Dr. Matt Smith, DC, CES, is a sports chiropractor, strength coach, and founder of EverAthlete – an online training, recovery, and injury rehabilitation platform for adventure athletes. Matt grew up in San Jose, California and received his doctorate at Palmer West Chiropractic College, graduating valedictorian of his class. He has spent the past 15 years in the fitness and injury rehabilitation field. During that time, he has served as a trusted rehab consultant and coach to professional athletes, Olympians, high school and collegiate athletes, and weekend warriors looking to improve their health and performance.
Outside of the athletic realm, Matt has served as a primary fitness and health consultant to some of the largest companies in Silicon Valley. Matt’s diverse professional background has provided a unique vantage point for helping outdoor enthusiasts improve their performance and create longevity to their journey in sport and health. Matt spends his days working with clients 1-on-1 and working with The EverAthlete Team to build out meaningful programs on The EverAthlete Training Platform.
He currently lives in Santa Cruz, CA with his wife and spends his free time surfing, mountain biking, and running through the trails in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains.
“We have to remember that life off the bike contributes to life on the bike. So if we don’t function well as a human and don’t have high physical capacity, and motor skills off the bike, we get injured off the bike, that reduces our ability to actually perform on the bike. So there’s multiple ways that you can approach that, I think, generally, it’s a really great thing for people. It’s certainly something that has diminishing returns to a point. We certainly don’t want to turn someone whose ultimate goal is to compete in cycling, we don’t want to turn them into a powerlifter. I think the genesis or the introduction of strength training to the aerobic and endurance communities has largely been through that vantage point of the historical introduction through the power lifting realm, which I think has been refined and revisited over the years. And I think the ultimate goal, again, is not to turn people into power lifters. That’s not the point at all. It’s more so to do things like build functional strength in the body, but also build motor skills, build stability, build improved proprioception, and core strength. All these things contribute to your activation and capabilities on the bike, but also off the bike as well.”– Dr. Matt Smith, DC, CES
- Strength training is more than just for sports performance
- Injury prevention
- Addressing fear of bulking up
- How often should you strength train?
- Defining core work
- The important of the breath in the core
- What is Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization?
- The evolution of EverAthlete
Learn more about the EverAthlete programs
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Sonya Looney: Matt, welcome to the show.
Dr. Matt Smith: Thanks so much for having me. I’m stoked to be here.
Sonya: Yeah, I’ve seen you on video so much. And before we turn the microphone on, I told you that my soreness today is attributed to you.
Matt: That’s something that I hear quite a bit these days. I’m so stoked that you’re doing the program and jumping in with the stability program with ride strong.
Sonya: And you know, it’s funny, being sore is actually kind of satisfying. And I know that there’s varying levels of soreness and soreness that’s okay, and that kind of thing. I’ll just jump right in with strength work, because I actually don’t know the answer to this. How much soreness is okay and how much is not okay?
Matt: That is a question with many answers. I think it really depends on what your goal is. So it’s all relative to what you’re trying to do. So for you, I would imagine, the primary goal is being on the bike. And generally speaking, when it comes to someone who’s very concentrated aerobically and are looking to perform either on the bike or running, we don’t want a level of soreness post strength that will impede those workouts. So it is totally fine, soreness is a sign of adaptation. But generally speaking, like 24 hours of soreness, at most 48, is totally fine. But it shouldn’t be soreness to a degree that it does not allow you to do your aerobic workouts. And that’s kind of a framework that we try and promote quite a bit through everAthlete is that the primary goal is not necessarily strength work, we leverage strength work as a tool to allow us to perform better in our outdoor pursuits, whether it’s mountain biking, or trail running, or open water, swimming, or whatever it may be. The soreness that you get from a strength training workout should be mild to moderate, and still allow you to continue in stride with your normal aerobic training.
Sonya: Yeah, I agree with that 100 percent. And I think that one of the reasons I have been hesitant in the past to get into strength work is because I didn’t want to be just doing things that were going to make me so sore that I couldn’t ride my bike. So I guess I could preface saying that my pecs are sore to be more specific, which today I’m doing a trainer workout. So that’s going to be pretty much zero when it comes to riding the trainer. I want to kind of start with a few questions that people have asked me over the years and they say, should I be doing strength work? I’m an endurance athlete, should I be doing strength work? And if so, why?
