears, and climbing this, and lifting that, doing all these kind of stuff. All of us were like, man, that looks awesome. Just me and my one other buddy did it, and we ended up running a race here, it was the Spartan Super.
It was 8 miles or so, but it was on a ski course, two hours west bus. So you are going up and down ski slopes in the middle of the summer over and over, and over again, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever fucking done. I got my ass handed to me, and swore to god I would never do it again, ever, and lo and behold, 50 races later here we are.
Angelo: You’ve done 50 races?
Dave: Round abouts, yeah-ish.
Angelo: How often are you doing it?
Dave: In 2013 I run one, 2014 I run that same race again and did considerably better with a little bit of training. That was kind of like, well shit, what happens if I try? Then I think I run 3, then I run 6, then I run 12, and then last year I run another 12 or 15 and I got good at them. I think two or three years ago I decided, alright, I’m going to try. Because the cool thing about obstacle course racing is the specialist is never going to win, and I’m not ever going to be world class at one particular thing. I’m a decent college soccer runner, I’ve got a mid-50s VO2 max, but I’m not 80, I’m not going to run a 230 marathon. I’ve got great strength, but I’m not deadlifting 600 or 700 pounds anymore.
A good obstacle course racing athlete has to be a very good general athlete; you’ve got to have power, you’ve got to have strength, you’ve got to have muscular strength, you’ve got to have muscular endurance, you’ve got to have anaerobic power, you’ve got to have aerobic capacity, you’ve got to have all these things and be pretty good at all of them. A marathoner is going to get crashed on the carries; the power lifter is not going to be able to run. So I’m a good general athlete and I’ve just kind of chipped away at my weaknesses and horned on my strengths, and just gotten better, and better at it as time goes on and realized, no shit, I can be pretty good at this. So that’s my goals now, I’ve set some lofty goals and ended up chipping away at them, and last year was a pretty good year. I’m really stoked about 2019.
Angelo: What’s the training like for you for these races? What does it really look like? I’m a CrossFit coach, if I’m training someone for CrossFit it’s very, okay, I know we are going to squat, we are going to do the workouts and all these stuff. What’s training like for you? What does a session look like?
Dave: It depends on what time of year it is. That’s one of the things that I think I do very well that a lot of people don’t. Coming from that strength and conditioning background I’m looking I’m looking at my year from a macro standpoint, a big, big standpoint. So I know when I’m trying to peak, I know all season what do I need to do in this pre-season time. Right now I’m aerobic strength build up, aerobic build up and a base strength build up. I’m not really doing any anaerobic work, or not a lot of it. I try to get in between 6 and 8 hours of aerobic activity per week, my running will replace a lot of the cycling that I’m doing now.
So I’m starting off very low on mileage—I made a mistake last year and I got up my mileage too quick. I’m not going to be as fit I can be in April, because I’m trying to be really fit for the World championships in October. I’m taking that long-term approach. I do Barbell work about twice a week, I don’t really need to bench-press anymore. I don’t really need to work on a ton of overhead pressing because there is not a lot of that in OCR athletes, I need to be proficient enough at it, but I don’t need to put up numbers there. I think it went in large part from, what are you squatting versus can I maintain and have a pretty good strength base? I went away from one of the members in the gym and looking in more towards let’s just work on overall stuff. Grip, strength matters a lot depending on the style of race you are running, like can you climb?
One of my big weaknesses is that I can’t run up mountain jet. There’s a lot of people that can run up mountains, but it’s not mine, and maintain a pretty damn good pace doing it. So that’s something I kind of chip away at as I get closer to those particular styles of races. But right now I’m just building an aerobic base, continuing to work on that base. As I as more mileage on a weekly basis, I’ll take away some of my cycling sessions, or take away some of my rowing sessions and add in more miles to slowly build that up. Then I’m maintaining/adding the strength that I can right now so that as I have to reduce that strength work towards the end of my season where my mileage really starts taking up then I will at least have pretty good base.
Amongst OCR athletes I have elite strength but I’m probably average runner, or below average runner. If I can get to be a little bit above average runner and couple that with my elite strength, then I’m going to do pretty well.
But I’m never going to touch these 15-minute 5k times that people are throwing down, or if I do, I’ll be a lot older. As men it’s a pretty precipitous drop of max strength power output in that 30-35 age range. Your testosterone drops, your ability to recover drops. I’m not going to be putting up enough numbers as I’m putting up now at 40, but I might have 95% of my aerobic capacity ability at 40. So I’m aiming for those longer races in 10 years. I’ll run 100 mile race again, or try 100 mile race, I’ll run another 50, I’ll do all that stuff 10 years down the road. I’m kind of looking at that thing from a big perspective and I really want to maximize the strength of power that I have now.
Angelo: Do you write your own programming?
Dave: I do, yeah I do. I follow a couple of different models. Right now my 12-week strength program is a modified conjugate method from Louie Simmons in Westside Barbell. Again, I don’t need a heavy upper day, I’m using the dynamic upper day, but I don’t want to put on a lot of size so I’m not going to have a heavy other. So I replace that with more of aerobic stuff. I mold and mix, and modify. That’s sort of selfishly, and it’s kind of ego-driven in a way, but at the same time I do feel like I know my body best and I’ve got the ability to program well. I would benefit from a coach, I think, but that coach our views would have to align on a lot of things. He would be like an OCR coach because it is a very specific sport. There is a lot to learn and I do a lot of learning, and listening, and reading. I’m always borrowing ideas from people.
Angelo: Sure, that’s very cool man. I love it. You mentioned before you want to run 100-mile race, what’s the longest race you’ve ever run?
Dave: In November of 2017 a good friend and I put on what we call the River City 50 Miler. I’ll back up just a little bit; this friend Patrick Kerney, he lost his sister to Leukemia about 10 years ago, or 10 years prior to 2017. That sent him down, as it would probably anybody, a pretty dark path, and he really wanted to do something to honor Becker. At the same time, I had done a lot of work with that child cancer support organization, Connor’s Heroes Foundation. I was mentoring a 9-year old boy at the time named Jack who had the same exact disease that Becker had. Jack’s fine, he is doing great now, but when we first started hanging out together—it’s called a Super Hero and Side Kicks Program, and it’s facilitated by Connor’s Heroes Foundation, he is the super hero, I’m the side kick.
