This month we were honored to host a workout with local athlete and trainer, Jeremy Kaufmann.
As a personal trainer Jeremy Kaufmann is certified with the American Council on Exercise. Additionally, Jeremy is an SGX Spartan trainer. SGX trainers are required to demonstrate a subscription to a healthy lifestyle, ability to motivate, and, have the skills to train clients at all fitness levels. Furthermore, SGX training focuses on building functional mental and physical strength in a manner that not only positively impacts one’s athletics, but, also transfers into daily life. As an athlete Jeremy has competed at the highest level, competing in the 2016 Obstacle Course Racing World Championship. (https://www.captainkaufmann.com/)
At Couch Potato Strong we strive to provide applicable health advice directly from people living the healthy lifestyle. During our workout we discussed training philosophy, mental attitude, and practical fitness advice for the average person. Instead of transcribing the entire 14 minute interview, the following is a summary of the best advice from the segment. The entire interview is available for viewing at (Click Here)
When asked what motivates him to compete, Jeremy explained that he grew up in a large family with several brothers. Jeremy is the second youngest of six brothers.
“For my entire childhood, I was basically in competition every day of my life.”
Jeremy’s brothers consistently challenged one another. This consistent challenge motivated the brothers to push each other, and, themselves to reach higher-levels of fitness than they likely would have in a different environment. Creating a positive rivalry means having a friend, spouse, or family member that is willing to enter a friendly competition with you. Having a friendly competition encourages you to push yourself, to push your friend, and, to have someone to share the journey with.
At Couch Potato Strong we are a small family group of two brothers and their nephew. We aim to motivate and encourage one another to meet training goals and consistently improve. Though we are not all the same strength level, we find ways to compete. One method for doing this is most reps with 40% of your personal max weight. Without a challenge (personal goal, rivalry, etc…) working out is aimless, and, often results in much lower levels of dedication and commitment.
When asked what his current athletic goal was, Jeremy explained that all competitions have pretty much ceased since the start of the global pandemic six-months ago. Therefore, his primary fitness goals are focused on simply staying competitive and healthy. The global pandemic has brought forth quite a bit of challenges that make it difficult to consistently workout. Not only have all competitions ceased, gyms are closed, and, home equipment is suffering massive shortages and price gouging.
In order to stay healthy and competitive during the pandemic, Jeremy has organized small friendly competitions with groups of under 10 people. These safe competitions are focused more on camaraderie and friends working out than on winning. These competitions are something Jeremy intends to continue even after the pandemic has ended.
When asked about his greatest injury, Jeremy described an injury feared throughout the athletic world. Specifically, Jeremy described tearing his anterior cruciate ligatment (also known as the ACL). The ACL is a key ligament for knee stabilization. ACL tears can be career enders, and, for Jeremy it was.
While playing soccer during the summer heading into his senior year of high-school, Jeremy kicked the ball with great force, hyper-extending his leg in the process. As a young athlete of only 16, he didn’t think much of it. He played three more soccer games that summer, and, ran his personal best (at the time) 5-mile race. After the 5-mile run, his knee was a swollen purple mess.
A shoe in for college, with dreams of playing in the pros, Jeremy found himself on the side-line. An over six-month layoff led to decreased skills, conditioning, and, perhaps worst of all, missed opportunity. This injury came at a rough time in Jeremy’s life, he missed the opportunity to play college soccer; however, he still had that competitive nature.
In search to scratch the competitive itch, Jeremy stumble upon obstacle course racing. Ultimately, this would lead to a new athletic career for Jeremy. Fortunately, at the time of his injury, Jeremy’s twin older brothers were also interested in obstacle course racing; and, with that, Jeremy found a new opportunity for training. The three trained together for next few years, and, the results speak for themselves.
Obstacle Course Racing
Jeremy took to obstacle course racing like a fish to water.
“Finding obstacle course racing has been a blessing, because, I love it”.
