Always looking to get better

Author: Charlie Guthrie (Page 1 of 3)

Officially 10 Years in the Business – Looking Back at the Start (Part 1)

On February 7, 2014 I officially became a certified trainer.

Roughly a year later, I didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to last doing this. I had my dreams of what I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to accomplish them. If you would have told me I’d still be training and told me about all of the experiences I’d have and people I’d meet, I wouldn’t believe you.

But, before we get into all that, let me tell you about how I actually got into training.

In August of 2013, I was driving up to go see my dad in Pennsylvania. I was soaking in the last bits of summer before getting ready to cover another high school football season. The newspaper year is a drag with six-to-seven day work weeks and you’re working around 70 hours per week. I loved writing, but didn’t know how much more I could do because I was seeing all the friends I made over the years losing their job and figured it was only a matter of time before I was next. I was laid off from a job right after college, but I was getting older and didn’t know if I’d be able to find another job because there were fewer and fewer available.

I needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. While in school, I only thought about two things, being a sports writer or a special ed teacher. With that in mind, I had to figure out a way to get into the school system, and I did. I also thought about training. Around 2010, I got in really bad shape and started looking up all these things on nutrition and ways to train like an athlete. I started really getting into it and loved sharing what I learned with others, even though nobody listened. By the end of the car ride, I said I’m going to look more into becoming a trainer.

Print out I received after taking the test letting my know I passed. From February 7, 2014.

I had no idea how to get into training. I decided to ask John Errichello from my gym to see if it was actually possible. I’ve known John since I was in high school and he’s always been good to me and my family. I was nervous because I didn’t want to come off as disrespectful by asking. (It’s actually funny looking back at it now because of all the people I see online selling “training” and “nutrition” when they have no idea what the hell they are talking about.) John, like always, was helpful and told me it was possible. He said I had to get certified through NASM to work at the gym and he’d help me with things along the way.

I wound up studying the textbook every night when I got home from work around 1 a.m. and would meet with John once a week to go over things. That led to me getting certified in February of 2014 and starting my time as a trainer.

Now, I had to break up my 10 years into four parts. There’s a lot to include so I had to turn this into three posts.


The first year was tough. I wasn’t really sure of what I was doing outside of the basics I learned in the textbook. I didn’t know how to deviate from the plan when necessary. Plus, you start off with zero clients and my ability to close a client was similar to Aroldis Chapman in an elimination game. Not good.

The goal I always had in my head was that I wanted to be able to train athletes of all ages. In order to do that, though, you need to actually train people. Fortunately, I have this optimism that things will always work out in the end if you work hard and that’s what got me through the first year.

After a few whiffs, I finally landed my first client in Theresa Folino. She was the perfect person to start off with. She was coming off of an injury and just wanted a plan to help her slowly get back into lifting. She wasn’t looking for anything crazy, which was good because I couldn’t offer anything outside of the basics anyway.

Theresa was my only client for a while, but then the schedule started to fill up a bit. First, I picked up Claire from Kim Kehoe, who trained my mom for a long time, and we started trying some new things I was learning about and they were working. Everything was new to me at this time and with the gym pretty empty in the morning, we did a lot and she was always up for the challenge. Then, the girl who would keep me sane during the late night sessions during the school year and was always positive, Jennifer Mac Imperatrice, came aboard. Poor Jen went through the sled and different exercises I was learning and, thankfully, was always up for the things I wanted to try out.

One of Jene’s goals was to be able to flip the tire. She did it in May, 2015.

Right after Jenny Mac signed up, I picked up a client who gave me and other members of the gym laughs and memories for years. Jene Romeo made every session fun and was someone who everyone in the gym knew. Years after she finished training with me, people would still ask about her. There’s a million Jene stories I could tell, but everyone loved watching her flip the tire and use the battling ropes. She wanted to be able to go on archeological digs again and fully embraced exercises like tire flips and deadlifts. What made her so great was she always asked about the progress of my other clients and how they were doing.

Finally, in the fall, I picked up my first athlete, Joe Desilvio. And he was a baseball player for Farrell. I could get into the “why” of my desire to train athletes in another post, but when him and his mom walked in to inquire about training, I had flashbacks to when my mom first took me to the gym to sign up for training. I didn’t know much, but I was determined to try and figure it out to help him.

I had other clients during this time, but it was these people who I still think about when I look back on my first year. These are the people that kept me optimistic about the business, even when the optimism was starting to fade away.

The optimism was starting to get replaced with the reality of the situation. I wasn’t making much money and knew I was still at the bottom knowledge wise. The reason it wore me down so much was that I didn’t know how to get better. I didn’t really know the resources I needed. I kept hearing that I had to get the book “Super Training” because it was the bible for coaches in the sports performance world. When I opened up the book, the first couple of pages felt like they were written in another language. I felt stuck and didn’t know how to get out.

Recapping the Summer Sprint

On the left, I was 194 pounds on July 10. On the right, I was 185.6 pounds on August 4.

If I was ever to put together one of those training montage videos, it would almost exclusively come from what I do over the summer.

My best training of the year always takes place over the summer. School is out, the weather is amazing and my schedule opens up a bit, which allows me to train with the frequency I want to. I also have all of the important factors outside of training (sleep, stress, nutrition, recovery) in check, which allows me to bring the intensity I want to every session.

The summer sessions have become the “Summer Sprint” because of the high amount of sessions I get in and the progress I’m able to make in a short period of time. The idea of really ramping up the amount of times I train over the summer happened back in 2017, when Justin Kavanaugh wrote up the SBOAT program for me.

SBOAT broke some of the rules I learned about training. I was taught you couldn’t train too much to avoid overtraining and you couldn’t train the same body part on back-to-back days. Kav basically showed me that most of what you read is wrong, it takes a lot more to overtrain than you think, and you’re capable of a lot more than you think. Click here to read more about that program.

I follow a program during the Summer Sprint, but I also go a lot off of feel. Really, the only game plan I have is to get at least four lifts in per week. After that, the cardio, sprint sessions or extra lifts I go off of what I feel like doing in that particular day.

A back view from August 13rd.