We are sitting here, it’s middle of the summer and we are inside playing Legos because he can’t go outside kick a ball because he is sick. That hit me man. That really got to me. Pat came to me with this idea August of 2017, like, “Hey bro, I want to do something for Becker. I’m thinking about doing something really hard, I want to feel the pain that Becker felt, and I want to be able to go through something similar, a fraction of the pain ad be there, and live in that, maybe I could feel what she felt, and remember her.” I said, “Dude, that’s awesome.” It’s giving me goose bumps now thinking about this, but I was like, “Dude, I would love to do something for Jack, let’s do it.”
We ended up signing up for a race, getting wait-listed which was really good because it gave us a couple of more months to train. We ended up saying, you know what, fuck it, let’s just put on our own race. We put on our own race. We got about three months to train. The furthest I ran when we decided to do this ever, ever, was 15 miles, ever. Our longest training ran was 20 miles, which we did twice. So this was like an insurmountable thing. This was something that if I didn’t have my why really clearly stated, I didn’t think I could do it until that day, or two before, that week before. I was like, man, there is no way I’m not going to do this. Because the community galvanized behind us, we ended up raising 7500 bucks for child cancer support. We had a bunch of people donate. We had a couple of businesses do give-back days.
So we got a lot of people to help us do this because we wanted to raise awareness and dollars for cancer research happening in Richmond in Becker’s name.  Just Pat and I ran the race and it was 5 10-mile loops around Richmond. We’ve got a trail system here along the James River; there is a river that runs right through the middle of Richmond, Virginia. As part of this route, we crossed over 4 pedestrian and car bridges over the rivers. It was basically a figure 8; 5 10-mile loops, about 75% of it was trail, and 25% of it was concrete. The furthest I had run to that point was 20 miles, so I doubled it and added 10 in a day, and it was fucked up man. It was not a fun day from a physical outlay perspective. It was really really difficult but it was hands down, the most transformative thing that I have ever done, hands down.
Angelo: Do you feel like running a race that long it’s more mental or physical?
Dave: I think it’s both, because I wasn’t ready for it. Our mileage, we were probably running 25, 30 miles a week. If you are going to run a 50-mile race you’ve got to be at least doing 50 miles a week for a while. We weren’t really prepared and Pat paid for it more than I did. I came out rather unscathed; I was lifting my leg up with my hands to get up steps for two or three days afterwards. I was shuffling everywhere. Pat had some IT band and some sore ass issues for a long time, and he was a little bit banged up going into the race. I’ll never forget this: there was a time, maybe four or five miles in, where he looks at me, he goes, “dude, my IT bands are fired again”. “How bad is it?” He says, “I’m not going to put a number on it because it’s not going to get any better.” “How bad out of 10?” I was thinking 5, 6, or 7. He is like, “dude, I’m not even going to say it because it’s not going to get any better.”
There was a massive physical component to that, but it’s mental. At that point, given the amount of people we had out there cheering us on, the money we had raised, and we had news teams out there etc. etc. if it had taken us 36 hours it took us 13, but if it had taken us 36 hours we would have crawled our ass across the line. If I didn’t have that why, if I was just out running a race fuck it, I probably would have bailed it at 25, 26, I hit a really, really solid wall right around that time frame, right around that marathon length. If I was just doing it to do it I probably wouldn’t have done it. But having that push and wanting to feel that pain, being okay with feeling that pain and seeking it out almost made it so that I had to get through it. I think a large part is very mental, but you’ve got to be physically able to do it.
I don’t think that I at least, I didn’t come up to my physical limit on that race in any way, shape, or form. I busted past that wall, I kept going miles 35-46, 47, were pretty good, last three sucked, but I was pretty good up until marathon length, I had a rough moment right around the marathon time frame, 26 to 30-ish, then I felt pretty good again for the next 15 miles. It got dark, our head lamp died, we are on trail so we had to walk, and one of us is leading the way with one headlamp on fucking trails of rocks, and sticks, and roots everywhere. We learnt a lot of lessons, we were rookies about it, but I didn’t come close to my physical limit, I don’t think. Mentally yeah, I think it’s very large part mental, because I think a lot of us have a lot more in us physically than you think we do, and I think a lot of us can do way more than we think we can do physically, like our bodies can physically handle it, it’s just a matter of why are you doing it?
It wasn’t necessarily smart for us to do a dug-me-in-a-hole. I wear a Whoop Tracker; it measures heart rate, variability, resting heart rate, sleep etc. I didn’t get back to normal until mid-March from the end of November race. It tanked my whole system for months. It was very physical. I think if you know what you are fighting for, and you know what you are going for you can push your body a long way, a long way.
Angelo: How do you think people find that out?
I have a course and I would deal with men and working with them, and obviously people from the gym, and you are talking about your goals and your why in doing all that, how do you think people realize if something is really their why or not?
Dave: That’s a really, really good question Angelo. I’ll tell you what got me into Connor’s Heroes, that’s not necessarily my why, but I had a girl who was a high school friend of mine who is now actually the executive director of Connor’s Heroes. She invited me out to a networking event, have some beers, etc. art galleries, we are going to talk about this thing, young professionals, like 24-year olds, or 25-year olds, and getting in my financial planning career first couple of years. Connor’s Heroes plays this video that you can find on the front page of their website, and it’s a 7-minute video. At the end of this is a 25-year old dude, a very masculine guy, he got a beer, big old dude, and I’m fucking bawling, crying in front of 60 people. I look around, and I’m kind of self-conscious about it, but he is crying, and she is crying, and they are crying. I figured, if something is going to make me cry in public, I better get my ass involved in it.
Again, if it’s like the animal league thing I’m probably not going to cry. I love dogs, cats, and everything else, but that’s not the thing that pulls it. I think you’ve got to really have that self-awareness of what matters to you, and look at yourself, and look at where your thoughts are, and look at what you think about all the time. I think about traveling and racing and impacting people. In some way, shape or form, that’s always what’s on my mind. That’s kind of what my why developed into. I think you are either one of two people: you believe that life happens to you, or you happen to life. I’m a believer in large part you happen to life; you can do and build whatever you want to do. I think once people realize that and become self-aware, and realize what matters to them, because it’s going to be different for everybody, that allows them the ability to then figure out what that thing is, and then hopefully they have the courage to pursue it.
Angelo: Hopefully.
