LYNDON LANE: THE MAN WHO TAUGHT ME TO SUFFER BETTER
Being both a coach and a friend. Understanding your own mortality. Maintaining your integrity. Suffering better.
Lyndon is both a mentor and a friend.
The first time we crossed paths was when I took his job. But only because he was leaving the small gym he worked in to move to South Africa. They needed a replacement and there I was, a young, ambitious coach.
While I was sat in the gym’s office waiting for the manager to come and interview me, we got talking. I don’t remember much of that conversation, but I can recall what I did after I got home. I made a list of the books he had recommended and bought them. That episode was the genesis for two major themes in my life. The first was reading, not for enjoyment, but for improvement. The second was my fascination with movement.
Since Lyndon’s return from South Africa a few years ago, he has been relentlessly kind and supportive, to me and many others. That support continued even when I told him that I didn’t want to work for him or coach any more.
In fact, one of the reasons I gave up coaching was Lyndon. Seeing him at work, I became aware of the fact that I don’t, and I never could, love the art of coaching as much as Lyndon. His willingness to improve himself and help everyone he works with is both fierce and unyielding. And it’s something that inspires and energises me every time I witness it.
MATT: I thought we’d start in the middle. You were about to leave South Africa. What made you decide to want to do this?
LYNDON: I’d already had the idea to do this. In South Africa, I started a place like this with another guy. He’s still running it actually. It’s quite successful.
MATT: Oh really?
LYNDON: It’s called Results Fitness. And if you compare it to LDN Fitness, the two are very different. From the outside anyway. But we still operate on the same kind of principles. The same kind of stuff that we preach here, we preach there.
That’s the reason why I brought it back here. I tried it, got some success with it, and I thought when I came back here… When I came back here I was in a low place because of the stuff that happened. But I was determined not to let that break the dreams I had of opening up my own facility.
MATT: What was the catalyst for the founding principles? The ideology behind LDN? Is there something that made you think, “that’s what I want all this to be about”?
LYNDON: The founding principles of this place have gone full circle a number of times.
LYNDON: Yeah. They’ve changed a lot. But there are certain things that have always been at the core. I’ve been influenced by certain coaches and I think all that has combined to make the place what it is today.
MATT: Who were the main people that influenced you? I know Dan John is one.
LYNDON: Gym Jones, and specifically, Mark Twight. He’s influenced this place massively.
But lately, I’ve started to question that. Is everything Gym Jones preaches relevant to the people I want to coach? I think recently I’ve become disillusioned with their message.
There are other influences, like Dan John, and even people like Joe DeFranco. You know, all the writers on T-Nation. That’s where I found Dan John actually.
Really, everything we are is an amalgamation of different people. But if I had to give you the main ones, it would be Dan John and Mark Twight. And more recently, James Fitzgerald and OPEX. I’ve been looking at his systems and how he runs his business. I’ve also found solutions to some of the problem I’ve seen in Gym Jones’ model. So OPEX is having more of an influence now.
MATT: So Dan John, Mark Twight and James Fitzgerald. What’s the similarities between them? And where do you see them differ? Do they share a similar mindset but differ in the execution?
LYNDON: I’d put Dan John and Mark Twight at opposite ends of the spectrum. Even though Mark was highly influenced by Dan.
LYNDON: You just have to look at their writing styles and the messages they put out. Mark Twight’s writing is very emotional, very cerebral. It’s based on his experiences as a climber, his extreme experiences as a climber.
MATT: Very introspective?
LYNDON: Yeah. Hard imaged. He pulls no punches with what he says.
Whereas anyone can read Dan John, anyone can get on with it, anyone can appreciate what he writes. He doesn’t ruffle many feathers. He does speak his mind but I would say no one dislikes Dan John because he’s not a very … He’s just a nice guy. That’s not to say Mark’s not a nice guy. Mark just doesn’t care if you like what he says or if you don’t like what he says. He just says what he thinks.
Personality wise, that’s the difference. And I think it comes across in their training styles.
MATT: In their approach to different people?
LYNDON: Yeah. I think James Fitzgerald is slap bang in the middle.
MATT: That’s why you’ve found solutions in his work?
