Breakthrough Spotlight: Matt Rodriguez
Our Spotlight Member for February is Matt Rodriguez! Matt shares how treating his training sessions as a "practice" rather than a "workout" has been a game changer, how following a long term program has increased his results, and how the strength you build during training gives you a greater ability to enjoy your life outside the gym!
BREAKTHROUGH: I am so happy to have you as our spotlight member for February, Matt. It’s been a little over a year that you have been training with us. Let’s start with what you were doing before you started training at Breakthrough?
MATT: I have always been into exercising and have been doing that regularly. But this is the first time since I was in college, I have to say, that I have really trained. I would always go to the gym. I’d do a little bit of running. I like to lift weights. But I realized as I was kind of was heading into my, not just early 40’s or by that point, my mid 40’s, and late 40’s now, that just exercising or doing the stuff that I was doing before wasn’t working. I would try new programs or sort of research on my own what I should be doing. And I just realized that I needed something a lot different. Again, I had not really trained with a real coach for a long time, but I have always been interested in strength and trying to get better at that. That is kind of what led me to you guys.
BREAKTHROUGH: So, is there anything that has surprised you now that you are doing things differently and you are working with coaches and have a specific program? What do you feel is different?
MATT: I think a couple of things. One is, what I really like about Breakthrough and the whole philosophy behind it, is the idea of practice. I mean, what I really enjoy about it is just getting better at the lifts slowly but surely, right. I think it’s easy to do a program for a little while and then want to move on to something else. What surprised me, frankly, is my own ability to stay disciplined. You know, I was always trying a new plan and trying different stuff and then I’d get kind of bored with whatever kind of program I came up with. And what’s been really great and surprising to me is how much I have been able to get my program, and stick to it. It works.
MATT: What I really like about it is, if you do stick to it, is how much of lifting is practice and skill based, as opposed to just raw athleticism or power or whatever you think you are bringing to the table. And I had just not done that in regard to strength. I mean, I have lifted a lot of weights before. But it is the first time since I did track in college that I had a kind of systematic approach to fitness. Obviously, you have a track meet that you are looking towards. I was a jumper- long jumper, triple jumper. So, you break up those events into pieces to get better at each individual piece, so that the whole becomes better than the sum of the parts. But that takes a long time with working on those parts, and I never brought that training effect to working with weights and getting stronger. So, what surprised me was how much the programs are really like getting better at your sport and actually practicing it. I just never thought of lifting weights as a practice before.
BREAKTHROUGH: Right, right!
MATT: It has made a big difference in my fitness journey.
BREAKTHROUGH: Yeah, and you mentioned that you were surprised at your own discipline and being able to stick to something. Do you feel like maybe viewing your training as more of a practice than just a random “workout ” has helped with that?
MATT: It has been a huge piece of it, but I would say it is also about having the right coaches. Anyone can go into a gym and get hot and sweaty or work out really hard. You can do this to anybody. You can gas a professional athlete. That is just a matter of work. What has helped is having the right coaches, I think. It’s not just a matter of having a plan but a plan that is actually a sequential, organized plan. It actually works, too, right. It is based on science and experience. What has helped for me is, I am getting better each time. It’s slow sometimes and it can get a little frustrating, but when it got frustrated before, I would just stop and do something else. I would just make a right turn. Ha, ha!
MATT: Now I know, ok, this day might not have gone perfectly. But I can think, what do I need to do better? I recognize that it is really an intellectual pursuit. I think that is why there are a lot of high functioning, really, smart people who get into the science of strength. Because it is a really interesting field where you can get better - you have a program, you learn from it, you tweak it. And I can’t overemphasis how important it is to have someone coaches like you guys. You see something different in my form every time. I have never worked out with you when you haven’t said, “I think you might want to do this”- and it has proven to be correct.
BREAKTHROUGH: Oh! Good!
MATT: Like dropping my hips in the deadlift a bit today. That immediately made a difference. I didn’t have my best day today, but it immediately made the second half of the workout better.
MATT: I have worked out with plenty of trainers - that doesn’t always happen. They can make you work out hard, but they don’t necessarily train you. That is a big, big difference that most people miss when it comes to fitness.
BREAKTHROUGH: Well, we are glad that you appreciate that. Because we love to teach, and we love to see you guys make progress. It’s an amazing thing to see how strong you’ve gotten! Do you have any sense of what it was like when you first started and now much you can lift? It’s pretty incredible!