Dave: Hopefully.
Angelo: How did you develop into becoming a coach again?
Dave: I think I realized a couple of years into financial planning that this wasn’t necessarily a thing I was passionate about. I got passionate about racing, I’m passionate about helping people but not through this capacity. I mentioned that I take trips with my sisters every year, and we save up and are fortunate enough to be able to do that. On our trip that we took a couple of years ago I realized towards the end of that trip that I hadn’t really been alone for more than a day probably ever. I’m always gregarious guy, I’m going to hang out with friends, or I’m going to be on social, or I’m going to be at least talking to somebody.
I hadn’t really thought about, what the fuck do I want to do, and why? What matters to me? We were in Paris at the time, I think it’s September of 2016, and we end up going to the Airport, Charles De Gaul, we are like, “alright, terminal C, it’s over this way”. I’m like, “hey guys, I actually I’m going this way. I need to extend my trip.” I hooked my trip another couple of days out. I sent them home. I went to London for 4 or 5 days. Had my bottle mold skin, a little journal, put my headphones on, threw on my podcast, or threw on YouTube, Thomas, or Tony Robins, whatever I was listening to at the time, and just started writing being alone. I didn’t text anybody, I didn’t know anybody, I wasn’t visiting anybody, I was just staying in a hostel, had my headphones on, just walking the city, finding a park, just thinking about stuff.
I’ve always had this idea in my head of starting—I wanted to have a gym, then I realized that the gym wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, because I wanted to have that freedom and flexibility as well, and I realized there’s a lot more to health and wellness than just what your numbers are on the gym. I realized at that particular time that I had to come back and start working towards this or else I would regret it for the rest of my life. That’s the big thing, my big fear is being 100 years old, or 80 years old, or 120, or however old I am and not being able to do stuff anymore. I think that’s why I ran now, it’s because I can. I’m very acutely aware that that can change in any instant.
I could be like Jack and not be able to ran, or I could be like Becker and not be here anymore, or I could just get old and not be able to fucking do it. I realized I need to really get back into this. So I spent about a year sort of writing programs to people. People were asking me, “Hey, how are you getting good at OCR?” “This is it.” “I want to lose some weight.” “This is that.” I started doing nutritional stuff, started talking about it on Facebook, basically doing R&D to my programs work; will people buy them? Could this be feasible? In April of 2017 I got bit by a spider. I don’t know where; it was either in my office, my car, my room, or the gym, no idea, the spider is probably still alive, no idea. But I got bit at my elbow, sent me to the hospital that night. They sent me home with shitty antibiotics and shitty pain meds, basically like Naproxen 800mg, Ibuprofen, and was like, “hey, if it doesn’t get better in 48 hours come back.”
Within 24 hours I’m puking, fever 103, elbow is the size of a softball, and I go talk with one of my physical therapy friends and she is like, “Jesus Christ, you’ve got to go to the hospital right now.” I’m still paying this bill off to this day, but I ended up being admitted for three days, two nights, and it was Saturday night into Sunday. I felt Sunday afternoon. I was never going to die. I didn’t get sepsis, it wasn’t last rights or anything like that, but I was pretty sick, it was pretty fucked up. I’m alone in the hospital bed, and my family was in there, my friends had visited me, but I’m not going to make my mom sleep in the chair by the bed, I’m like, “go home, come see me in the morning. I’m fine.” So the nurse comes in, it’s midnight, they are doing their rounds, they’ve got to wake your ass up and I’m plugged in all these fucking IVs, and morphine drips, and all these other things.
She does her little checkup, the little thing is going beep, beep, beep, and I’m lying there and I’m wide awake. It’s 12:30 at night, and I have that realization that it’s now Sunday, it’s not Saturday, it’s Sunday now, and I go, fuck, I’ve got to go to work tomorrow, maybe I’ll just stay here. And it was, click, holy shit, I would rather stay in the hospital another day than go back to my financial planning job. That was like, wow, I’ve got to start doing some serious work in seeing if I can get out of here and do something that I really feel like I’m called to do.
Mark England was actually very instrumental in helping me do this with his, ‘okay, let’s write down your goals. Don’t freak out while you are talking about them. Breathe into them, change your state and your physiology, and your language associated with these goals. Write out what could go wrong etc. etc.’ I ended up leaving my financial planning career around November of 2017, about two weeks prior to this 50-mile race, and ended up bringing on a friend of mine as a business partner and we started developing what we are doing now. That was really a big catalyst for me. It was one of those things I knew I really wanted to do, but I knew it was going to be really hard, and I just hadn’t gotten the courage to do it yet.
I tend to be one of those people that overthink everything, like knows something, but I get another six months before I actually pull the trigger on it. So that was one of those things; I knew it wasn’t right for me, but I needed that big kick in the ass in order to actually go down that path and switch gears so drastically.
Angelo: Do you remember the moment that you decided to shift gears, that you accepted it?
Dave: When I thought I’ll stay here another day. That was when I was like, alright, it’s time. I remember that next week there was some compliance bullshit I was dealing with and my files didn’t have this form they were supposed to have and I’m in there fucking filing and doing ungodly amounts of paper work. I said, this is it, I’m not going to do this anymore. But it was that moment; it was like a light bulb, or a lightning bolt struck me straight in the fucking forehead. It was like, dude, you’ve got to make a change now. I was smart enough to not walk in the next day with ‘[inaudible 00:49:00] I quit’. I planned my exit, and I wanted to do right by my clients and the relationships that I had built up over the past 8 years I had intended to do that for the long term. I had intended to be a career financial planner, that was always my intention, but things happen for a reason.
Angelo: Take me through how you actually went about opening your gym in your place and doing all that. So you decide that you are going to do this, you’ve already been sending out some programs, you have an idea of how you are going to do it, and you already have some people interested in it, how do you go about making a business from that little bit of a hobby?
Dave: Another good question. Things kind of fell into place. I looked at what people are doing now. I realized that people hire personal trainers for two reasons: accountability, and so that trainer can show and tell them what to do. I realized that I could give people a lot more than just programs and what to do. From being in a strength and conditioning world where we smash this football group or the soccer team for an hour and a half, and then just send them out the door to go be college kids, we do the loop service; sleep is really important, don’t go drink right after this, but there is nothing tangible. It’s not [inaudible 00:51:09] upon, it’s all about what your numbers are. It’s all about the stuff that can happen in the gym, and I realize that there is 23 other hours in the day.
