The Commandments Of Fortitude
I still prefer calling the gym Fortitude Strength Club. I’m the only one. Everyone else has adopted the nickname “The Fort”. This was somewhat the plan in the first place. Fortitude Strength Club is a mouthful and The Fort sounds like a cool place you want to hang out and something you want to be a part of. It’s even the url of our website and the name on our Facebook page.
Don’t get me wrong, I like “The Fort”. But each of those three words, Fortitude-Strength-Club, have deeper meaning in my mind. Particularly “Fortitude”. One of our main tenants is that the skills, resilience and ability to overcome that you learn by doing difficult workouts will impact every other part of your life, making you a better leader, husband, mother, neighbor and human being. To me, that is exhibiting Fortitude.
When it came time to paint our sign on the door (we didn’t have any public signage for our first 10 months) Kyle and I were split on whether it should read the full name or The Fort. So we put it to a vote with our staff. The results were nearly unanimous. The door reads “The Fort”. Of course there was one descending vote. Mine.
Now, in an effort to have my voice heard, I've developed these 10 Commandments of Fortitude. A full list of the hallmarks that define our culture and what we believe in. What I feel is the philosophy behind our name.
But before we get started let me make one thing clear. This is not a revenge piece. This is not a Dan-is-the-only-one-with-the-website-password-so-he-is-going-to-emphasize-Fortidue-cause-he-got-outvoted blog. Kyle believes in all of the below as much as I do. Everyone here does. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t. It’s these parts of our culture that we live, bleed and breath within these walls and, maybe more importantly, outside of them.
It is who we are and what we will always strive to be.
The 10 Commandments Of Fortitude
Train With Purpose. Let’s start with the easiest, closest-to-home commandment of them all. The entire basis of our training system is that it is organized, progressive, follows evidence-based best practices and helps our population achieve their goals of improved health, strength and body composition. But even if you don’t train with us or your goal is to be a professional MMA fighter or Olympic downhill skier or run your first marathon your training should reflect and enhance those goals. If you are working out haphazardly or find yourself reading the newspaper on the pec-deck machine during your too long rest period between sets, you are not training with purpose. Finally, training with purpose should be uncomfortable most of the time. Even if you are doing the ‘right things’ but no longer find yourself challenged, there is no adaptation, no progress and no purpose.
Eat Appropriately. This simply means fueling your body appropriately, both with the correct quantities and quality of foods, for the daily tasks at hand. We posted an entire blog regarding our philosophy on nutrition so feel free to go back and give it a read. But most people are malnourished, eating the wrong types of foods in the wrong amounts in order to maximize their performance and life. For some people, particularly those following the first commandment, that quantity can just as easily be too little food as it can be too much. For the vast majority of the population it’s eating poor quality, non-nutrient dense foods in large quantities. Remember, malnourished just means poorly nourished and that can reflect too much as easily as too little. Listen, I get that eating healthfully the majority of times is hard. It’s downright painful for most people. You know what else is uncomfortable? Carrying around an over weight, sick body for years on end. But most people have been in that state for so long that this sick feeling no longer feels extraordinary. It is simply their baseline until something like diabetes or surgery gives them a wake up call. Whether you want to put on some muscle mass or lose pounds of fat or, most importantly, maintain your health, it is worth being uncomfortable - both in the gym and at the dinner table - for a few weeks or months to get your weight and body composition in order. Once you set and live at that new baseline for a while you can be more lenient and eating appropriately will feel much, much easier. But you have to bust your ass to get to that point if you aren’t there already. Your fitness and often your life depend on it.
Get Ample Sleep. “When you want to success more than you want sleep, that is when you will be successful.” I’ve heard motivational speaker Eric Thomas say this a bunch of times. I freakin’ love ET. He’s got great energy and a great message. But on this, I could not agree with him less. It is nearly impossible to be successful either physically or mentally without proper sleep. When you are lying in your bed, so many hormones come out to party. And they just can’t get the job done in the 4.5 hours you are giving yourself because, you know, you’ll sleep when you are dead. If you have any hopes of improving muscle mass, mental or physical performance and body composition, you’ll get a solid night of sleep the vast majority of the time. According to sleep expert Dr. Kirk Parsley, that should average about 7.5 hours per night.
