Ryan Carlyle: “How P360 Has Helped Me on the Field as a US Olympian”

Please tell us where you’re from, what you do for work and how long you’ve been a P360 member.

I’m Ryan Carlyle and I’ve been a member here since August (I actually came to the gym a few times back in 2012 when it was just at Mission Beach) . I’m from West Nyack, New York and I am a professional rugby player.

When did you first get into Rugby?

I first found rugby while studying abroad in Brisbane, Australia. I went to watch rugby league with classmates and I don’t think I blinked once—I could NOT believe what I was seeing. I was in awe of the physicality of the game, the size of the men running that fast and the fact that it never stopped. It clearly sparked an interest because I quit varsity softball and started playing rugby as a club sport in college at the University of South Carolina in 2010.

What about it do you love?

I love the challenges of rugby. I have always been athletic but playing rugby is next level. It requires speed, endurance, strength, power, lateral movement, linear movement, field vision, catching, passing, kicking, tackling, talking, and breathing …and sometimes all of that happens within a few seconds of each other.

Is there a particular message you hope to spread to young female athletes?

You can do much more than you ever can imagine! Be unapologetically great at WHATEVER you want.

Can you talk about the process of getting named to the Olympic team?

What you had to go through and the journey that got you there? After picking up a rugby ball for the first time in 2010, I was quickly fast tracked to regional all-star competitions. I knew little to nothing about the game or the laws, but I was eager to learn and willing to put my body on the line. Those characteristics carried me through my first national team tracking camp and then my first tour with the USA National Team to Hong Kong in 2011.

At the time, I had just graduated from college, was working for PepsiCo, and was set to start law school that fall. Upon my return from Hong Kong, I dropped out, sold everything, and moved into a fully furnished 2br apartment in Ocean Beach with a Craigslist stranger. Now imagine the look on my parents faces when I told them that plan! Soon enough I moved to a house with teammates in Chula Vista, CA right next to the Olympic Training Center.

I did not sign my first contract with the National Team until 2012, but for the rest of 2011 I trained everyday with the team. I did not have a meal plan or gym access at the facilities like the others and the only way to afford a gym membership was to work at one. In 2012 I was given facilities access (meals, medical treatment, gym access) but no salary.

I worked as a personal trainer and did freelance marketing for another year until my first rugby paycheck came in 2013. A roster of 12 is announced for each of the tournaments as part of the HSBC Rugby 7s World Series (our regular season of 5-10 tournaments starting in December and finishing in July). I was announced as the 13th player and first non-traveling reserve for every tournament that year.

I played in 3 tournaments due to injury, one of those being the 2013 World Cup in Moscow, Russia where we placed third and took home bronze medals. 2014 looked a lot like 2013 minus the World Cup. I craved competition and playing in games so I traveled to Russia, Australia, and Asia seeking high level game time but nothing was consistent or sustainable. I moved to Seattle and played in the British Columbia (Canada) Premier League as well as the USA Premier League (both club level, unpaid) and worked as a Marketing and Creative Manager.

I returned to the Training Center in California multiple times for try outs and tracking camps and was selected for a few tournaments, traveled to international tournaments with other clubs to Fiji, Australia, Japan, and England, but still didn’t feel like I wanted to be back in the full-time environment yet. While in Seattle I got my MBA and my CSCS and trained with one of the best rugby strength and conditioning coaches from Cardiff as well as the Sports Scientist for the NFL. I recorded and tracked everything I did on and off the field and sent my results and progress to the USA head and assistant coaches.

In October 2015, I got a text message from the assistant coach, “RyRy, I think you should consider moving back down here.” I moved back to San Diego in November, made every tournament roster that season, and was selected for the Summer Olympics in August 2016. I have been in San Diego since and train at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center 9 hours a day, 5 days a week.

As a professional athlete, what does a typical day look like for you?

6am: Wake up, make coffee, hit the road

7am: Breakfast #1 at the training center (oats, eggs, and coffee…always)

7:30a: PreHab, activation, and taping

9:00a: Team Meeting (practice preview, film)

9:30a: 60 minute on field training session

10:30a: Breakfast #2 (same as #1)

11:00a: Gym

12:30p: Lunch or a Shake depending on what the next session entails

1:30p: 60-90 minute on field training session

3:00p: Recovery, ice bath, treatments

4:00p: Team Meeting (film, sometimes player only)

5:00p: Dinner #1

I try to go to yoga and or PSC or Weightlifting class after my rugby training day. I’ll hit a PSC class if I am looking for an aerobic top up or go to Oly just because it’s my favorite thing in the world that I’m not supposed to do as often as I want. I did shred once and was sore for a whole week and have not had the courage to go back since.

