Have you ever told yourself that as soon as you’re done with this little chapter in your life, you’re going to dial in on your fitness? Jordan Levin’s guest today is Joe DeGain, owner of 810 CrossFit. In this episode, Joe passionately talks about how you need to start working on your fitness right now. If you won’t budget the time for it today, it’s highly unlikely you will tomorrow. Join in the conversation and walk with Joe as he shares his journey of first discovering CrossFit. From then on, he never looked back. Once you try out CrossFit, will you look back? Tune in to find out!
Listen to the podcast here:
Joe Degain – Owner Of 810 CrossFit
I’m here with our special guest, Mr. Joe DeGain. Thank you so much for being here, Joe.
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to do this.
We go way back do you remember, you and I met at the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar at the Colosseum in Toronto back in 2009?
I remember that. We have hooked up quite a few times since then. We have repeated the Toronto trip also.
I remember walking into the Colosseum and I was the only 1 out of 60 people at that certification who had never done a CrossFit workout.
A lot of people come to that CrossFit Level 1 and they are hesitant if they don’t have a lot of experience. I have always thought that a seminar is not just for trainers. It’s for every CrossFitter. Looking back, I bet you can agree that the earlier you are in your CrossFit experience, the more valuable it would be to jump into the underpinnings of this crazy methodology that you have chosen for fitness and health.
Our love for CrossFit is very strong. You hear about other CrossFit and other fitness watchmen. We try to say this, “I don’t care what people do as long as they are moving their body.” In CrossFit, we do specific to that and I try to explain to everybody that between you and I, it’s all-encompassing in this form with a different view of the group that you can utilize within CrossFit.
The key to any fitness regime is adherence. It’s got to be within your psychological threshold.
No doubt about it. The key to any fitness regime is adherence. It’s got to be within your psychological threshold. CrossFit fits my psychological threshold. I remember when I was done with my athletic career and I was looking for fitness, I was a wrestler, I latched on to the long-distance running community. I thought it was a little bit nutty how they would get up in the morning and they would run long distances and they would run 15 or 20 miles on Sundays. I am no small cay. I’m not built to be a runner but I love the nuttiness of it. When I found a CrossFit, I immediately knew and that was what helped me with my adherence for health and wellness is being around these misfits of the fitness community as well as what we were looked at back then. We were looked at as the misfits but now it’s become a little bit more accepted practice across the fitness methodologies.
You said that you were doing a lot of wrestling. How did you find CrossFit?
I was a high school wrestling coach. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off in the weight room one day, doing some peck fly things. I’m over on the elliptical doing some things. I was a teacher at the time. One of my buddy teachers came up and said, “Are you doing that CrossFit thing?” I ignored him. I was into my workout. I was like, “No, I’m not. I’m doing my own thing.” For some reason, it stuck with me that night, CrossFit and I googled it. The workout for the next day for CrossFit.com was the workout, Helen, an iconic CrossFit workout. The next day I grabbed one of my high school wrestlers. I took them down to the track.
We took a dumbbell for some dumbbell swings. We use the I-beam underneath the bleachers of the football track for pull-ups. They were like, “These pull-ups, it’s what they were.” It didn’t make sense to me that a workout could make me feel like that. Ever since then, I was hooked. That friend is still a buddy of mine. I still remind him all the time that he seriously changed the trajectory of my life in what he said. I was kind of gutsy of him, too because I had my blinders on, I was in a serious workout. It was gutsy for him to come up and interrupt me but I remind him all the time how thankful I am.
I can relate to that because students’ distribution back in September of 2009 when I was in Toronto to the Level 1, my brother who lives in Florida, he was like, “Jordan, I just did the CrossFit thing. I’ve got my butt kicked. You’ve got to check this out.” You go to the website but it’s just a blog with a bunch of guys drop up like this with a big tire picture in the back of an industrial complex. Do you know that picture I’m talking about?
I vividly remember it. Yes.
He called by, “Jordan, I’ve got my butt kicked again.” I go and check it out. Next thing I know, he’s in the Level 1 Certifications available until January of the following year. I somehow found an email address. There are no phone numbers of CrossFit HQ at the time. I send an email. I said, “Is there any way I can get in?” Somebody then emailed me, “I could set you up. Go ahead. You are in.” That was the beginning of my CrossFit journey, which I will say the same thing with you, it completely changed the trajectory of my entire career. A lot of us in the CrossFit for a community can easily relate to that.