So what I wanted to do was build a model based on a holistic approach to health and wellness, knowing that when you become empowered, and when you gain confidence through physical activity, or if you are doing hard shit and facing your fears and facing your challenges and other coming these obstacles, then everything else gets better. You are going to show up better at work, you are going to show up better in your family, in your friends, in your relationships, you are going to show up better in your own personal hobbies, everything else gets better. I believe the definition of impact for me is the ripples that you create and send out to your world, and I want to have the greatest impact that I can make.
I believe that I can make the biggest impact when I take care of myself first. So how do I take care of myself? You’ve got to sleep, you’ve got to have the right mindset, you’ve got to know where you are going, you’ve got to know why you are going in that direction, you’ve got to eat for what you are trying to do; eating for longevity versus eating for fat loss, versus eating for performance, those are all different things, you have to have that knowledge and you have to have the practical application behind it of how to apply that knowledge. You’ve got to be able to train, and for a lot of people that’s 3 sets of 10 of an air squat would be great for a huge amount of population, but that’s not going to get you very far for competing for OCR. So you’ve got to be able to train based on what you want to accomplish.
Then I’m a big believer in community, huge believer in community. I think the lone wolf, the bro days of the gym are vastly on the way out, it’s very rare now, or it’s becoming much more rare that people are just going to throw headphones in and just go bang out chest and bars. Are you familiar with the blue zone concept, blue zones?
Angelo: You mentioned it to me when we were on our phone call originally, but go on and tell me about it.
Dave: Yeah. I modeled GS Nation, our company now in large part after Blue Zones. Blue Zones are the areas in the world; there’s five of them that are the places where longevity is the highest, instances of disease are the lowest. These people are the longest to live, the happiest, etc. It’s due to, in large part the fact that it’s difficult for them to be unhealthy, difficult to be unhealthy, whereas for most people, it’s difficult to be healthy. There’s a lot of factors that go into that, they call them the Power 9. In short it’s mindset, it’s sleep, it’s nutrition, it’s training, it’s recovery, it’s community. I wanted to build a community of good people who work hard, who are positive they can help lift everybody else up.
We didn’t have money to open a gym in the beginning, so we started doing outdoor workouts in parks. Every Wednesday 6:00am, 6:00pm there’s a big hill in town, Libby Hill Park, called the Humpday Hills. I put a thousand pounds of weight plates and kettlebells, and sandbags in my poor little 4-door Hyundai Elantra where my suspension is short right now, but I started bringing those out every week. I was getting people asking me, “How do you do a band terrain?” “I feel like my squat sucks” and, “Should my arms be out here for pushups or should they be in here?” and I was just sending people YouTube videos and they got really annoyed.
We scanned an app, we are like, okay, let’s use an app and let’s give people daily programming based on their goals: we’ve got beginner programming body weight only, we’ve got beginner-intermediate program if you have a kettlebell or a dumb bell at your house. Then we’ve got your athlete program, where if you want to compete in OCR or something else that’s all in there, and it’s got video instruction, text instruction.
I developed the programs over a year-long cycle etc. Now we’ve expanded our group workouts. My business partner who I mentioned earlier he rents dorm room furniture to colleges, so he’s got a warehouse space, it’s open 9 months of the year. So I’ve been collecting gym equipment since I was 18 years old. So we spent a little bit of money, we’ve had people, “I’m not using my old treadmill, here, have it”, “I don’t need this roller anymore, here, you take it for 200 bucks.” I’ve just started piecing together all that, so now we’ve got our personal training space.
It just kind of all worked in together, then the glue that holds it together is the community. It’s the best fucking vibes man, it’s real good people who work really hard and who want the best for everybody else. That helps keep everybody accountable, keeps everybody plugged in, and it’s no bullshit, changing peoples’ lives because they are realizing they can do way more than they’ve been doing, and they are capable of so much more.
Angelo: I want to back up and ask you this because this is what I’m really curious about; I’ve been an entrepreneur in some capacity most of my adult life, so I kind of get the parts of being an entrepreneur that aren’t really glamorous, and I think a lot of people glamorize this life. I want to hear from you, what was it like for you getting submerged into this thing—I know in financial planning you had freedom, but being an entrepreneur and having a business is like having a child. What was it like for you transitioning into that world? I’m really curious to see how that was for you.
Dave: When I was financial planning—I’ve never had a salary in my entire life, and had I been killing it as a financial planner maybe I would still be a financial planner. I had a sustainable business but I wasn’t crashing it. Your bills are pretty high, rent, [inaudible 00:57:19] insurance, licensing fees etc. I’m not really money motivated, and actually I’m doing a lot of personal work now to change my relationship with money which is a difficult task for me. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but I don’t really care about it and I think it will always come. I’ll just deal with money when it comes.
I think that there are a lot of shitty parts to being an entrepreneur. I tell myself that I’ll quit tomorrow probably three or four times a week, and that’s always my thing; I’m not going to quit today, but I’ll quit tomorrow. I’ll get through it today, I’ll do my bullshit today, I’ll quit tomorrow. There’s been countless times where I’ve pulled up in my car and just sat and put it in park in my driveway and just cried; how I’m I going to get through this? How are we going to make it? How are we going to hit payroll? What if the stream dies? Then I go to bed, and I tell myself that I’ll quit tomorrow, and I wake up and I’ll say the same thing if I’m still feeling that way; I’ll do it today, I’ll just quit tomorrow.
It’s been a journey, and we sure as shit haven’t made it yet by any means, but I always believe it’s a matter of when not if, rather. I know we are going to be successful, I know we are going to make it, and I’m okay with eating shit now so that I can help people now and do what I want to do down the road. I think a lot of people aren’t willing to do that. They are not willing to eat shit now for future success, and you can apply that to your body composition goals, your performance goals, you can apply that to a lot of different ways. It was a hard lesson to learn. I thought I was equal parts: ignorant, arrogant, and naïve when I started this business. I know what I’m doing, I’m a 30-year old white dude in America, I should be able to figure this shit out. That can’t be that hard for me. Lo and behold, it is very difficult.
