How My Island Turned Into An Archipelago


In January I made a decision that changed the rest of my career.  I made a decision to do something for myself.  I joined the Strength Faction.

borat meme

The end of 2016 was a whirlwind.  I was planning a wedding, booking a honeymoon, and the gym was the busiest it was all year.  I had lost the drive for my own training.  There were “more important” things to do.  I had to write programs, make seating charts, pick out tablecloths, there were emails to answer, there were flyers to make, the list was endless. (Shoutout to Kathleen for actually doing most of the wedding planning). Training for me just wasn’t a priority.  I didn’t have a lifting buddy, I wasn’t adhering to a specific training program, my continuing education slowed down, I was basically on an island, shut off to the rest of the world.  Here’s a picture of me right before my wedding:


During a Facebook binge session (read above where I was too busy to train) I saw the one and only Marco Sanchez make a post about the Strength Faction (someone probably owes him a t-shirt) and how the Faction was where all the cool kids were.  So, being the young impressionable person I am, and knowing that everything you read on the internet is true, I gave it a shot.

the office meme

The things I liked about the Faction:

First and foremost, I looked like I was part of the group.  Todd, Chris, and Mike are all bald and have beards.  I am bald and have a beard, sweet.

  1. Training Program-
    • Chris and the guys kill it with the training program.
    • Takes programming for myself out of the equation.
    • Decision fatigue couldn’t hinder my training process.
  2. Intentional Community-
    • These dudes have created a place where some of best people in the fitness industry come together to converse, make jokes, and help one another grow.
    • It’s really like being on a team again, a long distance, kick-ass team.
    • The only other thing that comes close to this is the CFSC.
  3.   Comfort Zone-
    • It forced me to get out of my comfort zone.
    • It got me off my island.

When you are solo, it’s easy to fall into a routine of only training and programming one way, and it’s very easy to fall into the trap with your own workouts of only doing the things you are good at doing.  Having someone else program for you can be a very humbling experience.  But, if you eat your humble pie, you can learn a metric crap-ton. Not to mention, you can always get stronger!  Thanks to having a program written for me, I pulled 500lbs for the first time, and it was for a double.  My training has been reinvigorated.

They say that your net worth = your network, and if that’s the case, I just got a whole bunch richer.  The guys and gals in the Faction are from all over the U.S. and there are even a couple across the pond in England.  This speaks to the community that has been created by Todd, Mike, and Chris.  There are a ton of Facebook groups for fitness and other certifications, but they lack substance.  The Faction community has the intention of getting everyone who participates better.  Everyone has experiences to share, insight to give, and beer to trade.  Allowing yourself to open up to a bunch of strangers can be tough, but giving that vulnerability will yield much more in return.

The Strength Faction runs quarterly and has a seminar at the end of each session (I am currently in the second go around with the Faction).  The seminar for the first session of 2017 was in Chicago at Mike’s gym Rebell Strength and Conditioning – aside: check it out if you haven’t.  Now, back to getting me off my island and out of my comfort zone… I suffer from anxiety.. and more specifically travel based anxiety.  I’m much more of a homebody- and that’s cool, but seeing new places is pretty cool too.  So, through some of the Facebook threads about who was going to the Chicago seminar, a fellow Factioner Casey Lee, from the great state of Vermont, was making plans and looking for people to share an Airbnb… I said to myself, “Just do it”, and reserved my spot in the Real World Faction Edition.

I would be flying out of Logan airport on Friday and staying in Chicago, a city I’ve never been to, staying with 4 people I’ve never met in person before, attending a 2 day seminar with more people I’ve never met before… what could go wrong?!  The anxious side of me said “Everything, idiot!”.

The days counted down, my anxiety crept up.  The group of people I was going to be staying with had created a text chain so that we could all stay in contact.  Because of this intentional community created by the Faction, I already felt comfortable enough with them to disclose my anxiety and my apprehensions about the weekend.  The convo went something like this:

The trip comes, and I’m all excited.  I get myself on the bus to travel to the airport, check my self in through security (the worst thing ever)  and find the nearest bar-stool to settle my nerves (healthy coping skills).  Boarding time arrives and I head towards the back of the plane to my luxurious middle seat.  There is a smiling man in a red shirt sitting in the aisle seat who makes me look like a child (I’m not the size of a child).. I say, “Looks like it’s our lucky day” and squeeze myself into my seat.  We finally push back, and only make it about 15 yards before we stop.  If you are keeping score at home, anxiety level is high.  The Captain comes over the loud speaker and says there’s a mechanical issue that shouldn’t take too long to fix (anxiety level +1). So me and Big Red just chill, he’s doing some version of Sudoku with fractions (seriously?) and I’m listening to an Audible book.. an hour goes by… Captain comes on again and asks everybody to get off the plane (anxiety level + 2) .  Flight delayed.  Reschedule for an hour later.  Then two more hours..  final departure time.. 8 hours later.  Awesome.  Anxiety level +5.  So Big Red and I went and got some food, talking about what he did for work, and eventually I took a nap (anxiety level -2).  I was in a good spot, I was in control of what I could control, and knew that if I could make it through a delay in the most anxious place for me, the rest of the weekend would be cake.   Plus, I had a bunch of strangers expecting me to have a slumber party.

I landed in Chicago around 1 am and made it to the Airbnb just before 2 am. Unfortunately, the other half of the group went through worse airport adventures than I did and weren’t able to make it to Chicago (womp womp, sorry Steph and Kristin).  Trey and Casey were waiting for me at the place, and made sure I was settled before turning in.  Again, Intentional Community.

Because of one single choice I made back in January, the landscape of my career changed indefinitely.  My network exploded, my brain exploded with knowledge from the weekend thanks to listening to guys like Todd, Chris, Mike, Andy McCloy and Dan Frantz speak. I was able to break bread and have a few drinks with very successful and humble people in an industry that I love. And more importantly, I was able to face one of my biggest fears and even with curve ball after curve ball, I was able to handle it.  It was an absolute stellar weekend.  Joining the Strength Faction was the best thing for me professionally as well as personally that I have in a my adult life. My island became an archipelago.

Thank you, Faction!

2 thoughts on “How My Island Turned Into An Archipelago

  1. Wendy

    Wow! So thankful I took the time to read this! Totally entertained and inspired by your thoughts and your writing! Thanks for sharing! Go PJ!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s