It’s still a novel to see people come into the gym and express exactly what your brother was saying to you. I don’t get it. “I’ve got my butt kicked. I don’t understand what happened.” They are just intrigued. I remember that feeling I can empathize with that.
That’s my theme in this whole show. It’s called All Good Things Start With You because you saw the green light, everything aligned at that time and said like, “Let’s go, let’s make something happen. Let’s take somebody and run with it.” What’s the worst that can happen?
We have learned to do it even better as we have gone, as you get experienced with it, you learn how to implement the methodology even better.
Everything is right there and I appreciated Level 1. Even furthermore, when I’ve got in Level 2 with the hands-on coaching. I know for you, you’ve got your Level 4, which is a phenomenal achievement in the fitness world because when I take these realms there are different certifications but when I look at that Level 4, it’s so much in-depth. How do you feel the growth of CrossFit education from when we started to where we are at now?
Years ago, you had to travel far to get to a CrossFit coach. The volume of CrossFit coaches has increased. Sometimes that is viewed as a bad thing by some individuals that may be exaggerated because there are so many CrossFit coaches but from my vantage point, from the past years being involved, I have watched the skillset level of what the current coaches are, do nothing but go up and up. The volume saturated. There are more CrossFit coaches but the amount of passion that is in each of the CrossFit coaches, we all build off of each other. Some of the very best coaches I know, including myself, are the very best thieves as well. It’s easy to steal some stuff from somebody that you have learned and then you can add onto it without having to reinvent the wheel. The skillset of the CrossFit coach has been nothing but just elevate over the years, from my vantage point. It reflects the amount of fitness and the athletes that are being produced via the methodology.
If I’m not mistaken it was the year 2005, there was a video posted of Greg Amundson, he was on the CrossFit main website and he was doing the workout Fran and CrossFit posted up. “If you can send it a video of you beating this time a friend, we will send you a check for $500.” Time was like four minutes. Could you imagine if they made the posts now, how many $500 checks they would be writing out to go? The change in weights, you look at the original CrossFit games? In the original CrossFit games, there was the 155-pound grace workout. Where it was 135 was normal. People lost their minds. They are like, “You can’t cycle weights at that weight.” The same thing with the coaching. The coaching has just gone up and up, as well as the ability to produce fit people.
The ability to produce fit people is astronomical. I’m not but I’ve got to get these realms but from our careers, you look at all these different fitness realms that I just keep thinking about it. You can measure, you can benchmark all of these different natural workouts but the physical and the mental aspect of what it takes to get through these workouts, in which case, outside of the actual facility. That’s what I try to tell people when they come into an introductory session. I can’t explain to you what will happen if you are consistent with this program. You do the work, trust the program and trust the coaches that are going to be there to help you.
During quarantine, everybody learned how to become comfortable with doing things from home.
Sometimes they need a little bit of a definition of exactly what fitness is. In this multitrillion-dollar industry, there is no definition of fitness out there. A lot of people have their own definitions. Some people think that fit is simply being strong, being able to run 25 miles and think that fit is something else. CrossFit has done a good job of defining what fitness is and being precise to say it is all-encompassing. You can do a little bit of everything pretty darn good.
What about your CrossFit rhythm, you work out the rhythm for quite some time? How have you seen the involvement with the art, especially now just being in the studio? How have you felt now versus when you and I talked at the mid-2020 about the stuff that’s going on? How do you feel to do from that point?
Everybody knows 2020 was a hell of a year, especially for CrossFitters. We did all the denouncing from the methodology and then not knowing what the future of the word CrossFit was going to mean. It was iffy times. There seems to be a big excitement in the air right now with everything that Eric is doing at the helm of leadership. He has brought a different lens. It has been a healthy lens and it’s challenged. We’ve got a lot of great people that have already been along for the ride with the CrossFit home office. Eric’s new lens of looking at things has challenged all of us to look at things from a little bit of a different perspective.
Things seem exciting. It’s not big yet. This is a test pilot thing that’s going on, these are CrossFit on-ramp online things that are happening and it’s supposed to feed people into affiliates. From my vantage point, everybody is excited. The announcement of the partnership with NOBULL. It encompasses all the grassroots, literally no flashiness, a no-bull attitude that CrossFit is always trying to have that we have always embraced ourselves. It’s still early. When did the ownership happen? Was that July 2021?