Again, I think that when you back it up even more to what’s your why, my why was [inaudible 00:59:44], and I’m not doing this, doing something else. My why was bitches in bikinis and I’m doing something else, but that’s not my why. That could be someone else’s why and that’s totally fine, but I couldn’t be 100 years old in my rocking chair cool with the fact that I sold refrigerators for 50 years, didn’t make an impact.
I believe that impact is the thing that matters, it does matter the most to me, and the money is coming, and will come. I just got to hang on. That’s very suitable as adage; I just got to hang on until the time comes when it pops.
Angelo: When you say you are working on your relationship with money, I think this is a very interesting topic, because I think a lot of us have a view on money or anything like that, when you say that, what are you trying to improve in your view on money?
Dave: That abundance is always available that your win doesn’t equal my loss and vice versa, if it’s okay to have money—my parents are still together, they’ve got a phenomenal relationship, when they fought when we were growing up it was about money, and that’s the thing that I remember. I think that me accepting abundance and being okay with it—I’ve got a hard time accepting compliments, I’ve got a hard time accepting gifts, if somebody does something really nice for me it gives me a weird feeling and I don’t know why, like I want to accept it, and I know that’s a lot of peoples’ love language for example, acts of service or gifts or something like that I just have a really difficult time accepting that and being okay with that, maybe without the reciprocating. I feel like I owe you something, or I feel almost guilty for it.
In large part, a lot of times I felt guilty as a financial planner because I didn’t necessarily feel like I earned the money that I was getting, or I earned that value. Now I know that value that I’m giving people is worth so much more than what I’m charging for it and I’m trying to close that gap a little bit while still wanting to be able to help as many people as I can help. So that was our model: how can we affect people who can’t afford it, my 23-year old friends, or my 25-year old friends who are just out of college and can’t afford all this high end coaching, but how do I also give them something that’s valuable while also learning a living on it.
Those are the things that we are trying to figure out now. I think there is a model that works on both ends of those equations, both ends of that spectrum. It’s really being okay with earning money in exchange for value and services rendered, and for whatever reason I’ve got a block of that that I’m working on.
Angelo: Yeah buddy, we are all working on something.
Dave: Yeah, we are all working on something.
Angelo: It’s all good.
Dave: 100%.
Angelo: It’s awesome. I find it really amazing that you could even articulate it.
Dave: Thank you.
Angelo: I’m willing to bet half the people that are listening to the show probably can’t accept compliments but don’t know why they can’t accept them.
Dave: I’m still working on my why, as far as why can’t I accept them, but I know that that’s something that is difficult for me. Now even when you just said that I forced myself to say thank you and just be cool with it. I think it all starts with that awareness; you’ve got to know who you are. I think I’ve got, especially for being a 30-year old dude, I feel like I’ve got a damn good grasp of who I am, and know that I’m in control of what I’m becoming. A lot of people, again, think life happens to them and they’ve got no control over it, and that’s a pretty hopeless shitty situation.
Angelo: So if you know who you are why don’t you want to accept compliments?
Dave: I’m getting better at it. I feel like I’m able to do it now a lot more than I used to be able to. I guess I was brought up to be humble. I think there is a big difference between confidence and cockiness, where confidence and bravado and swag, or whatever you want to be, and confidence comes from knowing you put in the work and from doing the hard work. When I’m on the race course I know that I’ve put in the miles so I can be confident. I’ve also been in the situation where I know I haven’t put in the miles. There is a quote by Richard Kipling that says, ”If you do not get what you want, you either do not want it badly enough, or you negotiated on the price.”
I think I have found myself negotiating on the price too much in my life to the point where I got fed up with it and said fuck it, I’m not going to negotiate it anymore, if I really want something, I’m going to do what it takes. When you do that that builds true authentic confidence. I think the more that I have stepped into my own and the more that I have put in the work, and believed in the impact that I’m having and making, the more that I’ve seen that impact manifest in other ways in other people, the more that I’ve actually been able to look back and say, wow, this isn’t some load of shit, and you are actually making a difference. So when somebody says thank you for xyz, I can be okay with it. You know?
Angelo: Yeah.
Dave: So how that translates to me making more money I don’t know, but we’ll figure that out.
Angelo: Sure. What do you think the difference is between confidence and self-esteem?
Dave: I think self-esteem is your innate worth, it’s what you view internally, and I think confidence is the outward progression of that innate worth. I think that self-esteem is knowing that you as an individual matter, and confidence is how you project that. I think you can have self-esteem and not have confidence, because confidence is how other people view you, whereas self-esteem is how you view yourself. I think there have been times where I haven’t had good self-esteem, but that’s probably because I was not living in congruence to who I really am. I had that cognitive distance between who I want to be, who I think I am versus what my actions actually say that I am. That confidence comes from doing the work, and self-esteem comes from being who you are and being okay with that, and realizing that not everybody is going to be okay with that, and that’s okay.
Angelo: Yeah.
Dave: The ability to say, fuck it, I don’t care what you think, really matters, really matters because other people’s opinions of you are going to dictate your life way more often that you think, and have more way impact in your life than you think if you listen to it. I’m all about constructive criticism and feedback, and I’m not saying, fuck you, your opinion doesn’t matter, but it took a lot for me to put myself out there in the beginning, it took a lot for me to say, hey, this is what I’m doing now, this is who I am now, I took a lot of flak for it from a lot of people. Whether it’s perceived or real, one of the two, perception is reality in large part. I feel like I had a lot of judging eyes on me especially in the beginning, but by consistently showing up and chipping away at it at the very least I feel like I’ve earned respect, maybe not like, but earned respect. That again, comes from just doing the work.
Angelo: That’s awesome. I really like how you define confidence and self-esteem, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it that way, every interesting.
Dave: That’s a good question, I’m glad I was able to articulate that.
Angelo: My experience is people get the two confused very easily, and I love how you said it; self-esteem is just you. It’s an unmovable faith, I would say, in yourself, versus confidence, like you said, is an area or what people give you is confidence.
Dave: There’s a poem called The Man in The Mirror, and I’m not sure who wrote it, and I don’t know it well enough to quote it, but the gist of it is, if you can look yourself in the eye, the man in the mirror, like you looking eye to eye with yourself, if you can look the man in the mirror you can fool everybody else, but if you can look that man in the mirror and be okay with who you are, you are living a good life. I think it took me a long time to be able to do that. Shit dude, the first time I looked at myself, like really looked at myself in the eyes in the mirror scared the piss out of me. I don’t think many people have done that. Sure, you’ve brushed your teeth and you’ve popped a zit, you’ve gotten close to the mirror like you missed a spot shave, but most people haven’t stared yourself in the face for two or three minutes in the mirror.
