Peter: How do you describe your title?
Dave: That's a really good question. I'm the CEO of Tillman Physical Therapy, Crossfit Cedar Park, Crossfit 2222, and Mad Athletes. That's a lot, I know, but it kind of means I do a little bit of everything. I program, I'm the head coach, I do it all.
Peter: You mentioned before being CEO of CrossFit Cedar Park, Mad Athletes, Tillman Physical Therapy. Tell me a little bit about those different entities and different names. What are those different programs? What are all these different companies, and how do they all fit together?
Dave: We started with Tillman Physical Therapy. My brother is a doctor of physical therapy, Michael Tillman, and I've always been involved in strength and conditioning since college. So I've kind of always been the strength coach, and we started physical therapy and I was doing mostly one-on-one training on the side and some group stuff, and that's how it all started. As we grew, we had that with Tillman Physical Therapy and Sports Training Center, Inc., and we started that in 2001. About 2007 is when we heard of CrossFit and we decided to change our training methodologies or pick up CrossFit and that's when we became CrossFit Cedar Park. That entity came out as our first affiliate, and I want to say we were one of the first 250 affiliates in the world.
That was in 2007, things were a lot different then. It was a lot smaller and kind of like, you know, you knew everybody who was involved at HQ and you just knew everybody, and nobody knew what CrossFit was.
You couldn't go buy a rig anywhere. Nobody made them. There were no companies that did any of that stuff. You had to know somebody that welded, and you had to come with a design or something like that and see if they could fabricate it. Literally that's how it was. As a matter of fact, the first three kettlebells that I ordered, this is going to sound funny, I had to order from overseas. What I paid for the kettlebells, I paid the same amount in shipping.
I ordered three kettlebells, and that was my first order of kettlebells, and now of course, they are easier to come by, which is great. That's kind of how it was then and then from CrossFit Cedar Park, we started, just like everybody, just training everyone - mom and pop, grandma, grandpa, like all those people. Because of the combination of physical therapy and the way that we incorporated some of our old school training methodology, we ended up developing some pretty good competitors. Out of that I started getting some remote and some competitive athletes, and that's where Mad Athletes came in. Then just over a year ago we started CrossFit 2222 which is our second affiliate.
Peter: Amazing. So a couple of things you mentioned that made me really interested is you mentioned that you had been doing strength and conditioning coaching since 2001 but you affiliated in 2007 and you did mention that you were one of the first affiliates. So at that time, what was so interesting to you about the CrossFit movement methodology?
Dave: I'll give you the background on how it came about. I had always been involved in training everybody - athletes. I started as a personal trainer right out of college and then kind of went on my own, left the gym. I had the clipboard, I was that guy and I kind of let that grow out of that. Eventually in like 2001, we started our own business and from there I'd always had a group of guys I worked with and we would always experiment with cutting-edge training methodologies and what makes people stronger and faster. We did a lot of research.
I had a client that came in, and I want to say the movie 300 was about to come out. It hadn't come out yet, and they were like, "Hey, you should look at these people who are going to make this movie," and so now everyone knows what that movie is but at the time nobody knew what it was you know, because it hadn't come out, and they were like, "these guys are training for this movie and we should see some of what they're training, what they're doing." I looked it up and they were training through a gym called Gym Jones. I looked up the owner and did my research, and that guy had trained under Coach Glassman. Coach Glassman was his coach for a while, they had a falling out and he started Gym Jones. It was this hardcore training, but looking up Gym Jones led me to Coach Glassman, which led me to CrossFit , and so that first day, all I did was watch every video that was on the CrossFit website. Like literally every video.
Peter: What about CrossFit Journal? You read all those?
Dave: Yes, and I watched all the videos, and then I decided, like, "Hey, I'm going to try some of these workouts." The first workout I tried all by myself was Fran, and it sucked.