Matt: Yeah, this is a very often asked question, I think especially right now, strength training has really become a part of the endurance community’s conversation in a way that I don’t think it has been in the past. And I think to answer it directly, I’ve centered my whole business around helping people prepare better for endurance athletics, by using the tool of strength training. And it can certainly be one that is super valuable on multiple fronts. One is, if we’re looking just at if we’re just speaking about cycling, for example, since I would imagine a lot of people listening, this podcast probably spent some time on the bike, strength training can be leveraged certainly for power output. So there are things that you can do to improve your power output when you’re off the bike. Strength training is one of them, which is kind of a simple thing, right. But beyond that, I think, especially for cycling, strength training is really valuable from an injury prevention perspective, where if you can maintain a consistent routine off the bike that helps you counteract some of the adaptations that your body has to many hours on the bike, I think there’s certainly an interesting element of promoting more longevity to your journey on the bike through that. I think a lot of people lose sight of the fact that when they’re on the bike, it is a seated position, even though you’re working aerobically. It’s very similar to sitting at a desk, right, in terms of the physiology that occurs in your hips and lower back and overall your spine. And so using a cross training routine or an athletic development routine off the bike can be a really valuable thing to counteracting some of the negative things that can come from those adaptations that your body goes through. We often preach about the fact that gym routines can not only build better symmetry in your body, but they can also activate areas that become deactivated on the bike like your glutes, your posterior chain, all these different things that are very valuable not only for the bike, but also contribute to normal human life, which I think in terms of the conversation around strength training for endurance athletes, particularly cyclists, we sometimes forget that the focal point of that conversation is will this make me better on the bike. Which I think there’s an argument for certainly, I would make that argument. But also, we have to remember that life off the bike contributes to life on the bike. So if we don’t function well as a human and don’t have high physical capacity, and motor skills off the bike, we get injured off the bike, that reduces our ability to actually perform on the bike. So there’s multiple ways that you can approach that, I think, generally, it’s a really great thing for people. It’s certainly something that has diminishing returns to a point. We certainly don’t want to turn someone whose ultimate goal is to compete in cycling, we don’t want to turn them into a powerlifter. I think the genesis or the introduction of strength training to the aerobic and endurance communities has largely been through that vantage point of the historical introduction through the power lifting realm, which I think has been refined and revisited over the years. And I think the ultimate goal, again, is not to turn people into power lifters. That’s not the point at all. It’s more so to do things like build functional strength in the body, but also build motor skills, build stability, build improved proprioception, and core strength. All these things contribute to your activation and capabilities on the bike, but also off the bike as well.
Sonya: Yeah, I think that longevity piece is something that is probably on a lot of people’s minds. And it’s certainly been on my mind. And strength training was something that I would say, yeah, I’ll get to it later. I’ll just do it later. And then I started thinking about, well, what kind of athlete do I want to be when I’m 60, 70, 80? And I still want to be an athlete when I’m 60, 70, 80. And I think that a lot of people listening that use their bodies a lot, there’s recurring injuries that happen repeatedly, and you go to the physio, or the chiropractor, or the massage therapist, or whatever have you, and you work on that acute issue, and then you do the things and then it’s gone. And then you just get right back to your old habits again, and that isn’t actually helping the problem. And that is only going to get worse as you get older. So something that I thought was really cool is when I started that stability program, a lot of the things in there were things that have been given to me by my chiropractor or my physio over the years to work on things like a mobile, thoracic spine, or glute strength, or your shoulders are tight lats or all these different things. And I think the hardest thing about strength training for people is doing it. Everybody thinks probably, oh, I should do it. But then there’s decision fatigue, well, what should I do? Because you mentioned this powerlifting realm and like, what do I need for my sport? And then there’s this, you know, knowing contemplating this thing, but then actually doing it and doing it consistently, as you said.
Matt: Yeah, and I think, to your point, everyone on staff had ever athlete is either a sports chiropractor, or physical therapist. And when we started building out our online programs, it was all…and actually, even before that, when we were doing in person group training, and our one on one training with different athletes, the epicenter of all that is injury prevention, before performance. And so one of the questions that we’ve tried to answer through those programs is, how can we impact someone’s training and health journey before they run into pain, before they run into an injury or if a high performance athlete is looking to maintain their body, like how do we impact that before the event ever becomes an issue? And the primary way that we believe in is teaching people to move well, and load their body in effective ways, and teach them how to do that from that vantage point of hey, this strength work the end goal is not to just be better in the gym, the end goal is to improve your overall function and movement and an ability to handle load. And so you’ll see a lot of the exercises that we prescribe we view performance is on the same page. It’s on the same spectrum as physical therapy or rehab, right. And so it’s all it should all run… rehab should run towards training and vice versa. And so we try to marry the two and integrate the same concepts at different areas of the spectrum, but try and keep those themes the same whether you’re doing strength training for performance, or you’re rehabbing an injury, it should all be kind of in the same ballpark, right. And so a lot of those programs will integrate the same kinds of exercises with maybe a little bit more load or a little bit of a different stimulus than what you would experience in a rehab setting. And it’s simply because the things that work in rehab are also things that should integrate into your strength training journey, because they generally will help keep your body prepared for the goals and outdoor activities that you’re really pursuing. And so the themes of our programs are to help athletes move better, so that they can continue on in their journey of performance or whatever they’re looking for. And so yeah, I think for us, and I think that this contributes to the discussion about strength training overall, is not all strength training, I think in the endurance community, the question is often asked is, like you asked, is strength training, something that I should do? Is this good for me? And it’s like the conversation about nutrition. Not all nutritional plans or diet plans are created equal, right? And so I mean, there are plenty of strength routines that I would not recommend for people. And we’ve tried to construct some simple ways and frameworks for people to integrate in strength training that we think is very helpful in regards to building the body overall, without taking away from the actual goal of it all, which is the pursuit of outdoor activities.
