In The Trenches catches up with Carl Borg, owner of Borg Performance Training, to discuss leadership, principles, values, planning, staff development, and a “before, during, and after” look at “readiness and resiliency”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
Carl Borg is the owner of Borg Performance Training in Irvine, California. In this episode Eric sits down with Carl to discuss leadership, principles, values, planning, staff development, and a “before, during, and after” look at “readiness and resiliency” through this crisis.
Eric LeClair [0:04]
Welcome to In The Trenches a weekly podcast series dedicated to entrepreneurial leadership, the principles and values that define and develop it, as well as actionable steps that you can take to immediately lead your team to victory.
Good afternoon guys. This is Eric LeClair with PushPress and we are continuing our series of In The Trenches, and we’re taking a look at leadership styles, leadership principles and values. And today, I get a chance to wrap up with an old friend, someone who showed up in my life as both an educator as well as a coach and athlete, and we got a chance to maintain a wonderful friendship, a professional relationship, but also a great friendship. I’m going to guess 14 years, maybe 13-14 years somewhere around there. This is Carl Borg and Carl for those that are watching that don’t know anything about background or your coaching and athletic endeavors, feel free to go ahead and introduce yourself.
Carl Borg [1:05]
Thanks, coach. It’s been a long time since we had a chance to really sit down and talk. Thank you and I met originally back, probably about 2006. And that was a with Debbie and Steve now one of the CrossFits in Huntington Beach. And that’s when I was working with Brian Mackenzie. And we I don’t even think we’d open CrossFit Newport Beach at that point in time. But I remember we all met at their facility. And that’s when I first got your introduction to you walking around, shaved head, red tshirt, I remember all the TCA stuff. We’re all sitting up against the walls going, what is what are we all doing? And that just branched out with the whole CrossFit thing as it started to expand. My background as an athlete was competitive cyclist for a very, very, very long time started racing in probably 1994 is where I started and all that kind of move forward, race at a pretty high level, it used to be expert now it’d be considered CAT 1 and got into the strength and conditioning field probably about 2003/2004. And that was just experimenting around stuff to be a better cyclist, really started taking it seriously found out this something I really want to do really enjoyed it. Met Brian Mackenzie…and that was probably 2005. CrossFit, we had Genetic Potential was our first little gym that expanded out from there and the real big growth for myself and a lot of the coaching world was bringing our endurance background and we started CrossFit Endurance. And that’s where…
Eric LeClair [2:44]
That was the certification, right, so folks that were doing their Level 1, they could then expand their knowledge by doing the specialty cert, which was CrossFit Newport Beach then at that point?
Carl Borg [2:56]
Yeah, we were still CrossFit Newport Beach, so many, many years of CrossFit Endurance went on, I finally kind of made my move away from the CrossFit scene probably about 2010. I still love it, I still love watching it. But my need as a, as a coach as an athlete and the people I was working with just kind of needed a slightly a little bit different direction cific focus, not that CrossFit wasn’t good. And there’s still many sets that I will do to this day for myself and many other people, um Helen for one, just one of those that will never ever be a bad workout, never a bad workout. So 2014, I officially started Borg Performance Training. And that was set up to be very individual and specific to whatever athlete I happen to be working with. I’m pretty well known to the endurance world for the cycling, travel on ultra running. I have a background in that as well. It’s kind of what brought in a lot of athletes to me. And the thing with these guys is they were always coming In most cyclists and runners are always worried about getting big and bulky. And I’d sit up there, look at him like, Okay, I’m probably about 150 pounds, I could deadlift 400 pounds, you’re not gonna get bulky. That’s kind of where things have spawned off and been running my business pretty successfully. Although the last couple weeks for all of us has been a little bit of a slippery slope and and a lot of unknowns. But my facility is all run individual programming. It’s kind of an open gym policy. I have several other coaches and we work with cyclists, triathletes, rock climbers, volleyball, tennis, some martial artists, law enforcement, so pretty damn of it, everybody that would work with.
Eric LeClair [4:49]
So if you were to have to be able to communicate what maybe you took from the athletic world into developing business, were there any formal principles or values that helped you form, like maybe your vision statement or your vision statement? Did you take anything that you know maybe from an old coach that you that you looked up to or any mentors that you looked up to? Or has it been an evolution ever since?