This isn’t something that could be followed for a long time. For me, four weeks seems to be the sweet spot. Because I have the time, I get into this kick where I always have to train and view any downtime as an opportunity to get some form of training in. The novelty starts to wear off after four weeks, and then the last few weeks before school I go into a more normal routine.

This is just something that works for me and I finally decided to document what I do over the summer. I go through a ramping up period that started in April this year. April and early May was about getting into a routine and picking up where I left off earlier in the year. Then, as the weather really starts getting nice around late May, I start kicking things up by increasing the amount I train each week and incorporating two lifts on Saturdays.

The Summer Sprint started on July 10 and ended on August 4, when I went to the Super Coach Conference in Virginia.


I gave myself a week off after returning from vacation, so this would be my first week training in roughly two weeks. The plan was to train daily, so I’d be ready to increase the workload next week. For the lifts, I kept the weight conservative.

8 Sessions – 4 Lifting, 2 Sprinting, 2 Cardio

Monday, July 10: (194) Heavy Upper Body lift

Tuesday, July 11: (193.8) Speed – Tempo Runs, Lower Body lift

Wednesday, July 12: (193.6) Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes

Thursday, July 13: (191) Lower Body Lift

Friday, July 14: (194) Day Off

Saturday, July 15: (197.6) Running 8×100 yards, Lower Body Lift

Sunday, July 16: (194.6) Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes


By Sunday, the itch I get every summer to ramp up the training was coming back. I knew I was ready to attack the summer program hard. I’ve heard people talk about doing cardio twice per day in the past and figured I’d give it a shot myself. I chose the elliptical for cardio because it doesn’t really beat me up like jogging does and would make it easier to try for this.

The twice per day cardio experiment ended on Friday. My quads were getting pretty toasted after doing the elliptical for two hours per day. I don’t really cruise on the elliptical. Since it counts strides taken, I always try to see how far above 10,000 strides I can get in the hour and usually aim for around 18,000 strides every 10 minutes. I was also increasing the resistance and incline each session. For one session, the elliptical isn’t too bad, but twice daily was rough.

15 Sessions – 9 Cardio, 6 Lifting

Monday, July 17: (194.4) 2 Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes each, Upper Body Lift, Lower Body Lift

Tuesday, July 18: (192.6) 2 Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes each, Upper Body Lift

Wednesday, July 19: (192.2) 2 Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes each

Thursday, July 20: (190.6) 2 Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes each, Upper Body Lift

Friday, July 21: (190.2) Cardio 60 minutes, Lower Body Lift

Saturday, July 22: (194) Upper Body Lift

Sunday, July 23: (198.2) Day Off


For Monday and Tuesday, I split up my day by getting a lift at home and then going to the gym for cardio at night. On Saturday, I did a lower body sled session where I did five forward pushes, five duck walks, four lateral drags each side and four backwards hamstring walks. Each set is 20 yards long. Carbs are high for the whole week, but mostly coming from fruit.

8 Sessions – 5 Lifting, 3 Cardio

Monday, July 24: (197.4) Lower Body Lift, Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes

Tuesday, July 25: (190.4) Upper Body Lift, Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes

Wednesday, July 26: (188.8) Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes

Thursday, July 27: (190.4) Upper Body Lift

Friday, July 28: (192) Day Off

Saturday, July 29: (193.8) Lower Body Sled, Upper Body Lift

Sunday, July 30: (192.1) Day Off


I’m trying to push through, but I can see that itch I had a few weeks ago is starting to fade. I was going to do one more week of the Summer Sprint, but realized it was best to cap it on Friday. Once I returned from the conference, I went with a more traditional lifting schedule.

10 Sessions – 6 Lifting, 4 Cardio

Monday, July 31: (191.3) Lower Body Lift, 2 Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes each

Tuesday, August 1: (189.6) 2 Upper Body Lifts, Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes

Wednesday, August 2: (188.6) Day Off

Thursday, August 3: (187) Lower Body Lift, Cardio – Elliptical 60 minutes, Lower Body Sled

Friday, August 4: (185.6) Upper Body Lift

TOTAL: 21 Lifting, 18 Cardio, 2 Sprinting

Phase 1 – Start Small and be Patient

Due to some set backs, we are back in Phase 1 heading into April. I believe this can be applied to many different training goals, but I’m looking at this through the lens of weight loss and improving body composition.

When I’m starting one of these cycles, I do two things. First, I look back to what I’ve done in years past that’s worked. Then, I try to plan ahead and map things out. These are going to sync together.

Here’s how they go together: The goal of the first phase of a program is gradually build up the body’s tolerance to exercise so you can do more and better work down the road. Instead of trying to conquer your goal in one month, you want to earn daily and weekly wins by training consistently and doing what you need to do to set yourself up for future success.

I tend to over-stress the small details, especially early on, only to realize at the end of the program that it didn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter if I take it easy in the first week and don’t do that last set on an accessory exercise because I’m tired. All that matters is that I stack up the daily W’s by lifting consistently and listen to my body to build momentum. I don’t need to lose 10 pounds in the first month. The weight will come off if I follow the plan.

I go through the same thought process every year and wind up making the same mistake because I want things to go perfectly. What usually happens for me is it takes about two-to-three weeks for me to get to my regular numbers on my main lifts and then I’m ready to start really taking off.

This leads me to the next part of my thought process, which is planning ahead. I have to set myself up for June, then, after a short break, July and August, which are my hardest training months. July and August are where I’ll ramp up the intensity because I’m off of school. I give myself two body composition checkpoints, end of June and end of August.

That means the first month is about “building the foundation”. I’m going to make another post on this because I feel like the term is used by people and have no idea what it actually means. In my case, it means I have to make sure I ramp up properly for June because the training will be hard, but I’ll also still be training late because of work. With this in mind, I have to make sure I’m smart about this and not do too much too soon because then I’ll burn out in June, like I did last year.

Building the foundation for me is about slowly increasing the sets and reps for each exercise so my body adapts and my muscles, tendons and ligaments are prepared to handle the harder work that’s coming down the road. If I do this properly, my body will be able to better handle the summer blitz that’s coming.

As of right now, I’m down to 197 pounds on the nose and would like to get to just under 185 by the end of June. Right now, I’m not too focused on weight loss, but on getting my body right for May and June.