Your self-esteem, your soul knows itself, you know if you are not living in congruence with who you actually are, you know if you are bullshitting, you know if you are cheating, you know if you are not putting in the work. When you do, when you can look yourself in the face there is a lot of confidence that comes from that, and a lot of self-esteem that comes from that, a lot of self-worth that comes from that. I think that something that a lot of people can do more of is look at yourself and figure out where are you now for real, like really, where are you, no bullshit, don’t fluff it. What can you do to for real take those steps towards who you are and want to be? I think the more often people do that the easier their life is going to be moving forward.
You’ve got to make some hard decisions into that point; I left relationships, I’m not making a lot of money right now, fuck dude, I’ve got soccer games at 11 o’clock at night two or three days a week, then I wake up and do 5:00am sessions, 6:00am sessions because it’s not covering the bills right now. But it’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of ‘when’, so I’m able and willing to put in that work and do that thing, eat that shit today so that I can get where I want to get down the road.
Angelo: Absolutely. After going through that idea of looking in the mirror, and now that you have your business, how would you define success? What’s success today?
Dave: It’s a great question as well. I’ve always wanted to travel, compete, and help people. I love seeing the world, I love having experiences, I love maximizing my effect potential now and pushing myself and seeing what I can get, seeing what I can get out of this body. I don’t have [inaudible 1:12:05], but I like pushing the boundaries of that, seeing what I can do. I want to selfishly, unselfishly, I love when someone tells me, “dude, you’ve changed my fucking life for real”, and I can see it, and I know how they are showing up better to everything else that they are doing.
I think about that ripple. There is a lot of stuff I will never see, and that’s the cool thing about ripples; you never know how big or how far they go, and how many of them there are. Success for me is to be able to pay my bills, travel where I want to travel, and when I want to do, with the people I want to do it with, be healthy enough to ran the races I want to ran an do well in them, and then just continue to build a platform and build the means for people to eventually reach out again and say, “hey man, because of you xyz”, that’s the thing that gets me. I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life, but I sure as shit don’t need a 10,000 square foot this or that, I don’t need a jet or a plane, or any of that stuff, I just want to be able to go where I want to go, do cool shit with my cool friends, and help people on the way.
Angelo: Perfect. What a good idea. Good answer. How did you get the name GS Nation?
Dave: My business is Get Strapped, Stay Strapped, so stay trapped was always, in my group in high school it was piece, it was like the greeting or the partying. You can go two ways with this: you could be a strapping young lad, I think everybody’s heard of that, the stout, sturdy good looking dude, a strap is also a colloquial slang for a gun. So you put your guns up and do a double-bicep flex, and you’ve got get there before you keep it, so it became, first you’ve got to get strapped and you’ve got to stay strapped. It first started with flashing up a bicep and being like, stay strapped bro, and then it ultimately turned into GS Nation with something because I wanted to build a community behind it. I tell my mom it’s because of the strapping young lad, but I can tell you it’s the, throw up the guns man.
Angelo: I love it. It’s so awesome. That’s really good. After me and you got on the phone and you followed me on Instagram, I’m like, who the fuck is Get Strapped, Stay Strapped? Then I’m looking at it, I’m like, oh, it’s Dave, and I’m like, what a great fucking name. It’s perfect.
Dave: It’s too long too. In large part I was trying to condense it down into something that’s a little more bite-size or something that actually fit on a logo, so GS Nation ended up working well within the logo that I already had.
It’s actually really cool because one of my affirmations when I started working with Mark England was, and I read it every day, I want to put my sisters on my payroll, put my sisters on my payroll. My middle sister went back to school for graphic design and she ended up doing our second logo, so I was able to [inaudible 1:15:19] on the Get Strapped, Stay Strapped LLC , and I was able to write a check to her for the new logo which was cool as shit. What you think you become. It’s been strange creating something out of thin air.
It’s been a cool experience building a brand and having a view on health fitness wellness that isn’t necessarily—it’s definitely not in Richmond right now. Richmond is a very active city, a lot of boutique studios, a lot of cycle studios, and bar studios. We’ve got your fair amount of gyms, and we’ve got your persona training spaces, and we’ve got a very active running community, a lot of paddle boarding, a lot of canoeing, white water rafting goes right downtown, Hollywood Rapids, very good rafting for Level 4 rafts, or whatever, but nobody really tied it all together. I feel like that’s what we are doing, is we are tying all those aspects together with the community as well.
Angelo: Do you feel like for GS Nation your idea client is someone looking for this more holistic approach to fitness or for obstacle course racing?
Dave: If they are going to work with me specifically, I can get you, we’ve got a program from average to elite. My first race I finished 2300 overall. I was failing obstacles left and right, I was doing burpees all over the place, but I know what it takes to get people from average athlete to be able to actually compete and start showing up in podiums and get to top 50s, top 20s, that type of thing, because that’s what I’ve done. I’ve just followed my model. It goes way more into; how are you sleeping? How are you feeling? What’s your mindset? How’s your stress? How’s your life at home? We look at all those different factors because all those factors end up mattering more for overall athletic performance than most people give them credit for.
Angelo: Sure.
Dave: I love working with that particular client. I also love working with people who come to me and say, “dude, I’m not going to do a race, I’m just trying to get a little bit better and feel a little bit better”, and then I’m like, “dude, I know you are not going to do a race, but in six months you are going to do a race and you are going to love it, and it’s going to change a lot of things for you.” I like introducing people to the sport even if they are not trying to compete, even if it’s just to get over that line. But I think an ideal client from a GS Nation perspective is somebody who is ready to make a big change, who has made that decision to better themselves.
That was the big thing that I hated about financial planning, and I’m glad that you brought that up because that kind of triggered this in my mind; I was trying to convince a lot of my idiot friends to save like $50 a month and put it into [inaudible 1:18:16], and I’m banging their heads against the wall, and I’m banging my own head against the wall, and I’m like, “dude, this is for you. I make $2 off this, this is not for me. Please help yourself.” So I made a decision when I started GS Nation to only work with people who have made the decision to better themselves, not waste any more time. If you made that decision I will help you to the ends of the earth, and I will do everything I can.
