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Perform Better, Long Beach, 2010

You’ve heard what an outstanding job Perform Better does with their conferences—and after my trip to Long Beach last weekend, you can add my voice to the cheers of others. It was wonderful to spend the time tagging along with Dan, seeing old friends, meeting some new, learning and laughing. I even got to introduce him to a couple of people.

“Hi, folks, this is my friend, Dan John, you may have heard of him.”

My first opportunity to pull this off was when we bumped into Chris Poirier, the head of Perform Better, the guy behind all the goodness about to unfold. Attendees and speakers alike tell what an enjoyable guy he is, and what a good job he and his staff do creating these weekends, but what I hadn’t heard was how easy he makes it look. Big events are not easy, and it’s monumental for him to always take time to stop and talk, and be paying attention to the conversation in the midst of what must be chaos in his head. He made us welcome, even that first night when he’d probably been going 12 or 14 hours on no rest and perhaps no food.

A few minutes later, I got to run through the Coach John introduction again when John Brookfield and Ingrid Marcum walked through the glass Hyatt entryway. I hadn’t seen Ingrid since she visited us in 2002 on her way home from two weeks training with Olympic coach Jim Schmitz, and it’s been a few years since we last saw John during which he did one of his many feats of strength before a rocking Arnold Classic crowd. Over dinner, John told us of his plans to stun the Perform Better group by rolling a 20-foot bar into a ball small enough to stow in a box the size of a briefcase, which he did the next night under the WWF-quality announcing of his spur-of-the-moment MC, Martin Rooney.


The following morning, we’d planned a book marketing brain-storming breakfast to start the day, Dan and me, Michael Boyle and Gray Cook. Between the four of us, three had flight delays; our plans wavered from moment to moment through the night. As it turned out, Michael gave his lectures on only a few hours sleep, and Gray arrived an entire day late after driving to a different airport to find another flight. Apparently these guys get routed around a lot on the way to speaking events, but they take it in stride and we never hear about the escapades.

Let’s stall over breakfast for a sec, because I want you to picture this as I saw it, sitting there watching Michael Boyle and Dan John meet. These guys, who’ve appreciated each other’s work from opposite sides of the country, perhaps for decades, were instantly friends, joking, with an instant bond of mission clarity. And here I sat, watching it all. I just love this stuff—enjoying the personalities more than the lecture education.

The Perform Better events are a conflict of decisions: By choosing one presenter, you’re deciding to take a pass on three others. There are a total of 13 session decisions to be made, and not a single one easy. Session number one, I stood in the middle of the hallway trying to decide between people I knew and people I wanted to know. The truth is, I stood there conflicted until Dan walked up, saw my dilemma and offered an easy choice, “Just come with me.”

So, we started the day in Josh Henkin’s lecture room, where Dan practically pulled me to the front row (heels dragging but no match for the beefy Coach John), a pattern that was to continue throughout the weekend. Amid my own misery of being in the front, there was time to feel a little bad for Josh, Dan sitting there, pen in hand, eager as a puppy. But Josh took it in stride, and the audience was never the wiser that one of his heroes was watching his every move.

Now this front row bit was interesting. Dan was so eager for information that we moved from the second row to the first when the spots opened up. Bit quirky, but endearing. And it definitely says something when a 31-year veteran teacher races to the front row.

Compare that with my norm: When I travel with Dave, we arrive late, slip in the back door and stay there… in the back… near the door. The truth is, that suits me just fine, but since I’m trying to step out just a little more, you’d have to say Dan was a good influence.

The next session was Michael’s lecture, and honestly, when you combine our friendship with his engaging speaking skills, I really didn’t mind sitting in the front.

Now this was interesting: Because I’d worked on Michael’s book, Advances in Functional Training, and since we’d discussed much of the content, his material wasn’t new to me. That left time to observe and enjoy him as a person and as a speaker, and guess what? He’s terrific at both. I watched him and reflected on how lucky I am to be able to work with him, and then realized all that reflection was while seated next to Dan John, waiting for Gray Cook to show up. Amazing combination of talent!

