Falling in love with obstacle course racing, Specificity training, Why CrossFit is not so functional, Sterilized training, The power of belief, and more.
Guest: Kevin Gillotti
Kevin Gillotti is an insanely fit 48 year old with an unmatched mindset. An elite racer for almost 30 years in both duathlons (running and biking) and obstacle course racing (OCR).
Kevin was introduced to duathlons in college and almost won his first race. He then went on to become a 8 time confirmed All-American with USAT (duathlon), has been on numerous USAT Duathlon World Championship teams, and has won most of the North County-based duathlon races for the past 20 years.
Kevin now focuses on OCRs in the Spartan Race series and is already ranked 12th overall in the Elite NBC Series, second overall in the USA Elite Division and the West Region Division for his age, and fourth overall in the world Elite division for his age.
In this episode, we learn about Kevin’s unshakable self-belief, which helped him overcome a rough accident, why he doesn’t believe in lifting heavy and how he approaches his training, why being brutally honest has hurt his past relationships, and much more.
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Falling in love with obstacle course racing
Kevin Gillotti discovered his passion for racing at his first duathlon race almost 30 years ago. A friend invited him to a race and he ended up almost winning it without much intention or training. On that day, Gillotti decided he’s going to be racing for the rest of his life and moved against all odds from Iowa to San Diego, CA.
Besides becoming an elite duathlon racer, Kevin doesn’t like to be a one trick pony and does many things, including archery, competitive shooting, graphic design, and more. He even came up with a hashtag to show his intentions: #BeSkilledAtManyThings.
Today, Kevin is very involved with Spartan Race, which he was introduced to by a friend in 2011. His friend called it a mud run then, and even though it was nothing like a mud run, Kevin fell in love again.
“It was nothing like a mud run… It was the Joe De Sena Effect. It really was like chaos. It wasn’t well organized, but you could see the picture he was going for. So it was easy for me to jump on board and see that kind of future he was looking at, but just knowing it was a rough raw stage at that point, but at least I could see what his plan was.” — Kevin Gillotti
When Kevin was studying for his Master’s degree in Sports Psychology at San Diego State University, he learned about a concept called Specificity. For him, it essentially meant ‘train how you are going to race.’
Once Kevin learned about specificity, he realized he has been doing it his entire career. He has always trained solely for races. When he trains, he’s always moving like he would in a race. He doesn’t do squats, pressing, or anything statically, he does everything to help OCR.
Kevin’s training usually incorporates light to medium weight weightlifting exercises sandwiched between runs and sprints. Even though he likes CrossFit and trains at a crossfit gym, he doesn’t believe in heavy weights, else in strength to weight ratio. He strives to be as light as he can and as strong as can be.
Why CrossFit is not so functional
When Greg Glassman originally created CrossFit he did it with intention to focus on 10 general physical skills: Strength. Stamina. Endurance. Flexibility. Power. Speed. Coordination. Agility. Balance. Accuracy. These ten words describe the predominant characteristics of almost any activity you are likely to encounter, and therefore your capability in each describes your fitness.
Today, the expression of Crossfit today over emphasizes a few principles out of 10 neglecting specifically balance, coordination and accuracy work in favor of lifting heavy weights all the time.
Kevin doesn’t believe in the value of lifting 400–500 lb. It doesn’t really happen in real life. He trains for realistic life scenarios, like lifting 50 lb. overhead on a ladder, as he might want to place something heavy on a high shelf in the future.
Pro tip: Avoid injuries by training a variety of stuff and avoiding heavy repetition of the same movement .
The typical gym environment today is very sterilized. People train on flat floors, using straight bars, and everything is even. Real life scenarios though don’t offer though, which is why you need to diversify your training by adding unevenness and misbalance for example.
If you’re competing at Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, or CrossFit, then those squats, presses, etc. are the movements you want to train. But otherwise, you want to diversify your training as much as possible. In the future we will have more asymmetrical training.
Your core strength is your resilience.
When you see people lifting heavy ass deadlifts on Instagram with rounded backs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have bad, misinformed form. On the contrary, their core strength is so dialed in that they can do a rounded back deadlift and all kinds of things that look funny.
“I don’t believe there is bad movement. My only concern is… People have been sitting for a long time and their breathing gets fucked up, and so their diaphragm doesn’t expand very well, and not only that, but they use their breath to stabilize their spine during movement. So they’re holding their breath and they’re moving and that’s problematic because they don’t know how to stabilize their spine without creating abdominal pressure… It doesn’t matter how weight they’re doing. I can watch someone walking and I go: ‘Hmm their diaphragm in the right side is a little tight’… No movement is wrong if you can stabilize your spine.” — Mike Bledsoe
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The power of belief
In 2001, Kevin was hit by a truck that was going 70 MPH while riding a bicycle. The truck threw him 60 feet, he broke his back in two places, his left arm and his left leg. He had two blood transfusions to help him survive and spent three weeks in the hospital, two of which in the ICU (24 hour care).
After his accident, doctors told him Kevin he’d never be racing again. However, Kevin never approached life thinking he’s in the median group, he always believed he’s an outlier. He even told his doctors they didn’t know who they were dealing with.
He Spent a year in rehab and had his back fused, but he still does all kinds of physical things. He fights discomfort everyday, but he feels blessed to be alive. His mindset allowed him to the fittest he’s ever been post accident.
Belief is a huge part of recovery.
Today, it’s common practice for doctors to tell patients they won’t be able to fully recover from many incidents because they want to cover their ass. Unfortunately, it’s a huge disservice to people, as it sucks out hope, which literally handicaps people. Belief is something we need to fully maximize our recovery capabilities and general life capabilities.
Do you carry the fire?
As a kid, Kevin was very influenced by the movie “The Road”. One sentence in particular spoke to him and was imprinted in his mind:
“Do you carry the fire? The fire to survive. The fire to be a good person. The fire to keep moving forward no matter what happens to you.” — The Road
Kevin was raised in a typical, old school American-Italian family. He was put through hard work, planning, suffering, etc. Even though he didn’t appreciate it when he was young, that path made him resilient and today he’s grateful for the parenting he received.
His father made him work at his construction business and as the boss’s son he got no breaks. He did the lowest jobs, shoveling out dirt and cleaned poop out of the sewer. His family didn’t give him a leg in this world, else work ethic. In high school, he was waking at 4am and worked 10 hour workdays in construction while his friends were partying.
“Most people don’t know what they’re made of they don’t believe in themselves… You need to fail, you have to fail, and failing is a good thing. But unfortunately, now people don’t want to fail and people don’t want to let other people fail. Everybody is supposed to win, everybody is supposed to get a medal.” — Kevin Gillotti
Living his true self
Everything that Kevin does in life, he does with the same intensity as racing. He gives his 100% every time and doesn’t half-ass anything. The only thing he keeps failing in at life is relationships.
Kevin is a no bullshit kind of man, but in relationships, it doesn’t always work. He says things in very uncoated ways that don’t resonate with people very well. He’s very honest and upfront about who he is, and sometimes people can accept it in the beginning, but stuff usually goes south after a while.
When things go south, Kevin always looks for ways to improve. He has married before and been in a 10 year relationship. He isn’t bitter or angry about his ex and will never say anything bad about her, he only focuses on the what can he improve and is grateful for how it made him a 10x better person.