Why are we starting Phase 1 in April, when it was suppose to start in January? Well, to recap, January started off great. I’m usually terrible in the winter months, but the first three weeks I was hitting good numbers and consistent. I appeared to be ahead of schedule, but the pace was too fast and I started realizing it wasn’t going to last.

The program I was running was great, but it’s more of a summer program for me than one I should be doing in the winter when I’m training late at night. So, I decided to that and am hoping to hop back on it in June. I got to the middle of the program where I had to do 10 sets of squats and deadlifts per week (six heavy sets, four repetition sets split over two days) and it just became too much to keep up with.

I got ahead of myself and paid the price. I wound up burning out, getting discouraged because I couldn’t keep the pace and February became a wash. I got sick in March and only started slowly getting back into a routine. Nagging injuries in the elbow, knee and shoulder told me I need to take a step back and slow things down.

Looking Back at 2022 and Ahead to 2023

One of my goals for this year is to write more. My goal is to post at least once per month. An easy way to keep me to it is to actually write about what I’m going to do with my own training this year. I came up with the idea last year, but didn’t follow through on the writing part. This post was in my head for a couple of months, so I figured the new year was a good time to finally get it typed up.

What I’m looking to do this year is really build off of how I trained last year. In order to fully understand that, first, I’m going to recap how last year went.


Trap-bar deadlifting 510 pounds for two reps on August 7, 2022.

The goal for 2022 was to actually enter the summer in-shape. Like I said in the post last year, I’ve had so much going on most of the year that my own training was never really a focus until the summer. My own training for the year would go: two-to-three months of good-to-decent training in the spring and fall, train six-days per week over the summer and the winter was on-and-off, at best.

I made the commitment in late February to be more consistent throughout the year and, for the most part, I was successful. 2022 was the most productive year of training I’ve ever had. In total, I logged 138 sessions, which was 36 more than I did the previous year. My strength also improved. I didn’t do any testing prior to started, but I trap-bar deadlifted 510 pounds for two reps, which was 10 pounds more than my previous one-rep-max on a straight bar. I did switch to a trap bar so I could lift heavy without using a mixed grip, but the Rogue TB 1 2.0 trap bar is so much tougher than a traditional trap bar. It’s just thick, low handles and feels like hell when you’re pushing weight. I also did the lift with one mat. Last year by best was 420 pounds for 10 reps, but off of two mats. I never attempted more than 440 pounds for three reps.

Physique wise, even though I didn’t reach the goal weight or body fat percentage I set out for, I was happy with where I ended up by the end of the summer. I finished the summer at 184.8 pounds, about two pounds lighter than I was at the same time last year, but looked better. The stomach looked tighter, the spare tire on the sides was less, the arms were bigger and the back was thicker and more pronounced. Last year I did a full-on sprint to lose 20 pounds in 39 days so the weight-gain rebound happened quicker. In 2022, I noticed it happened much slower and I looked better at higher weights than I did in previous years. Go figure, right? The “Before and After” photos are both from Encore Beach Club in Las Vegas because when it comes to how you look with your shirt off, that’s where it matters. I wore the same trunks, too. I wish the lighting was better there.

After vacation training was going well and I actually hit my 102nd workout, which was the amount I did in 2020, on August 15. That was awesome at the time, but the problem became I only trained 36 more times in the last three-and-a-half months, which is roughly nine sessions per month. Things slowed down around November. First I was feeling run down so took some time off, then had my birthday and was eating garbage. Two weeks after my birthday is Thanksgiving, so I went into cruise control and that’s never good for me. I tried to get back on the wagon in December, but sprained my pinky pretty bad to where I thought it was broken. I could barely move my pinky and now we are looking at a month where I was off track.

Add in that it’s the winter time and I started seeing where this was heading. The pinky is still swollen today, but I had to get back into my groove. I needed to turn things around or else this endless cycle of excuses and laziness will continue. Now let’s move forward.


I’m not one of those “training is therapy” type of people who post on Instagram how they are releasing demons or whatever else they say online. But, I will tell you that there’s two versions of me. When I’m training and following my diet plan, I’m a way more productive person and much more positive. When I’m not training, each week feels like one continuously long day of getting nothing accomplished.

I saw what long-term consistency did for me last year and I want to build off of that. The goal is to reach 200 sessions for the year. This will ensure I’m training consistently throughout the year. I know there’s people out there who talk about moderation and not having to be on a plan all the time and, while I believe those are good rules to follow, they just don’t apply to me. I can’t freestyle it in the gym and train and eat without a plan. I need goals to reach and have to have something to accomplish each day in order for me to continue to push. I’ve tried the other way, but it never works.

I have the programs I’m going to run laid out for the next nine months. I’m going to finish Christian Thibaudeau’s “Get Jacked…Fast!” program, move on to his HSS-100 program then hit the SBOAT program over the summer that Justin Kavanaugh wrote for me in 2017. Fortunately, I didn’t wait until the ball dropped to start training again. I started working out consistently again in the middle of December and am starting the year in Week 4 of my program. My finger is still pretty swollen and I can’t fully bend it, but I could only take so much time off. I can still do all of the things I want in the gym, with some modifications.

I’ve thought about writing this post for a few months and was going to post it a couple of weeks ago. The reason I didn’t was because of the holiday season. While I have been training and eating well for the most part, there were too many family days filled with food to really start dieting the way I wanted to. My weight bounced around, but I’m starting the year at 201.6. This seems to be the weight I start most of these type of programs at, but, thanks to the work I did last year, I look much better at this weight than I did in previous years. A 24-hour fast will knock it down to around 197.

In terms of goals, they’re mostly physique related. The only strength goal I have is to get my bench press into the 300s. I’ve never had a great bench. Ever since I hit a 500-pound deadlift in 2017, I don’t really have any strength goals. Physique wise, I’d like to get to a weight and body-fat percentage where I have a six-pack and can lose the pouch that doesn’t want to leave me. I don’t know what exact weight that is, but I just want my body-fat percentage to be close to 10-to-12 percent without significant decreases in strength. I can’t give you an exact number, but you’ll know what it looks like when you see it.