Carl Borg [5:16]
It’s been a lot of evolution. I don’t have a military background like a lot of a lot of coaches out there. So you guys have been very used to very specific structure being told what to do, when to do how to do a lot of this I’ve kind of had to figure out on my own, right. I’ve had worked with other coaches in the past that have given you some very good, good tasks in structure, timing, you know, come from a swimming background, you know, you got to go to work. Swim practice starts at 545 in the morning, you jump in, do the set, take care of the rest of your day. So a lot of for me kind of figuring out how to be a leader on my own. And the thing with my businesses, it was pretty much just me for many years, it was only me, I’d wake up and do the programming, go to the gym, coach all the athletes that are coming in to train, and then go home. I didn’t have anybody else to help, you know, it all fell upon me. And you know, fast forward to where I’m at now, I have to do that for my coaches, not to mention my athletes at the same time. So a lot of learning going on for me and every single day learning something new.
Eric LeClair [6:32]
Right on I love watching when coaches get a chance to transition from working one on one with the athlete or one on two or one on three, if it’s a team based piece to now pouring into junior coaches or interns and helping to develop and you know, create a pipeline for them because maybe they are the next evolution of you or your brand.
Carl Borg [6:56]
Eric LeClair [7:02]
Is that where you see Borg Performance Training going where you might be able to step out of some of the roles and responsibility and kind of delegate out or dish out some other stuff for your for your junior coaches?
Carl Borg [7:15]
Yeah, absolutely, that’s a key point right there and in searching for coaches for me, if you own a CrossFit facility, there’s a lot of coaches out there. And you pretty much have a set of standards that, you know, they’re going to be able to hopefully teach how to do a thruster or how to do a squat or burpee, you know, pull ups, whether it be kipping or not, bringing the coaches in that I need, they need to be very adaptable to working with different athletes. You know, one of my coaches has a rugby background, good strength coach. The other one is a big weightlifter. So I have two high powered athletes or at least coaches with a half high powered, athletic background, and now they’re coming into working with long distance cycling, ultra runners, people that are doing In a different realm for them, so things that I’m having to work with him on is teaching them how to learn somebody else’s sport.
Eric LeClair [8:08]
Right and not only be understanding of whether it’s the sport, the position, the season, maybe the injuries associated with that client, but then also having some empathy to understand. They may not be like you, right, in your sport.
Carl Borg [8:22]
Absolutely. The psychological thing behind that is, it’s a big thing, you know, a lot of crossfitters or people in general fitness I know that when you’re sore after a workout, you think you did something really, really good. And you feel it. But when you take a high level competitive cyclist, whether it be a road or a mountain biker, and you make their legs so sore, that they can’t pedal their bike the next day, they’re pissed off at you. They’re not happy, they got a good workout. They’re pissed.
Eric LeClair [8:48]
I believe it doesn’t matter. I made that error before too when I introduce somebody to the assault bike, and he was a great cyclist used to do repeats up and down. You know Chantry, the Chantry Flats area and he was going out for his normal Thursday morning set of repeats after, what I would look at is like, Hey, we’re just gonna do a couple of three minute intervals on the assault bike. Three minutes on three minutes off times four. I don’t want you to go max effort, although he wanted to go max effort because he wanted to prove that the assault bike wasn’t hard. And the next morning, he couldn’t get up the hill once and he was furious furious with me and I went shit, that’s probably the wrong day to introduce him to that bike.
Carl Borg [9:30]
Exactly. It’s part of the leadership, of being in my position, being the owner of a gym, head coach and having my other coaches underneath is is the psychology behind teaching them to talk to the athletes knowing that, hey, if you feel you can do this workout again, we probably did it right. That means you can take away that carryover from that set to your next couple days of training for as well as colors 3, 4, 5, 6 weeks from now. Look back to where you’re at. Well, the athletes will always say, Oh, am I doing enough? Am I really doing enough? Is this having an effect? My cycle is too easy. Take a look at your numbers is your power? Are you recovering faster? That’s kind of their golden ticket. And teaching my coaches about, you know, power meters and TSS scores and intensity factor is still a little bit out of they’re a little bit out of their realm at this point, but the psychology of the athletes that we have in the gym.