A lot of changes happened. A lot of pieces have been moved around and new pieces put in place. They seem very exciting. I can’t wait to see what the next evolution is. I don’t know but I can definitely tell you that I’m buckling up and I am totally in 100%. Everybody should be because you could tell this by listening to Eric. He’s excited. He owns something that he’s very passionate about and he wants to bring new and exciting ideas. We have seen a lot of good things happen from all the affiliate support that’s been happening from the games. The pivots to go online with a lot of our courses, there has been a lot of really neat things. It will be interesting to see when things calm down. I’m pumped up. I can’t wait to see what the next evolution is.
I am too because we have been in this industry for a long time and we want to step up the game but what I like to do is to do twelve On-Ramp videos which I haven’t seen yet but it’s a step by step process with people who are intimidated by CrossFit go to these online On-Ramp beginner path. Some of these teams, when they come in the door, they have somewhat of a comfort level. We always strive to be inclusive to everyone and it’s another way to ease the barrier to untrue.
Over quarantine, everybody learned how to become comfortable with things from their own home. This fits the threshold of a lot of individuals to be. Some of our very best trainers are doing the instructing on the On-Ramp program. I’m excited. I think they were just doing it as a pilot test in a couple of cities. At the end of this graduation, it looks like you plug in your ZIP code and it brings up a list of affiliates in your area and it’s supposed to be a feeder program. It looks interesting.
Let’s talk about the foundation of your gym. It’s driven by this whole sharing mentality and education. When you were creating 810, how did you treat your class having experiences, and then bringing that into the whole 810 atmospheres?
Early on, when I opened up 810, I wanted to create a community of athletes who were virtuous in both their mechanics and their understanding of their bodies. I wanted to create true health and lifestyle for life. I wanted it to be a place where people could rely on heavy respect for good mechanics and respect for understanding what their body needs to be healthy. That was my main goal. As we started to chase that goal down, what happened is a lot of athletes became intrigued themselves to do the education part. I had a lot of my athletes coming to me and they would say, “Joe, I like what you do. I like you, coach. I think that’s cool. I want to do it also.” It slowly started with a few selected members of our gym. They were teachers, dentists, normal people that thought it would be cool to inspire others, educate others and entertain others for one hour a day.
We started developing them. I never would have seen it coming but we have had so many members of our gym leave to go open up their own facilities. We started hosting the L1s and the L2s for the CrossFit Home office or headquarters at the time. We started having lots of people show up where we became the hub of education for a lot of people to become a CrossFit Level 1 trainer. It organically happened to where it now. I’m just going to guess but I would say that there has got to be maybe six gyms out there that have branched off members who may be people who didn’t even plan on being in the fitness methodology but now they own their own gym or trainer who was in the middle of their career joined the gym and started to get their footing by observing, copying, learning and they went and opened up their own gym.
That organically happened. I can honestly say that was not something that was pushed. It’s not like we said we want to develop other gyms or other coaches. It was selfish and for ourselves but then it blossomed this cool thing, where now we sit back if we look around and be like, “It has been a hell of a ride for the past years.” Originally, we just thought we would make a cool little community that had upstanding respect for mechanics and just learning about the human body but it blossomed into more than we could have ever imagined.
I appear the same way when I first opened up. I forget who opened up first, I was in October 2009. What was yours?
We were in November 2009. We were just there for you.
Life doesn’t care if you’re busy. We have to get this thing done.
Pretty much the same time because officially, I was open the second week of November in my parent’s garage at that time.
I was at the same camp. I opened up in our garage. That was our first location. Now, we are in our fourth location. I want to keep it four if I can. I don’t think I want to do this again.
Did you finish it up?
We’ve got in. We were just trying to put the finishing touches on the old place. The thing with the new place is it doesn’t have a mechanical room and office so there’s no place to store stuff which basically means, as we bring stuff over, it has to find a home right away. That’s making it more difficult for the move but in the end, it will be very efficient. I’m all about efficiency. I don’t need stuff over in the corner collecting dust anymore. I’m past that stage.
The same thing happened to me. I’ve got two big rooms and I downsized into one big room in the corner usually in control with the scheduling of coaches and all that. It was a good decision on my part. It would be easy, as you said, I understand the whole back and forth now that we have started. In your bio, we talked about nature has no obligation to our busy schedules more as it cares. If we want to be healthy, we need to take charge of our fitness and health in the present. I think growing up playing sports, fitness or whatnot becomes habitual. As a business owner, at what point of that drive home for you?