Shooting for these physique goals allows me to do everything else I want to do better. When I’m at a lighter weight, I just feel so much better. That sweet spot is usually in the low 180s where I still have most of my strength and move much better. I’d like that to be my normal, every day weight and not something I have to shoot for every year. I need to get on top it now, because I’m only getting older.

On the nutrition side, I like to go no-carb when trying to drop weight quickly, but it’s easier to do in the summer time than during the school year. I’m going to carb-cycle and fit in one 24-hour fast per week, if possible. I’ve also been experimenting with more frequent meals, going with four-to-five meals per day, as opposed to my usual two-to-three and have felt much better.

I’ll be logging my food on MyFitness Pal as much as I can and will talk about what I’m doing nutrition wise, along with my eating plan during the monthly updates. This will make me post more and take you through my process that I go through during these programs.

Looking forward to bigger, more productive year.

The Next Six Months

The summer has always been the time where my best training takes place. It’s been the only time of the year where I have some down time and can really get after it. I’ve been able to make some good progress the past few summers.

Last year I was up against it, but still managed to lose 20 pounds in a little more than a month. I was happy with the progress, but left the summer with the same questions and thoughts that come into my mind at the end of every summer.

“Imagine if I had another month.”

“What progress could I have made if I came into the summer in better shape?”

“I’d love to see how things would play out if I had a long term plan to go along with this intensity.”

Training wise, the summer is a grind – in a good way. The frequency and intensity are through the roof. The only problem is the summer makes up two months of the year. That’s not enough to sustain any progress. So, what winds up happening is I go through this endless cycle of going from Point A to Point B. I say that I’ll try to maintain and keep things going, but life got in the way.

The past several years were tough. After summer, I was working two jobs, going to grad school at night and writing papers. That didn’t leave much time for training. After I graduated in May 2019, I had to try and secure a full-time teaching position. I worked each year, but with the pandemic, I found myself wondering where I’d be working in September the past three years. Because of all this, my own training got put to the side. I worked out, but the consistency wasn’t there and the intensity was certainly lacking.

The good news is I finally secured a full-time teaching position last September. This gave me stability and one less thing to worry about. After spending a couple of months getting acclimated, I started thinking about my own training. I thought about the conversation I always have with myself at the end of the summer and decided it’s time to take action.

Personally, I need a plan and goals to get into a training program. I can’t just wing it like other people. Of course, I make changes on the fly, but, for the most part, I need most of it mapped out.

That brings me to this post. There’s six months until the end of August and I want to go over what my plans are training wise.

This program is about body composition and increasing strength. I know they say you can’t get stronger while losing weight, but I’ve found that to be not true. There’s very few things I say with authority, but I’ve gone through this process to know that it isn’t true.

For me, my issue has always been losing weight. I’m one of those people who gain weight just by looking at a cookie and cakes. When I weighed myself this morning, I was 207 pounds with a body-fat percentage of 22% . I was out with friends and ate, so I’m going to fast today and that will bring me down to what my real starting weight is.

The weight I’d actually like to be at depends. It really depends on how I look. Personally, I’d like to be at 180-182 pound range by the end of school (June 28) and 175 pounds by the end of August. I feel pretty good and limber when I’m in the low to mid 180’s. I’m using the hand-held body-fat measurement device so I don’t know how accurate it is, but I’d like to be under 15% by June 28 and under 12% by the end of August. Even when I get pretty lean, I still have that little pouch at the bottom of my stomach and just want to get rid of that. So, whatever weight and percentage gets rid of that, I’m good.

Strength wise, my goals have changed. Once I hit a 500-pound deadlift in August of 2017, I haven’t been so concerned about my one-rep max. I’ve switched over to the Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0 and love it. I’ve been going for more higher-rep goals because I don’t like doing them, but feel good after doing them. My best from last year was 420×10 and I’d like to top that. I’ve never run a 40-yard dash in under five seconds and want to crack that barrier. For my upper body, I’d like to be able to get to 15 pull-ups and beat my previous bench press one-rep max of 275 pounds. I hit 275 in 2019 and haven’t attempted it since.

The program I’ll be running is the HSS-100 by Christian Thibaudeau. I love reading Christian’s work and found out about this program after talking to Justin Kavanaugh. I looked into it and started running it in 2020 and the splits work out perfectly for me during the school year. I’ll be lifting four days per week and modify it as I go along. There’s four phases and I add in his Chest Specialization phase in the second month. This gives me five phases of training, each one being four weeks long. I know this doesn’t add up to six months, but considerations need to be taken for seminar trips, possibly getting sick and weeks where work picks up.

Usually, when I’m trying to lose weight quickly I’ll go with a low-carb approach. However, since I’m starting this while the school year is still going on, I’ll need carbs. I’m going to try and slow cook things a bit by using carb cycling and giving myself one 24-hour fast per week.

This is my first time going through a five-six month plan and am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Another Challenge is Just Another Opportunity for Nick Mayhugh

Going to go back a bit to August 2020. Justin Kavanaugh invited me down to Virginia to see what he had going on training wise and, honestly, just to get out of the house. At the time, this was the first normal day I had in a while. It was a hot, humid morning made even warmer by the heat radiating off of the turf. One of those days where you sweat without even moving.

I enjoy the summer heat, so it wasn’t much of an issue and it was just great to be in a positive atmosphere again. Behind me were some high school and college athletes training and to the left of me Kav was going over some things with three NFL hopefuls. My job was to take videos of Nick Mayhugh running his sprints and showing him the footage after each run.

This is how I do things with my athletes. I’ll take some footage and review it with them so they can see what they’re doing right and what they need to work on. Things were different this time because I just took a step back and listened to Nick break down each stride. I’d chime in if I saw something, but didn’t really have to do that more than once or twice. He was so dialed in, rewinding the video and noting any tiny change he had to make.

What’s great about going down to Virginia and working with Kav is pretty much all of his athletes are like this. They are so hyper-focused that they see things that most coaches don’t even see. This is why I always leave there rejuvenated and excited because you see what this higher level of coaching and athletics entails and makes you want to reach it.

Nick’s case is unique though. Nick was getting ready to train for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. He will be running in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 4×100-meter relay. The prelim heats for the 100-meter begin on Thursday at 10:56 p.m and the events can be seen on NBC, NBCSN, Peacock TV and other supported streaming services.

