Gardner Was Fit But Miserable
At 31 he had a lean, muscular physique from years as a competitive triathlete. And even though a demanding office job had cut deep into his training time he could probably still outrun, out-cycle, and out-swim 99% of people.
But under the surface things were rough.
“I was sore all the time,” said Gardner. “And I just did not have a functional body outside of those specific sports of running and cycling and swimming.” But the problems went even deeper than that.
“I recognized that I didn’t even like what I was doing,” he said. “I felt like it was something I had dedicated myself to and I just felt like that’s what I should do.”
Something had to change.
He tried CrossFit, yoga, and just about everything in between. “But,” he said, “my approach to fitness was still: How many calories am I burning? Is this going to build muscles? Is this going to keep me lean?”
That’s when he remembered our Elements program, which he had picked up while bouncing from one thing to the next. Elements is our take on “the basics,” designed to help you shore up your athletic foundation so you can move easier and better in everything you do.
Gardner was worried that it wouldn’t be challenging enough for him. But he liked the focus on quality of movement instead of sets and reps. And he was intrigued by the GMB Method and its promise to help him improve his functional strength, mobility, and body control.
“I thought, well, this seems like what I’ve been missing,” he said. “So I committed to doing it.”
As soon as he started the program he noticed his deep squat improving. And not long after that he nailed his first ever tuck handstand “without even trying.” But what really blew him away was his improvement in body awareness and control, which helped him go from seeing training as a chore that he “should” do, to something he can’t wait to do.
Here’s how he describes it:
At first glance, Gardner might not seem like an ideal candidate for our “introductory” program. Especially since beginner fitness programs are usually geared for people with low strength, low endurance, and low flexibility.
None of those describe Gardner.
But he still got great results from Elements. Let’s look at how that happened.
For some people even the first variations of the exercises in Elements are quite challenging. But for Gardner they were mostly easy.
“A-frame, floating tabletops… I know I can already do that,” he said. “And one of the ways that I’ve really sabotaged myself in the past is by jumping ahead.”
But instead of skipping to something more challenging like he’d always done before, Gardner decided to slow down and follow the program.
We’ll let him explain what happened next:
“There are cues in those early assessments that become invaluable down the road. One of my major breakthroughs to sticking a tuck handstand for the first time ever towards the end of Elements related to the floating tabletop that was discussed in week one. And that was one of the reasons why I’ve never gotten it before, because I didn’t understand the intricacies of the engagement all the way through your core.
“And I never would have gotten that if I hadn’t watched those videos all the way through, listened to the cues, and actually paid attention to what I was doing, as opposed to just kind of going through the motions.”
If you want different results you have to try a different approach.
For Gardner that meant breaking his habit of skipping over the beginning steps he thought he already knew how to do. Instead of rushing to the next progression, he looked closely at the details of each movement, finding subtle nuances that kept him focused. Bringing a beginner’s mind to even the simplest exercises built mastery and control at every step.
“Of all the mobility that’s required for this program, the thing that is the most challenging for me is getting into a comfortable deep squat,” Gardner said. “My hips are a little bound up so it makes it hard for me to be comfortable down there.”
That tightness showed up right away in the Frogger movement, since it transitions through the deep squat position over and over.
“I was feeling really claustrophobic through the movement,” he said.
“But through sheer, mindful repetition, it slowly got better. And then to sit at the bottom in a deep squat and realize that your chest is fully up and down and you’re not hunched around over your knees, it was pretty amazing.”
But the benefits of his Frogger practice didn’t stop there.
Next he moved on to the High Frogger, where you bring your hips up higher than your shoulders, and then lower back down to your squat.
“There were times where I could jump basically into a tuck handstand and hold it for a second and slowly lower my feet,” he said. “But that was like once in a four or five tries and it was a little bit out of control.”
Instead of being satisfied with a sloppy movement, Gardner pulled back to focus on quality. Here’s what he says happened:
“But I discovered that if I lifted up just 5 or 10 degrees short of being fully vertical, even though it didn’t necessarily hold in the top position, I was super under control the whole way through. And then I could kind of slow motion bring everything down into the squat with my feet right behind my hands.
“And let me tell you what, that feels like magic.
“When you think about the ability to go from being able to do the basic Frogger but really not have it feel good, to suddenly be able to go through one of the more advanced variations in a way that feels 100% under control the entire time and feel solid—I mean wrists feel solid over hands, shoulders feel solid over wrists, hips feel solid over shoulders, and just all the way down—it’s pretty remarkable.”
One of our Trainers saw a video of Gardner’s High Frogger and commented, “Silky smooth.”
When one exercise in a program feels tougher than the rest, it’s easy to rush through that one to get to the ones you feel good at. Gardner did the opposite.