Michael Boyle Advances in Functional Training

But Gray was still en route, and Michael decided over breakfast that he’d sell out Gray’s book before he got there, a friendly little challenge that only the one friend knew about. I have a feeling Michael doesn’t lose many self-challenges, and this one was no different. The debut of Gray’s new book, Movement, was over before noon, five hours before Gray arrived. Sort of sad at the time, this will be a Boyle vs Cook story they’ll poke at for years to come.

Gray Cook, Movement

Later that evening, the keynote speaker, our old friend Thom Plummer, surprised Dan by including him as a part of his “Lessons of Success” lecture. There we were, sitting, as you know, in the front row, and onto the overhead flashes an image of Dan, hauling a rock off the cover of Never Let Go.

Dan John, Never Let Go

This was just after Thom talked about Dave’s contribution to our field, complete with enough stirring personal thoughts about Thom and Dave’s friendship and Dave’s character to have me fairly choked up. And those were followed by Thom’s discussion of both Michael and Gray, two other pillars of fitness education. I love being a fly on the wall, standing aside, while knowing I helped these guys make a contribution. It’s an extraordinary feeling, and Thom gave it to me in spades that night.

From there, another highlight: Meeting Gray. The Perform Better events include a free-beer social, and because of the flight cancellation this was Gray’s first appearance at the event. Gray and I have logged probably dozens of hours of phone time, but hadn’t met. I knew what he looked like, and that left him at the disadvantage of knowing only my voice. I got a kick out of standing nearby, making a couple of comments while knowing he had no clue who I was.

That reminds me of another intriguing contrast. Working on Dan’s book involved passing notes back and forth in a private section on our IronOnline forum. With Gray’s, we used email when it was necessary to exchange text, but did the bulk of the work by phone. Michael’s book was done entirely by email. Check this: We’d never even spoken before Friday.

The next morning, Gray, his wife Danielle, and his two daughters, Jessica and Kayla, invited me to breakfast. After breakfast, the womenfolk hiked over to the battling ropes workshop, definitely groggy and possibly intimidated knowing Ingrid had a plan for them, while Gray and I made up for the work we missed the day before.

After that, we were off to Gray’s lecture on dynamic stability training. Gray has so much insight into human movement that it just slips out between his thoughts, in writing and in conversation. So picture this: Throughout the weekend, Dan was taking notes in everyone’s lectures, big note-taker, that guy. Every few minutes I’d hear a “hmmm” or an “oh, that’s good,” as he scribbled a thought, followed by the sound of paper rustling to make way for another page.

At the opening of Gray’s first talk, Dan made a single note, then no more.

Now you know it wasn’t because there was nothing to write down. No, it was because there was so much to write down, he’d have never caught up. When you’re listening to Gray lecture, you want to stop and think about a concept, sort it out in your head, but there’s no time— you know you’re going to miss five more intense thoughts while you’re off pondering. I’d be willing to bet there were few notes taken anywhere in that standing-room-only crowd.

Gray had four contributors to his new book, one of whom is Greg Rose, a chiropractic doc who co-founded the Titleist Performance Institute. Home for the first time since mid-May, Greg is a sought-after speaker on golf mechanics, and he was next on my lecture schedule. His topic was based on the golf swing, but more than that it was a discussion of the joint-by-joint approach to movement, specifically as it relates to rotational sports. Because Dan’s a thrower—primarily a rotational athlete—I was disappointed to find Dan’s unattended notepad there next to me in the front row, Dan having been waylaid in the hall on his way back from the water fountain.

The upside there was that I got to sneak over to the sideline to sprawl on the floor, unnoticed.