In 2016 Jeremy qualified for the Obstacle Racing World Championship (not just in his age group, but, also in the pro-level group). The Championship was held in Blue Mountain Canada. Upon entering the competition, Jeremy opted to compete in the pro-level heat. This particular elite-level heat included 300 athletes from 45 different countries. In the end Jeremy completed the race with a time that put him in the top 25% of finishers. Not only did he manage that great finish in 2016, he continued to compete at that level; and, still competes at the elite-level today.
The 54-mile run
Speaking of elite-level, this past May Jeremy completed a 54mile run in under 12-hours. Jeremy and a team of five others set out to run the 30-mile Wild Wood trail at Forest Park (Portland, OR). This trail runs the entire distance of the park. Jeremy had parked his car at the start, and, another runner in the group had a car parked at the finish. The intention for the group was to run the 30-miles and return to the start in a vehicle; however, Jeremy had a different goal in mind.
With a desire to push his limits, Jeremy decided that instead of taking the vehicle back to the start he would run a shorter (24-mile) trail that would return him to the start (the Leaf Erickson trail). Prior to this run, Jeremy had completed the Wild Wood trail; however, he had never run further. This was uncharted territory.
“I’m doing this, my car is at the other end.”
Jeremy had an opportunity to finish his run after 30-miles. In order to keep going, he had to dig deep and find a reason to push himself. Jeremy had a personal goal of completing a 50-mile run; and, he made this goal a priority. Ultimately, Jeremy accomplished this goal by not only being determined; but, by also being smart.
“I had the friend there, which helped”.
Jeremy had a friend he knew could run marathon distance meet him at the start of his 24-mile return run. This was a crucial as it allowed Jeremy to focus on completing the run without having to worry about what might happen if his body gave out. Whenever you are pushing yourself beyond your known limits, it is critical you have a spotter with you for safety.
Setting the Pace
In addition to having a spotter, Jeremy also set a pace he knew he could handle for the entire 54-miles. His pace for the run was a little over 12.5 minutes a mile. Setting a proper pace was key to Jeremy’s success; and, a lesson he imparts on his clients.
“There’s so many people who say they couldn’t do a 5k, or they couldn’t do a half-marathon, or they couldn’t do a marathon; and, my biggest thing to them is, you can. It’s just about what pace you’re willing to set… If you know you can’t run a 5 minute mile, why are you sprinting and then walking, and sprinting then walking? Do a 12 minute mile… It’s totally possible to walk a marathon in a day. So, if you want to do a marathon, go do it.”
During the last 5-miles of Jeremy’s run, he realized he was going to hit his 50-mile goal. Upon realizing this, Jeremy’s worries disappeared, and his automatic responses took over.
“The brain shut off, and the legs just went. It felt like I was flying, it felt so good.”
The sensation of flying is not something your average couch potato will likely associate with working out; however, it’s very important to understand. As bodies become more condition to exercise (as with any action) less is required from the mind. The actions needed to complete the task/lift become automatic, and happen without thought. This allows the mind to simply exist like a calm sponge absorbing stimuli without producing thought.
These benefits are not something unique to trained athletes, everyone can improve their mood, focus, memory, and overall mental cognition through exercise. As we become more conditioned to exercise our bodies begin to release higher levels of endorphins when we push ourselves physically. Endorphins help to mask our perception of pain, thus, this process is a necessary, universal, and, automatic response to exercise.
High levels of endorphins are also released when eating a beloved food, or being intimate with a beloved partner. Thus, it is worth understanding, with consistent exercise, one will begin to have a much more enjoyable experience when working out. It is important to understand the personal benefits gained through consistent exercise.
To gain the personal benefits of exercise, one must cultivate an internal desire to improve. It is great to have a group, like we do at Couch Potato Strong; but, there will always be times when schedules do not coordinate. When this happens you must encourage yourself to stay healthy and keep improving. You can’t do this for someone else, you have to do it for yourself.
“Don’t do it for someone else, do it because you want to do it.”