LYNDON: Yeah. He has a toe in each camp. A balanced perspective. I know James Fitzgerald has done the Gym Jones certification. I don’t know if he’s done the full thing, but he’s been to a couple seminars. He’s been influenced by them a bit.
What was the original question?
MATT: The similarities and the differences. Is there a unifying theme present in all the people who have influenced you?
LYNDON: The unifying theme is that none of them have any bullshit in their message. I’m drawn to them because of that. In most other fitness people’s writing, I can find some element of bullshit.
MATT: What do you mean by bullshit? Do you mean ego? Do you mean bullshit in their system or in the way they puff up what they do?
LYNDON: All three of those things. Maybe bullshit was the wrong word.
LYNDON: It could be inconsistencies. You can just tell they’ve thought a lot about what they do. A lot of people don’t put that much thought into what they’re doing and why.
I don’t know. I think you just get drawn to certain people’s thought processes. For other coaches, it’ll be different. But for me, it’s those three. I think the same way they think. There are still other coaches. But I don’t get pulled back to their stuff as much as I do to Dan or Mark or James.
Joe DeFranco was a big one when I was younger. When I was playing American football.
MATT: All the combine stuff?
LYNDON: Yeah. I was thinking, “I’m going to be a pro football player and he’s trained so many of them so I need to do what he does.” But as I’ve grown as a coach and looked at some of the stuff he does, I think, “maybe that wasn’t actually the best way to go.”
He’s still a good coach. He abides by many of the fundamental principles that you need to abide by.
MATT: Is that the difference between people you look up to and the people you don’t? Adhering to those fundamentals and not?
LYNDON: Yeah. Let’s use Joe DeFranco as an example. A lot of the stuff he puts out works well. But he works with freaks, freaks of nature. Or what Dan John calls Quadrant 2 athletes.
MATT: Define Quadrant 2?
LYNDON: It means that for their sport, they need a lot of different abilities, all at a very high level.
LYNDON: Essentially, you can do pretty much anything with a Quadrant 2 level athlete.
MATT: Because they need everything.
LYNDON: And because they’ll probably respond to everything. Whatever training you do, it’s going to work and it’s going to look good on you, because they always look good when they’re doing a semi-sprint. They always look good when they’re doing a 20 meter shot. They always look good when they’re bench pressing, deadlifting, It doesn’t matter what you do because they’re going to be fucking good at it anyway.
MATT: Do you think Gym Jones is like that? They work with bad asses and freaks, so maybe they can get away with some things they wouldn’t be able to do with the average person?
LYNDON: Yeah. They still attract a lot of people that are at the basic level. But they’re becoming similar to CrossFit. CrossFit is such a successful business model because it attracts the same people who are attracted to Joe DeFranco’s work. Failed Quadrant 2 athletes.
MATT: All the people who want to be Quadrant 2 but aren’t in reality?
LYNDON: Yeah. It’s the same thing with Gym Jones. You look at the training they do. It’s that whole thing. “I want to be a fighter.” “I want to be a Navy Seal.” Even if you’re not ever going to be one of those two things, it’s that kind of training.
I fell away from Gym Jones because it doesn’t encompass people who are outside of those demographics. I feel like it doesn’t do a lot for them.
MATT: Do you think that’s the embodiment of Mark’s personality? Uncompromising. Pure will. “I’m going to do this. This is what we do.”
LYNDON: Yeah. Mark’s very much about training for actual fitness, rather than the appearance of fitness. He wants people t be as hard as nails. I think you can go from a low level to a high level through Gym Jones. But I just think it’s not talked about as much. There’s not as much information about how you would do that.
MATT: When to comes to training people, do you think it’s good to indulge people’s vanity a little bit? To let them do curls, as long as all their training needs are taken care of?
LYNDON: You can use a carrot or a stick to motivate people. I don’t know if more people respond to the carrot or the stick. It’s probably even.
MATT: But it’s very hard to drive all the time. To be relentless and make every single thing you do matter.
LYNDON: Yeah. You can’t make it all about your weaknesses. We know that you get the most out of training your weaknesses. That’s where your biggest gains are going to come from.
MATT: But it’s no fucking fun to do.
LYNDON: No. You have to give people a carrot once in a while. Same with diet. You can’t just tell people to never eat something again. Because then, all they’re gonna want to do is eat it.
