Hi-Jacked at California Strength - THM01

I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a nervous flyer.

There was a tornado of butterfly’s circling my stomach and whispering white lies to my brain whilst waiting for the plane to the golden state.

“What the fuck am I doing?”

As much as I wish this was one of the magic white lies – it wasn’t. I was literally searching for the answer.

For the first time in a while, I had none.

None besides the fact I was just doing what I wanted to do.

Doing what the fuck makes me happy. Maybe, at the end of the day, that’s a good enough answer. Maybe it can be that simple.

It’s weird how that is like a super power in today’s society and for some reason you can feel heavy guilt for it. When really, you are doing the world a favour. Because when you do what deep down you really want to do, you are saving yourself. And by saving yourself, you are showing others how to save themselves.

I had booked my flights to LA, caught the bus to Sydney and am now standing in line at the airport to board my 14 hour flight to the promised land.

So, this seemed like an appropriate time to book a hire car for when I land. Jump on expedia.com 10 mins before I board my plane to book whatever car was available. I am literally mastering the art of winging it. the courage however is artificial. But I suppose that’s better than none at all.

Early, we were fortunate enough to be granted exit row seats. Although that wasn’t completely by accident.

Travel tip #1: get to the airport early for international flights and be super nice to the person at the check in. ask them how their day has been or morning and be cheerful. They deal with so many shitty people on a daily basis they are likely to give you better seats or at least exit row seats. I have also heard that if you are super rude then you are maybe, possibly more likely to get baggage “misplaced”…. Just don’t be a dick and make their day. worst case scenario is you keep your seats and make someone smile.

It is currently Tuesday the 5th of July and I have little idea on what the next 6 weeks will have in store for me, Brendan Dunn and Rory Bourke.

If it is anything like last year then the boys are in for one hell of a ride.

As for me, I have never flown Delta before.

I found nothing but mixed reviews. Which mixed well with my butterflys. Kind of how tequilla and a punch in the head would feel but for your stomach.

So do you want to know what the best thing about flying Delta is?


She is from around near Santa Barbara and was our flight attendant who was seated across from Rory and myself on the exit row seats. Initially, she didn’t make eye contact with the young man in the baseball cap, rolled up trackies who was sporting some skullcandy headphones hugging his neck. Not to mention harnessing a black back pack and having tattoos spilling out under his sleeve. Honestly, could you blame her?

Well, she didn’t take notice up until she sneezed and I said ‘bless you’.

Pretty simple, huh? You know, manners…

Travel tip #2: always use manners and say ‘bless you’ to strangers abroad. They will hear your accent and it may spark up a conversation. On the flip side, it’s just fucking polite.

Anyway, once she heard our accent she had a bucket load of questions to follow. She was lovely and definitely looked after us. So much so that when she had to get up and look after her area, her colleague ‘Eva’ (pronounced Ever – and a dude), brought us over extra food and two Heinekens at no charge because, in his words; “Pamela told me I have to look after you guys”.

First the exit row seats and now free heineys. If I cant think my butterflys away so I may as well become friends with them and share a beer or two.

12 hours later between watching bad “b” grade movies, no sleep and free mini pizzas we land in LA not really knowing what day it is. Like, logically, you know it is Tuesday but your body has been up for the better part of 24 hours and gone from Canberra winter to Californian summer and daylight to daylight – your body literally doesn’t know what’s up.

After landing, passing customs and sourcing Brendan from another flight, we head to find our rental car.

One of the benefits of renting a car last minute from a website you have never used before as a 3rd party for a rental car company called ‘Economy’ is that you don’t really know where to go to pick up your car. Especially when all of the car lots are off site. Even more so when they all have buses that loop you there from the airport. Except yours.

Because yours is economy….

Kinda sounds like budget… if you catch my drift.

So once we caught a random bus to a random parking lot and walked another 20 minutes we found Avis rentals. So being the Aussie tourist that I am, I went up and asked some ladies if they knew where Economy rental cars were.

They didn’t.