What makes Nick’s situation unique is that he hasn’t always been a track athlete. You wouldn’t know it if you had watched him train for track and listened to him break down all of the tiny nuances of sprinting. He’s actually an accomplished soccer player who played four years at Radford University and was the 2019 US Soccer Player of the Year with a Disability. He scored eight goals in leading Team USA to its’ first international medal in 7-a-side in 2019.

“It’s been very hard because I had to learn all the small technical things about being a sprinter,” Mayhugh said last year. “I was used to running more of a cross-country style for 90 minutes and only having to sprint for 10-to-20 yards. In soccer, you’re not running 100 meters straight because you’re either cutting or turning.

“I train here everyday with Kav and work with a bunch of athletes who are all at a high level and see that next level of commitment and determination. It’s been a humbling experience to learn about the amount of training it takes and all the things I need to learn.”

Like most successful athletes at that level, Nick is his own hardest critic. He’s so laser-focused on all of the things he needs to improve on to get ready that it’s hard to see how far he’s come. I’ve met Nick before and watched him train a few times. Before August, I was watching him work on his block starts at the Sport and Speed Institute while Kav was also working with his NFL Combine Class.

Even after seeing him a few times, I still had no idea what his disability was. It was undetectable by watching him train. It wasn’t until I finally asked him after his session in August when I found out he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was 14. He will have a T37 classification in the Paralympic Games.

He said ever since he could remember he always had a numb feeling on the entire left side of his body. There was a lack of coordination, motor and nerve function in his left side and he couldn’t feel his left foot contract.

Mayhugh (14, left) playing for Team USA.

“I don’t really have control of the digits in my left hand and I couldn’t really focus on cycling my legs or kicking the ball,” Mayhugh said. “Anything physically, I have a cap on my left side to a certain extent. It was really frustrating when I was younger because I was like ‘why can’t I tie my shoes like everyone else?’ or ‘why can’t I use my left leg in soccer?’ It was always my normal and I always compensated and adjusted so I could play.

“It wasn’t until I accepted and understood my disability that I took a break from putting all of that pressure on myself and doing all these extra workouts and training.”

Nick worked brutally hard to overcome his disability, even at a young age. He described a time where he’d go to practice and the coach put the team into positional drills. There was extra pressure on Nick because the coach said if he used his right foot, the team would have to run. He left every practice devastated because his team had to run because he couldn’t do certain things with his left foot.

“I trained everyday with my brother, Thomas, and he would set up all these cone drills so I could fix it,” Nick said. “I’d cry after practice and then go through all these drills with just my left foot to teach myself the muscle memory and motor function. It was a very frustrating process, but I wouldn’t be the man I am without all of that. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my entire life.

“I had to work 100 times harder than everybody because of my disability. I didn’t fully understand it when I was younger, but I knew I’d do whatever it took to outwork every athlete I played against.”

“A lot of people and doctors that I tell and have worked with say that to the untrained medical eye you’d never be able to tell that I have a disability,” Nick said. “Up until I was 21 and joined the national team, no one knew. No one knew in college. When the story eventually came out, I was stubborn and didn’t want to talk about it, but I eventually opened up because it’s who I am. I got a lot of emails and texts afterwards from people that couldn’t believe it.”

Nick’s brother, Thomas, has been with him every step of the way. Nick started playing soccer when he was 4 years old and said he did so because he wanted to be like his brother. Thomas was there to run Nick through all of the extra drills to help make him the soccer player he’s become. Thomas, a former soccer player, owner of Mayhugh Athletic and bucket-hat aficionado, has also coached and helped prep Nick for his run in Tokyo.

“Training Nick has been a blessing to be a part of and an invaluable learning experience, thanks to Kav,” Thomas said. “Compartmentalizing being a brother and a coach is something you can’t teach and takes intentional practice. It’s something I may never truly master. But I do feel it has been what he has needed through the past year and to get to where he is. He’s coachable and he gets it and he understands and appreciates the difference between where we are on the track and in the gym versus not. That’s what’s making it work.”

Most guys grow up with the dream of playing professional sports. After everything Nick went through his entire life through college, he finally achieved his dream. Everything he worked for paid off and he had the contract in front of him. All he had to do was sign and he would be a full-time member of Team USA soccer.

But, he decided to pass it up for something he didn’t even know existed. The head director of Team USA Paralympics Track and Field actually reached out to him and said they were interested. He ran well at the time trials in 2019 and saw that this was a real possibility. This decision to put soccer on the back burner was very hard, Mayhugh said, but this opportunity was too good to pass up.

“I didn’t even know the Paralympics were a thing,” Mayhugh said. “I had no idea this world even existed. I’ve gone this far with soccer and was kind of interested in what other sports I could pursue. It was frustrating to turn down that contract because that was my dream. My window to run track is much smaller than my window to play soccer so I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity.

“I know these past three years with the national soccer team we’ve been able to do some incredible things and have unfinished business. But, hopefully I’ll be able to pick back up after Tokyo. It was a very hard, frustrating decision, but that’s what life’s about. Nothing ever comes easy.”

Just take a second to break down this decision. First, he had to put his dream of playing soccer on hold. This was something he worked excruciating hard for his entire life and went through way more obstacles than normal. Now, he had to start from scratch again and learn an entirely new sport.

Nothing has ever come easy in sport for Nick, but that seems to be the way he needs it to be. Another challenge means another opportunity, in his mind. Now, starting Thursday, he will become the first athlete selected to Team USA to complete as both a soccer and track athlete.

Home Gym 2.0

The new Home Gym set up as of August 2020.

Sometimes things don’t always go according to the plan. The timeline for the growth of my home gym accelerated from a multi-year plan to a five-month plan.

When my shipment came from elitefts in March, the plan was to use the basement as a way to get my big three lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift) in with little interruption. Then, since I have little time to train while coaching people at the gym, I would use my down time there and get my accessory work done.

However, the pandemic has changed a lot of things. While watching TV in May, I heard gyms wouldn’t be a part of the Phase 4 opening and wasn’t sure if they would open at all this year. I didn’t know if I would be able to train anybody again this year or even be able to get a legitimate workout in myself.

