Self-Made Doesn't Exist. Thank You.

Self-Made Doesn't Exist. Thank You.

At one point, in the early days of Ambitious Athletics, I actually considered having "self made" tattooed across my knuckles when I thought I had "made it".

Then I woke the up and realized that "self made" and "making it" don't exist.

Ambitious All-Stars 2015

Ambitious All-Stars 2015

An Ambitious All-Star is someone who self defines Ambitious Athletics. This person demonstrates dedication, perseverance, community, and the willingness to get better.

If You Pay For a Gym, You’re Doing It Wrong

by Hewitt Tomlin, Co-Founder of TeamBuildr - a DC-based software company helping strength and conditioning coaches build workouts, track athletes, and create competition.  

On the surface, big box gym seems like a no-brainer.

  • “It’ll be cheaper because it’s a franchise.”
  • “I get access to all the locations in the city.”
  • “It has amenities.”
  • “They offer discounts on classes.”

Yeah, yeah. We’ve all been there before and this is closest thing to the college rec center, ya know? Besides, it’s just easy getting a “good deal” at the Gold’s Gym down the block. You can even take it up a notch when you get your first raise at work and join Vida or Washington Sports Club. But a little self-reflection will reveal that if you care about your personal fitness then you are actually doing it all wrong!

Being a member at a big box gym has a feel good factor. More than likely, there are plenty of people in it and you probably got some sort of seasonal promotion when you joined. However, when it truly comes to your health and fitness lifestyle, you are probably selling yourself short -- here are some reasons why.

There is zero accountability. According to an IHSRA study, “Gyms typically sell memberships with the expectation that a mere 18% of people will actually use them.” That means there is a 1/5 chance that you will you use your gym pass longer than a month. When juggling a career and social life, “making the gym” becomes something you do when it’s convenient or when you’re stressed. This makes health and fitness less of a lifestyle, and more a convenience.

Your gym will most likely get crowded. And that sucks. The truth is that gym corporations and franchises know this game; a single facility built for 1,000 individuals will sell up to 5,000. If for any reason more people show up than expected (1st week of January, anyone?!), your workout is ruined.

The personal trainer is not so personal. As a way to make the facility more intimate for their members, gyms will sometimes offer personal trainers. If you have the luxury of affording one of these guys or gals, you’re certainly better off using them. There’s only one problem: These people are really expensive! If you think about it, a personal trainer will spend an entire hour on just you, which means they can focus on 12 people a day (if they work themselves into an early grave); and these folks need to make a living. I don’t know about you, but many young professionals can’t afford this.

Here’s some good news, though: I’m not going to leave you hanging without a good solution.

If you want to take your health and fitness seriously. If you want to spend less money than a personal trainer would cost. If you would like to receive the benefits of professional advice, personal accountability, and a social environment. Join a local small business, group training gym.

Besides the fact that you are supporting a local small business owner, becoming a member of a boutique gym will transform your perception of fitness. Imagine small group training of 10-20 people that will turn out to be your tribe. Think about the professional strength and conditioning coach that will hold you accountable to your goals, motivate you during a group circuit, and press you to become the best version of yourself. 

It's about being a part of something bigger than yourself, not just a group, but a community.


Women's World Cup 2015: The Foundation of Success

By Lori Lindsey  

Wow! I can’t believe it has already been a month since the Women’s World Cup final, and yet I’m definitely still experiencing a high from all the emotions of that momentous final match.

Can you imagine the elation the women felt when the final whistle blew?

Can you imagine the relief they felt after beating Japan in the final when just four years earlier they had fallen short?

Can you imagine how many games, training sessions, gym sessions it took to get there?

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Canada, not only for the final but also for a number of the U.S. Women’s games. The enthusiasm surrounding each game was contagious and you could feel the excitement grow with each U.S. win.

My experience at the final this year was vastly different than it was four years ago when I was representing the U.S. as a player, and yet I was surprised to find myself just as anxious and nervous as fan as I was as a player four years earlier. The majority of the team are former teammates, and many are life-long friends. I wanted nothing more than to see them win it all, especially after the disappointing outcome of the 2011 tournament.

When the final whistle blew, the energy was electrifying. Fans of all ages were overwhelmed with joy. I was beyond thrilled as well, and yet it also triggered a time of reflection for me. From my experiences I understand what it takes to play at the highest level, the sacrifices that are made, and the demands of the tournament alone. In that unbelievable moment, I felt connected to the players as I understood and related to the journey that brought them to the pinnacle achievement in their sport

Two questions that ran through my head following the final match were: Do the fans understand what it took for the players to become World Champions? Do players to aspire to play on the World Cup stage understand all of the ingredients to a successful and enduring career?

Technique and teamwork are a huge component of the teams’ success but, strength and conditioning, and athleticism provided a critical foundation. I would even argue that the work that took place off the field was just as, if not, more important than what took place on the field. A tournament like the World Cup requires intense physical demands, even from elite athletes competing at the highest level in football. Focused strength training made a difference for the team in a number of important ways:


1.     Recovery

Our team played a series of seven games over the course of four weeks, and with each game, we faced an increasingly tough opponent. It was imperative going into the tournament that each player’s body was primed for the demands of maximum performance accompanied with minimal rest time.

The recovery of the U.S. players from game to game was very apparent as the team’s performance continued to get stronger as the tournament wore on. In contrast, it was evident that other teams began to succumb to the fatigue and ‘heavy’ legs.


2.     Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation:

Soccer is a physical sport, and from time to time, players suffer minor (and sometimes major) injuries. As so many players know all too well, getting stronger is the basis for rehabilitation. And, just as it is key to rehabilitation from injury, strength training is just as important to injury prevention, and essential to players being able to safely contribute through all seven games in the tournament.