You have to allow them some leeway. Give them a reward once in a while. Gym Jones is very good at peddling the message of “address your weaknesses.”
MATT: Is that a message you find difficult to transmit to people that walk through the door? How hard is it to try and impart everything you’ve learned to the people you work with?
LYNDON: Some people it’s easy. Some people it’s hard. I think Mark Twight said it:
5% of people are pure gold. They’ll give you everything. They’ll listen to everything you have you to say. You really don’t have to try very hard. They’ll always work. They’ll be your best lads.
50% of people are a waste of organs. Have no time for them. They’ll never try and change. They’ll give you their money but you’ll hate every minute of it.
45% of people are in the middle. They’re changeable. You can do some work with them and they’ll gradually get it.
It’s the people with the biggest egos that are the biggest waste of space. They come in and they’ve got problems. They want you to fix them but they’re not willing to work on the things they need to work on.
Say they want to train for rugby. They come in. Their legs are weak as piss. They can’t squat their body weight. They can bench twice as much as they can squat. You try and get them to work on those weaknesses, but they still just want to fucking bench press.
MATT: Do you think it’s that they’re not willing to learn? Do you think people have a difficulty coming from the outside world, where they might be quite dominant and successful, into this environment? Where they need to take a step down and, not humble themselves, but at least admit they need to listen.
LYNDON: Sometimes it’s like that. A lot of issues arise with people that have known me before they worked with me. They’ve known me in a social context and find it hard to decipher the fact that I’m good at what I do.
MATT: They can’t see the difference.
LYNDON: Whereas, if someone came to me from Instagram, where they can see I’m a coach but don’t know me socially, they pick things up a lot quicker. There’s a social barrier that can get in the way.
MATT: Obviously, community is big part of LDN and coaching in general. How do you walk the line between being good friends with the people you work with, and actually being their coach?
LYNDON: It’s a fine and hard line to walk. I don’t think I’ve figured out how to do it yet, if I’m honest. To be a good coach, you have to know them, inside and out.
MATT: Physically as well as personally?
LYNDON: Yeah. It’s really advantageous to be their friend because you know what makes them tick. But it also puts you in difficult situations. You have to have some hard conversations with them. Sometimes they don’t listen to you because you’re their mate. Just their mate giving them shit.
I’m still finding it hard to strike a balance on that. But it’s something I need to work on, not the people I train.
MATT: You work with young athletes as well. Do you find it’s harder to manage that issue with the adults?
LYNDON: Yes. It’s harder with the adults because the young athletes look at you with more respect. They’re younger and most youths are taught to respect their elders.
But being too friendly with them can backfire. Especially, if for some reason, you don’t uphold the values that you expect them to uphold. If a kid catches you playing with a football in the gym, they’ll think, “oh, it’s okay to fuck around in the gym.”
With the kids, it’s more about setting an example than earning respect.
MATT: Yeah. Younger people, especially in the teenage years, are very good at perceiving when they’re being played. When adults are talking down to them and being two faced, they sense that very quickly.
MATT: And they exploit it if they need to.
LYNDON: Yeah. The kids know when you’re talking nonsense and when you know what you’re talking about. I think a big thing with the kids is that they know I can do what I ask them to do.
MATT: Yeah. You’re not just getting them to perform some athletic feat you can’t do yourself. You can back it up.
LYNDON: As long as you can explain things and why they should do things, then they’ll listen.
MATT: There’s young athletes that are at a high level in their sport, and those that are at a lower level. Is there anything you’ve noticed that separates the two?
LYNDON: Yes. The most successful kids in here, you can spend five minutes with them and know that they’re the more skillful athletes.
MATT: Based on what?
LYNDON: How they act. How they handle themselves in the gym. The kids who come in the most are the most successful. The kids who fuck around less in the gym are the more successful. It’s clear as day.
MATT: Is that because they take what they do more seriously? Or because they have a better understanding of where everything slots into the bigger picture?
LYNDON: I think it’s just a better understanding of work ethic. It’s the appreciation that you only get good at things you work hard at. The kids that are successful in the gym are usually the ones who are successful on the field, and in their exams.
MATT: Where do they learn about work ethic?