Sonya: Yeah, I think something people think about a lot is building muscle or building physique whenever they think about strength training, and then also these different types of fibers. So I mean, I’m not an expert in this area at all, so I’m probably going to miss speak, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but you know, the type two fibers versus the type one versus type one A and how those are different for a very fast, powerful movement versus like an endurance sport.
Matt: Are you asking the question?
Sonya: So I’m commenting how people tend to look at it that way. And people are afraid of building muscle, or they’re like building too much muscle or they’re afraid of converting their muscle fibers over. And I’m just curious if you can demystify that for us.
Matt: Well, I think when it comes to the aerobic athletes that I work with yeah, the concern of building too much muscle mass for their sport that will ultimately reduce their performance is a conversation that we have quite a bit. And without getting too deep into, you know, muscle fibers and these different things, usually the nutritional and aerobic component of their training, if we look at their training globally, the amount of time that they’re spending on the bike or on the trail running, and their nutritional demands with that, do not allow for major muscular development. Additionally, we tend to use sets and rep schemes that do not promote major hypertrophy, it’s more for motor recruitment and strength development, while maintaining a lean physique. So the ultimate goal and you can modify rep schemes and sets and all these different things to get a different response from the body, say you’re looking to build muscle, you can use sets and reps that would promote that far more, you can also modify your nutrition that would that would change that outcome as well. Generally, in our programs, we work on tempo work and isometrics and smaller rep schemes that don’t get that outcome. Additionally, the volume of strength work that you do contributes to that. So our programs are generally two to three days a week, which we think is the sweet spot for an aerobic athlete, and someone that’s looking to get the most out of their gym routine and their strength development without leaning into that total change in their physique. We think that a dose of strength for two days a week is really not going to give you the stimulus that would be required for major hypertrophy development. And it’s more kind of a supplement to the aerobic work that you’re doing on the bike.
Sonya: So how did you come up with the framework because on EverAthlete, you have running programs, you have cycling programs, you have triathlon programs, how did you design those frameworks? And then within those frameworks, there’s different programs like stability, strength, those types of things.
Matt: The frameworks were purely developed from high level athletes that we’ve worked with in those different disciplines. And so prior to us launching our online stuff in 2020. We started back in 2015, and I’ve worked in Strength and Conditioning for 15 years. But all of those programs are based on things that we’ve used with real athletes who perform at the highest level. And we also have worked with a very diverse group of athletes and people that largely wouldn’t even consider themselves athletes. And all the programs are based on the things that we’ve used with them. So that’s kind of the foundation that we used as our framework for those. And we’ve taken feedback from different athletes in terms of volume, and all these different things and we’ve made tweaks over time. In regards to the specificity of each program, the ride strong programs are different than the trail strong programs, which are different from the tri strong programs. And that’s largely based on the demands of the sport. The differences in terms of tissue readiness for running is very different than the tissue readiness that you need for cycling, right. You’re not taking a lot of impact on the bike in the same way that you would in a plyometric sense in running. And so we tried to respect those things and cater to those things in the different programs.
Sonya: And then I was also wondering about the upper body piece, because mountain biking is very much more upper body dominant than road cycling, which is way more upper body dominant than probably running. So how did you decide how to integrate upper body work into these programs?
Matt: How do we decide to integrate upper body work – the ride strong programs are primarily made for off road cyclists. So our vision with those was stricken from the mountain bikers that we’ve worked with and the gravel cyclists that we’ve worked with, which do have a much larger upper body demand than a road cyclist. And in terms of the volume of upper body work that we have in there, a lot of the upper body work that we build in is really core focused. And so it’s not so much to build muscle mass in the upper body, but more so build a competency of things like grip strength, things like scapular and shoulder stability. All these things are very, very important, particularly for people that are riding on trail or off road, in terms of bike handling and one of those things of failure of grip strength on the bike is a huge problem. And so a lot of the upper body loading that we do is respected to that. So it’s all geared towards improving the motor control and overall stability of the upper body, not so much to try and build muscle mass. We do use things like pull ups and that kind of stuff, which the pull up is an upper body movement, but it’s also very supportive of the lower back if it’s done well. And so we’ve integrated a lot of those upper body concepts into the larger picture of improving the connection of the upper body to the lower body through the core. And so you won’t find things like tricep pull downs, and a lot of bench press or anything like that. Most of the things that we do in regards to upper body loading require a core stability component, so that we really get the most out of the motor control of that movement, as opposed to trying to build muscle mass in the upper body.
Sonya: Yeah, as you’re mentioning that I was thinking about how a lot of times people have like distal injuries like the wrist or something like that, and you think, ih, my wrist is injured, then they’ll try and strengthen the wrist, but really, the wrist might be injured because they lack their shoulder stability or things like that. So I know this just because I’ve spent lots of time in different offices getting to know my body, but a lot of people haven’t wanted to invest that time or that money to do that. So understanding that this this whole body works as a system and that something like a wrist pain could be related to a shoulder instability. And that goes back to coming right back to all those things that you were just talking about.
