It’s the question I get most often, “How did you come up with Syphus?”
Truth is, I have a tough time giving a simple answer for something so complex. Syphus evolved over a number of years before it even resembled what it is today. Yes, the broad idea of Syphus, packaged the way it is now, came to me as a flash of inspiration one night in 2010 – however it was a multitude of factors that helped that inspiration take root.
It wasn’t until recently that it occurred to me that the initial imprint of Syphus may have come subconsciously from my college baseball days. Every morning we would have 6:30am workouts prior to heading to class. Some days were strictly weight lifting, others were more focused on agility…but the days I dreaded most were the seemingly simple calisthenic line drills. Five single file lines and 20 minutes of non-stop shuffles, lunges, frog hops, push ups and other like exercises. Upon completion I would be utterly wiped and sore for days to come. For someone like myself who spent hours a day in the weight room, I never quite understood why these simple tasks were so difficult for me.
I now know why. And it’s quite possible I blocked these workouts from my memory simply because of my disdain. Had I enjoyed them I likely would have sooner made the connection between those workouts and the conception of Syphus.
Fast-forward a few years and I am now in a traditional gym setting personal training. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. The gym in which I worked had a patch of turf (roughly the size of your Syphus field) and all Ivanko plates at my disposal. It may sound simplistic, but I am convinced that had I not had the right turf or the right plate, Syphus would not exist today. Dumb luck.
I had a large clientele with a broad range of goals needing to be met but my bread-and-butter was young athletes – specifically hockey players in the collegiate and professional ranks. On our agility days I began integrating light body weight strength exercises like plate pushes or bear crawls for conditioning purposes; soon this became the favorite workout of the week. As traction gained with this group of athletes, other “regular” members in the gym started to take notice.
Usher in the Godfathers.
I was approached by three guys in Bart, Tim and Andy who wanted to do a similar workout that I had been doing with my athletes. They wanted the challenge and I gladly participated with them. Back then, the workout was more like traditional circuit training with stations and structured break periods, until one day I came up with an idea where we would do a progression of exercises all at our own pace and try to finish it in an hour’s time. This progression is what is now known as a FULL MTN which is a MTN and a REV MTN put together. The entire workout only consisted of ten tasks (extremely repetitive by today’s standards) and held 100 tasks in total. We attempted to finish to no avail. We died and we loved it.
From that point on we refined the workout week-to-week with new progressions and far-out ideas for exercises. Since we had never seen anyone else do these exercises, specifically unique crawls or ones utilizing the plate, we had to name them to keep them all straight. This is why many of the early tasks are named after what the movement looks like; think Bulldog, Gremlin and Gimpy Dog.
The name Syphus was also born out of the workout itself. One day Bart, who is to this day infamous for his verbal contributions to a workout, said, “this mountain feels like it’s lasting forever.” Immediately I thought of Sisyphus from Greek mythology. And, since I also didn’t have a name to describe exactly what it was we were doing, I fashioned the name Syphus Training. As much as folks tried to talk me out of that name for various reasons, I felt compelled to stay true to the Sisyphus theme and it ultimately became an idea to build the brand around.
But the “flash” of inspiration alluded to earlier was the scoring system. I was consumed with the idea that Syphus could be used as a non-biased assessment of one’s fitness level. After all, we have IQs to determine intelligence. We have credit scores to determine financial track records. Why didn’t we have this for our physical capabilities? Sure, we have the ability to monitor heart rates, calculate calories burned, find V-O2 and one rep maxes, but there was nothing, not even a stress test, that could assign a number to give a complete picture of one’s fitness level.
This was the objective of the scoring system. This is when it all clicked.
To me, when we were able to start having a real conversation using the metaphor of numbers to describe one’s fitness level – we had arrived. To say that John Doe is a 952 conveyed a tangible picture of his physical capabilities. It was these conversations that elated and excited me. Initally it was almost hard to believe: A single number could explain and bundle together strength, endurance, power, cardio, flexibility, coordination and recovery time.
How the scoring system was created and refined over time? Another post for another day.
But here we are now, in 2017, with a massive database recording fitness levels of thousands of people. What the future holds for all this data, like Syphus, will continue to evolve.