About a week or two after, Justin Kavanaugh called me and told me he was giving away equipment from his gym. He wound up giving me a 45-degree back extension, a calf raise machine, a pair of kettlebells, some chains and a battling rope. He also gave me a pair of cables that I could attach to my rack to do all sorts of plate loaded exercises to mimic some of the machines. With the small space I had created, I didn’t have enough room for all of this and decided to expand. I always wanted a back extension because it’s one of my favorite pieces of equipment. Once I got it, I decided to go in and start building the home gym of my dreams.

Titan Fitness Multi-Grip Bar and Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0 hanging on the bar rack.

To go about this expansion, there were two questions I had to consider: What would I need to train people the way I want and what would be optimal for my own training? I searched everywhere on the internet from Facebook Marketplace to eBay to Craigslist. My first two hits came from FB Marketplace where I found the Titan Fitness Multi-Grip Bar and Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0. I loved using the Rogue trap bar at the gym because of its thick handle and it was a lot tougher to use than the traditional trap bars. The numbers I pulled on the Rogue trap bar closely resembled what I would pull with a regular barbell.

Then, I went to Rogue’s website and ordered some mats for added floor protection during deadlifts and a band rack. I got the square mats they use with their deadlift platforms.The place was starting to take shape and I had about 80% of what I wanted. The big thing I was missing was dumbbells. I could workout fine without them, but figured they would be a big piece if I planned on training anyone else. I couldn’t get a whole rack of dumbbells and needed to look into finding PowerBlocks.

PowerBlocks Elite EXP up to 90 pounds and Rogue mats.

Finding a pair of PowerBlocks and getting the right expansion sets was a chore. It didn’t help that I was looking for, perhaps, the hottest commodity during a pandemic where all the gyms were closed. Finding them was easy, the hard part was getting them at a somewhat reasonable price. I saw the PowerBlocks that go up to 24 pounds going for at least $400 and the the ones that go up to 50 pounds were being priced anywhere from $800 to $1,000. I’m desperate, but not that desperate.

Fortunately, I was able to find a pair at a reasonable price in New Jersey and got the PowerBlocks 50 Elite EXP. These go up to 50 pounds and then found the Stage 3 Expansion kit (70-90 pounds) for a good price on eBay. All I needed was the Stage 2 Expansion kit (50-70 pounds). My first attempted at buying the kit off eBay led to me getting the wrong model (which I later sold on FB Marketplace). The Stage 2 kit was nowhere to be found and took a month of searching before I finally found it. This kit I had to spend a bit to get because they were so rare.

In between all this, I added a decline bench press for my own personal use and felt I had about 95% of what I wanted. I had a good enough home gym where I felt I could do almost any exercise I’d do in the gym. I got a little greedy and decided to make the last two purchases to finish the job.

elitefts Floor Glute Ham Raise

First, I got a bar rack from elitefts to help with the clutter. The only piece I wanted to add was a glute ham raise (GHR), which is probably my favorite lower body exercise. They weren’t hard to find. The issue I had was space and height. My gym was getting a little crowded and my room isn’t tall enough to have people perform the exercise on a standard GHR.

I needed something smaller and the Rogue Echo GHR was sold out. After doing some searching, I found that elitefts made a home model that just came with the main pieces and had wheels. I feel like elitefts has a piece of equipment for every situation. I put in the call to Matt Goodwin and he set me up with my dream piece of equipment, outside of the squat rack.

I’d like to say I’m done, but I’m sure there will be more purchases in the future. But, hypothetically, if I didn’t purchase another piece of equipment for the rest of my life, I’d say I’ve got my version of the ultimate home gym set up. This set up has gone far beyond what I had in mind when I started this all in February.

Turning a Dream into Reality

I couldn’t tell you the last time I had this anxious excitement. I felt like a little kid staring at the presents under the tree on the night before Christmas. I was at a professional development meeting, or a “PD Day” in teacher lingo, and was waiting to get a message from my brother, James, that my delivery came. Periodically, I’d send a text when I had a break to get an update.


“It’s not here yet.”

“Not yet.”

“No. I’ll let you know when it comes.”

Finally, after seeing all the different variations of “no”, the message I’ve been waiting for came around 1:30 p.m.: “it’s here”. This was the best and worst news I could have gotten. Outside of the obvious reasons, this was great news because I wouldn’t need a second cup of coffee. I was wide awake. The bad news was I couldn’t leave for another hour. I couldn’t stop staring at the clock. You know how they say that holding a plank is the longest minute of your life? Multiply that by 60.

The EliteFTS delivery in my driveway. James took the picture as soon as it arrived. You can see the delivery truck in the background.

Once it was time, I speed walked to my car and raced home. It doesn’t sound like much, but ask anyone that’s ever been in a car with me. They’d say my definition of racing is to go through a yellow light and go five miles over the limit. However, today was different. For the first time in my life, I drove like a New Yorker.

When I made it home, I took a second to stare at the package in my driveway. There it was, inside the green bubble wrap was something I’ve wanted for 10 years: an eliteFTS power rack. Also included with the delivery was a Collegiate 0-90 degree Incline Bench and a Texas Power Bar. But the crown jewel was the power rack. Not just any power rack, but one custom built by eliteFTS.

To understand why this was so special, you need to understand the backstory. First, we need to go back 10 years. This was before I had any idea of ever becoming a coach. I was still working as a sports writer for the Newark Star-Ledger and needed to get myself back into shape. I let myself go pretty bad. I needed to get back into training and was searching all over the internet for the best program to follow. After scouring through various message boards and Google, I stumbled across two well-known coaches in New Jersey: Joe DeFranco and Jason Ferruggia. While looking through their stuff, I also found Jim “Smitty” Smith.

I started reading everything these guys put out. I’ll get more into that in another post. As I started following their programs, reading their content and watching their videos, I always noticed the eliteFTS equipment they had. The two things that stood out the most were the eliteFTS power rack and the Prowler sled. They all swore by eliteFTS and this was a common thread among many of the other top coaches I read.

Some nights at the office I was there until 2-3 a.m. and would read some of their work to cool off before heading out. As I got more into training, I started thinking about how cool it would be to have my own eliteFTS power rack. I couldn’t just have any rack, it had to be from eliteFTS because that’s what the best coaches were using. If I had that, I’d be all set. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

I was still living at home, so it was only a pipe dream. A couple of years later, I became a trainer and the thought popped into my head again. “Nah, you don’t have the money for it.” Then the thought went away until January of this year.