LYNDON: Modelling. Parents. Things like that. I know the parents of the more successful kids and all of them are people I’d like to associate with. People I respect a lot because of their work ethic and how they view things. All the kids that are really successful here have good, well-rounded parents.
MATT: How do you turn that around?
LYNDON: How do you mean?
MATT: Is it possible for someone to come in and fuck around, not really take it seriously. But then, over a period of time, morph into someone who is more dedicated and more commuted?
LYNDON: I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen that.
MATT: Is that possible, or do you think it’s more, how you start is how you end up?
LYNDON: From experience, I feel that how you start is how you end up.
As much as you try and influence them, and preach hard work, do this, do that, yadda yadda yadda, they still… I only see them for two hours a week. The influence I have is probably quite small. The ones that fuck around always fuck around. The ones who work hard always work hard. The good ones never give up and the bad ones never really seem to change that much.
MATT: Is there anything that flips that around? What do you think has to change for a kid, or even an adult, to go from down here to up here? Does it have to be a big, earth shattering event in their life? Or is it something more subtle? Do they need to experience pain or is it a change that can be brought about intellectually, just by the power of thought?
LYNDON: I think that a painful experience would help people change. But I’ve seen instances where people have royally fucked up and continue to royally fuck up. It hasn’t changed them. With all the help they get, they still continue to fuck up.
But I think some adults get to that point. Something happens and then they change and start to work hard.
MATT: Do you think that’s a consequence of maturity, or a willingness to introspect, or something like that? Because adults tend to be more self-aware and observant.
LYNDON: Maybe for adults, it’s because it’s the first time something so big has happened to them. Maybe they’re the type of person that can be motivated by pain.
MATT: Say an adult is basically killing themselves. Not looking after their health or fitness, physically and psychologically. It’s going to spill over into their relationships. Into the rest of their life. Do you think with the kids, they’re shielded from that a little bit? They’re cut off from the harshness of reality, so the impacts of their actions are dulled a bit?
LYNDON: When you’re older, you’re more aware of your mortality. You appreciate the ramifications. With kids, when they fuck up, it’s only a small step on the ladder. It doesn’t end up being such a big thing.
I can remember when I was unhealthy, or when I messed up, or when I quit when I shouldn’t have. I didn’t realise that was such a big thing until I was older. Then you look back, and think, that was the turning point.
I think that’s the same for all kids. They don’t realise the importance of where they are and the fuck ups they’re making. Whereas an adult can.
When you’re a kid, you think you’re immortal. You think, “I’m never going to die. I’ve got loads of chances. I’m young. I can do this.” By the time you get a bit older, you’re like “fuck, time’s running out.” When things start to get taken away from you without your control. It’s when you get a little bit older and you go, “I’ve lost a step.” No, you haven’t lost a step. Life’s just falling away from you and you can’t get it back. It sounds so ominous but it is.
You all of a sudden realize, “one day I am going to die. I’m going to get old.” You don’t see that until it actually starts to happen. Maybe that’s why kids don’t learn these lessons. They still improve everyday anyway.
That’s the difference. The better athletes have a little bit more maturity about them and realize, “I can’t fuck up. I’ve got to listen to what people say and do these things if I want to get to where I want to be.”
Maybe they have a better sense of their own mortality.
MATT: That’s something I had to learn on my own. Nobody could have taught me that when I was young. Probably because I wouldn’t have listened. But I don’t know whether you can learn that any other way, except through personal experience.
LYNDON: I don’t know whether your parents and teachers can teach you that. If they can, then surely a coach can have that influence on them? Maybe I’m not a good enough coach to have done that yet. Maybe I just haven’t been able to do that with any of the athletes.
But some of the athletes have told me they’ve changed how they view fitness and nutrition. They never used to care about it before.
MATT: Do you think that’s a difference between the UK and the US? Strength and conditioning coaches don’t have as much as much time with the kids over here.
LYNDON: I don’t know. In the US, a coach can be more successful because there’s so many more athletes. Every coach is going to have ten more superstars than I have here.
LYNDON: This is going to go against what I said earlier. But there’s a few people in here now who aren’t as talented as some of the better athletes. But I can see that they’ve got a work ethic now.
MATT: What? The switch has flipped in them?