Matt: 100% And I think especially on the bike, you have five points of contact, you have two pedals, the seat and then your handlebars. The upper body is very involved in cycling as much as the power generation is through the lower body and the core, the handling, the motor control, the stability on the bike, particularly when you’re off the seat, is also dictated by your stability in your shoulder and your ability to hold on and modify your position. And the competency of your ability to activate your upper body and the strength that you have there can be indicative of your overall performance and potentially help you prevent a fall or crash.
Sonya: Yeah, I was gonna mention that part next because there’s been some times on my bike where I’ve almost crash and I have caught myself, and this isn’t to say that I don’t need a lot of work and stability in my upper body. But because of the work I’ve previously done, I was able to prevent a bad crash from happening because I was way too far over the front of the bike or something like that. And I was able to catch myself because of that stability. But if you stop training that stability, or you never train it, then your risk of getting hurt worse increases dramatically.
Matt: Yeah, and there’s certainly a point of diminishing return with upper body strength work, and scapular stability work and all these different things. But to neglect it all together, I think, is definitely missing a piece of the puzzle in terms of hey, how do we maximize our time and energy spent towards progression in our passions and pursuits? In terms of cycling, I do think that the upper body certainly contributes to performance on the bike.
Sonya: And then you mentioned core work. I think a lot of people realize that core work is more than just doing crunches at this point. I remember when that became part of the conversation many, many years ago, but can you can you talk about what core work is and what is a strong core and what muscles are involved?
Matt: Yeah, so the core is, I mean, there are different definitions of this. But if we’re talking specifically about lower back stability and power generation and lower body, the core is a cylinder of muscles that wraps from the lower back around to the front side of your body. It includes muscles like your quadratus lumborum, your lats, your obliques, your rectus abdominus, your transverse abdominus, all those deep abdominal muscles. The top of the core is the diaphragm, the bottom of the core is the pelvic floor. All these muscles work as a symphony to create pressure and stability to support your lower back in various positions. I think historically, like you alluded to, crunches do create a burn on the front side of the core, but they don’t necessarily get the outcome that we would want from well-rounded core work. In regards to the way that I view core training, it largely revolves around your ability to control movement. So your ability to create stiffness through your midline, your ability to create stiffness along that cylinder to protect your lower back, but also create a stable platform for you to generate force through your upper and lower body. And you can do this a lot of different ways. The way that we generally view things and kind of the framework that we use in our programs, is we use movement patterns. So being able to resist motion forwards or backwards, being able to resist motion, or prevent motion from happening, side to side or in rotation. That’s one element of core stability. You could also train your core by generating motion in those different planes. And really, the goal is to leverage those muscles in a coordinated way to either stop or create motion, depending on what kind of training or stimulus you’re looking for. And so the core in its essence is that cylinder that wraps around the lower back to the front side of the body, creates tension and stability for the pelvis and lower back and the ribcage, and allows you not only to protect those areas, but also generate force. Beyond that, things like hip stability, the hips are highly involved and should be considered in core training as well. The glutes, the outer hip rotators, the stabilizers of the hip are humongously important in regards to core function as well. So I kind of, we can break it up into two parts, but those things really work as a major unit to do, I think, on the bike to generate force into the pedals, but also if you’re off the seat, and you’re cornering or something like that, your ability to maintain stability in odd positions, that is core function; that is stability. And I think when we look at balanced training, and proprioceptive training and all these different things, a lot of times we focus strictly on the lower body, but core function is certainly involved in those things. It’s also involved in things like dead lifting, and squatting and all these different things. Healthy core function certainly contributes to your ability to perform those in a with really good technique and also in a safe way. And so that’s kind of how I view the core. I don’t know if I fully answered your question.
Sonya: That’s a great answer. And I want to add like the importance of the breath when it comes to this entire cylinder, your diaphragm and the connection your pelvic floor and I learned a lot about that part postpartum with my first child and going to see pelvic floor physio, and I’ll put a link in the show notes for people interested in that episode, but can you talk about the breath’s importance in core work and maintaining tension and things like that?
Matt: Yeah, so like I said, the top end of that cylinder is your diaphragm, which is your primary driver of breath. So we take a breath in, in the most optimal scenario, we’re activating our diaphragm to pull down below the ribcage to create a difference in pressure in the lungs so that air can fill the lungs. The top end of that core, if it’s dysfunctional, can lead to a lot of issues, not only in terms of lower back health and core function, but it can also reduce our ability to create power and strength through the lower body. So in general, with core training, leveraging breath and being able to maintain…there’s a couple different ways that you can talk about this. Being able to maintain and hold positions while breathing is a really important piece of core strength. But also that ability to activate your diaphragm is that kind of foundational component to building a strong stable core. And I think, especially with athletes that spend a lot of time on the bike, they’re used to breathing high up into their neck. And we see this all the time in the assessments that we run with athletes one on one, they kind of lose, due to the stress of the sport, they adopt stressful breathing patterns, which use the accessory breathing muscles high up in the neck, that attach onto the top end of the ribcage to heave the ribcage up, and actually stop getting good diaphragmatic activation, particularly when they’re under duress. And so a lot of what we work with our individual clients is getting good activation of that diaphragm and kind of retraining that away from a stressful pattern into a stronger, more stable pattern using the diaphragm as that foundational piece of core tension.