Eric LeClair [10:31]
And they’ll get there, I mean, they will as they evolve academically, and you give them a little bit more challenge, whether it be on the program design side, or the execution of the training, or the collection of data or the interpretation of the data. I mean, taking that information back and be able to communicate it to the client. That in and of itself is a journey of learning how to read, understand and communicate. Some coaches aren’t ready for that they don’t like they’re like, wait, what I have to talk to them about their results. I thought we just put him through training and you’re like, Oh, dude, we got to talk.
Carl Borg [11:04]
And I totally agree with you on that. And I think that’s kind of where the the specifics of working with athletes carries over for me and helps out, CrossFit was great, but most people just wanted to come in and, you know, get again work get a little stronger, but not have have a goal specific use of their training. Right?
Eric LeClair [11:24]
Right. I agree. So now if you’ve taken this time to build up yourself academically and professionally, build up your brand to be a standalone, a market brand that folks can now recognize separate from, like the local CrossFit or the other micro gyms, and now you’re developing staff. You’ve got this massive wall everybody hit three weeks ago, four weeks ago. What did you think? What were your actions as the leader? How did you communicate to your staff and of course to your clientele, what did you end up doing?
Carl Borg [12:03]
Well, first thing is that I fought it as long as I possibly could. And I was kind of saw the writing on the wall with where bars are starting to be closed and big gyms, you know, the 250 people limit was, you know, you had to forcibly be closed there all the way came down to 50. And then it came down to 10. And I thought I’m going, I might only have one or two people in the gym at a time, I’ll be just fine. And then it said, all gyms must close. So I took it up as long as I could, and then made the decision to be socially responsible to close the gym just for the security and safety of myself and all the athletes inside the gym. And that was the one thing that came down to it of Sure. It may just be me in the gym, and one other athlete. But if I happen to get sick from somebody out that gym, and I brought that home, I’ve just now taking taking my family and put them in a really, you know a compromised position. It was a tough thing to originally close. And my coaches understood and we’ve, we’ve made some changes got pretty much like everybody gone to a lot of online programming, which has never been one of my favorite things to do, because you can never see the athlete move, you don’t know what they’re doing. So the first week was pretty tough, all my athletes are have all their programs on an application, o that part of it was very easy to give them programming. But at that point, we didn’t know what they had for equipment. Still trying to keep them on their goal of you know, being a cyclist to triathlete. Even those most of those events have already been canceled for the season.
Eric LeClair [13:39]
Yeah, I was gonna, that was first. the challenge was, you know, a big swath of our clientele had races canceled. And then of course, they had to put it on their calendar. I mean, the big one, obviously AC is canceled. A couple of folks had marathons, some of the Big Sur obviously Nike was canceled San Diego like there’s a whole bunch of that now. They’re just pretty much done. How did you lead some of your clients through the the, like the depression and frustration, were any of them like managing all this training, and now my “A”, or even my “A” and my “B” events aren’t even on the calendar right now.
Carl Borg [14:17]
Yeah, some of them were actually pretty, pretty easy to deal with that through that they just kind of kept trying and like, look, this is a new lease on us, we can do a little bit more strength work, get you better set for the season, when, and if it continues, it’s going to be later. So we’re going to miss some of those early season races. But you still your stuff looking, it’s getting rescheduled later towards you know, September, October, November, and will on athletes, I’ve had a little more of mental discussion, he’s a track cyclist, and obviously limited to doing his sport isn’t a closed venue. And that’s been done. So is the road all of his events are kind of, you know, definitely been canceled, but he’s trying be another multiple world champion. So there’s a lot of ego going on and a mental battle in his head of, well did all the work I do for the last three months just go in vain. So having that discussion and trying to lead him to a better spot in his head is, it’s an ongoing battle.
Eric LeClair [15:18]
Right? Right. No, I agree. I mean, that’s a, it takes a very empathetic coach and a seasoned coach to be able to, like walk them back off the cliff or or, you know, bring them down from where they’re at. And maybe help them zoom out and see the big picture that it’s not in vain. And you’ve now bought maybe a little bit more time, like you said, to, to improve upon what, whether it be a mobility piece or a strength piece. I’m glad to hear that. I’m glad that you’re able to help console some folks that might be struggling, which I’m sure besides regular clients are struggling folks that are like bought in season, trained up, paid for it, executed the training and we’re tracking to be successful. Let’s look at the Olympians right. You know you’re like well you get an extra year and they’re like, some said we don’t want an extra year we wanted to do it out like just be done.