It’s 12, 13 or 14 years of being in the field of listening to excuses after excuses about, “As soon as I’m done with this little chapter in my life, I’m going to dial in on my fitness.” I know it’s a harsh statement to say that nature has no obligation to our busy schedule and it does not care but it’s true. Think of the last time you have met somebody where like, “How have things been?” They were like, “It’s calm and collected. Everything was dialed.” No. Everybody in society is busy beyond their comprehension. Nobody is calm and collected. Type 2 diabetes, obesity, it’s just crippling America. It’s 70% of all healthcare costs. It’s 80% of all deaths. If we sit around, nature doesn’t care. Type 2 diabetes isn’t going to be like, “You are busy. Maybe I will leave you alone.” Obesity just leaves you alone because you are busy, nobody cares.
We have to take charge and time. It’s not something that happens after this thing is done. “After I get this thing in my life done, I’m going to start getting fit again.” That’s why I put that in my bio. I think people have to realize that when they come, you can tell us about how busy you are and if you want, I can tell you how busy I am if that makes you feel better. In the end, life doesn’t care if I’m busy or if you are busy. We’ve got to get this thing done. I wrote it in the bio in a little bit of a way to call people out. It was supposed to when people read it and be like, “That’s a little harsh.” I want them to come in and be like, “I’m joining this gym and I’m going to have a serious attitude because nature doesn’t care if I’m busy. I have to take care of myself. I’m the only one who’s going to do it.”
I appreciate you there because we talk about this all the time. People would all come up with a lot of excuses. They say this and that. Ultimately, it’s up to you as an individual to make that decision. You could ask anybody a thousand questions but ultimately, it comes down with you. We get ourselves too consumed by all the pretty stuff that comes out with this online. On the phone or Instagram, we have to tune that out. In terms of technology, things change so much. You back up a little bit like you and I were growing up, I don’t know about you but me, I was always outside. I was never inside. I was always playing outside, whatever it was. When I move to high school, after school, I’m going to play hockey. We would do that for hours until it got dark and then we came home together. That is a big struggle for parents who want to get the kids healthy but yet they’ve got to get themselves healthy first and set a good example.
I have multiple of three beliefs or more beautiful people in that family, all come into the gym. The kids got a bit of an order, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16 but now the kids are coming. That’s where you get the whole atmosphere of that and it should become a secondary issue. That’s what happens to us with our fitness second issue but a sense where you don’t have to think about it. We were still trying to make that change they were just sitting back and for us, it’s no big deal. We have two kinds of certificates down and being able to communicate with them and gain their trust to help them to move forward.
I can’t think of a better thing as a parent to lead by example. To lead by example, budget that time, the kiddos are watching and they will learn to budget that time too.
Speaking of kids, do all your kids do CrossFit?
I have five children because the only one that does CrossFit is my son-in-law. He is the only one who does CrossFit. My wife and I do CrossFit. My kids, Madeline, Lillian, Samuel and Kimora all did CrossFit when they were younger but it wasn’t their cup of tea. Kind of what we were saying, you’ve got to find adherence. It’s what the key is here. My son-in-law does CrossFit but the others are just didn’t and that’s okay.
Our daughter, she’s 18 years old, our son is 16 years old, and they like to go to Planet Fitness. They like to wander around like a Neanderthal, hit some of these and do some of this but they go and it keeps them inspired. I’m happy that they budget their time to go to the gym. Who knows what it is? Maybe it’s because of unsaid pressure because I’m in the CrossFit world so they feel like they have to hold a high standard. I’m proud of them that they go but it is comical that CrossFit has played such a major monumental role in my life and I’m passionate about it. Maybe that’s exactly why my kids are like, “I will leave that to dad.”
I remember when I was in high school, I started working out. We had a little home gym in the basement. My dad would say, “Jordan, go work out.” I go downstairs, do the punch and the pulldowns. I would be done in twenty minutes. He’s like, “You are done already?” “Yes, dad, I’m good.” It didn’t get to me at that point. It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school, I started getting more serious about working out so I couldn’t believe that aspect of it.
Lead by example, budget that time. Your kids are watching. Eventually, they’ll learn to budget their time too.
