Summer Strong 11
I recently had the honor and the privilege of attending and representing Spotter Up at the 11th annual Summer Strong event at the Sorinex HQ in Lexington SC. This event is an inspirational and friendship-forming mishmash of train-the-trainer fitness clinic, weight-lifting competition and motivational speaker series. Simply put, it’s where a whole bunch of great people get together to learn from each other, motivate each other and to get their pump on. This year the tactical arm of Sorinex also ran the first iteration of what they call the Life Fighter Challenge, where you can kit up in body armor and battle belt and run a short but grueling course to simulate the types of strength, endurance, breathing and motor skill control challenges faced by our military members in the course of their duties.
Sorinex is a company known for building gyms and fitness equipment, however they really hit on something else with Summer Strong. To be honest, I was a little intimidated about going at first as I am not a total gym rat, and I’m not quite as knowledgeable or serious about fitness as most of the attendees. However as soon as I arrived I realized that my concerns were completely pointless as the atmosphere was welcoming, inclusive and overwhelmingly positive. There is a reason this even was sold out, jam-packed and in its 11th consecutive year running. I was met with smiles, honesty and sincerity from everyone I talked to. The speakers on the schedule were coming from a variety of backgrounds, and several of them were not fitness experts, but were there to share life experience and inspiration, or lessons they wanted to pass on from their own lives and careers. I met many incredible people and was moved often, which I believe is the real point of this event.
Summer Strong takes place at Sorinex HQ, which is an impressive mix of a well-equipped gym, fitness museum, library and product factory. The giant sign and stars and stripes mustache logo is unique and hard to miss. As soon as you walk through the doors you are confronted with examples of fitness equipment going back many generations from decades and centuries past, including railroad axles, anvils, boulders and various everyday objects. The message was clear to me when I looked at this stuff, that you can get fit by using whatever you have available to you at the time and place. No excuses, find a way or make one.
The guest speakers were the main event for most of the weekend, including celebrity trainers, successful entrepreneurs, decorated military veterans and regular people who had a story to tell about triumph over adversity, or transformational change in their lives. I didn’t get to hear all of them speak but what I did catch was powerful. The first speaker I heard was Michael “Rod” Rodriguez, who among other things was an army SF sniper instructor and personal friend of George W. Bush. His background isn’t necessarily important here, and you can find a body of information about his military and post-military endeavors with a quick google search, but what is important is that he has dedicated himself to a life of service to others and to his family, and he shared some of his knowledge with us at Summer Strong. Below are some of the best quotes I took away from his talk:
- “Vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s a strength“. – As Rod tried to explain his troubles with transitioning out of the military to his son, he laid out some of the things he had experienced and his ongoing struggles.”
- “Where I saw the end of my life as i knew it, my son saw triumph over death“. – When he asked his son if he understood, his son explained “I understand my Dad is hard to kill”.
- “You are defined by your actions“. – not the first time I’ve heard someone say this, but its a good reminder that your actions are your legacy, not your words.
Laura Zerra was another speaker who I was excited to listen to. Laura is essentially a professional survivalist, who has created a reputation as being more comfortable being outside her comfort zone, dealing with adverse environments and traveling the world experiencing the human condition. She shared some of her stories of jumping trains in Mexico, dealing with extremely mentally challenging situations, and of the dichotomous nature of human beings, both inherently good and inherently bad. Below was my favorite quote from her talk:
- “Train your brain to ignore useless signals. If you are hungry but cannot eat, then that hunger signal is just causing you unnecessary discomfort“. Easier said than done to be sure, however I thought it was an interesting thought exercise in mind over matter, and I know it’s a mental tool that everybody can use. It reminds me of something I’ve heard military special operations members talk about when working through extreme adverse situations or environments, and its a lesson id like to learn for life in general.
Life Fighter Challenge
Sorinex Tactical is an offshoot of Sorinex fitness that focuses on the LE/MIL community and has some unique training tools specifically designed for tactical training. They brought some of these training aids out for the Life Fighter Challenge, which was a short but grueling course designed to test the participants stamina, and control of breathing and motor skills. This was designed to give people without military experience a taste of what our active duty military experiences during the course of their duties, having to exert themselves to their max while carrying armor plates and gear. I ran the course three times and enjoyed it, however it was definitely exhausting and an exercise in mind over matter when I came to the 6 foot wall on the second half of the course. Looking up at that wall, my mind was saying there is no way I can get my body over that wall, but I just told me legs to jump and managed to throw my carcass over the wall using a non traditional method that I learned growing up in urban environments.
Some of the equipment on site for the Life Fighter Challenge included the Center Mass Bells, Training Plates and S.I.T.T. Sled (Stress Induction Tactical Trainer). The S.I.T.T. Sled is a unique tool designed to develop the specific muscle groups required for carrying, manipulating and shooting a gun, as well as being a weighted sled that you can push, pull, add weight onto or even use as a target stand on the range. See the video below for a detailed look at its uses and training requirements.
Zac Brown Customs was also a vendor this year, and they had a case of custom blades on display, as well as a few sets of throwing axes which were used for a side competition. This event was squarely in my wheelhouse so i spent a few hours throwing axes and coaching people who had never tried it before. It was a really good time and my arm was sore for a while. If you have never thrown an axe before, it’s easier than you may think. You throw it the same way you would throw anything else, overhand and follow through. The trick is just understanding how many rotations the blade makes between where you are and where the target is, and adjusting your distance and how hard you are throwing until you find the sweet spots. The distance where the blade contacts the target and sticks. It’s very satisfying once you figure it out.
Sorinex Summer Strong is a pretty amazing event, with a large group of pretty amazing individuals. I suggest you look into attending if you are interested in being motivated and inspired and meeting like-minded people. It’s also a damn good time, and as the events of the day wind down, the food and drinks start flowing and people are generally just enjoying themselves. There is also the fitness competition and learning element, where you can coach and be coached, try your hand at physical feats or personal records and see how well you can do with other good coaches pushing you. Considering the high attendance, energy-packed atmosphere and good vibes at this event, I would not be surprised if they take this show on the road or start running more than one event per year. I was grateful for the experience and hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a really cool event. The Spotter Up motto of “Find a Way or Make One” was embodied in this event and what Sorinex is all about.