An Interview with Steve "Sgt Steve" Rosen, PCC, HKC
By Adrienne Harvey, SrPCC, RKC-II, CK-FMS
How did you first get involved with health and fitness?
Back in the summer of 2009, I realized that my choices had led me to a place I was not happy with. I was overweight, really out of shape, and I felt weak. I remember going to a lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Superior and after going up and down only three flights of stairs, my legs felt weak, wobbly, and rubbery. I realized that I did not need to be that out of shape—I had a big belly and just felt bad. At that point I started trying to get back in shape and eat healthy.
It was a roller coaster ride for the first 18 months. I would do really well for a little while, and then something would change—I would get bored or injured then completely go off course. But during that same 18 months, I got certified as a personal trainer
. I was inspired by Tony Horton of P90X, I loved his charisma and his energy on the workout DVDs. I wanted to help inspire and change people's lives, too. Since I was still in the Army, I was only able to coach and train people on the side—so it started as more of a hobby than a profession. But this is how it all began—I was just a mess, and fitness was my salvation!
Ultimately, what helped you stay or get back on track in the more difficult moments?
I changed what motivates me. Before, it was a lot of short term or shallow motivation. I just wanted to have ripped abs and look great, but once I got the abs they didn't really fulfill me. It wasn't what I expected, and I lost interest. All that healthy eating and exercising to only maintain those abs wasn't worth it. But, I also noticed that every time I got off course I felt bad—emotionally, physically, mentally. I would feel run down, sad, depressed, and anxious, and that sucked! I started realizing that I should start eating healthy and exercising just to feel better. I started to think of it all as a lifestyle, not an event.
My definition of fitness is feeling your best, performing your best, and third—the lowest priority—is looking your best. If I do everything I can to feel and perform my best then I'm going to look my best. Taking that approach completely changed my perspective. Instead of having a really strict path (like a train track), now I'm more like an airplane, if I go off course a little bit, I just adjust my heading to go back in the general direction of feeling, performing, and looking my best. Of course I still want to look my best, but it’s no longer the driving force of my motivation.
When did you get your HKC?
I was in a funk back in 2013. I'd just retired from the army, and started my bootcamp which was going great, but I was not enjoying fitness. I was bored with it and was just going through the motions. But, soon I found out about an HKC workshop
in Encinitas with Max Shank. At that point, I'd never heard of Max Shank and knew very little about Dragon Door. I was interested hoped the workshop might get me fired up again. So, I did the HKC in 2014 and met Grace Menendez who also earned her HKC at the same time. And I met Max Shank
too. I started following them on Facebook and saw that they were doing these amazing things with bodyweight, parallettes, handstands, pistol squats—and the seed was planted. Soon, I really started to get passionate about going for the PCC.
I signed up for the PCC
when I saw that it was coming to Encinitas. At the same time, I ordered Convict Conditioning
which was a game changer. After reading Convict Conditioning
, learning Coach Wade's philosophy, and finding more about the Kavadlo brothers, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of fitness. I have never been so fired up about it, and continue to be even after the PCC. I thought I might lose my momentum to train hard, but after the PCC, I am having even more fun! It's hard to keep me off the bars these days!
How have the PCC and Convict Conditioning
impacted the boot camps you lead?
We’re now doing many more progressions with bodyweight training. For example with push ups, at the back of the gym there's a stage which is awesome because it allows the women to work on their push ups at an angle. There is also a basketball hoop with a base a little lower than the stage, so everyone can use a different angle and progress properly before they start doing push ups from the ground. There are so many intermediate stages between doing push ups
on the wall and the floor.
With bodyweight squats, I now lead the circuits with choices—regular bodyweight squats, squats with hands behind the head, or with hands interlaced behind the back. They are having a blast trying these variations, and more. I am applying so many of the PCC and Convict Conditioning
principles in my camps and the campers love it. It's awesome they are seeing how the human body is a gym in itself!
Are you also using kettlebells with your boot camps?
Yes, I have three boot camps in the morning, two are based on functional training and use all kinds of equipment like kettlebells
, battle ropes, dumbbells, you name it. The third camp is kettlebells and bodyweight only, we do a lot more kettlebell swings, get-ups, and deadlifts. My campers love kettlebells, and I am definitely incorporating the HKC ideas in all three of the boot camps. I’ve been running these for-women-only camps for 18 months. Between all three groups, there are about 45-50 members.