What’s important is the habit of it. Even though you might have gone downstairs and it might have only been twenty minutes or maybe even though I might, “I don’t know what they do when I dropped them off at the gym.” The habit is what’s golden. The habit of just going in and budgeting that time is what I want them to keep for the rest of their lives.
What would present-day Joe tell his 23-year-old self?
That’s a tough one there. I would let myself know that I don’t think I know as much as I think I know. At 23 years old, I thought I had a pretty good firm grasp on-world operation. Little did I know what the next twenty years we are going to be in store for me. I would have to remember to make sure to stop and smell the flowers along the way to make sure that you enjoy that journey. Recognizing that it’s not all about the destination sometimes. It’s about being able to enjoy being in this present moment. In the past, I was always climbing a ladder of some. Whether it was a corporate ladder. It was a professional ladder that I was trying to climb. Maybe I would overlook being in the moment sometimes. That’s the one thing I would do, is tell myself to slow down, don’t overlook things and remember that it’s a long journey.
Growing up, most of us generally think that we have to be in the corporate environment, get that health insurance paid for, find this corporate trajectory. For us as entrepreneurs, it’s the same type of mindset. None of this stuff that we are doing is easy but we welcome those challenges. That’s the difference between somebody in the corporate world and someone who’s an entrepreneur. Not to say that the corporate world themselves, they are able to forget mindset when it comes to being an entrepreneur.
It has been liberating. I was a teacher for twelve years, leaving and becoming an entrepreneur. It’s liberating and horrifying at the same time.
Especially the beginning of COVID, that was the start of the bush of anything I have ever experienced with the shutdown. I experienced an uncomfortable, unknown feeling that was in March 2020.
My wife, Liz and I had some serious life talks at that point like what is our next move without a corporate entity to lean on of some sort. That was interesting. Looking back, enjoy the process. Try to be in the moment somehow and not lose your mind over it. There were a lot of good things that happened over quarantine with the family and in the time that we’ve got to be together. It wasn’t all gloom and doom. There is icing on the cake to see.
The last question I have is the bottom line. What brings you joy? What makes you happy?
I live on a cul-de-sac, three doors down is our daughter and our son-in-law. Kalyn and Madeline are three doors down with our three grandkids. Three of our kids are still in the house with Liz and me. We’ve got like this tribe set up. We’ve commandeered this entire cul-de-sac. I can honestly say that being home, having the privilege of watching my kids walk across the cul-de-sac to go to see their nieces and nephews over there and having the joy of being able to see my granddaughter run across the cul-de-sac over to my house, it immediately calms me down. I can just stare out the window.
Liz and I creating this little family tribe that we have created. Holidays with the big feast with the families there, even if it’s not a holiday, just like if it’s a Michigan football game or if it’s a Detroit Lions football game, we all just gathering, we are family. We are just sitting around and bump. We don’t have to do anything. I don’t want to do anything. It brings me more joy to sit in the family room with a fire on, watching the Lions play, rather than being in a Disney World. Where it’s the hustle and bustle and we’ve got to be somewhere. I enjoy chilling out. I don’t need to do much anymore. I need to sit down and be around my family. I think that’s it. That’s what brings me joy.
That whole part of it is the family atmosphere, which is something that has everything good for you. You don’t have to go that way and you don’t have to do anything. You could sit there and watch these kids grow and have a good time. My wife and I don’t have kids. If somebody asks me if we have kids, I say, “No, I feed the gym.” I tell them the gym is my kids. It’s my livelihood. I want to make sure everybody is happy. This has been fabulous.
That was amazing. Thank you for that. I sincerely enjoy that. That was a lot of fun. Thank you, Jordan.
Thank you very much and I will see you soon.
About Joe Degain
Being fit/healthy is hard. That is exactly why there is a tsunami of obesity and chronic diseases sweeping the world today. For that reason, I have dedicated my life to providing a lifeboat to the tsunami upon us. That is 810 CrossFit!
If we thought “fake news” was ruining our political perceptions, that is an understatement when considering what it has done to our fitness/health perceptions. I created 810 CrossFit to provide an environment where people can share goals and experiences that lend themselves to success. Through a clever combination of education, inspiration, and entertainment, I want to provide you with all the necessary steps to get you to the next portion of your fitness journey. 810 CrossFit is a place where the truth about what needs to be done, as well as the trial/tribulations of what will occur along the way, are clearly expressed to everyone. A true roadmap to success is what we want to hand over to all of our members.