MON: “Chalk Talk” with Tyler Rau
Tyler joined Performance360 in July of 2016 coming from a background as a competitive powerlifter and CrossFit coach. Today, he shares a little about his life’s journey into fitness.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 35, originally from about dead-center of lower Michigan, and I’ve been living in San Diego since 2012 with my beautiful wife Emily (also a member). We met working at The Detroit News and decided we wanted to live in San Diego after we got hitched, so I got a job as a designer at the Union-Tribune and Emily is now a prosthetist/orthotist working at a clinic in Clairemont.
We have a dog named Oscar who is a pit bull / boxer / shar-pei / house cat mix. We are also pretty avid campers and Jeepers and we’re always looking for more people to join us around the fire.
I guess the superhero origin story would have to start when I was 25. I weighed 330 pounds, I was a pack-a-day smoker, I hadn’t worked out since I was a high school offensive lineman, and I figured I was probably gonna die pretty young if I didn’t figure something out. With the support of some family and friends I got crackin’. I quit smoking, started walking, then hiking, then exercising in an actual gym. I worked my way all the way down to 200 pounds at one point. I was just jacked up about losing weight and didn’t really consider strength or conditioning until a cousin talked me into trying CrossFit.
I found a little gym near my house and it worked out so well that within about a year I was coaching there. I put on a healthy amount of muscle pretty quickly when my farm boy genetics kicked back in. I basically learned during all this that my body wants to grow, and it wants to grow now. If I eat well and train hard, I become very strong, very fast. If I eat like shit and slack off on my training, I become very fat, very fast. If I want to maintain or cut, I have to work hard at it. My body doesn’t like to find a set point. I’m really hoping age tempers that some.
When did you join the gym, and why?
We joined P360 in 2016 after bouncing around town a bit. I had coached at CrossFit gyms for a couple years and started a little powerlifting club, too. I got burned out trying to give everything I had to coaching and my career, so I gave up coaching. I continued training for powerlifting and competing on my own, but after some injuries and a couple soul-crushing meets, I was having a pretty hard time staying motivated to train.
Emily suggested we try out Performance360, since the PB location was less than two blocks from our house. A big ass powerlifter who hadn’t done a conditioning workout in at least a year, maybe 2… somehow I said “sure, let’s try it.”
Jules still laughs when she recalls the workout on my intro day: “King of the Hill.”
In my mind, I was like, “this is probably exactly what I need to break me out of this funk right now but this is gonna suuuuuuuuck….” I think it took me about 20 minutes! Before that workout, the longest run I had done since starting powerlifting was the warm-up run that day.
What were you hoping to accomplish when you joined?
I primarily wanted to drop some weight and get back to being a well-conditioned, broadly athletic body type. I wanted to be able to run a mile non stop, climb a hill without collapsing, and get back to feeling like a tiger instead of a rhino. I also wanted to maintain as much strength as possible, knowing I would have to sacrifice some top end to broaden out the middle.
Sitting here today, has it gone as planned?
Absolutely. Though it hasn’t been linear, that’s for sure. I dipped back into powerlifting after the P360 programming actually had me hitting new PRs in squat and deadlift, and with that came a diet “tweak” that actually had me gaining weight for a time.
Then vacations, booze, pizza… I had a bit of fun there for a bit while I was putting up big numbers. Early this year I saw the number 275 between my toes on the scale and I was like “woah woah woah time to buckle down.” Starting in March, I began recording my food, aiming for macro targets and training with a bit more intention.
As of the beginning of August, I’m down 30 pounds, with only about 2 of those pounds being a loss of lean body mass. This is a practice, not a project for me, so I don’t expect to find an end point, but I’m happy with the trajectory.
What are some of your most proud achievements here?
Making Club Forged was pretty huge. I’m a very mild-mannered dude but I have a mean competitive streak in me. So I’ve been looking up at the records and clubs and names on the wall since day 1. Strategizing about how to get on this list or that list, letting it guide my training to a degree. So naturally the hall-of-fame look of the Forged wall really had some allure for me.
That said, I was pretty surprised to find out I had made it. After training among some of the people on the board in real life, I didn’t ever picture myself in league with them. So getting word that I was going up on the wall was humbling for sure. And I’ve never seen anybody on that board slipping in the gym, so I’m not about to start slipping either.
What is a takeaway that you’ve picked up here that you apply to your training?
One of the biggest things for me has been learning to do what’s best for me today. Some days I need to check my ego when somebody 50 lbs lighter than me is swinging a heavier bell than me, but it’s because I’ve learned that what’s best for me doesn’t mean doing the right side of the board no matter what. Some days I do the PHASE 1 workout because I know it’s more in line with my goals or better for me in whatever stage of recovery I’m in.
The coaches seem to encourage that thinking instead of trying to goad me into a competitive mindset.
How has nutrition factored into your progress?
Nutrition is huge for me. As I mentioned, my body responds very directly to food intake and work output. So I’ve been tracking every meal every day for almost 6 months on the MyFitnessPal app. Whether it’s a good day, a bad day, a Sunday Funday with bottomless mimosas or whatever, it all gets logged in brutally honest fashion.
I use the scale at Crown Point once a month to track my progress. That also kicks out my basal metabolic rate. So I consider my average caloric intake against that, with macronutrients broken down by percentage on top of that. Day to day, I work hard to hit it on the nose, but I almost never do. But treating it like a game helps me compete against myself a little and keeps me motivated.
Plus, it’s helping my physique and that’ll motivate anyone.
Discuss your strategy when it comes to getting strong.
I’m not trying to suck up to the staff or anything, but honestly, just showing up and digging in works. Take that with the nutrition regimen mentioned above and things tend to work. I spent a lot of time in the past agonizing over programming and percentages and blah blah blah.
I let the gym programming dictate my path and they haven’t let me down yet. All I need to do is eat right and supply adequate effort and the gym handles the rest. If I decide to get a shit ton stronger, I’ll just eat more and do everything else the same. It’s easy, and I appreciate that. I have enough to think about in my life. My only decision now is middle of the board, left or right? All that said, I still never miss squat day. But that is mostly because I just love squatting.
It’s like pizza day in elementary school, only better.
What are some strategies that have made you successful?
The flip side of never missing squat day: I try very hard to read the week of programming on Sunday evening and pick the workout that looks like I would hate the most, then try my best to be there for it.
Doing what I dread seems to be paying off for me. And I find I dread less.
Lastly, if you had control over the playlist for a day, what’s on it?
Pantera, Metallica, Rise Against, AC/DC, Bad Religion, DMX, KRS-One. Angry, fast stuff. But in the gym only. I get in my car and listen to Dirty Heads, Ryan Bingham, Gaslight Anthem.
First, for Strength.
2 Clean and Jerks
Rest for 30”
2 Clean and Jerks
*Every 4’ For 20’ (x5)
Then, for Conditioning.
10 Single Arm DB Walking Lunges
8 UH Grip BB Rows
6 Cal Assault Bike
10 Wall Balls/MB Slams
8 KB Russian Twists