Sonya: What are your thoughts on that DNS dynamic neuromuscular stabilization?
Matt: Yeah. Love it. I’ve used their stuff for a long time. And it’s very interesting stuff. For people that are not or not familiar with DNS, DNS uses kind of the fundamental development, developmental paddle patterns of infantile development, as a way of rehab. So foundational component of that is activation of the diaphragm, building that cylinder, being able to activate the cylinder, using crawling patterns and dead bug patterns, and all these different things to help people move fundamentally well, and improve their overall patterns and activation in the upper and lower body, while protecting the lower back and pelvic region. Super cool stuff. I mean, we use a ton of that, in our programs, you’ll see tons of dead bug, a lot of crawling patterns. And I think a lot of people and this goes back to that original discussion that we had about adaptations to the bike and adaptations to our normal life where we sit quite a bit, we start to devolve away from our normal functioning human being patterns, this happens, whether you’re a cyclist or not. And DNS is a fantastic school of thought and methodology to restore some of those fundamental patterns that are essential for the body to function well.
Sonya: Yeah, I always think about this whenever I see my son, he was sitting on the couch the other day, and instead of sitting on the couch, like how we sit on the couch, like lean way back, like totally kind of loose, he was sitting at the very edge of the cushion, sitting straight up, sitting perfectly like we’re supposed to be sitting. And I’m curious to watch as time goes on when his posture and the way that he moves towards devolving.
Matt: Yeah, and I would imagine, nowadays, it’ll probably be much faster than 50 years ago or 60 years ago. Yeah, it’s hard to say. I mean, I have a little niece and nephew, my wife and I help take care of and we’ve watched them grow up. My nephew’s six and my niece just turned four last week. And I had the same kind of recognition watching, especially Ellie, the four year old, progress throughout her life thus far, you really see some of those fundamental patterns that I’ve learned from that rehab vantage point, and watching a little one reflect all of those things that we try and help people reestablish later on in life, it’s really interesting to see that evolution and see those changes. And it’s hard to say. I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with the environment, in terms of the way that the child is, is functioning throughout their life, they’re spending a ton of time sitting on screens looking down at a tablet. I think that there’s certainly an argument to say that though that would excel the regression away from those natural patterns. But I think it’s very subjective and one of those things that I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on?
Sonya: Yeah, I kind of feel like once they start going to school, and they start sitting for a lot of the day, too, that’s probably a change, but I don’t really know.
Matt: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think as soon as they get in that, that school environment, which there are some louder voices now talking about how negative that environment can be for children. Which I don’t have children so I don’t know if I should necessarily speak to this. But yeah, I think not only from a physical perspective, but also from a cognitive perspective, that eight hours of sitting a day that we’re trained to do from the time that we’re very young, I think has certainly reflected in some negative repercussions in our society overall.
Sonya: Okay, so just to give a quick summary of some of the things that we’ve talked about, we talked about how strength training has multiple definitions, and in the way that we’re talking about it here, we’re talking about how you can use strength training, especially for stabilization for rehab for getting in front of injuries before they happen so that people can perform better in their sports, and not take away from their aerobic ability. And we talked about the importance of core work and what that actually means and how the breath is involved in core work. So with that, I want to go on and actually ask you how you started EverAthlete in 2015.