Face Adversity. If you only do that which is easy, your life will be incredibly hard. To test what you are made of you need to face adversity on a regular basis. It is the only way to improve your reaction the next time adversity comes your way. This is one of the great things about training. When you train with purpose you are facing adversity in a very controlled setting. And you can’t tell me that that success doesn’t carry over into other conquering other difficult things that present themselves to you on a daily basis. Don’t run away from challenge. Whether that is in your workout or in a project at work or in a difficult conversation you have to have with a loved one. Build these muscles and you will be an all-around resilient human being.
Honor Your Commitments. Be a person who does what they say they will do. Whether it’s something as simple as showing up to your training session on time or something as important as volunteering as a Big Brother or picking up your kid from school. Be considerate about what you commit to, but once you commit show up and do what you promised to do without fail.
Give More Than You Take. We put a massive emphasis on the community aspect of the facility. Without our coaches and members supporting, spotting and cheering each other on we would simply be a room filled with barbells and bumper plates. Of course we are so much more than that. To be honest, some people soak up all that support when they need it and give little back in return. And as much as we try our best not to judge those people, everyone has different things going on outside these walls, it’s a bummer when you see someone who takes but refuses to give. On the other side are our favorites – people who are so generous with their energy and enthusiasm that they seem more interested in other people’s results and experience than their own. No matter where you are, try to make the room a bit better than when you walked in. It’s going to make you feel better and lift up everyone around you. Doesn’t matter if we are talking about a training session or anything else on this planet – we are all in it together. Go ahead, call me a commie.
Pursue Your Vision. There is a great speech that Jim Carrey (yes, that, Jim Carrey) gives as a commencement address. Here it is on YouTube. In it he speaks about how his father slaved away in a “safe” job that he hated only to be fired after investing years of his life in the company. His point is simple - you can fail at something you hate just as easily as you can fail at pursuing your passion. The only thing sadder to me than people wasting their time not pursuing their vision is people who don’t have a vision in the first place. That’s fine when you are a college freshman but if you are an adult and don’t know what lights your fire and what you really want to pursue then you need to take a break from your life for some serious soul searching. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose like running for office or starting your own bank, though it could be. Being an incredible Dad, selling your crotchet projects on Etsy, opening your own training facility, these are all worthwhile visions. Figure out your own and go after it with everything you have. Nothing in your life will be so terrifying and rewarding.
Take Time To Play. Whoa, there's a lot of go-getter shit on this list so far. And it’s true that we feel the majority of your time should be spent working hard trying to achieve your life, family, career, health and fitness goals. But you have to step back and play pick-up basketball, go to a comedy club, catch a movie or build a train set with your kid. Cause if you don’t there is a huge chance you’ll become an asshole.
Surround Yourself With Excellence. So many clichés to use here. You are the company you keep. Surround yourself with losers and you too will be a loser. You are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. Whichever easy-to-digest saying works best for you, the point is the same. If you want to achieve excellence in any aspect of your life you have to surround yourself with excellence. Whether that is co-workers, mentors, even customers. Excellent people will build momentum in your life and drive everything you do forward. You’ll also waste a lot less time dealing with the bullshit of others (one of the things that drives me insane) which will free up time for you to be awesome.
Practice Gratitude. With all this pursuit of greatness it is very easy to forget about what you already have and achieved in your life and not acknowledging that is a big mistake. So create some sort of ritual that allows you to practice gratitude on a regular basis – whether that is calling one loved one or colleague per week to tell them what it is about them you appreciate or keeping a daily journal listing a few things you are grateful for from your day. You can’t be miserable and practice gratitude at the same time. Go ahead, give it a try.
Did I just blow your mind with new concepts and philosophies you never heard before? Not likely. Just like the exercise selection in our training programs, we are simply trying to perfect the basics. But we are also deeply committed to helping anyone and everyone develop fortitude. We will, quite honestly, do whatever we can to help you in your pursuit of it. We, too, want to leave the room better than we found it.
Hell, we named the whole company after it. Regardless of what the door says.