Getting the spine flat for a bit was a welcome relief, because our next stop was Gray’s hands-on lecture. It’s no stretch to say there wasn’t a person in the room thinking there’s never enough time to listen to Gray and to test his techniques. Subtle tips, a fraction of an angle or a turn of the head, these all make up a fascinating difference you can feel. The trainers, coaches and medical pros all left that room with at least a couple techniques to use this week, and a few others to experiment with as they learn the nuances.

The event vendors lined the edge of the presentation room, and as Gray finished, Dan and I hurried over to visit with Anthony Carey, the creator of that fabulous CoreTex I fell off during last year’s IDEA expo. This year, no fall, nor even a close call; even Anthony, whose swift move last year stopped me from knocking over a nearby apparel display, would have to say I’d made a bit of stability progress. I’m going to have to spring for one of these things—it’s truly a blast, fun and effective at the same time.

By this time, we’re coming to the end of our trip, but not before we get a half-hour of personal attention from Gray. In the dim light of a secluded hallway, Dan and I took turns rolling around the crummy convention hall carpet as Gray pushed and pulled on bodyparts to offer a few corrective suggestions. Beyond doubt, I’d have gone to Long Beach for those few minutes, just that alone.

Sadly, Summit attendees miss as many great speakers as they see, in fact, more than two times as many! I missed a couple of good friends talk, and missed a few stellar educators. Lee Burton, another of Gray’s co-authors, arrived at LAX the same hour as we flew home, and I missed Sue Falsone talk about the thoracic spine, surely the biggest problem area in this 54-year-old body. But, hey, this is why Perform Better schedules three such weekends each year in addition to their one-day events.

Next stop: the San Jose airport, where in a bit of a tsunami I tried to tell Dave this story over a span of about five minutes.

Amazing from start to finish, the three Es— educating, entertaining, and finally… exhausting.

6 Responses to 'Perform Better, Long Beach, 2010'

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  1. Mark Young said,

    on August 11th, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Amazing summary Laree!

    You captured so much more than just the technical notes of the seminar which is all the more interesting to read.

  2. on August 13th, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Outstanding summary this is. I was in the 3rd row for Thomas Plummers talk and I will never forget that lecture. This was my first Summit and I will be at more without a doubt. I was lucky to see Sue Falsone and Greg Rose as well as others and each left me with something new. I look forward to the next one already.

  3. on August 13th, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Thank you for the kind words Laree.
    Dave will always be a hero in my mind because of his contribution through so many years. Many of us wouldn’t be in this business if guys like Dave hadn’t opened the door. I have met and worked with a lot of the guys from that generation and Dave has always been the most gracious and kindest of the group. He truly lives the life he endorses.
    I have been a fan of Dan’s since you sent me his book to review. I can’t tell which I enjoy most, his training ideas or the occasional glimpse of the intellect behind. It was an honor to have him attend and I hoped I embarrassed him greatly but someone needs to point out the power of his words.
    Congratulations on your foray into publishing. Your books with Dave, Dan and now Gray are all classy and brilliant work. I hope you find the time to take on more new authors out there and keep changing the world even if you have to work with crazy, but brilliant bastards, like Gray. No one can even think of being a trainer without his new book on their shelve as a reference.
    As a last note, thank you Tim F. for the nice comment. Hope to see you again soon.
    Thom Plummer

  4. ldraper said,

    on August 13th, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Thanks, Thom. As you know, I could not agree more with Tim’s comment above: You are a fabulous speaker. Bringing you in to keynote the Perform Better events is a brilliant move on Chris’ part — too many people come to this business with plenty of passion, only to limp back to a desk job a few years later. *Everyone* in the fitness business needs to spend a workshop weekend with you to learn about business and money; a love for the gym is just not enough!

  5. Jim Witt said,

    on August 18th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    I wish I could have been there. A lot of this information applies to my lifestyle and the choices I have made for the worst. Thank you for all of the book ideas, I plan on purchasing some of them to help me plan better for the future.

  6. Lowy said,

    on March 9th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    How wonderful the event is, I wish I would have a chance to be there and join you guys.

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