8:00p Dinner #2

Some days we may have 3 field sessions and no gym and we finish our day with a team meeting/film session twice a week.

How does training here with us help prepare you for the field?

Performance 360 is the most refreshing place on earth to me. I love the vibe and the enthusiasm. I am reminded that I don’t have to sacrifice laughing, smiling, and having fun while working hard. From an S&C standpoint, the Olympic lifts have proven to help me heaps on the field. Since not all of the women on the rugby team are proficient in Olympic lifts, they are not prescribed for us on our programs. The time it would take for our coach to teach us takes away from the time he could use other exercises to produce similar strength, power, and explosive results.

WED: Lower Left to Upper Right

After my 2 months of consistently attending the PSC and the Olympic Lifting class as well as 2 additional days of Olympic Lifts per week, I was faster over 10m, 20m, and 40m, I increased my vertical jump by 4 inches, and my score on our intermittent aerobic effort test was lower (which is better).

A lot of our rugby training is pushing and tackling and getting up off the ground so I appreciate the emphasis P360 and Olympic Lifting puts on the posterior chain strength and stability.

What specifically do you like about the community here?

Firstly, I am inspired every day at Performance 360. I have seen people do their first pull ups, overcome their fear of box jumps, learn a new movement, and crush gym records. Followed by all of that, I see everyone congratulate them and cheer them on. It’s amazing to see that unconditional support for all sorts of progress—big or small. I think as a professional athlete I get caught up in producing results, making rosters, and constantly getting better that I rarely ever get to stop and enjoy the athlete I am or the progress I have made. I feel constantly compared to my last score or my teammates or set standards or expectations that I never get to appreciate how far I’ve come in the past 7 years as a rugby player. I feel trapped in the air of melancholy of sport.

Here, I get high fives at the gym for a lift or a time that’s not necessarily impressive to me or probably disappointed me, and that high five is a very effective message screaming, “get your head out of your ass Ry and be proud!” I read a funny, yet pretty accurate quote in GQ magazine that seems relevant, “No matter how bad a professional athlete is, they’ll always be a million times better than the rest of us.” Unfortunately, its damn near impossible for us jocks to realize that as long as we are competing or surrounded by competition.

On top of the inspiration and motivation I feel at the gym, I love the idea of having friends! P360 has brought non-rugby/sport related friends into my life for the first time in years. It’s so easy for me to hang out with teammates or other athletes. We have the same schedule, similar interests, and in a weird yet rewarding way we are forced to be friends. But every now and then I just want to get away and be somewhere else.

I don’t want to think about rugby or talk about rugby or see rugby all the time. My favorite members of the gym are the ones who don’t know I play rugby or know what rugby even is. I just want to hug them! I want to get to know new people and I want people to get to know me outside of rugby. I love hearing about normal people lives and happy hours and brunch and paid time off and vacation and hangovers and relationships and all these other things I don’t get to experience on a regular basis.

You’re very fit and athletic. I am sure people assume that you have no struggles in the gym. Why are we wrong, and what’s something that’s still incredibly difficult for you?

Coaches seem to know I don’t like deadlifts. Its so slowwww and heavy. There’s way too much time from the second I pick up the barbell until I drop it for me to contemplate what I am doing and why? I feel teased and just want to do a clean or at least a cheeky shrug, which Coach Lenny knows I love to sneak into every deadlift.

I also suck at rowing! Maintaining proper technique on the rower is my nemesis. I get into “I gotta win” mode so I grip the handle real tight, I drop my head, shrug my shoulders, and just want to do it as fast as possible. Which I recently learned is NOT how to go fast or far on a rower. I just end up being super inefficient and burning out after about 300m.

What is your biggest personal struggle and challenge that people might not know about? 

I am so caught up in my routine and my structure and my meal plan that the idea of doing anything outside of that or doing anything with people who don’t have similar values or the same bedtime freaks me out. But at the same time, I am screaming on the inside for people to invite me to do things that will take me out of my comfort zone—like go to prom and get iced and eat things that are not good for me and dance hours past my bed time and fall asleep in a stranger’s lap. I loved that! My mom always tells me, “be kind to yourself and live a little Ry.”