At that time, kipping pull-ups was cheating, you were only supposed to do strict, and so I did strict pull-ups and it killed me. It kicked my ass and I just became obsessed with it, and started eating it up. I want to say the first thing that drew me to it was that it varied and it was intense. Those were the two things that really stood out in my mind. Like, this is awesome because it always keeps your body guessing and it's an intense workout. It's going to challenge you, and so at that point in time, I remember nobody knew what CrossFit was and it was really raw and hardcore. I'm in my mind trying to think, "How can we get everyone to do this? How can I get Mrs. Smith, you know those people of all different levels?" and so I did some more research and we decided to affiliate. The more research I did, the more I liked it so when I went to get my level one at that time you just went for the weekend. There was no test, there was no anything, and I asked "Is there some type of study material?" I had other certifications and so I emailed, and they emailed back the link to the CrossFit Journal and they said, "Read all of these." So I literally printed up all of them and read them all on the way to California. At that time they only had one certification team and it was Coach Glassman and Dave Castro, All those people and I went out there and read them all and basically there was no test. They just kind of kicked your ass for two days and lectured, and kicked your ass. It was kind of like that and then you went from there.
Peter: Tell me a little bit more about Mad Athletes. As we sit here I'm wearing a shirt that has the Mad Athletes logo on the back so, "Yay CP!" (laughing) How does your remote coaching work and how did you get into starting doing remote coaching?
Dave: At first we just started with competitors. People that got obsessed with CrossFit a lot of times became coaches, and they became competitors, and I had a couple, that were like that, one of my first coaches that I ever hired, Nicki, qualified for the games in 2009 and she's been to regionals like six or seven times. She was probably the first big competitor that we had. My second was Derik, he's a green beret in the army and qualified for the games in 2010. He actually ended up becoming my first remote client because he was with me that first year that he qualified and then he had to go to the Q course to become a green beret and I would send him the remote programming. The next person was a guy who owned a box in Louisiana and Derik worked out there a couple times and Derik was like, "you need to get on this program," and that's Wesley. Wes got in touch with me and said, "hey, can you put me on the program?" and it kind of grew like that. So it's not that Mad Athletes is just remote programming, but it's competitive programming. It can be in-house like we do it here. We have a Mad Athletes class or it can be remote. The other thing I can say honestly is that we might not have gone over is a program for other boxers, a program for a couple boxers in the Houston area and then in Hawaii as well.
Peter: How did that get started?
Dave: The Hawaii thing came about because I started a Mad Athletes camp. We ran the weekend competitor type camp if you wanted to compete and I brought in a bunch of experts. Chad and Joni Vaughn, I brought Dave Durante in, Valerie Hunt who does pose running. We have this one coach that came in and we did kind of hit every aspect. I brought in my brother to do, physical therapy, mobility, that type of stuff. So we ran this two-day camp. We ran the first probably three or four we ran here across at Cedar Park, and then I had a remote that was in Hawaii that worked at CrossFit Oahu. She worked there and she said, "you should come and do that camp out here," and so we went out there to do a camp and basically to kind of have a vacation and do a seminar and we did the seminar and had a vacation and it was awesome and from there I actually got a lot of clients out of different boxes and so I started programming for a lot of different boxes out there.
Peter: What does it look like when you program remotely for a box? I mean, is that a product that you actually market, and they pay you? Is that something where you're already programming for your box and you just kind of push that programming out to them as well? I'm really curious in how that looks.
Dave: Every box is different. Right? And um the way I program is uh we do uh sort of a periodization, like we kind of work off of the CrossFit season, um, you know if, if the games is a big deal we kind of run a most programming off of that, a little bit. Um, and I guess I want to say your average CrossFit client doesn't really care about that or realize that I mean, they just want to look better in a bathing suit, right? And so, uh, which is really important. I'm not discounting that. That's a big important deal and uh from that though like we like, I'll put in spring cycles uh and so one of- one of the things that I believe in is you give people what they want but you wrap that up in what they need, right? And uh, and so, because everybody want sot do sit ups and feel the burn and that kind of stuff, but there are other ways to work to get a stronger core where you're not just feeling the burn, you know? I mean, and uh, so that's kind of the way I look at things when I program, is what do they need and then you gotta give them a little bit of that what they want and so I’ll program spring cycles in but every box is different because each - they're all awesome, we all do Fran, you know, but each community has different busy times, they have different like equipment sets, some people don’t have slam balls, some people don’t have sleds. Some people don't do a lot of barbell, and if your coaches aren't comfortable in coaching a lot of barbell then it's hard for me as a programmer to say, program in a lot of barbell. Um, and so you kind of have to get to know the box and it’s a lot of work put in. Um, it would be really nice if I could just write one program and just send it out to all these boxes, but that's not how it works.