He slowed down and focused his attention on the Frogger. By putting in the mindful repetitions he developed a strong, comfortable deep squat. And that became his base for a whole new level of skillful control in his body, even in inverted positions that were new to him.
Before Elements, Gardner had never completed a training program from start to finish. “I mean, I get into it a couple weeks, I get bored, I get distracted by the next shiny thing, and I jump to that,” he said. “And I tell you what, I hit last day of Elements and I was a little bit disappointed that it was over.”
But what he learned by completing Elements completely shifted his approach to training going forward. Here’s how he describes it:
“The biggest benefit for me, 100% without question, was introducing me to a much healthier attitude about training and about quality movement.
“I mean, this was what I needed to finally banish the whole: How many calories does this burn or which muscles does this work? Is this going to work my biceps? Is this going to work my abs? All the crazy things that I was so preoccupied with for so long.
“And also, it reaffirmed for me what I want out of my training. And for me, I want to be able to run around the playground for two hours with my nephew and wear him out. I mean, that’s the kind of capacity and functionality that I want for myself now and for forever. And if I hadn’t gone through Elements and really immersed myself in that, I’m not sure I ever would have gotten to that place.
“I’m a little bit disappointed that it took me 32 years to get to this place. But at the same time, I think at some level, you have to have an amount of maturity to appreciate what this approach to training is really about and be able to get the most out of it.”
That new approach is showing up regularly in his current training.
“I’m moving on to lots of other things now,” said Gardner. “And I find myself utilizing the things I learned in Elements to maintain control. I even seem to learn new movements faster.”
As an example he mentioned the Snake Down movement in our Vitamin program.
“That’s something I had seen people do before and I thought it was terrifying,” he said. “I’m going to land on my face and break my neck!”
But using the skills and principles he learned in Elements he was able to try it safely. “And it took two or three tries to get the timing right but then I nailed it,” he said. “I absolutely nailed it. I was a little bit shocked. And I think a lot of that has to do with the enhanced body awareness that this kind of training program creates.”
That enhanced awareness of his body’s capabilities extends outside his training, too.
“The whole world becomes a playground,” said Gardner. “And I don’t know that I would have ever found that. I don’t know if I would have ever developed that appreciation had I not come back to Elements and really embraced it.”
His advice for people like him—athletes with high “fitness” who are looking for something more—sums it up nicely:
“You’ll feel such a profound shift in what you appreciate about this sort of a movement practice, that everything else will just seem linear and predictable. I mean, you will feel stronger. You will improve your mobility. But what’s really going to change is the way that you perceive what your body is for and what the world around you presents in terms of opportunities for moving that body.
“It feels so good that it doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything to make time for training.
“If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself goofing around on the floor doing this stuff when you’re waiting for the oven to preheat at dinner time after work, or monkeying around on the floor with your kids. So, that kind of unleashing all of the different ways that your body can move, you’re not going to get that anywhere else.
“And if you’re anything like me, you’ll never go back.”
Before Elements, Gardner was on the verge of burnout from chasing metrics: How fast? How heavy? How many calories? Elements showed him how to slow down and pay attention to movement quality. It helped improve his mobility. And it taught him how to control his whole body more skillfully, which gave him access to more movement options.
So now instead of burning out, Gardner has a whole new approach to training—one he actually enjoys and looks forward to on a daily basis.
We often encourage our clients to “practice the basics as if they were advanced.” Gardner is a great example of what happens when you do.
Even if you’re already quite strong and fit, everyone has gaps in their capabilities and in their experience of what’s actually possible with their bodies.
Elements is designed to fill those gaps and strengthen the roots of your athletic performance. It improves your strength, flexibility, and motor control simultaneously, so your results are immediately applicable in all your activities.
So if you want to fill the gaps in your body’s foundation and move with more confidence and enjoyment in everything you do, get started on Elements today.
Elements will help you fix your mobility issues and develop athletic coordination and control that translate to better, more skillful movement in all your activities.
The funny thing about it is that you guys bill it as an introductory program, but I think almost anyone could benefit. I've been working out fairly regularly for years and am in pretty good shape by most people's standards but am getting huge benefits from Elements. I can basically hang out in a deep squat now, forward folds are easy, I can now briefly hold an unsupported handstand solely due to the high frogger and monkey.
I saw some comments on a Reddit thread at one point about it being too basic, but after having gone through it myself I'd bet money that those people saying it was too basic would have changed their tune if they'd stuck with it for the first couple of weeks.
After getting hurt a few times in his early 30s, James started training with GMB and eventually joined the team. He’s since graduated from our Trainer Apprenticeship and helped a lot of people understand how to use our programs to make their lives better.
If you’ve clicked around our site a bit you’ve read stuff he’s written.