After looking me up and down and saying; “You don’t dress economy, you don’t smell economy. You sure you’re economy?” – they called up economy and warned them that if they don’t pick us up in the next 15-20 that they are going to sell me a rental.

It worked.

Jose came to pick us up in a van that my primary school encouraged me not to get into.

He was cool. Strange but cool. That’s right, I talked to strangers.

Im a bad ass - deal with it.

Anyway, needless to say ‘economy’ car rentals lived up to its name. No offense, but lets be honest, Raj, you didn’t go out of your way to make us feel welcome.

After being gifted our new baby girl ‘Ellen’ the Hyundai Elentra, we were off to find Venice beach and all it has to offer. Or, which we realised when we got there, what it didn’t offer.

Between people selling mix tapes and “doctors” providing subscriptions for medicinal marijuana, Venice beach reminded me of a poor mans Bondi. Sure it has history, I wont disrespect that but my damn it was dead. I am sure the day after july the 4th and only being lunch time had something to do with it. I still ain’t in a hurry to get back there though. Sorry Arnie.

After catching my mate James from BSFT we headed out to Santa Monica to catch the last of the rays before making the rookie error of sitting in LA traffic on our way up to Santa Barbara for the night. We aimed to stay up for the whole day so we could try and get our sleeping into a rhythm. Rory, who was now nicknamed and will be known as ‘Will Dynamite’ was seriously a shocking co-driver. My eyes are knocking off for the day and he is thumb deep into snapchat. Bro, seriously. Life and shit.

We survived. A sugarless rockstar later and we were sweet and tapping away to some Justin timberlake (#notevensorry).

Bill was our man in Santa Barbara with his boxer Felix. Bill was cool, Felix was on speed or something. The place was small and nice but what we needed after being awake for about 35 hours. After hitting downtown SB for a beer and a burger (standard American practice) we were back in the Air BnB ready to crash out in a small room with a double bed and a sleeping bag.

WEDNESDAY the 6th of July

12 hours had passed by the time we rose from the dead. Between Felix stealing our socks and a classic American coffee made out of real dog shit we head north to San Francisco. The most expensive city in the whole of the land.


The drive is honestly beautiful. Its cruisey and sunny, only made better with quality company in Brendan and Willy’ D (Rorys new name is Will Dynamite - just roll with it).

Between the time we checked into San Fran and went to sleep we managed to fit in a Globo gym workout, walk through the homeless district, be verbally assaulted by a homeless person for not giving enough money, bought turkey bacon (not really bacon) and slept with what appeared to be a bath mat as a blanket. Besides having to do a wall squat to go to the toilet and the harmless roaring lion deep in slumber in the neighbouring bed, we were safe.

For an expensive city we sure did draw the shit straw. That’s what you get for winging it I suppose.

The globo gym was fine. I really don’t see the point in hating on other forms of training or other areas of the industry. It all serves a purpose for each person at some stage in their life. In saying that, CrossFit gets hated on for their poor technique and high fees while the globo gyms go under the radar. Just do what makes you happy at that point in your life and be coachable – It’s actually that simple.

THURSDAY the 7th of July.

It was time to get the real training tour started.

First stop: California Strength

California Strength has been known in the industry as a personality born as a gym. You lift heavy and you lift fast.

I really didn’t know what to expect from Cal Strength as communication proved difficult due to conflicting schedules. This didn’t matter, I had it in my head we were going anyway. I didn’t come all this way after all to wait and hope. I’m annoying like that. Or persistent, whichever one you want to think.

All I knew is that we were rocking up and shaking out the cobwebs of 40 hours of travel and one too many July the 4th celebratory inflight beverages.

Once again, like all good gyms, Cal Strength is tucked away and hard as fuck to find. There is no advertising or weightloss challenge crap. It’s a real gym with real people. I have to admit, It was the first time in a long time I have felt my stomach lighten as I walked through the doors of a gym.

We forget just how comfortable we make things for ourselves back home until you are the new kid or walking into the unknown.

I was nervous. Sure, I was fucking amped. But I really was nervous. I mean, for the greater part I can be awkward as fuck. But today, it was the tornado of anxious butterfly’s and their lies that had the best of me.