Peter: Got it. Well, I do know that there are a few companies out there who do the, I don't want to be derogatory and call it "cookie cutter programming," but there are a few companies that sell programming to boxes to put it out there.
David: Right. Right, and that's a tool. Like, that's definitely something you could do and say like, "hey, I have this program. If you're a box owner and don't want to program for this box, because it's a lot of work to program, if you don't want to go through the time and do that, then you know buy this, and then, you know, here it is." And you know, I get that. There's a use for that. I think maybe my problem is me. I don't do things that way. I'm very, you know, I don't know maybe I gotta do things the hard way or something but I - Peter: You and me both, brother.
David: I really want what's best for my people and so even with my competitive program here, that we run, I have a template or an outline that I go with. I make individual adjustments for everyone based on their strengths and weaknesses, and so, I mean, that's a lot more work. I could just say, "go do what's on the board and that's that," but I don't do that because that's, like I said, I don't know, it's just important to me that people get what they need and everybody is a little bit different. So it's the same with boxes. Like each box has a different feel and so I try to make adjustments. Now there are times when maybe we all do the same WOD or something like that but there are always like little adjustments or different skills or strengths or whatever that we work on.
Peter: Got it. Now, the programming for boxes, and I'm just kind of focusing on this because this is really interesting to me and I think will be to uh our followers. Is that something that you actively market at all or is it something more passively that people know you do and just kind of every now and then some new box asks you about that and then you pick them up, or is that, like I said is that something that you are really trying to expand?
David: So, I mean we are trying to expand it but as far as "actively market," I don't know, like, it's on our website but it’s not something like I send ads out or anything like that. It's - it's kind of very grassroots grown kind of a thing um but yes we're always looking for new, you know like new boxes to program for and stuff like that. Um, uh but as far as actively marketing I probably haven't pushed that as much as I probably could or should. Um, but uh like I said we always want more clients for that and to me that’s a fun aspect of the job and you know it's kind of cool to see, like if I'm on Facebook and I see like a box put up hey we did this WOD today, we did this strength and look at these PR's and I had a hand I that, you know what I mean?
Peter: Umm hmm. I love that. So this is related but kind of moving on slightly to a slightly different topic. Whenever I walk around like the Crossfit Games with you, which unfortunately this year we didn't really get a chance to link up very much at the games, um, it seems like you know everybody. What's that all about? How, I mean we're just walking around and people are like, "Hey, Dave!" How, I don't know, is that because you've been in the community for so long, or what's going on there?
David: Like, it's probably a little bit of both. Honestly, I've been in, I've been involved in Crossfit for a long time and I'm kind of you know I've done by certifications and I've gone to all of the functions that Crossfit puts out, um, and so I'm a round a lot and the other part is I just talk to everybody man! I like people! I like getting to know people and talking to people I mean, that's really why I do this as a business uh I mean our mission for all of our businesses is to change people's lives, to use health and fitness to change people's lives. Um, but we got into this business, my brother included, to work with people, that's what we love, you know what I mean? Um, I love meeting all different people. People who have, whatever - different walks of life, and I talk to everybody so people fascinate me and so if you meet me I'll probably ask too many questions or stuff like that but I mean that's just the way it is and maybe that's why uh that I know a lot of people because I'm not afraid to go up and say what's your dead lift or what's your Fran time or what method are you using to train or you know, any of that stuff.