“It has to be you saying I want to get fit, I want this.”
Pushing the limits
When asked his current athletic goal, in addition to simply wanting to stay healthy, Jeremy described an 80-mile trail without a current official time for running. I imagine it’s because very few people desire to run 80-miles, nonetheless, this goal is awesome! It shows Jeremy is consistently testing his limits. The sports of Spartan and obstacle course racing are tough sports that test not only one’s physical limits, but one’s mental limits as well. In a sport like Spartan, it is important to have a coach that understands what reaching one’s limit feels like and looks like. A coach can’t train athletes to push themselves, if that coach doesn’t understand all aspects involved with physical exertion.
We started the workout with a strongman medley. Events featured were 10-inch bmx bicycle, 134lb atlas stone, 100lb duck walk, 150lb yoke, 50lb slosh pipe, 130lb arm over arm pull, and 460lb tire flip. Several of the events were new to Jeremy, but he attacked the course clocking in a time roughly 30-seconds faster than anyone at the Couch Potato Garage.
After the medley, Jeremy challenged Addam to the 181ft course. Addam was to run the course with the 100lb loadable Husafell stone; and, Jeremy was to match Addam’s time with a 120lb natural stone. Addam managed a time of 20.03 seconds. Jeremy, (after taking a tumble, and resetting) managed a time of 18.33 seconds! With this feat, Jeremy claimed the stone in his name!
Jeremy then challenged us to a 1-minute power-jack contest. This was a fun challenge where we performed as many power-jacks as possible in 1-minute while carrying a 40lb slambag across our shoulders. Though the weight wasn’t much, this challenge was quite exhausting. Addam managed 46, Frank, 47, and Jeremy 52.
We played around with the bag over bar, and did some no hang exercises with different grip tools; however, it was the no hang with the Golden Potato that interested Jeremy. The Golden Potato is the sole apparatus in the gym with records attached, thus, Jeremy’s competitive nature told him to take on the potato lift. Jeremy managed a Golden Potato lift of 116.4lbs (22lb above the previous record).
After smashing the Golden Potato lift record, Jeremy ask us what we wanted to try out. We informed him that we had yet to try out our new truck-pull harness. With that, we set out pulling a 2-ton Jeep. Jeremy, and three spuds each pulled the Jeep 250ft. This was a fun challenge for all of us, as none of us had much experience in vehicle pull.
When asked what advice Jeremy had for the average person trying to get healthy, he said the most important thing is to simply try a form of fitness that interests you.
“There are so many different fitness avenues, pick one. If it doesn’t work out, try another one.”
Fitness should be a fun activity. If a fitness program is not fun, it is very easy to quit. At Couch Potato Strong we do strongman events a couple of days per week because we grew up watching the World’s Strongest Man every year on Christmas (up until about 10 years ago the show traditionally aired on Christmas). We enjoy performing the same feats we watched our idols perform.
In addition to having fun, Jeremy suggests taking a step back and realizing that working out doesn’t have to be a serious competitive venture. To be healthy you simply need to consistently engage in physical activity. Find a fitness avenue you enjoy, and, stick with it
“It’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, don’t stop.”
The primary focus of our workout with Jeremy Kaufmann was fun. We pushed ourselves while having a great time. In the weeks following this workout, Jeremy sent us a couple of neat challenges to try, a hand-written thank you card, scheduled a second workout with us, and, invited use to checkout his obstacle course training center.
Rather you’re just trying to get in shape, or, you want to be the next American Ninja Warrior, Jeremy will help you get there; and, make sure you have fun while doing so. We were honored to workout with Jeremy. He is a positive influence who is passionate about his craft; and, about helping others. So, if you want to up your skills and consider competing in obstacle courses, or, you just want to learn more about getting fit, check out (https://www.captainkaufmann.com/).
Take care, and, keep moving.
Couch Potato Strong
Kaufmann, J. (2020). Among the stones. Couch Potato Strong. https://youtu.be/njho0fQBM5Y