LYNDON: They come in and they do the work but they’re not on the level of some of the others. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. If they continue with the work ethic they currently have, they could go a long way. But they don’t necessarily have the raw talent that some others have.
MATT: It’s the argument of talent versus work. It’s never just all work.
LYNDON: I don’t think it’s ever going to be all work or all talent. It’s got to be a combination of the two.
Everyone likes to think in absolutes. Everyone likes to think it’s all talent and therefore they’ve got an excuse if they don’t make it. But it’s a combination of the two. You have to maximise your gifts.
I know some incredibly talented athletes that might not make just because they don’t want to. They’re not fussed about their sport, but actually, they’re really fucking good.
MATT: How does that understanding of talent versus work aid your development as a coach and the business’ development? Is getting better a relentless pursuit?
LYNDON: I think it’s just analysing where you’re good and where you’re bad. As long as you’re good at self assessment and you’re committed to doing it, you’ll be okay.
I know specifically what I’m good at and what I’m not. I think I’m a much better technician than I am a businessman or entrepreneur. I have ideas…
MATT: But making them reality is…
LYNDON: Making them reality is very difficult. You realise that, to be a business, there has to be demand for what you want to offer. You can’t just say, “I’ve got this and I want to sell it to everyone.” That’s not going to work. You have to find out what people want and figure out how to deliver it to them.
That’s where I struggle a lot. You know what people need. You know what will be good for them. But you can’t always sell them that.
Changing people’s lives through the coaching I do, I’m good at that. But forming a business that people actually want to buy from and structuring the services right? That’s harder.
MATT: How do you do it? How do you assess yourself and your business? Do you have any specific mechanisms or is it a free form process?
LYNDON: I don’t have mechanisms. I have periods of feeling really good and feeling really dissatisfied. One day I’ll feel great because I’ve fixed a problem and everything will be good. Then another problem will crop up and it’ll annoy me.
I need to get better at doing it. It needs to be more consistent.
MATT: Less of a cyclical process?
LYNDON: Yeah. It’s massive lows and massive highs and massive lows. Yeah. Structures.
I think that’s why I’m a bad businessman. I’m not good at creating systems and structures.
MATT: Is that the next thing you’re working on? Trying to create some organising structure or overarching system based on your past experience?
LYNDON: Definitely. I’m trying to get this place more systematised because I know that’s it’s biggest fault. The training we do here is good, which is why we’ve stayed open for two years. But the systems are all over the place. I know that and I’m working on it.
It’s not just the business systems. It’s the actual training system as well. I still work on those. But I don’t think I’ll ever be completely happy with them.
MATT: It’ll always be evolving.
MATT: Going back to training, what’s the biggest thing that you’ve changed your mind about in the past year when it comes to training? Is there something that you were a real big proponent of before, but now you’ve reversed on?
LYNDON: The move away from the Gym Jones stuff. I was all set to go for level three and something pulled me away. I can’t put my finger on the exact thing. But it’s a mixture of the shit you see on Instagram everyday. I got fed up with all the preachy shit.
MATT: Does this relate to what you were talking about before? That the coaches you’re attracted to don’t have any bullshit in their message? There’s no filler.
LYNDON: Yeah. It was cool before. I was really behind it because I wanted to be with people who loved to be super fit. I used to think that I wanted to work with those kind of people. But there was something missing.
It’s about people who just want to change. They don’t want to be the biggest, baddest motherfucker on the planet. They just want to feel better and be better. That’s not a bad thing. But sometimes, some of the messages that Gym Jones puts out, they neglect that. It puts people off.
Also, there’s a lot of cock sucking in the Gym Jones and CrossFit environments. Everyone is so quick to kiss each other’s ass. There’s too much high fiving, back slapping bullshit.
It’s like, if you’re good and know this guy, you’re in. If you’re not good and you don’t know this guy, you don’t get in the club.
I’m not willing to jump through hoops like that.
MATT: You don’t feel the need to be an insider or become part of an exclusive club?
MATT: A lot of coaches start off wanting to train badasses and pro athletes, and then they realise that, you know, normal people are actually pretty cool? Do you think that’s a common arc for most coaches?
LYNDON: I think it might be quite a common thing. Some people start out and want to work with the biggest and the best. They want to be Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for GB Athletics or something.