Peter: If there was a new affiliate owner that was trying to kind of get to know people in the community, I mean, would you still think that that's just viable? Just you know, go to the games, go to all of the events and just talk to everybody? Or do you think that as the community has gotten larger, it's gotten a little less friendly?
David: That's a really good question. Um, I definitely think that you can- if I was a brand new Crossfit affiliate owner I definitely think that you can get involved in the community. Um and uh talk to people and do those sorts of things. I mean there's competitions about every weekend. You know , when I started there was like I don't know, three competitions a year, you know. And one of them was regionals and so it was like that. Nobody knew how to put on a comp, but now, I mean, let's be honest. There's like two or three comps every weekend, um, and I mean, I think you can go to those events and talk to people and get to know people. And so I definitely think you can do it. Is it as easy as it was back then, well no, but that doesn't mean it's not possible and in my mind like I don't know that that should be your goal, is just to be you know, well known. Um I think it should just be a genuine thing that if you like people and you talk to people like you're going to get to be well known, you know? And part of it is it's just over time. You know? And I've had a lot of clients that I've worked with over the years and you know people that I've just done things with, whether they were clients or not you know. Like we've had people jump in to sub for comp and so I got to know this person and this other box, or you know like something grew out of that like a lot of it's just organic and it should be genuine. I don’t think that should be like on your- your daily mission to go see how many people you can meet in the Crossfit world. I mean that's the way I did it. I guess you could do that. Um and just be open to boxes. I mean, yeah, it's a competitive - it's competitive out there but there's plenty of people out there you know for all of us to have clients you know? Just think, I'll tell you this - in Crossfit Cedar Park, right behind us is a park um a big park and right behind that is 1500 homes. 1500 houses, right? Um I don't have all these 1500 people working out, and I know those 1500 people are not working out, right? And so I don't think of this as my competition is the box down the street. I think of it as my competition is the couch or the bar you know? Like, that’s what it is! So, I'm just a firm believer that success comes from helping people and the more people I help, the more successful I am and that's kind of the way I look at things. So, if I go into it going, "I need to meet ten people today," I can see how some people would do that but that's not something that I do. The way I do it is I just talk to people. I'm interested. I want to know, like, "what do you do that makes you awesome? What do you hate about crossfit?" You know and these are the questions that I ask people as I get to know them, you know? And I just, it's just fun to me. That’s the funnest part of our job is how many different people we get to work with and meet, you know?
Peter: I love it man. Cool! Well, uh, you know we've been talking more about your kind of business outlook and your training and your box but uh is there anything else you want to, you want to say? Because other than that, I think this has been really interesting!
David: I don't know. I'm just having fun, man, and I just want to say I mean I really am, like. I'll be honest with you if I won the lotto today, I mean, I'd be back up here tomorrow. I might go pick up a newer car. (Laughter)
David: I might go get - I love my car, but I might go get a new one! You know what I mean, but I mean this is what I do, like, I don't - I can't think of anything else that I would want to do and I'm lucky in that a lot of box owners, it's their part time gig. Like, this is what I do all day. You know? I do this all day, every day, and um you know I love it. I love the fact that my kids are going to grow up in a box every day pretty much. You know? They're going to feel that community, that aspect. I don't know, dude! It just, it makes me feel good to walk into the box and have people working out. Whether I'm coaching or just watching another coach you know lead it, like that - I get a good feeling from that. I also get a good feeling when nobody is here and I get to walk in and it's just quite for a couple minutes, but that doesn't happen very often, but - but I mean it's pretty cool. I just love what I do and we're trying to make people better. That's what we do. Through that exercise, through Crossfit and through the things that we do, you know, getting stronger and faster and better at gymnastics and all that, like, we're making people better moms, dads, kids, students, parents, firefighters, all that and I mean it excites me.
Peter: Awesome. I love to hear it. Cool. Well, uh, so CrossFitCP.com is where everybody could go to find out more about you, Dave, is that right?
David: Yes, sir.
David: You can look me up on Facebook, too!
Peter: (laughing). Big Dave Tillman. Alright. Thanks, brother!
David: Thank you, Peter. I appreciate it, brother!