The gym is tall and bright with a rather thin corridor that reeked of personal bests. There was areas peeling off the hall of pain that included anything from rehab gear to couches and offices.

This wasn’t a gym. This was a home. Not a home to just somebody. A home to everyone that came and respected it.

Knowing today was a drop in and self-directed session, we went about finding ourselves a platform to dance on. Looking down the hall of pain I noticed a familiar face in a rather well known CrossFitter, Jackie Perez.

Jackie is well known in CrossFit land for a number of reasons. From the competition floor to being able to authentically be herself in a world that is constantly probing us into a grey conforming ball of everyone elses opinions. After a bit of banter and having her squat behind me, she invited us to hit up some heavy breathing and some conditioning at CSA (Combat Sports Academy) post lifting.

Well look, we may look like we might be not really on a schedule but we did have to move our afternoon nap to fit it in. So, I guess you could kind of say we had to make a trade off. Between you and me it was worth it though. I guess you could say our afternoon was… high-jacked….

Second stop: Combat Sports Academy

Anyway, both Jackie and her training buddy Alex LaChance were super welcoming and open to us jumping in and hitting up the remainder of the conditioning with them. Alex is a games/regional level athlete and her quads deserved an Instagram page of their own. Each.

What I love about this industry is when you put yourself out there to meet good people they will invite you into their space and 9 times out of 10 as a guest. Whether it be CrossFit, Powerlifting or other functional sports people really just want to be around good people. I love that about this. You got to get out of your little comfort hole to experience it though. You got to make your own opportunities.

As for Jackie, she gets full points. Not knowing us from a bar of soap, she invites us to her gym to get all jacked and tanned. Which is a nice change from the sweaty and pale I was currently experiencing. If you don’t know who Jackie is then find her on insta @jackie585. Unless you don’t want to see some fit chick being unapologetically herself, then you know, don’t.

We were no more than 2 days in and had already traveled about 10 hours, trained at Cal Strength, trained with Jackie and Alex and been to Santa Monica and Muscle Beach. We were good. We were in stimulation overdrive.

FRIDAY the 9th of July

As Friday meets us we are due to train at San Fran CrossFit with Roop Sihota at lunch. Whilst running on Canberra time and Dave time, we manage to get there 5 past. We missed the warm up. We missed the session. Which, in hindsight I am happy about. I didn’t want to pay $30 american dollars to do a couple of 100m sprints and a workout. My body needed some TLC in the form of balls and rollers.

Watching Roop coach was like watching a conductor at an orchestra. He was in his element and delivered his content with finesse and sincerity. Besides transitioning from position to position effortlessly as if being controlled by a remote, he was so eloquently able to paint what he wanted to see from each individual with both words and movement. A true artist.

We didn’t get too much of Roop’s time. He was a true gentlemen though, one of those guys that makes you feel like you’ve known him for years when you meet him. The world needs more of that. After squatting in open gym we agreed to breakfast the next day. once again, the kind of guy you could catch up with breakfast each week and somehow learn something new unintentionally about something so interesting that once never was.

I like that.

It was off to MAX OUT FRIDAY (say it like you're saying Jon Cena) at Cal Strength. We decided it was best to take the same route as the rest of the population of San Fran and drive 30 miles in 2 hours. Fucking. Brutal.

But it was worth it.

Met some awesome athletes who are lifting some serious weights for their age and size.

The vibe wasn't electric. That's an understatement.

It as like you were in the clouds that created the lightning. It didn't matter how you felt, this was PB city.

It felt rude to leave without hitting one. So we did what a true Aussie would and punched it in it's face.

To walk away with a PB at max out Friday is a good feeling. It is up there with fresh sheets and taking your bra off. Or taking off someone elses.

This is where the Nate Chambers comes into it....

And this is where I go to bed... I am currently in the middle of nowhere and have 8 hours of driving to do tomorrow through Yosemite National park, so you are going to have to wait....

Until next time, sleep well and don't let the bed bears bite!

Dave Nixon