First, I went over my friend Casey’s house. He had shown me pictures of all the work he had done on the place and to finally see it all complete was pretty cool. I was proud of him. Then, a month later, I helped my friend Matt move into his new house. The place was beautiful. Whenever I go over someone’s house, I always map out where I would put a home gym. After seeing both of their places, I thought to myself, “why don’t I start turning my place into my own.” I’ve had my place for a couple of years, but you would have thought I was a runaway. There was nothing set up. I could leave seamlessly at any time.

At the gym, I was having a rough time getting my lifts in because of time. I had clients and could never get a bench or squat rack because it was overrun with powerlifters and wannabe powerlifters. So, with that, along with the inspiration gathered from seeing my friends’ places, I decided to treat myself.

I’ve talked to Matt Goodwin of eliteFTS at seminars and he always told me to give him a call when I was ready to get my own thing going. I was ready. I called him on my lunch break and, true to his word, he gave me the hook up. You would have thought I was opening a mega gym with the service he provided. Top notch all around and I was always tell everyone to go through him if you’re looking for quality gym equipment. He made sure to get me rack that would fit perfectly in my basement.

The finished product. eliteFTS Garage Line 3×3 Power Rack with Collegiate 0-90 Incline Bench and Texas Power Bar.

The assembly wasn’t too bad and my mom, James and I were able to get it into the house and assembled in a little less than three hours. That isn’t too bad since none of us are really handy. The package happened to come a day before they closed the schools down because of the pandemic.

We lucked out with the timing, but this wasn’t bought because I expected the world to close down. That wasn’t even on my mind when I put in the phone call in February.

This was a dream I’ve had for 10 years. When I look at the eliteFTS logo on what is my power rack, I think back. I think back to when I was working at the paper and this was nothing more than a wild idea that I never expected to happen. This was a result of working and saving up money so I could do purchase this without hesitation. Some people dream of getting an in-ground pool or fancy car. This is my variation of that. This was a major piece in turning a place into my home.

Can’t See the Forest Through the Trees

After training people for about a year-and-a-half, I finally decided to attend my first seminar in October 2015. I was still very new in this field and did not know what I did not know. Turns out, the first seminar I attended was THE seminar, the SWIS Symposium. This is where not only the best of the best go to speak, but they go to learn. I was swimming in the deep end of the pool with no float.

At SWIS, the first presentation I sat in on was by Matt Nichol. Little did I know that at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning I was going to learn a lesson from Matt’s presentation that would stick with my to this day. I’ll admit, it’s hard to retain everything you hear at these seminars because of the sheer volume of information you get, especially at a conference like SWIS. SWIS is the equivalent of jamming in 10+ Master’s level classes in one weekend. But, whenever I find myself in tough situation training someone or feeling like I’m not worthy of doing the job, I always go back to what Matt said during this presentation.

Matt talked about not being able to “see the forest through the trees.” He mentioned how there is so much information out there that it can bog you down and not allow you to see the forest through the trees. This was a message I needed to hear because I was already overwhelmed and the event just started.

I was able to get a picture with Matt Nichol after his presentation at SWIS 2016.

In training terms, when your athlete is faced with an issue that you need to address, you need to stay in your lane. You need to come up with the best solution based on what you see and what you know. This isn’t the time to start using assessments and exercises that you briefly saw online and heard were good. You shouldn’t be trying to mimic things you’ve seen other top coaches do that you don’t fully understand because you won’t do it properly and it will only complicate things. See what you see and use what you know.

I needed to hear this, especially as I continue to learn more and more from other coaches. I have been guilty in the past of trying something new out that I thought would work because I saw another great coach use it. The problem was that I didn’t fully understand it and wasn’t able to utilize it effectively.

As beneficial as it is to learn from the best, it’s also created doubts in my head. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be half the coach that some of these coaches are. It can be demoralizing when you see the top coaches showing the tremendous progress they’ve made with an athlete in a short period of time. It led to me questioning myself on whether I can really do this or not. I kept looking all the way to the top of the mountain and it clouded me and stopped me from embracing the small victories. If a client added 5-10 pounds to a PR, I questioned to myself why it wasn’t a 20-30 pound PR instead of just being happy that progress was made. No matter what happened, it wasn’t good enough for me and I felt like I was letting people down.

It used to really eat at me. It still does at times, but not as much. I refer back to what Matt said, “see what you see, use what you know.” Now, when I learn something new that I know will be helpful to my athletes, I don’t incorporate it until I have a solid understanding of it. I don’t completely change the program because I learned something new over the weekend.

I don’t compare myself to other coaches and only focus on becoming the best version of myself. It sounds cliche, but, at the end of the day, I’m not competing with any of these coaches so it doesn’t really matter if I am at their level yet. I just need to keep taking strides forward so I can continue to close the gap. This past year has shown me that sticking to a long-term approach, making the small fixes, sticking to what I know and learned and embracing the small victories will lead to the major improvements in performance that I am seeking.

Part 2: Taking a Ride on the SBOAT

I went from 199 pounds (left) to 187 pounds (right) on this program. I also got a tan.

I had to break up the story of “SBOAT” into two posts. First, I had to get into the back story of how it all came to be. Now, it’s time to actually talk about the program.

First, the name. People have asked what SBOAT actually means and I usually don’t tell them. It stands for “Strongest Bastard of All-Time”. Why? Because Kav is a ball-buster always jokingly called me that because I won the SB911 contest in 2015. He asked me what we should call it, and, since he always had jokes about it, I came up with the acronym.



This sucked. There was nothing enjoyable about this phase. Ask anybody that’s run this program before. It’s brutal. Normally, the first phase of a program is usually a breeze where you get your body acclimated to lifting. Not this phase. I don’t believe in mental toughness training being done in the gym, but you will learn a lot about yourself in these first 12 days. How badly you want to reach your goals will be tested here.

