How I Started Coaching Endurance
Triathlon training gave me the confidence to start a side hustle
Here’s how I found my passion, helped people get involved and turned it into a business.
The elevator doors opened and I wanted to die.
It was my first day at InstaMed, a healthcare payment processing company in center city Philadelphia.
It was my second “corporate job,” but really my first.
My first job was as a ticket sales rep for the Nashville Predators. It was a 9-5, but far from a standard corporate environment.
I was at every home game, splitting time between working a sales table on the 300 level and sneaking beers from the open bar on the club level with the buddies I worked with.
I was 24, on a $19,000 salary and attached to an NHL team making an improbable run to the Stanley Cup.
I felt rich and life was thrilling.
Day 1 Of The Rest Of My Life
Back to InstaMed.
I felt like I was tricked.
It was my first time seeing the office. I didn’t know places like this actually existed.
The office was a uninspiring mirage of beige cubes.
Every employee was hiding behind their inward facing computer screen.
It was mostly silent, except for a few scripted sales calls that echoed softly off the walls.
There was life, but no soul.
And no one seemed to care since the break room was stocked with Sun Chips and K-Cups.
I had one thought: Get me the fuck out of here.
I Needed A Spark
I’m not the type to leave at lunch and never return.
Plus, I had no clue what else I would do.
I was willing to give the job some time, but felt extreme urgency (and a responsibility to myself) to create a spark in my life outside of work.
I knew if I didn’t, I would gravitate to the “norm”: Happy hours during the week, drinking Friday through Sunday and making it to the gym only when it was convenient.
That’s a breeding ground for anxiety and internal conflict. No thanks.
I thought of the biggest idea my mind could comprehend: finishing a 70.3
On February 23, 2019, I went to the local Trek store and bought a road bike for $1,427.
It was an astronomical investment in myself compared to the $50/mo. gym membership I was used to paying.
I felt scared, excited, nervous and optimistic all at once.
Having a challenge to prepare for gave me a new sense of purpose.
I found my spark.
Life Behind Bars
The world looked different from behind handlebars. And better.
All life around me was vibrating. Everything had a pulse.
I was riding the same roads I had driven thousands of times before, but was experiencing them in a brand new way.
The warm sun engulfed me. Fresh air sustained me. Grass grew toward me.
Life was in motion. And it was beautiful.
I Started To Recruit
I was riding every weekend, loving it and encouraging everyone I could to join me.
Here’s an excerpt from a blog post I wrote on May 5, 2020 titled, Building A Cycling Community:
“In the past 6 weeks, I have had 4 people close to me buy bikes and 2 others who’ve asked for some tips on how to get into it.
I think that is the coolest thing ever.
I love cycling for reasons far beyond just the physical exercise and to see immediate interest and curiosity from those around me is just so fulfilling.”
It felt like I was 15 again and gathering the neighborhood kids to play street hockey or whiffle ball.
Side Hustle v1: I Sew Dog Bandanas
Triathlon training gave me the confidence to create more sparks in my life.
In August 2019, I started sewing dog bandanas and selling them on Etsy.
I had officially launched my first side hustle, a dog bandana business named Toasted Rye.
16 months later, I was drawing my own designs, having bandanas made by a manufacturer in China, had products in a dozen local dog stores and was also selling on Amazon.
But I started to grow tired of eCommerce. It felt like a job.
And local retail was unpredictable with pandemic shut downs in full force.
At the same time, my endurance journey was gaining unstoppable momentum.
I spent all of 2020 training for 70.3s that didn’t happen.
So instead, I ran 50k and 100k ultras in that fall and burst into 2021 doing my Carnivore vs. Plant Based diet challenge.
My entreprenurial and endurance journeys were on a collision course.
Side Hustle v2: I’m An Online Fitness Coach?
After the ultras and the diet challenge, it was official: I was capable of anything.
Back in November of 2020, I hired Zach Homol as my business coach.
I saw how he created a business around his gym, Iron Valley Barbell, and his Do Hard Things lifestyle and admired it.
I thought I could do something similar with Toasted Rye and my lifestyle of ecommerce hustling.
Endurance was still an afterthought.
But the diet challenge changed everything. It gave me the confidence to believe I could make a difference in the world through health and fitness.
I saw people coaching on Twitter and decided to put Toasted Rye to the side.
In February 2021, Zach and I went on a 1 on 1 business building retreat in Brown County, Indiana.
We hunkered down in a cabin for 3 days and laid the foundation for my business that was going to focus on nutrition, healthy habits and building a positive mindset.
I continued refining my message and sharing on Twitter, then finally went for it.
On April 30th, 2021 I sent my first tweet looking for clients.
I was terrified, felt like a fraud and doubted my ability to pull it off.
But at the same time, part of me thought I could do it.
When The Teacher Is Ready, The Student Appears
After botching at least a dozen sales calls, I landed three weight loss clients.
I had some early success with those first three clients, but quickly realized that I didn’t enjoy helping others lose weight when there were timelines and financial investment involved.
Weight loss is emotional.
You can apply pressure, but some journeys aren’t meant to be rushed.
It’s not what I wanted to coach.
Then I got the DM that saved me.
Louie was 7 weeks out from his first ultramarathon and needed help.
He followed me on Twitter, saw I was endurance training and knew I worked with clients.
The thought of me coaching endurance never even occurred to me.
Coach?? I still haven’t even done a 70.3!!
But when I got on the phone with Louie, I knew exactly what he needed to do.
My experience paired with the urgency of his race sliced through my doubt.
My opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it.
Run Louie Run
Louie was a Champion long before he crossed the finish line of his 50 mile ultra.
He’s 58 and just celebrated 20 years sober this past April.
He’s become a loyal friend and we’ve continued to knock off incredible accomplishments together.
This past June, Louie completed his first 100 mile ultra and set a course record for his age group.
In November, he completed his first Ironman.
He is proof that you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to.
Jesse Itzler taught me the value in learning from people who have done what you want to do.
If you want to run an ultra, someone who ran an ultra can help you.
I understood that from the student perspective, but not the teacher side.
Louie changed that for me.
The rest is history. And it’s still being written.
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