Lessons from Greg Amundson

Krav Maga/ Yoga at Crossfit Amundson

Greg Amundson is a a person that has inspired me in the past few months with his lessons on leadership, positive thinking, storytelling, and the warrior spirit. He was one of the first CrossFit athletes, and he now runs Crossfit Amundson in Santa Cruz, where he offers not only CrossFit but also Krav Maga, Yoga, community workouts, and character building experiences. I have been inspired by his teachings from both his recently launched podcast, The Greg Amundson Show, and his recently published book on holistic fitness, Firebreather Fitness. I knew I wanted one day to visit Greg’s gym, which is located only a couple blocks from the Pacific Ocean.

With a little extra time due to the three-day weekend, I headed to Santa Cruz yesterday in order to experience Greg’s gym and teachings. My wife and I first stopped by the ocean before the noon workout of “Murph” at the gym in honor of Memorial Day. As I looked into the ocean that morning, I felt removed from the hustle bustle of school life. It has been a busy school year, and I was looking to get recharged, rejuvenated, not only in the body with the workout but also in mind and spirit.

I then went to the gym, a little apprehensive yet excited about the epic workout to come. Not knowing anyone at the gym, I was greeted enthusiastically and in a welcoming way by Greg and everyone else I talked to during the day. My workouts have not been as intense as possible recently, and I knew I was in for a challenge:

“Murph:” Run 1 mile, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, Run 1 mile.

Before the workout, Greg gave out the the Warrior Spirit Award to two members of his gym and also told motivating stories about what it means to be a warrior. He told stories about Leonidas and the 300 Spartans as well as King Henry V.

This is what I have found inspiring about Greg; it’s not just about fitness but about character building and leadership as well. After Greg’s talk and presentation, it was time for Murph. I managed to complete the workout. I’m not sure how long it took me, but I know that I was not going very fast. There were times when doubt entered my mind, but I decided to keep going, even when my final mile run was as slow as I could possibly run. It was a motivating experience to meet Greg, run right by the ocean during the middle of a workout, and accomplish an epic challenge like Murph.

Here are the biggest lessons I have learned from Greg’s teachings:

(1) The Power of Positive Thinking

Greg teaches a technique called First Words, and he preaches the power of a positive mindset. I have used this more in my own life recently. For example, in the first few games of my adult baseball season this year, I went up to the plate hoping I would get a hit and hoping to not get out. My mind was filled more with negativity and doubt, and, as a result, I wasn’t doing as well at the plate. After I started listening to Greg’s podcast, I started to go to the plate in a more positive, confident mindset, and my success has gone up. I have even used this positive mindset when playing ping-pong with students after school. Playing in a doubles game and losing 10–4 in a game to 11, I tried to speak and think positively with my teammate, and somehow we managed to come back and win. Coincidence or not, I am convinced of the power of a positive mindset when facing adversity.

(2) Holistic Fitness

Greg advocates for a holistic approach to fitness. He incorporates not just physical training but also meditation, mental training, yoga, spiritual cultivation, and leadership training. This is something that resonates with me. I connect it to the rite of the inipi, or sweat lodge, of the Lakota people I was able to experience in my seven years living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The sweat lodge was not just a spiritual experience, but also a physical and mental one as well. I am more drawn to fitness approaches that draw on more than just the physical, just as a dojo is more than just a place to train physical prowess.

(3) Storytelling

As an English teacher and lover of reading, I am always drawn to storytelling, and this is one of the principal ways that Greg teaches. Stories have the power to transform the world and to transform your individual self.

(4) Warrior Spirit

Greg’s emphasis on the warrior spirit also connects me to my time with the Lakota. Often, students and teachers would discuss what it is to be a warrior in the Lakota way. In my reading in my life, I have been inspired by different forms of warriors across cultures and how they have lived: Lakota warriors, Spartans, SEAL training, samurais, etc. One of the best writers who focuses on this area is Steven Pressfield, in books like Gates of Fire.

(5) Mastery and Service

Greg also discusses the importance of mastery, of devoting oneself consistently and relentlessly to as a task, as well as service. Teaching in a Jesuit high school, both of these concepts are ideas that are always on my mind. Mastery can refer to the understanding and expertise in an area (like academics), while service extends that understanding and expertise outward, beyond the self.

These are some of the lessons that Greg has taught that have inspired me, and I looking forward to learn from him even more. I highly encourage everyone who reads this to check out his work and teachings.

By the end of the day, we returned to the ocean, and I felt accomplished and content about the day. The lasting power of Greg’s teachings, however, go beyond a specific instance or moment and can permeate one’s mindset and character in a myriad of experiences. As I face different challenges and obstacles and experiences, I will keep these lessons alive in my mind and actions.