Matt: Yeah. It’s hard to even imagine what things were like in 2015. So when I started ever athlete, I just moved back from Texas, I was living in Austin, Texas for a couple years working at a pretty prominent Sports Therapy Clinic out there. I moved back and started things. I started our first office inside of a CrossFit gym in Mountain View, California. And originally, even though I had worked in the strength and conditioning world for years to that point, our primary focus was on much of what you’ve experienced I think in the therapeutic environment, sports, chiropractic, injury, rehab, injury prevention, kind of revolving around soft tissue therapy, corrective exercise, all these different things. And there was a big emphasis on working with athletes. After a couple years of that, like I said before, the focus, I think a light bulb turned on for me with just the concept of what actual injury prevention and wellness is, and what that actually includes. And I became a little bit restless with the role of working with just athletes who are rehabbing an injury, or were just looking for like a tune up or something like that, in a very passive way. And the big focus past that point became teaching people how to move better. And one of the ways that we do that, we had an office in Mountain View, that office moved to Palo Alto in downtown Palo Alto. And then we opened up a Performance Training Center about 10 miles away. And at the Performance Training Center, we had all of our clinical stuff. So we had our clinical environment, but we also had a gym, and we started running group training programs and one on one training, and basically tried to create an environment that I viewed as true wellness, which was, we have the full spectrum of care whether you’re in pain or looking to perform, we wanted to meet the needs of the athlete. And so from our clinical perspective, we kept doing what we were doing very standardsports, chiropractic and physical therapy care. In our one-on-one training, we worked with everyone from amateur athletes to the professional and most elite level. And then the big passion project for me became our group training program, which was a group strength and conditioning program where every quarter we would go on an adventure trip, and we would train for 10 weeks and then we would take our group out to you know, we did stuff like hiked the Grand Canyon. And we took our group out to Yosemite for a big hiking trip. We did a trail running trip and surfing trip in San Luis Obispo, California. Went out to Tahoe for cross country skiing and a bunch of other activities. And the premise of the entire thing was to help people build a framework to improve their life experience. And we wanted to create structure around that. So like I said, every quarter we kind of gave people a goal to train for, and then we help them prepare for that. So we created a very structured format for how they could build themselves up and then accomplish what they were looking to accomplish. And it developed this really unique community that really revolved around outward experience, which I’m very passionate about. I think the fitness industry overall has kind of taken a left turn, in some ways, in that a big emphasis I think in the industry right now is to just kind of get people coming back to the gym, so that they can get better in the gym and just kind of keep going on that treadmill over and over and over. And for me, I think the leveraging training, strength training and building physical competency so that you can go out into the world and have an experience outdoors that changes the way that you view yourself in the world is at the heart of what we’re trying to do through that program. And so the progression of EverAthlete went from strictly an injury prevention and performance care perspective into this greater picture of how do we actually improve people’s lives and give them a very structured framework to do that, and then build in everything from not only the training, but also the community and the experience. And so that was how we evolved, we did that for three years leading up to the pandemic. And then throughout that time, I had some wild, personal stuff that happened in my family, and just had some really crazy experiences. And so when the pandemic hit in 2020, we had just moved into this brand new performance center that was this big center with a clinic, indoor and outdoor training, and it’s kind of the next step in that journey. And as we were negotiating that lease, I negotiated in a buyout clause for the lease in case the city ever came in and interfered with business, we’d be able to buy out of the lease. And so in early March, as the pandemic as COVID it became this thing that you were hearing about a little bit, and then really took over our lives. And there was that one week mid-March that everything kind of changed. And at that time, everyone was kind of looking at it as like a two-to-three-week shutdown, you know, maybe this will impact us for a short period. And I had some family friends that were really close to pretty high-level epidemiologists, and they basically sat me down, they’re like, hey, you should get out of that lease if you can, you should shut that place down. Don’t expect to have a group environment work at all for at least a couple years. And so I ended up buying out of the lease we got to that facility. The goal was to keep everyone on staff that we had so all the you know, our trainers and doctors on staff, we kept everyone. We at the time had an office in downtown Palo Alto as well, we kept that facility, which was just like a small one on one environment. We also were doing one element of EverAthlete that a lot of people don’t know about us, we were the primary wellness and fitness providers on site at one of the largest tech companies in Silicon Valley. And so we had those three things going on at that time. We shut the gym down, shut the group training program down. And that’s effectively what became the online programs that we’ve launched. So in place of that gym facility, we directed that attention and focus into creating accessibility for people at home or in the gym to follow largely the same kinds of training programs that we’re doing in our facility. And that’s been what people see now with EverAthlete was never the intention of ever athlete. It was always intended to be this in person experience that was hyper focused on a very close-knit community. And we’re trying to figure out how to how to replicate that with the online stuff, but it’s really the online stuff has been very energizing in many ways has been super exciting just in terms of the problem solving and the development of different programs in these things. But it’s also been totally unexpected and something that we’re figuring out to this day, so it’s been a fun project. But there’s been a humongous evolution of of EverAthlete over the years.
Sonya: So yeah, in my notes, actually, because I keep notes as I do these podcasts so that whenever people want to listen back, I have a bullet point of, you know, the progression of the topics. And I literally wrote the evolution of EverAthlete exactly what you said, because that’s been quite a journey that you’ve had. And that took a lot of flexibility on your part to number one, listen to epidemiologists back whenever we have no idea what’s going on. And to take a big gamble, I mean, I’m sure it took a lot to build out that performance space, and to move that in that direction in your business. And then to be able to pivot and say, wait a second, I’m not going to do this and then pivot again to we have to do online programs, which wasn’t even the goal. And it might not have even felt very good to start, because that wasn’t how you were viewing how you’re going to be scaling your business.
