I love to train. I love the feeling I get when I know I've pushed my limits just a little past where they were before. The accelerated heart rate, the burn of muscular exertion, the sweat—I love all of it.
For me, training is a space where all that matters is integrity. After all, there are so many variables in life over which we have little or no control, but in the gym, you truly reap what you sow. If you put in the hours and the effort, diligently and consistently, over the course of time, you will get results. That's part of what makes training great.
I know I'm not alone in these feelings. But for most of my adult life, they just mattered to me and my personal training clients. Then one day, everything changed, and my passion found a whole new audience.
Bodyweight Goes Global
Several years ago, calisthenics guru Paul "Coach" Wade, Dragon Door CEO John Du Cane, my brother Al Kavadlo, and I created what we believe to be the first bodyweight certification in the world, the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC). This was the only course to cover all the calisthenics basics like the squat, push-up, and pull-up, as well as advanced jaw-droppers like the human flag, muscle-up, and front lever.
It is also the only three-day bodyweight training curriculum that is recognized and accredited by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Our hope was to present serious instruction which, to be honest, wasn't available at the time.
In addition to theory, instruction, and programming, the format of the course is based on an experiential and practical teaching methodology. We focus on real hands-on practice. Every participant is involved every step of the way. Like Confucius is credited as saying: "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." We were confident this was a major game-changer in the fitness world, but still, we weren't sure exactly what to expect.
Well now, after fifty events in scores of cities, spanning multiple countries and four continents, the PCC keeps getting better and better. More personal records are set, more lifelong friendships are made, and more wisdom is exchanged. I'm proud to say that I've been all around the world teaching calisthenics. But it turns out that, all this time, I've been a student as much as a teacher. Here's some of what I've learned from my travels.
1. The World Is a Big Place, but Training Happens Everyplace in It
I come from New York, a huge city in its own right. But the truth is that the Big Apple is just one tiny spec on the map. I know now that it's a big, beautiful world and I want to experience it all. I want to meet the people, walk the roads, watch the sunsets...and of course, train everywhere!
Turns out I'm not alone. Yes, there are gyms around the world, but when we get too dependent on our specific surroundings, we shut ourselves down to many incredible experiences to be had.
Sure, there's no place like my home gym, but one of the great things about calisthenics is that it travels with me, meaning I can find great training no matter where I am.
2. No One Has Learned It All Yet
One of the greatest things about my experience is that I get to train not only with calisthenics practitioners, but also with weightlifters, martial artists, circus performers, bodybuilders, and just everyday enthusiasts. And guess what? I've learned from all of them!
I can't tell you how many times someone who comes to me for my teaching winds up showing me something that I've never seen before. Maybe it's a new progression or a troubleshooting tip that they've discovered, but is new to me. I'm proud to say that, even as an instructor, I've personally learned something at every single Progressive Calisthenics Certification. There is a wealth of knowledge out there if we make ourselves open to it.
3. To Experience a Culture, Eat the Food
I've eaten fermented herring in Sweden, blood sausage in Ireland, and spicy turtle stew in Beijing. No matter where I go, I do my best not only to interact with the local fitness culture, but also the food culture. When I was in Sydney, Australia, it was very important to me that I do some pull-ups on the famous bars of Bondi Beach. But it was equally important that I ate a kangaroo burger.
If you are visiting a new destination, open up and say "ahh." There is no better way to connect with a culture than to taste it!
4. Training and Learning Together Can Be a Game-Changer
Training is fundamentally solitary in many ways. Nobody can do your reps for you! And for many of us, it is something we cultivate largely alone.
There's nothing wrong with this! But no matter where you came from, or what your skill level is, you can still find challenges, learn lessons, and gain strength by training with a group of people who are into what you're into.
Yes, high-level stuff happens at PCC, but we're not there to compete with each other. Rather, we seek to be the best versions of ourselves. And the improvements that happen when people train together like this are definitely not just physical. We also establish deep, lasting connections during this shared experience.
5. We Have More in Common Than We Think
I saved the most important one for last. Beyond cultural borders, continental divides, and goals, there is more that unites us than divides us. You may not speak the same language as the person standing next to you, but you can still train together and communicate on a profound level. I've had the privilege of training alongside people from all around the world, and guess what? We all dream. We all experience joy and frustration. We've all felt love and pain, and when we achieve something that we've been struggling toward for a long time, our faces light up in the same way.
Connecting with others who share a common passion for fitness brings forth a solidarity that cannot be fully explained. Whether you are a bar brother like myself, a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, or a cage fighter, we are all on the same team.
The posse's getting bigger. Keep the dream alive!