MATT: It’s way different. In all the lifts, but for sure the squat, which I liked the least. And now it’s by far my favorite exercise. I enjoy going in when it’s squat day. I can’t wait! Zerchers, front squats, back squats. I enjoy it. I feel really good when I do it. I mean, I was barely doing the 205 for 5 reps and now I can do a pause squat at 205. I can hold it for like three seconds in the hole and push back up. So, I really, really enjoy that feeling of strength. I have also enjoyed the fact that lifting really has helped my mobility a lot, too. I really enjoy both getting stronger, which you can just see by the numbers, but I also feel stronger and more mobile. It’s a pretty cool feeling.
BREAKTHROUGH: Yeah. Absolutely! It’s not just about the numbers you are lifting, but how you are feeling too, and the things you can do outside the gym! Which kind of leads me to the next question: What is your why?
MATT: Well, my why is, you know I lost my dad five years ago, and it makes you think about getting older. I had a kid a little bit older and it is really important for me to be as healthy as I can. I think you realize how short your time is here. When I am playing with my son; you realize just how important just that time is, at that point in time. He’s 2 ½ and whatever we will be doing in two years will be different than what we do now. You have to enjoy those moments that you have in front of you. Because we don’t know what the future holds, to me, being in the best possible shape and being able to enjoy my physical surroundings is important. God willing, if I am lucky enough to be healthy for a long time I want to be able to enjoy the time that I am here. And I get a lot of enjoyment out of being physically active, not just in the gym, but outside of the gym. And that means playing with my kid and being outside – we live up here in Santa Barbara now and as long as I don’t have any kind of pathological issue that I can’t overcome, I want to be as mobile and as strong, and able to enjoy my physical surroundings as possible. And so that is why I really do it all the time. And finally I enjoy the feeling. I really, really enjoy the feeling of getting stronger. You know, you get older and it is nice to know, oh I am still getting better at something!
BREAKTHROUGH: That is awesome! What a great why! Anything else that you want to share before we wrap up?
MATT: The only other thing is, I can’t overstate just how different the mindset is of incrementally getting a little bit better each time in training and not burning yourself out. I can’t emphasis how much I have enjoyed that process and really look forward to it. There are always 80 million exercises that can be thrown at you. But I find the complex simplicity of this style of training has really been perfect for me – really focusing on going deep on the basics like squats, deadlifts, presses... I really, really enjoy it. I think more people should do it. I think they would get more out of their fitness journey if they had more of a plan. And that was something I lacked for a long time and I’ve gotten that back with Breakthrough. So, I really appreciate it. It has made a big difference, at least for me.
BREAKTHROUGH: Oh good! I am so glad! Yes, there are endless ways where you can make someone feel like they are doing new stuff all the time. But there is such power in mastering skills are an inch wide, but mile deep. And there is so much we can learn. I learn every single time I approach my practice. Because I want to. I want to go a little bit deeper down that mile path to figure out how can I get a little bit stronger; how can I move with a little bit more efficiency. So, I agree with you. I think it’s worth it because you do learn about your body, you learn about your mental capacity to do certain things and, in a way it is more similar to a yoga practice in that your mind and your body are connected.
MATT: Yes, it has been really great. And that is the big piece of it, which is that the repetition isn’t the thing that makes it boring, it is the thing that makes it kind of exciting.
MATT: I also think too and maybe it is my own obsession with getting older, even when you are doing the same or similar exercises, you are doing them at the different point in your life. So, my ability to squat now is different than when I was 18, which is different than it was when I was 35, and it will be different when I am 60. So my fitness journey to me is not just a matter of putting more weight on a bar or being able to do more, although I think we all want to do that because it is nice to progress, but I am different person than I will be in a few years. You are constantly changing, both physically and mentally, and your fitness kind of goes along with that.
BREAKTHROUGH: Yes! When I show up to my training practice today, I have to be willing to meet that person rather than think about who I was last time, even if the program is the same. So, you are right, it is constantly changing and even though the moves are the same, I am not the same. There is always something to learn.
MATT: Yeah, exactly. So that is what I really appreciate about it.
BREAKTHROUGH: Well, this is great! I really appreciate you sharing all this cool stuff with us!
MATT: Awesome! Thank you!