Matt: Yeah, and I mentioned going through some trials in the years leading up to the pandemic. And throughout that period, which was even more turbulent than the pandemic has been, throughout that period, I really chose to invest deeply in EverAthlete and continue to build and continue to progress forward professionally. And didn’t neglect family, but was not present in the way that I wanted to be when this opportunity arose with the pandemic. And I had this conversation with myself at the beginning of the pandemic, where I thought a lot about who I wanted to be throughout this clearly a once in a generation experience, like who do you want to be throughout this. And for me, it was very important to be with family and close friends. And I mean, honestly, we could have made it through the pandemic, and would have been fine financially, and all of that. But the stress and the expense of not being there and not being available to people who I really wanted to spend my time with was a decision that I had to make, and looking back, I think I made…at the time, I actually got a lot of push back for closing down the facility because it was in that window where everyone thought that it was this was like week one, and I called my landlord and shut things down. And I got quite a bit of pushback in the community, even my own wife was so upset because all of our friends…someone from the gym just stayed with us this last weekend, and seen for two years and stayed at our house. And he’s one of those guys who we became very close strictly through the gym. But for me, it was really important to be present and to be with family during that time. The changes that have happened due to that decision of closing down that physical space have been very challenging. I mean, even though our online programs have done great, I mean, it’s like those have done really well, it’s kind of become its own business in a way. But the identity that I had tied up in the community of EverAthlete in that facility was very deep. And it’s been challenging to kind of sift through that, even knowing that it was the right decision. But it’s also allowed us to redirect our energy in really productive and helpful ways where now we used to be connected to a small community in a physical space and now we’re connected to people all around the world. And I’ve been connected to different athletes, and we get people reach out to us all the time about the effect that just the consistency of having a training program, not only through the pandemic, but also now has had on their ability to participate in sport and achieve different things that they wanted to achieve. And so while the online game is something that I never intended to or wanted to be a part of, I never wanted to be like an online personality to this day, I really don’t want anything like that. But it’s been very interesting to see how that can impact the world and how that effort can make, not in the way that I foresaw, but have a really positive impact with the outdoor community at large. So it’s been a real, real big journey.
Sonya: Yeah, having that flexibility and the courage that you had has helped you build on that framework because you said you wanted to improve people’s life experiences like those quarterly trips, but now that you have the ability to reach more and more people, people’s life experience can improve even more because they can do these programs, and then they can do their sport better and for longer and with less injury. And that is, in my mind, that’s awesome.
Matt: Yeah, it certainly is. And I go back and forth with it. I think, selfishly, with online work, you have less connection to people, in the one on one sports rehab realm, in terms of like my own personal experience, you have immediate feedback on whether you did a good job or not. And with the online game, you have much less of that you have less connection to people, you have less feedback in that way. It’s been a major adjustment for me to kind of take that for what it is. But it’s also like you said it’s been it has been so positive in so many different ways. It’s been a really positive thing that that honestly, I’ve loved doing. The rejuvenation from new problem solving and the question of how do we build something out as a framework for people all across the world with different skill levels, who we don’t know and can’t see the way that they move? How do we create some sort of framework so that they can have a positive experience and improve is a really unique question to ask and answer. And that’s something that’s been really fun to answer through the online training programs. And now we’re starting to do that through rehab as well. So this next branch that we’re going to launch through our online site is going to be all about sports injury rehab. And how do we create accessibility at a very cheap price point to give people resources that they would get in a sports injury care clinic, but have them at their own home and they can use as a framework or an educational tool to guide them along the journey back from an injury, which I think is like this next step for us that I’m really excited about.
Sonya: Yeah, and something that I want to add is that a lot of times strength people view strength training as a boring thing, especially if you’re somebody that likes to be outside doing all of these different endurance activities. And this is just sort of my own personal endorsement, but I just want to share it because for me, that’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to do strength training is I don’t want to go into a gym, it’s boring, it takes too much time. I don’t even know if this is going to do anything for me. I don’t want to be a weightlifter like all these different reservations or hesitations that I had. And I’ve only been doing your program for about a month, but it’s fun. Every time I do it I’m surprised at how much fun I had. And it’s because the pacing is done very well, where there’s no time to get bored. There’s enough variation. And now things are starting to get even more challenging. Because the first couple workouts aren’t going to be…it depends who you are, I guess, but the first couple workouts were very challenging for me. And now they’re becoming more challenging. And that’s exciting for me. And that’s refreshing for me. So I think for people listening who have been debating, like, should I do strength training in whatever capacity, maybe you do it online with every athlete, maybe you do it locally, like whatever it is, there is a way to make it fun, where it doesn’t feel like this thing that you have to do that’s a drag.
Matt: Most certainly. And I think for me, it’s really important that the programs create enough structure. They’re not like randomized, right? They create enough structure to where you can notice little progression. And I think beyond that for people that really like being in the outdoors and have outdoor pursuits, the question to ask is, is there a way for me to have more fun in my outdoor pursuits? And I think that part of the answer to that, the answer of yes to that, is through building up your physical capabilities through tools in the gym. And personally, I’ve owned multiple gyms. I do not like being in a gym environment really, unless it’s my own and it’s kind of private and all that. I like being in the outdoors. And I like things that are efficient and directed towards me maximizing my time outdoors. Because for things like mountain biking, like mountain biking is pretty time intensive. For people that just ride on the weekends and are maybe getting away for two to three hours at best. I think that the way that I would speak to that is you can maximize that time by preparing yourself throughout the week by using really simple efficient 30 minute workouts couple times a week can improve the experience that you have on the weekend. Like you can really contribute to the experience that you have outdoors by doing what is generally a fun routine in the gym also amplifies that fun outdoors as well.