That’s a very different job to what I do. I never wanted to go into team strength and conditioning. I always wanted to fix lots of different problems. I never wanted to be tied to one thing.
MATT: You like the optionality. The chance to work on a tonne of different stuff?
LYNDON: Yeah. I never wanted to work for anyone else. Because I think that the wider the variety of people you work with, the better the coach you’ll become. Not to say that the head of S&C for England rugby is not a good coach. It’s just a different type of job.
MATT: Where do you see yourself and LDN in a couple years? Are there milestones you’re trying to hit? Are there specific things you’re aiming for?
LYNDON: There are certain things I want to do. But I think you have to allow your goals to change as you go along.
MATT: So they’re fuzzy? Loosely defined?
LYNDON: Yeah. This whole thing is a process.
You start with an idea of how it’s going to be. Then you start trying to do it and you realise, actually no. I’m just banging my head against a wall. It can’t be like that.
For instance, we started off saying we’re going to do the youth athlete’s coaching out of this facility at half past four everyday. Then you realise that most of the kids involved in high class sport, they don’t have half past four free every day. There’s a practice, a game, something in school. So there’s no consistency in the program.
Now, we’re switching to morning based programs and doing it out of the schools instead of here.
With a business, you start by modelling it on what you’re seeing elsewhere. But your location and the surrounding market affects it.
In America, it’s totally different. They have strength and conditioning in their high schools at lunch, before school, after school.
You just have to react to how it plays out.
MATT: So it’s a constant push and pull between what you want to do and what you’re actually able to do?
LYNDON: Yeah. Like training adults. I was dead set on only training people who share my perspective. Then I put my message out and I realised there’s about three people that view things the way I do. I can find people that might be compatible with my philosophy, but it’s very difficult to overturn what they’ve already learned.
So our model for training adults is going to have to change as well.
MATT: Being a brick and mortar business, you’re limited by locality. With the coming systemisation, will you be looking to make location irrelevant by exploring online and distance coaching?
LYNDON: Yeah. That’s something I want to move into.
When you start a business, your mission statement stays the same, but the execution of it changes. I’ve always wanted to work with high school kids and train them a certain way. But I’ve got to run the program differently. With adults, I think it’s more about education. More of our stuff has to be online. Distance based.
MATT: Obviously, the biggest difference between distance and in-person is the interaction. In-person, you can see them and work with them directly. How do you get over the distance part of distance coaching? Is that something you’re figuring out now?
LYNDON: I fucking hate social media but a lot of those tools have made it easier to coach someone who’s far away. It can almost be like you’re there.
MATT: But it’s a never a true substitution?
LYNDON: No. I don’t know whether you can even call it online coaching. It’s more online training. Program design. I’d be happier offering on-site coaching and online program design. I don’t know if I could ever call it coaching.
MATT: Coaching is very different from programming.
LYNDON: I’ve had people coach me online, but it ends up being program design.
MATT: Which, I suppose, greatly changes how you position it? It changes the expectations potential customers have. If they go for program design, the expectations are far lower than they would be if you offered online coaching.
LYNDON: I also think people need different things. For me, when I had a distance coach, I didn’t need the coaching. I just needed the programming. It was the freeing of head space. It was making sure I didn’t fuck up my own programming and make poor decisions.
I didn’t need someone there, patting me on the back and saying you need to work on this goal, you need to tweak this, you need to be better at that. I’m good at training. I will always train. I’m never lazy. I just need someone to keep me on the tracks and enable to not have to think about my own programming.
For me, online program design was as useful as a full time coach to someone else. Do you see what I’m getting at.
MATT: Yeah. Do you think that offering online program design would enable you to work with more of that 5%. The people who are absolute gold?
LYNDON: Yeah, it definitely would. As soon as you open yourself to the whole world, you’ve got access to a massive market. But the only thing is, you’re then in competition with the best in the world. James Fitzgerald. Alex Viada. Dan John. You could work with Dan John if you really wanted to.
MATT: You’ve got “Suffer Better” on the walls. Where did that come from?
LYNDON: I stumbled across it because I saw someone wearing a t-shirt and…
MATT: You just googled it?
LYNDON: Yep. I know there’s a lot of motivational quotes and stuff out there.
