COMMUNITY: Lessons from a week at WAC

JR Ogden
Published: March 1 2014 | 5:00 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:01 am in

Editor's note: Adam Rees is Founder of GRIT GYM, a gym based on results, creating a culture and lifestyle of performance, strength, health and freedom. Adam attended Wartburg College as a multisport athlete, worked under nationally recognized strength coach Matt McGettigan, has multiple published articles by international leaders in the fields of performance and corrective exercise, and is a glutton to information and improvement in all forms.

By Adam Rees, community contributor

The worst part about my recent trip to the World Athletics Center in Arizona was coming back to the cold and snow.

The best part was being around like minded individuals.

I was side-by-side for five days with Dan Pfaff, one of the most sought-after track coaches in world. Pfaff has coached nine Olympic medalists and five world-record holders during a 39-year career and now is the education director and jumps coach at the WAC.

He always is on — always thinking, always improving and always looking for the improvement from his athletes.

Hanging out with some of the world’s most talented athletes was interesting, too.

It was great swapping ideas with Pfaff and being called a “rare coach” and “ahead of the game,” but it was nothing in comparison to hearing how similar his story was to my own.

From a small Midwest town, growing up on a farm with no interest in farming, Pfaff was very interested in performance and grabbing any information he could get his hands on from the time he was 13. He continually is applying everything he has learned.

The more he spoke of himself the more I kept saying to myself ”Wow that sounds familiar.” It was very interesting because that’s my story with a difference of about 40 years.

So what is my break down of the week?

The best question I’ve been asked so far was, why did I apply.

At this point in my career, I’m easily in the top one percent of my profession. This still puts me in a group of a few thousand across the world. For me, I could not care less about being in the top one percent. I want to be the best.

I’m extremely well read, am in regular contact with and have articles published by international leaders in the field, have been in some of the best weight rooms in the country and have been digging through everything connected to performance since I was 13.

I truly enjoy learning. Unfortunately the joy of discovery was becoming more and more difficult as resources began to dwindle, especially in this area.

Southeast Iowa is full of institutionalized and educational mindsets that seemingly refuse to learn past or think beyond the required quota with an extremely narrow viewpoint.

I have a list of priorities at Grit Gym and No. 1 is “provide the best performance service in southeast Iowa for athletes by being the most educated, with the best application, as well as continual improvement of each.”

Why did I go?

I went to be around like minded individuals. Even if I see nothing new and learn nothing else, I can at least refine what I know by being around thinkers and people who are like me. Plus, I can learn something from anyone.

Secondly, I went because there’s a group of truly amazing people at Grit Gym who make up the Grit Gym Tribe and they deserve the absolute best. That’s what I am going to give them. We’re already the best in southeast Iowa, but if you’re truly the best, then you keep improving.

Going to train at the WAC, I knew I was stepping into a very special situation. However, I was absolutely astounded to learn and see something new. I haven’t seen anything new in years. Apparently this is the case for many Olympic and professional level coaches who have trained with Pfaff.

Practice started at 10 a.m. on the track, the athletes would lift around 1 p.m. and afterward the coaches and apprentices had a debrief that was supposed to last 30 minutes, but ended up lasting three hours every time.

We were on fire all week. It was great to get confirmation on much of what we already are doing at Grit Gym and it was amazing to learn what we could tweak and improve upon, as well as acquiring new resources and a wealth of modalities that I cannot wait to get in to.

It also was nice to basically live on eight-hour work days. I’ve been going on 10- to 14-hour days for the last three-and-a-half years, so in my new down time I ripped through two books out by the pool.

Hanging out with Brad Walker and Steven Lewis for a few hours a day was pretty cool, too. Pole vault is my absolute favorite event and these guys are tops in the world. Walker owns the U.S. outdoor record and Lewis has Britain’s national record. Besides being just generally really cool guys, they were a blast to watch. And this is just two of the 30 or so athlete’s training there daily.


Much of what I try and tell track coaches still reigns supreme, but now I have a bigger hammer.

The biggest take-away for most coaches would be the idea of “minimal affective dose,” which is something we’ve always striven for at Grit Gym. It’s been a continual development and something that will be great to tweak and work with in the future based on some of the applications I can use from this week at the World Athletics Center.

The idea of doing less is something I’ve been trying to tell track coaches and parents for years. We tend to think more is better. We have 10-year-old old baseball players competing in more than 80 games a year. In reality, almost every kid will be better competing in 20 games, practicing once a week and playing around (with or without a baseball) the rest of the time.

Same goes for track. I’ve been saying this for years and probably sound like a broken record, but training for endurance first is a huge setback. Train strength first.

Improper movement and injuries develop from using the “more is better” approach.

This could not be more clear after spending a week in Phoenix with Pfaff. You can claim his population is of a different caliber than a high school athlete, but you cannot deny this has application at all levels.

Everything else would be too technical to get into here, and will remain a mystery until you walk through the Grit Gym doors.

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Is there other feedback and/or ideas you want to share with us? Tell us here.

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