Sonya: I guess my last question is about when to pair these workouts. So if people are doing the online program, and they say they’re doing like two different strengths, and then one core workout per week, do you do those the same day as like a hard workout? And afterwards you do them on an easy day? Like how do you structure that?
Matt: It really depends. It’s pretty subjective. Generally speaking, like for people that are riding high volume, I usually try and place workouts, so the strength workouts on days where they’re doing a lower intensive day on the bike. Especially if they’re riding five, six days a week, throw those workouts in on the days where you’re doing very mellow workouts on the bike, give yourself a true rest day. So don’t eliminate a rest day in honor of doing strength work. You could throw a little core workout in there, like 15 minutes or so. But generally, we want to have one full rest day, at least during the week. But if you’re not writing super high volume, you might need to play with it a little bit. I would say that second strength day during the week should not fall in a time range where it impacts your ride on the weekend, right. So you want to get the most out of those workouts. If you’re doing training rides, or you’re just going out for fun, you don’t want to place your strength workout within a time window that’s going to either leave you hugely sore, which our programs won’t, or impact your performance in those workouts. So if you’re looking to progress on the bike, the workouts on the bike primary, place your strength workouts on days that are a little bit more mellow. And then in terms of how you integrate the core routines, those are mellow enough to where I would just place them in between the two strength workouts generally like a Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine or Monday, Tuesday, Thursday routine, something like that is generally something that I really like. But again, it really is dictated by how much volume you’re doing on the bike. And if you’re out there listening, and you’re really curious about how to answer this question, we answer this for people all the time. So people reach out to us all the time and send us their bike schedule and their aerobic training schedule and we’ll make recommendations for that, based on their goals, their riding volume, all that kind of stuff. And that’s something that we certainly want to respect the subjectivity of, but those are kind of general guidelines.
Sonya: Most of the workouts are 20 to 40 minutes. What if somebody said, well, I’m only going to spend five or 10 minutes? If they just did one small part of that workout? Are they still gonna see a benefit? Or do you have to do the full amount?
Matt: I think it’s a tough question. Yes, they’ll get benefit from doing five to 10 minutes. I would argue like the way that the programs are designed, they are general frameworks that are designed to be completed as they’ve been written. If you were going to pick and choose, and you only have five to 10 minutes, I would recommend just pull one of the core routines out, do the core routines, because those are about 15 minutes long. And if you only have five to 10 minutes to offer for strength training, in order to really prepare yourself for a strength training session, and be ready and make sure that you’re not getting injured in the gym, you’re going to want 30 to 60 minutes to be fully prepared, totally ready to go. And I would strongly recommend having that dedicated time period. Could you pick and choose? Could you pull certain supersets, like we use a lot of supersets in our program? Most certainly, yeah. I think for best results, it’s all about consistency. So creating consistency to what you choose. So if you’re going to do a limited routine, I think being consistent with that routine for a period of time, four to six weeks or so, is really an effective way to kind of notice progression and build progression into that routine, even if it’s short like that. But yeah, I think most effective strategies do the full program. But if you are going to pull just make it consistent.
Sonya: Yeah, I’m just thinking about the person who maybe they only have five to seven hours a week to ride their bike. And that’s all the time that they have and then to take out some of that time to add in strength work that might not be very appealing to them. So I was just thinking about that person.
Matt: Yeah, I think the core routines would be great in that sense. In that scenario 15 to 20 minutes of core work one to two times a week could be, you’re not going to get the optimum benefit, but it’s certainly benefit. Right. So I think that that’s a great way to go. But I will say in terms of like heavier loading, so we have some back squats and loaded lifts in our programs, I would not recommend really diving into that heavily unless you’re totally warmed up, unless you’ve gone through that full 10 to 15 minute warm up and are totally ready to go for that. That’s where the strength training can easily turn into something that can injure you, rather than actually help your performance.
Sonya: Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. I think we covered so much today. And there’s so much more that I wanted to cover that we didn’t get to. Where can people find you? Where can people find every athlete if they’re curious?
Matt: On Instagram it’s @EverAthlete. And then our website is www.everathlete.fit. And that’s where you’ll find all the information about our programs and in person services. If you follow us on Instagram, we throw up a lot of tutorials on movement and injury prevention and all kinds of good stuff.
Sonya: And then locally, if people are in California, where can they find you?
Matt: We have two facilities in California. One is in Mountain View, which is right in the Bay Area, the heart of the Bay Area next to like Google and Stanford and all that. Then we just opened a new facility down in Santa Cruz next to some very good trails. We opened there three months ago. So we’re in those two spots in person and feel free to reach out.
Sonya: All right. Well, thanks so much.
Matt: Awesome. Thanks so much for having me.