3.     Strength and Athleticism

Whether you’re a striker like Alex Morgan, utilizing your explosive speed to outrun a defender and score, or a defender like Becky Sauerbrunn, tracking runners and making critical tackles, strength and athleticism complement your technique and tactics. Yes, some of these women are natural born athletes, but it is the extra work to improve their jumping ability or first-reaction-step that has them at the top of their game.


4.     Confidence

Confidence is a consequence of preparation – knowing what is required, and that you have done all that is necessary. Stepping out onto the pitch at the World Cup in 2011, I felt strong and ready. In watching the recent semifinal and final games of this year’s tournaments, I was struck by how the resolve of the team translated into the momentum that took them to the top of the podium. Confidence on and off the ball comes from experience and technical skill coupled with the knowledge that after 90 minutes of physical play in hot and humid conditions, your body can still deliver what you ask of it.


The 2015 World Cup final showcased the talent, technical skill, and tenacity of the 23 members of the team. But it was also a celebration of years of hard work off the field. So as the U.S. Women’s National Team has captured the attention and passion of millions of people across the country, it’s worthwhile to not only celebrate their accomplishment, but also recognize the work it took for them to realize their dreams.

Six months into my work with Ambitious Athletics, it is this understanding of the connection between strength and success that reinforces my decision to become a strength and conditioning coach and inspire females to gain confidence through strength. I know the physical demands it takes to reach the pinnacle of your sport, and it doesn’t happen over night. I want others to be able to celebrate their hard work and accomplishments, whether the goal is a World Cup Championship, playing at the collegiate level, or just enjoying the sport you love in the safest way possible.


To consistently get better, you've got to consistently try harder, master a skill, and surround yourself with like-minded individuals. I'll expand more on this in upcoming posts. Sign up here to get exclusive content on becoming the best version of yourself.

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Thanks for reading,




The Often Ignored Cause of Stalled Progress

by Jack Penner  

Starting on the path to getting strong, lean, and awesome requires you to place a huge focus on the way you eat and the way you train. Handle these two areas and you will see great results. You lose some weight, and feel stronger, more athletic, and empowered.

But then, despite your great adherence, progress seems to slow. Maybe the fat stops falling off or maybe you aren’t seeing the strength gains you want.

We’ve all been there before. “I don’t get it. I’m doing everything right.”

Whenever this happens, there’s something looming. Easy to overlook, but likely to keep you stuck.


  A critical component to life, the right kinds of stress for the right amount of time allow you to adapt. To improve as a human. More muscle, less fat, better mental clarity.

However, the wrong kinds for the wrong amount of time can leave you stagnant. Less muscle, more body fat, brain fog, and a grumpy mood.

Using stress to your advantage- to make you leaner, stronger, and more awesome - comes down to finding balance. The balance where you get the right kinds in the right amounts.

All Stress is Not Created Equal

Some stress makes you better. It challenges you, taking you out of your comfort zone, and forcing your body to come back stronger. Think: a hard workout or a mentally challenging project.

You come out better prepared to handle things the next time around.

Then there’s the stress that does nothing but suck the life out of you. Traffic, bills, unhealthy relationships. All the ways the world makes you want to rip your hair out.

These do nothing but bring you closer to your breaking point.

Despite the different outcomes these stressors bring, your body doesn’t care. It’s all stress. It all takes a toll. It all drains your resources, yet only some of it pays dividends in making you better than before.

Are You In Debt?

Every person has a certain amount of stress tolerance. Your own stress bank account.

Some people have a huge amount to spend. These are the people who seem invincible. They can sleep 4 hours per night, eat like garbage, crush their workouts, and dominate their career.

Then, there are the people who aren’t as well off. Most people fall into this category. I certainly do. You probably do, too. It doesn’t take much to drain our funds and send us into debt.

When this happens, the wheels start to come off and progress comes to a screeching halt. Your body just can’t keep up with all the demands you place on it- physical, emotional, psychological- and it revolts. It stops progressing.

After all, improvement is taxing. Your body has to believe it can sustain the new person you’re trying to forge. One with more muscle, less fat, and higher levels of performance.

Smarter Spending

Making sure you stay in the green and keep your body in a position to make consistent progress comes down to a few action items:

1. Know when your funds are low

No matter how tough you think you are, you can’t redline your body for weeks on end without burning out.

Having the self-awareness to know when to back off, and what to do when that time comes will serve you well.

Now, this doesn’t give you the excuse to sand bag it all the time, telling Carmen and Lori that you’re “spending smarter.” It just means you have to be honest with your self and see the bigger picture of improvement. Embrace the journey.

2. Eliminate all the sources of stress that don’t make you better

Take a look at your daily life. What are the things that leave you feeling like you just went through the ringer?

Is it that co-worker that gets nothing done and leaves more work for you? Is it that looming home repair that just sits there, dripping anxiety into your mind?

You can’t avoid some of these. No one can live a life of vacations, tropical cocktails, and hammock naps. But I bet you can make a dent on some of them. Make a list of all the things that drain you and take a good, hard look at which ones you can get rid of. Then, take action on it.

3. Incorporate into your life activities that put some funds back into your account

Recovery techniques, sunlight, deep, restorative sleep, anti-stress nutrition. The list goes on.

These all serve as investments. They make you better able to handle future stress. More likely to see progress.

Over the next few articles, we will dive into these different topics. You’ll understand how your daily habits impact your progress, and learn strategies to make changes.

In the end, you’ll walk away with the ability to manage stress and ensure you come back better every, single day.


If you have any questions, you can shoot me an email at I love hearing from you guys, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Also, if you want more posts from me, check out my new blog over at I’ll be talking about all things related to bringing your best self to each day.

Thanks for reading, everyone.