What is your favorite move from the PCC Workshop?
The pistol squat. Before the PCC, I worked on the pistol for seven months, but I made more progress in seven minutes with Danny Kavadlo
at the PCC than in those previous 7 months! I even nailed my first pistol squat—and now I can't stop doing them! Now I am obsessed with pistol squats
Dragon Door: What happened in those seven minutes?
Steve Rosen: First off, if you've been around Danny you that his attitude will seemingly increase your strength by at least 25%! But what really helped me out was his cue for me to shift my weight forward to use myself as a counterweight. By really shifting my weight forward I was able to drive upwards and complete the movement. Before, I had been training with a pole and because of that I had been training with all my weight shifted towards the back. So Danny had me really reach forward, lean into it, and sure enough it worked.
What was one of the most useful ideas from the PCC you’re now using with your camps?
The PCC philosophy. Of course all of the technical stuff was good and solid, but the attitude and the philosophy of the PCC—starting from where you are and progressing from that point. Being able to tell my campers that it doesn't matter where they are starting from—a wall push up or a handstand push up—it all counts. In a group environment like a boot camp, some campers have been coming for the entire 18 months and are now progressing to pistols. Other are just starting from the very beginning, and the non-competitive philosophy of the PCC is a great way to ensure no one feels left behind.
What's next for you and your own training?
Right now I am trying to simplify things—I want to do all the moves, but know that I can't train them all at once. So, I am focusing on getting my pistols to be what Al Kavadlo
would call "a butter move", meaning that I want to be able to nail them any time, any place. I am absolutely head over heals with trying to get a planche. And I am working on an L-sit into a tuck into a handstand. I am still in the very beginning stages of those along with back bridging
and back levers.
I am still using the Century as a conditioning tool to keep my basics solid. The Century is a great tool, sometimes I finish workouts with it just to get that conditioning and training.
You did very well with the Century test, what’s your advice for someone preparing to go to a PCC Workshop?
Get the basics down. At the PCC, they will show you the cool stuff, but if you don't have the basics down you will not be able to try the cool moves. Some of the moves I really struggled with, like the clutch flag and muscle up. Everyone kept saying that I was strong enough, but I needed to connect my mind to my muscles to make it happen.
I was doing the Century about 2-3 times a week. For my hardest workouts I split it in half and did it 9 times in a row. On the 10th round I did a full Century. The whole workout would take about 45 minutes and helped me prepare to pass the test while completely exhausted. At the end of the Century test, Al said I didn’t even seem winded! But, don't underestimate the Century, and be sure to build up a foundation of strength. Even though I didn't nail any muscle ups
at the PCC, I did get my first pistol squat, and was close with the clutch flag
. Now that I've learned the techniques at the PCC, and brought them back home, things are happening!
What’s next for you and your business?
I have rebranded, now my new business is called Kickstart Boot Camp For Women. It is focused on fitness, nutrition, and motivation. While keeping my three morning boot camps, I am also expanding my "Kickstart Your Motivation" speeches locally at city and county offices, local colleges, and other places. It’s a 45-minute speech on how to get the right mindset to kickstart wellness programs.
I'm also really excited to start a weekend fitness retreat here in the lovely mountains of Arizona. We will do fun stuff like wine and chocolate one evening but then we’ll also have workouts and learn about nutrition. They will go home with 3-6 months of kickstart coaching and a whole fitness plan. They will learn how to nourish their bodies, get better sleep, relax, and unwind so they can feel, look and perform their very best.
I will also be having a big five day retreat and will be bringing along a massage therapist, and manicurist. But we'll also have some kick ass workouts to make it challenging. It will be a memorable experience, and a way to learn about healthy lifestyles. I am trying to generate the same kind of buzz I felt after the PCC. After the PCC I wanted to create something that helped people feel the same way I do right now.
What you all created at the PCC was real, and the motivation has stayed with me. I have kept in contact with the instructors
and participants from the workshop. We’re all still encouraging and supporting each. It's very special—I've been to a lot of other certifications and this was definitely top notch.
What else do we need to know about you as a trainer?
I think everyone has to find what they love doing and eating. As long as it fits your lifestyle, then you are doing fine. I try to aim for a "kick ass but laid-back" approach to fitness.