Carl Borg [16:11]
Interesting. Yeah, you know and another thing looking forward for all of us coaches what is the delivery of strength and conditioning gonna look like you know when when are the one of these regulations finally going to be lifted as to how many people can come back into the gym? How big and the emotional feeling of a person being in a gym with three or four other people? How is that gonna play out? Right? I’m talking to my coaches about that a little bit already, but it’s such an unknown. And for myself, I don’t know how I’m gonna react. You know, I’ve been home have haven’t been around many people outside of my family. How’s it going to be the first time you have to spot somebody on a bench or a squat or your following social distancing?
Eric LeClair [16:58]
Or simply opening your door and saying come back into my space now. Although I’m here, I’ll be in the office like, I don’t know. Like, there are some coaches that are identical to what you just said there. They themselves are uncomfortable being around folks. So even though they say, Yeah, I gotta turn the business back on. I don’t know if I want to be around for a little bit, definitely around like 20 people, 30 people, 40 people, like classes, teams, personal training clients, other coaches, you know, because on any given day, what would be the max of participation in your gym like let’s say, the biggest our 10, folks, 15 folks, what do you think?
Carl Borg [17:35]
My facility a small, we’re under 70 athletes total, so hopefully on your random massive day we’d have 10 people in the gym at once, so it’s spread out, mostly.
Eric LeClair [17:47]
You’ve got to be able to go interact with them, you know, and so you so even though they might be away from each other, you have to be next to them moving all the time.
Carl Borg [17:59]
Leading through that part is kind of a, it’s an unknown right now, you know, is it a lot of this, I’m going to say is probably has a little bit of PTSD, because we don’t know how this is going to affect until we get into that situation.
Eric LeClair [18:13]
Oh, agreed. Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, there’s so many folks that are cautiously optimistic, but want to get back to work. But then there’s also there’s, there’s an underlying fear, you know, and rightfully so. You know, rightfully so.
Carl Borg [18:30]
Logical damage coming out of this thing,
Eric LeClair [18:34]
Even for those that are going to be successful, what about the other side right, so that really is kind of where we go with that with this last piece. You’ve learned, you’ve had enough trials and lessons and we’re now in this landscape of the unknown. And we know there are coaches that are failing. We know there are gyms that are potentially shutting down, they’ve lost a huge percentage of their clientele, if you could leave them with a message, not necessarily even a message of hope, not hope at all, but like a tactic or a specific strategy to employ, is there anything that you would provide for them just to kind of think about, let’s say over the course of this weekend,
Carl Borg [19:17]
I would say the biggest thing was for myself that I’ve been going through with this situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Yeah, right. There has already helped me out a lot. And another thing for older coaches and younger coaches, reach out and connect with other coaches, coaches that might not necessarily be in your field or your area of comfort, you’re CrossFit, coach, reach out to guy that does strength and conditioning for baseball. You know, same thing for being an older coach. I reach out to a lot of younger coaches too, that aren’t on my staff. Just to touch base, and the same thing where younger coaches going up the chain the guys that have ever lived experience, keep us all in the game. Right on. Now, we’re all coaches, you know, it’s it’s not what we do. It’s who we are.
Eric LeClair [20:10]
Right? That the value there is in the relationship with the clients. And we can always reach out and learn from anyone else. But we have to be humble enough to raise our hand and go, I need help. I don’t know the answers here, which is fair, you know, it’s absolutely fair.
Carl Borg [20:26]
Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more.
Eric LeClair [20:29]
Carl, thank you so much. I sincerely appreciate not only your time, and of course, the opportunity to learn and for you to provide some insights for these coaches. But like I said, earlier, man, I’ve been reaching back into the deck of old friends, old coaches. So thank you for your friendship. Thank you for the guidance in your organization from day one, to help impress upon me, my staff at TCA how to care for our clients how to improve them. And so just you know, thanks, man. I really appreciate it.
Carl Borg [20:58]
Thank you, coach. Really enjoyed this time together
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