Basically, the first 12 days consists of training for 5 days straight, take a day off and repeat. You do the same exact thing for 5 days. The purpose of this phase is to prepare the tissues, ligaments and joints for the heavy lifting and volume that will come in the later phases. There’s also a hypertrophy element to it. One of my goals was to build up my chest because there really wasn’t much there, so that was a focus.

For each day, I’d do three chest exercises and two leg exercises for two sets of 20 with a 303 tempo, which means three seconds up and three seconds down. In between the chest exercises I’d do a max-rep set of a pull-up variation and in between each set of legs I’d max out 100-pound, one-arm dumbbell rows. There was no tempo for the back exercises.

I hate this phase, but it really taught me a lot about myself and what “one more rep means”. My goal was to get into the best shape of my life and this phase basically makes you prove that you want to reach your goals. I was sore after the first day. By Day 4, my chest, lats and quads were so sore that I didn’t know if I would be able to continue. But, a strange thing happened: Day 5 hit and the soreness was going away. By the last day, I was sore, but nothing crazy. My body actually adapted and I was able to increase all my lifts from the first day.

On Day 1, I could only one-arm row 100 pounds for five reps and do six pull-ups. On Day 10, I rowed 100 pounds for 12 reps and did eight pull-ups.


For the next 12 days, you go three days on and one day off. This phase is more hypertrophy focused as you do two body parts per day and about five-to-six exercises. Instead of 2×20, you’re now doing three sets of 20 and the 303 tempo is still around.

This phase isn’t much fun either, but, in a weird way, it was refreshing because I wasn’t doing the same exercises every day and three days off in between body parts.


The first 30 days were not much fun, but the genius in the program is that just as my body adjusts to a phase, Kav switches it up. This phase was two weeks long and each week consisted of four days, two upper body and two lower body. There’s still high-volume work on the lower body days, with 20-rep front squats on one day and 20-rep sport back squats on the other lower body day, but it helps going at a regular tempo.

The body was a little beat up, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and knew that the fun stuff would be coming soon. The first couple of upper body lifts were surprisingly tough. The weight felt heavier than normal. I was worried, thinking that I actually got weaker. The good news is that was short lived and I felt I was getting stronger at the tail end of the second week. It’s now time to get strong.

For the first 30 days, I lost six pounds.


This phase is everything I thought it would be and where I could see the first 30 days pay off. This is what I was excited about when Kav told me he would be writing me up a program. This phase lasted five weeks.

For the lifting, there were four days, two upper body and two lower body. There would be a heavy day and a lighter day for each. Also included in the lifting would be a primer to help me improve my hang clean. I was very interested in the Olympic lifts at the time and wanted to get better at them. The lifting would be heavy and the volume was high. For the bench press, I’d do five sets and close with a double. The sumo deadlift would also be five sets and end with a heavy single. There was a lot of accessory work.

In addition to the way the lifting was structured, I also liked getting to do some speed training. I never did a real speed program before SBOAT and this program really taught me a lot about how to structure one. There were three speed days in this phase and each had a different focus: acceleration, change of direction and tempo runs. We ran this for four weeks and then Kav added in a day where I ran four 400-meter sprints. They were not fun at all, but helped shave off body fat.

Some days I did the speed work on a different day than the lifting, other times I did two-a-days. For the two-a-days, I’d go to the field earlier in the day and then get the lift done in the evening. At first, I thought my lifts would suffer. It actually turned out to be the opposite. I felt more energized going into the gym and felt my lifts, especially for the lower body, improved. This included days where I would run in 90-plus degree heat.

I lost just three pounds in this phase, but could see I was looking much better.


After all the prep, this is the phase where we let it loose and see how far I’ve come. This phase lasted three weeks, but I went for my PR’s in the second week. For the third week, we focused on cutting weight before my trip and manipulated some things diet wise. I’ll talk about that in a bit.

The volume was reduced a lot in this phase as the focus was on the main lifts and lifting as much as possible. This phase had three lifts, two upper body and one lower body, and I kept the running days in. I knew I was going to reach my deadlift goal when I hit 445 pounds for four reps on my last set of sumo deadlifts in Week 1. It was a weight I was suppose to do for two, but it was just flying on this day. This was a day I sprinted beforehand, too. This blew my mind because my previous one-rep max was 455 pounds for a shaky rep. In Week 1 I also hit 230 pounds for a double on the bench press, which was the first time I did more than one rep with more than 225 pounds.

In Week 2, previous records fell to new ones. One of my main lifting goals was to deadlift 500 pounds and I was finally able to do that. I also increased my bench-press max 10 pounds up to 255 pounds. My previous all-time best was 245, even though I only maxed out at 230 pounds when I tested right before the program.

For the last week, we worked on body composition as I did some lighter tempo work, similar to the first phase. It was the first time I went no carb and learned that it is tough to lift that way. I only did it for a week, but I sympathized with those body builders who are dieting down and lifting hard as they peak before a competition. I lost five more pounds, but put two more on when I went off the diet to finish at 187 pounds. I was thrilled with my progress.

Me hitting a 500-pound deadlift on the program. This was my main lifting goal when I started the program.


  • I lost 12 pounds and went from 199 pounds to 187 pounds.
  • Sumo deadlift one-rep max went from 455 pounds to 500 pounds.
  • Max-rep set of 100-pound, one-arm dumbbell rows, I went from five reps to 17
  • Sport back squat increased from 275 pounds for eight reps to 315 pounds for 10 reps. I didn’t use the back squat as my main lower-body lift.
  • Strict pull-ups increased from 7 to 12.
  • Bench Press one-rep max increased from 245 pounds to 255 pounds.
  • I got a tan for the first time in my life.


First, I have to give a big thank you to Kav for writing this program up for me. I learned so much about training and what my own body is capable of doing. This program made me a better coach and I feel so much more comfortable programming, especially with speed.

This program goes against the grain and goes against a lot of what you read from popular coaches on the internet. This program makes you think and question things. If I was to tell these coaches what my goals were, they would have told me they were too extreme. When you know the right people, you learn anything is possible.

This program was a confidence boost to me. I learned I could do so much more than I thought. You really learn what true intensity and training hard is all about. This program is like my ace in the hole for when I need results quick. It’s not easy and it’s not a quick fix, but when you follow all the protocols and bring it every workout, you will get the results.

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