[eye roll]

When did you doubt yourself the most, and what did you do to overcome it?

After the Olympics, I took a short break and continued to train for Rugby 7s and ultimately decided to prepare for and try out for the Rugby 15s World Cup (the longer format of rugby, 40 min halves with 15 players per side). In between the annual Rugby 7s World Series, I participated in Rugby 15s camps and try outs. I made it to the final 35 players in the country (23 are selected to a roster). I was NOT selected and left drowning in doubt. I was an Olympian and World Cup 7s player, how am I not good enough? Every single one of the 35 earned their eligibility of selection and every single one of us expected to be selected. If you were not expecting to be selected, you did not belong there.

Very few people pre-plan what to do when they don’t get selected. I had no plan. I let my doubt overcome me, I internalized everything, I blamed myself, felt helpless and became angry and frustrated. When the team left, I realized I did not have very many friends and did not have many things to do outside of rugby. My motivation was at an all-time low. I was lost. I looked into taking classes, getting a job, or picking up a new hobby. I landed on Olympic Lifting. I had zero formal training in the craft, I wanted a fresh start in anything, I wanted to redefine who I was as an athlete and rediscover what motivates me, I needed to meet new people, and realistically I was required to stay in some sort of rugby-fit shape in order to feel confident for the upcoming 7s season.

I competed in my first Olympic Lifting competition with the P360 team  in October 2017 and was recharged and excited about training for something and that carried over into the new season.

Your Instagram stories seem to indicate a high passion for coffee and kombucha. Discuss.

I love geeking out and learning new things that don’t require a high VO2 max or some obscene strength. I started geeking out on coffee after my first visit to South America. I visited a farm, saw my first coffee tree, tasted different beans from different trees and elevations and was just in awe of the craft. More recently, I bought myself an espresso machine (like a real one) and have learned even more about that brewing method and have been practicing pouring latte art. I personally don’t drink milk so my super lucky roommates get multiple (sub-par) lattes a day when I’m in the zone.

I started geeking out on probiotics after I brought home a parasite souvenir from Fiji 2 years ago. Rather than just popping a few pills, I learned about fermented foods and drinks and that quickly escalated to drinking kombucha every day and putting kimchi on everything. I couldn’t afford that anymore so I just started making it all myself.

What’s something non-sports related that you’re passionate about?

Not sure if you would consider this “non-sports related,” but I am really into nutrition. I’m extremely fascinated by the power of good nutrition. I am a strong believer that food is medicine and also a major component of sports performance. The fittest athlete in the world can feel fatigued because of a poor diet or miscalculation of macro and micro nutrients. I personally have had a lot of fun exploring various diets (vegan, keto, paleo) as well as timing of nutrients around training. I’m also dumbfounded by how much I do and need to eat in order to simply maintain my weight and strength for the season. I’m going to miss that when I’m done playing. Regardless, I go no where without snacks and I never miss a meal! Oats, eggs, and coffee. It doesn’t get any more accessible, versatile, or nutritious then that no matter where you are in the world.

What’s in store for Ryan in 2018? On the field and off.

I plan to brew kombucha batches big enough to justify purchasing a kegorator!

The Rugby 7s World Cup is this July in San Francisco. Between now and then there are 4 tournaments around the world I plan to compete at. After World Cup, I look forward to increasing my beer, whisky, and cookie consumption, decreasing the amount of running I do, balancing my training to social life ratio, surprising myself with a few spontaneous/reckless adventures, and getting more tattoos!

I would love to compete in another Olympic Weight Lifting competition if it fits the schedule. The 2018-2019 season will start in October! Shortly after that I’ll be 29 still renting a room in a house owned by someone who probably doesn’t have their father doing their taxes, still won’t be dating the man my grandmother always asks about, still won’t need my laptop for anything other than Netflix and editing GoPro videos, but I’ll still be living MY dream and only sometimes wondering when I’m going to grow up.

Tuesday, 3.13.18

4×6′ Density Circuits
10 Rope Slams
3/s BW Side Lunge
10 DB Thrusters
5 Push ups
100m Run

Burpee + 5 Waves (x3)
2 Hell Trots
10 Russian Twists
10 High Knees
100m Row

Finish w/ a Pal:
Alternate 60″ Planks