I think that’s what we have here in our group, it’s people who have made the decision to better themselves and are just trying to figure out, dude, how do I do that? Where do I fucking start? We start with mindset, we start with your why’s, we start with your goals, we do a fear setting exercise, we do a future-casting exercise. We try to figure out who you are and why you really want to do what you really want to do. Most body composition goals go way deeper than ‘I want to lose 20 pounds’, way deeper. You ask why four or five times and you realize that their dad died of a heart attack and they want to be there for their grandkids, or you realize they got made fun of at the pool when they were 12 years old and were scared to take their shirt off, and are still scared to take their shirt off, and that leads them to not ask that girl out at the bar, that leads them to not ask for the promotion at work, which leads them to working their shitty dead-end job and feeling [inaudible 1:19:30].
A lot of those things come back to your mindset, and that’s why we start where we start. I think when we are working with people who want to better themselves it doesn’t matter what the population is, it doesn’t matter whether you are 50 or 25, or want to ran a race or don’t want to ran a race, you want to get better and you are willing to do that, have a critical self-work that most people don’t want to do because it’s really hard and takes a lot of courage to look at who you are and start working on that.
Those are the type of people that we like, that we work really well with. The people who are willing to do that work, not necessarily the workout work, but are willing to look inside themselves and figure out what and why.
Angelo: I’m going to ask you this, and this is just advice too, I’m interested to hear your perspective on this: how do you go about getting people to look at something in this much in-depth that for a lot of people they may not be ready for? Or is that what you mean that those people that aren’t ready? You get what I’m saying? The losing weight, people say they want to lose weight, but you go four, five deeper that stuff there is this huge emotional trigger of cluster fuck in their life, that’s really the reason they are sitting in front of you.
How do you work around getting people to really go to that depth? At least for me, I feel you can’t really make the progress till you find that depth, but how do you go about getting people to do that without, “hey man, I came here just to get a six-pack” kind of thing, how do you go about addressing those concerns, and how do you feel about that? As a business owner, as a gym owner myself, and someone that’s worked with clients, and even me too, at this point right now in my fitness journey, this is the first time in all of fitness where all I have is longevity goals and I’m bored as fuck. I would love to hear your thoughts on trying to get in that depth with people, and how you’ve seen success with it.
Dave: I think you’ve got to give them what they want in the beginning a little bit. Creating a bind is really huge. I think until you earn their trust and respect it’s going to be really difficult for you to be able to even ask those deeper questions. We send them intake forms in the beginning, and my business partner when we first did this he’s like, “Dude, you ask why like six times. Fucking ask it once and take it out.” I’m like, “no, I really need to know.” At the very end of this, after all this shit of everything else, at the very end it’s like, no more bullshit, for real, why do you want to do this?” Sometimes people just skip it, and other times finally you get the real answer.
I call them why bombs, two or three months later when they are slacking on their shit or they are giving me excuses, or whatever it may be, I’ll copy and paste what they sent to me and send it to them and say, “this is what you told me why you wanted to do this, so step up.” That buys me another month or two. It’s difficult, I think you’ve got to earn their trust first, and that’s a tough thing to do. I think the more you show up, and the more you do what you say you are going to do, in the timeline you said you were going to do it—I fail this a lot of times, I’ll tell somebody I’ve got you on Wednesday and Saturday rolls around and then I’m sending them stuff. Shit falls through the cracks, but for the most part people know that I really fucking care about them, I really, really do.
I think that allows me the ability to poke and prod and say, ‘no, no, no back up, back up’, and really get to the core stuff. I think most people expect one thing from a trainer or coach, and that’s the performance aspect. I think that because we start with looking at everything, if they are just looking for the “dude, just tell me how to get a bigger bench press”, we are probably not the right fit for them, and that probably gets weeded out sooner rather than later. But for the people who are really wanting to make that holistic change, we start with the holistic change stuff, at the same time giving them what they want in the beginning. “I want to lose 20 pounds.” “Okay, great, what are the big things that we can do to help you at least lose two or three pounds in week one and start the momentum going and get rolling?”
A lot of times that’s stopping the shit you know you are not supposed to be eating, go the fuck to bed, stop drinking so much, and then lo and behold, five pounds later, ‘oh well, this is really working, maybe this guy does know something’, then now you are actually able to poke around and do the real work.
Angelo: I like that. That’s a very good explanation brother, I really appreciate it.
Dave: Yeah, thank you.
Angelo: That was good. GS Nation, you just started a podcast?
Dave: Yeah.
Angelo: How’s that going in this podcast world?
Dave: Love it dude. I’ve no idea how we are comparing to other people metric wise or any of that stuff, I’m so fired up by it that I don’t really give a shit about it.
Angelo: Sure.
Dave: It’s again, one of those things that, I believe in karma, what goes around comes around in whatever capacity that may be.
We didn’t get into this thing to make money as far as the podcast goes. This is stuff that my co-host and head trainer Cary and I just talked about to begin with. So it’s kind of our philosophy the same stuff we are talking about now; our first episode we started with Why, and then our second episode we did Proper Goal Setting, a lot of stuff I learned from Mark. The third episode- Fear Setting, stuff that I learned from Tim Ferriss and future casting, then we interview Mark in our fourth episode. Then we talk about confidence in our fifth episode because we really delved into it with Mark a lot; how do you create authentic confidence using your language? It’s just been cool topics that we’ve been talking about and noodling on for a long time.
Cary and I have a great back and forth, a great relationship. There is a good masculine side to it; there is a good feminine side to it for both of us. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on it. Again, I don’t know where we are ranking on charts or any of that bullshit, or downloads, or whatever, but I’m having a blast doing it. We’ve interviewed some really cool people and we’ve heard a lot of cool stories. I’m a big fan of stories in general, I’m a big fan of being able to glean—I like reading autobiographies of random people, but trying to glean something from that person that I can apply to myself. We are focusing on personal development, mindset, entrepreneurship, health and wellness. We’ve interviewed a lot of entrepreneurs in the health and wellness and personal development space talking about their mindset. We are kind of blending it all in together. I love it dude.
Angelo: It’s awesome.