MATT: But there’s only so much they can do for you.
LYNDON: They all essentially say the same thing. But something about “suffer better” stuck. It’s so simple, so clear. It encompasses everything.
MATT: What does it mean to you? How has it changed the way you approach your life?
LYNDON: How has it changed the way I approach my life?
MATT: Big question.
LYNDON: It is a big question.
Life is never going to be all rosy. Something I read in (i)The Way of the Superior Man makes this point. Your life will never be complete. It will never all be okay. So you have to learn to live with that. To push through it and keep improving. That will make you happier than thinking, “I just need to get to this point and then I’ll be happy.”
I think of Suffer Better every day because every day, there’s going to be some element of suffering.
Maybe suffering is the wrong word
MATT: No. Suffering is a continuum right? At one end of the scale is suffering that most of us never get anywhere near. Then you’ve got human problems, like anxiety, being unhappy at work and stuff like that.
LYNDON: I have questioned having “suffer better” on the walls.
My grandma was in hospital once and I went to visit her, wearing my “suffer better” t-shirt. I was walking down the halls thinking, “you absolute fucking idiot. Why are you wearing this t-shirt?”
If I had to explain to someone why I’m wearing it and what it means, they wouldn’t have hated me as much. But I do care what people think. I don’t want to seem like a complete asshole. But I do like the “suffer better” message. Although, in circumstances, it does require a bit of explaining.
When I started, I wouldn’t have given a fuck about having it on the walls. Someone could have come in and said, “don’t you think that’ll put people off?” I’d have said, “I don’t give a fuck if you’re put off, I don’t want you in.” But is that true?
MATT: So you’re being a bit more flexible with who you work with now?
LYNDON: Yeah. In South Africa I trained such a wide range of people. It was either train people or don’t eat. So I worked with lots of different people with different abilities from different backgrounds. I was very successful.
But when I came back from South Africa, I was an angry man. Perhaps the angriest I’ve ever been. I decided, “fuck that. I don’t want to do that anymore. I just want to train people who are like me, who want to get awesome.”
But it’s gradually worn off I guess. The anger has left me.
MATT: Do you feel the message and the philosophy are communicated to people in the gym? Do people understand it, or is “suffer better” just two words on the wall?
LYNDON: I think the majority that train here understand it. Especially the adults.
MATT: Have they learnt it implicitly? Have they come to understand it because of the way they’ve seen you act and the training they’ve done?
LYNDON: It’s because of the training. We never talk about it. I don’t think we ever need to talk about it. No one ever asks me, “what does “suffer better” mean?”
MATT: That’s a problem I have with mission statements and lofty visions. We were talking about this a while ago. Standards and expectations, to a certain extent, should be explicit and known and talked about. But the most important standards are one I don’t think you ever need to voice. You learn about them by watching other people in the community. How people interact with one another. How they approach their weaknesses and strengths and self assessments.
The core message of “suffer better” and what you do as a coach, you can’t put that in a nutshell.
LYNDON: I think you’re right. You only learn about an organisation by being in or around the organisation. They can put out as many messages as they want, but you’ll never know what it’s like till you’ve been amongst it.
MATT: We both have maxims and phrases and ideas that we live by. It’s all or nothing. You believe in them or you don’t. There’s no middle ground. Which is the interesting thing about LDN. It’s not like a traditional, commercial gym, where you come in and do your sixty minutes, four times a week. Being here, you realise that your training has ramifications that extend beyond the building’s walls.
LYNDON: I hope the people who train here take something away with them. I hope they address the problems in their lives the same way they address them in the gym. Some of them don’t.
But we’re working on that. And again, that’s the balance between being a coach and a friend. We’re all friends and we’ve all got stories we tell about our lives. But sometimes I think, “for fuck’s sake, you know what you need to do. Just fucking do it.”
It’s very hard to switch from the coach to the friend role. But it’s good. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lyndon Lane is the founder of LDN Fitness, a strength and conditioning facility that specialises in providing high level programming and coaching to youth athletes. He's been involved in strength and conditioning since he was 15, and has worked with a vast array of people with different abilities, backgrounds and objectives. You can find him at www.ldnfts.co.uk and follow him on Instagram.