Dave: I really do, and I get really jazzed up about doing it. It doesn’t feel like work, and it’s not because it’s not paying us. I think it does a really good job of, again, building trust. I think when you personally are vulnerable, and when you personally spill the beans on some shit, when you personally tell people, “look man, I empathize with you because I’ve been there, here’s why”, that creates that bind, and that builds that trust, and that allows people to look at their own life with a little bit clear lens.
I’ve always said from the very beginning I’m a really normal average dude, I am not a natural athlete, I am not somebody with great genes, I’m not special, but I just consistently plug away at shit, and I think you can consistently plug away at shit. I’ve done a lot of the hard work to really know who I am and that allows me to act in accordance with who I am, because I know who I am. It took me a long time to get out of a really bad, negative toxic relationship, it took me a long time to get out of a career that I didn’t love, it took me a long time to step into my own and to have that kind confidence, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t do the work.
Angelo: Sure.
Dave: So, I want to be like that example and lead through that and have people go, “I’m better than that fucking guy, if he can do it, I can do it.” That fires me up. If somebody can see me and be like, “I’ve known Dave since he was 12. Dave is just fucking Dave. He used to have big curly hair, he’s a red head.” Let them, “I can do it.” Whatever it is, I just want to be the normal dude that does cool shit and inspires other people to do the cool shit too. I think the podcast gives a great way for us to do that and selfishly learn about some really cool fucking people.
Angelo: Yep.
Dave: Has that been the same thing on your end? What was your motivation in starting your podcast, and how have you seen the growth of your podcast kind of supplement what you are trying to do in your mission?
Angelo: Wow, great question. I started this podcast because I love very deep and long formal conversations, and I find them harder and harder to have on a regular basis without doing a podcast. So I would go to seminars and retreats, and Masterminds, and I would sit in a corner and talk with someone for two hours and feel so energetic and so invigorated almost to the point where it didn’t matter what I was at the Mastermind for, it was the fact that I was able to have that conversation and be able to go down so many different rabbit holes and being so open to certain things. I was telling someone the other day, for our everyday life I believe that it takes 10 minutes to get in a good conversation with them, uninterrupted 10 minutes. For most people that I know throughout their regular life they are not having a 10-minute uninterrupted conversation to even get to a point where I believe the conversation has real value.
Dave: Wow.
Angelo: So I just do this to refill my cup. I could care less about anything else, I just do this for me because I know as soon as I hang up with you the rest of my day I’m going to feel really good and really proud of myself that I’ve had an amazing conversation with you and it didn’t matter what was happening to my email for five minutes, didn’t matter if I was getting some bullshit like on Facebook or anything like that, it was just me connecting with someone.
I think it’s a lost art, so I do this to preserve it.
Dave: Respect, that’s awesome.
Angelo: Yeah man.
Dave: I guess you articulated in large part what I haven’t been able to yet; it does jazz me up. I’m going to walk out of here on a cloud. Like you said, who knows what happened in the last hour and a half in my email box or my social media account or whatever it is, all those bullshit metrics of success or whatever it may be. I guess you are right, it fires me up and it energizes me, and I really like doing it.
Angelo: Yep, same. Next question for you buddy, I give everyone a chance to do this on the show; you get to define what an alpha hippie is. For you, what is alpha hippie?
Dave: I was talking about this the other day, I don’t know who said this or where; I really love the phrase ‘violence in the gym, and kindness everywhere else.’ That’s strong and kind, I can identify with that. We are in a spot where masculinity is becoming more well-rounded. We are definitely getting into that place where it’s okay for dudes to talk about real life shit, and to be okay not being okay. I think both of us, I would imagine, are very insulated in the wellness and openness world, so maybe if we were to step out of this world into a corporate world or finance world, or the everyday manufacturing job world maybe it wouldn’t be as okay to be both strong and kind. Maybe we’d have to have that mask of masculinity on more often than not to feel like we are fit men or whatever.
I want to be a part of the people that break that mold of you can still be a badass motherfucker, but you can also hold the door and help other people, and give kind words, and fucking cry if you need to cry, and that it’s okay to do those things. You can be one and the same; it doesn’t have to be all this or all that. So I’m trying to be a badass, but at the same time lead from the front, and leading from the front to me means being open and vulnerable, and being able to have people see who the real David is. The real David is not fucking perfect by any means, and I got a lot of shit I’m dealing with and working through just like all of us.
I think the more that I can put that out there and be like it’s okay to not be okay, I mean, fuck, like last Wednesday I had a fucking panic attack and I realized, holy shit, I listened to what I said on my podcast and like, godammit, I put a lot out there, like, is this really my—yada, yada, yada. I think it matters to talk about that shit, it matters to not be okay, and to be okay not being okay. I think that the definition of an alpha hippie is somebody that’s both strong and kind and able to be violent when you need to, if you are protecting your own, or if you are in the gym, in a max cell you can be that alpha, but when you walk out of there don’t be fucking dick, be a good human being. I think the more of that we can have, the better.
Angelo: Great definition, very well done. How could people find out about you, GS Nation, your podcast, everything?
Dave: You could find us at, we are on Instagram @thegsnation, and as you mentioned before, my Instagram handle is @getstrappedstaystrapped. Follow my cohost @Cary.Wade. We are on iTunes, you search us at The GS Nation Podcast. I think we are 355th on the fitness and charities, I’ve got my little charitable thing there. We are creeping our way up. We launched last week, we launched a week ago today actually. We launched with 12 episodes, we’ve got another one coming out later this evening. We are rocking and rolling, having a damn good time doing it.
Angelo: That’s awesome. How often are you releasing shows?
Dave: Twice a week.
Angelo: Very good man, good stuff.
Dave: Tuesday and Friday. Yes sir.
Angelo: Alright, one last question Dave, this is it: if you had one word to be remembered by, what would it be?
Dave: It’s got to be impact. That’s my word man. It’s got to be impact. I hope that somebody can listen to this and take—I guess that what I would tell people is if you are so inspired after this go and look at yourself in the mirror for two or three minutes. Look at yourself in the eyes; if that scares the shit out of you you’ve got some work to do, and that’s okay. if you can do it, you can look yourself in the eyes straight up, eye to eye, man to man, one on one, for two, three, or four minutes, and you are fucking cool with who’s staring back, keep tracking bro, you are headed in the right direction.
Angelo: I love it man. Thank you for being on the show brother.
Dave: Thanks for having me on man, it was a blast.

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