7 Common Denominators of Highly Fit People

In the CrossFit Community you come across people that you click with. Dj Hillier is one of those guys. DJ trains athletes in Minnesota and is an amazing friend. He has been so gracious to us and wrote this guest post for this weeks MealFit Blog.

Growing up, math was never my strong suit. I could never wrap my mind around quadratic equations, polynomials, and integrals. However, one concept I did understand was fractions. The idea of numerators and denominators made sense. In the past three years, I have had the opportunity to surround myself and work with some of the best athletes and in their field including Larry Fitzgerald, Tavaris Jackson, Eric Decker, Cris Carter, Thomas Cox, Rich Froning, Jacob Heppner, Mitch Leidner, and an incredible coach, Bill Welle. The fraction concept aligns perfectly with my experiences. As in math, a denominator is the bottom number of a fraction and it indicates what the whole is. Each of these people are independent numerators that share common denominators of ideal fitness. I have gained a tremendous amount of respect, information, and experience from these athletes and from that, I have gleaned seven common traits, or denominators, of highly fit people. My goal of this article is to summarize what I have observed so that you can also benefit from their approach to health and wellness.

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1/7 Synergize
Jim Rohn, a famous author and motivational speaker, once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This quote resonated with me most after I spent time with Rich Froning, four-time fittest man on Earth, in his hometown of Cookeville, Tennessee. Synergy is all about creating a team, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who not only have similar goals, but also help push you outside your comfort zone. Rich has a group of individuals that he consistently trains with every day. These people are all good at different things, such as cardio, weight lifting, Olympic lifting, long-distance running, and swimming. These people elevate him to be good in all areas. Rich’s style of training epitomizes a total effect is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Whatever it is you are trying to pursue, seek out individuals that will help you constantly push you and help develop your weakness.

Rich yell

2/7 Eliminate distractions
One of the biggest downfalls to a team having a season of significance is having distractions. Collegiate and pro athletes have several things that can deter their focus. Friends, social life, family, finances, and social media are just to name a few. I had the opportunity to not only grow up with, but also play along side the current Minnesota Gopher quarterback, Mitch Leidner. The role of quarterback is probably one of the most criticized positions in all sports. One bad performance can light up the fan base on social media. One thing Mitch realizes is that there is a new opponent waiting in 6 days and he can’t let the “noise” impact future performance. For someone who is only 20 years old, it is quite impressive that he has this understanding. When I worked out with Mitch, he would be intentional about leaving his phone in his duffle bag and being present and focused for the workout. He left all distractions aside. My advice is two-fold. When it’s time to work out, it’s time to work out. You will encounter naysayers who will try to pull you from your path, but you need to turn down their “volume” and turn up the internal motivation.


3/7 Set, Pursue, and Surpass Goals
I would be hard-pressed to find a successful, professional athlete that hasn’t set and/or pursued goals. Goal setting is one of the fundamental factors of athletic accomplishments. It is a way to measure your progress and continue to improve beyond your current status. Chelsea Laden, a former classmate and close friend, had a dream from when she was a little girl to play hockey at the highest level possible. When training Chelsea, she was highly motivated and in constant pursuit to be the best hockey player she could be. One thing I admired about Chelsea is in high school she never had one drop of alcohol. She had an objective established and made decisions based on how to achieve that goal. High school athletics is crawling with numerous opportunities that can dissuade from the target. It’s easy to work towards a goal when you are in the setting of an ice arena, weight room, or football field, but the true test is when you are outside those scenarios. External factors never wavered Chelsea’s ambition to play professional hockey. She played division I hockey at Quinnipiac University and was extremely successful, starting all four years. Currently, she plays professionally for the Connecticut Whales. She is part of the inaugural season of professional women’s hockey. Pick an attainable goal and be in constant pursuit of it no matter what happens or where you are. Goal setting breeds success.


4/7 Show up every day
You can’t be great if you don’t show up. We all have days as athletes when we don’t want to be in the gym. Whether it’s a planned activity, a work deadline, body stiffness, vacation, holiday, or you just don’t feel it, those are precisely the days you need to show up. In a world of numerous distractions it would be much easier to stay home and skip the workout. I agree, those days, getting yourself to the gym, is easier said than done. But, the benefit on going on those days versus not going could allow you to have a competitive edge and continue to build a consistent workout pattern. Two summers ago I had the privilege to be on the training team that worked with an iconic football player, Larry Fitzgerald. It was one of the hottest summers on Minnesota’s history when Larry decided to do something that I’ll never forget. Spirits were high as a group of elite college and professional athletes were anticipating the upcoming Fourth of July festivities. All but Larry Fitzgerald, were ready to get the holiday weekend started early. It was evident that nobody was planning on working out the next day as they were saying their goodbyes. Larry was puzzled why nobody was coming the next day, even if it was the Fourth of July. I’ll never forget when Larry said,” Why wouldn’t we show up?” Sure enough the next morning at 7:30 am Larry, along with one other athlete was there to get a workout in. There is no doubt in my mind why Larry Fitzgerald is a hall of fame athlete. He understands the concept of showing up everyday.

Larry FItzgerald

5/7 Be coachable
In addition to Larry listening to personal trainers, he also had the wisdom to connect with hall of fame football player, Cris Carter. Cris provided the insight for high performance on the field and off the field. Whenever Cris Carter spoke, everyone listened, especially Larry Fitzgerald. Larry knew that if he wanted to have the same type of success as Cris Carter, then he needed to pay attention to every detail that Cris shared. Athletes need to know that it’s important to find a mentor who has already blazed the trail so they can learn key qualities from somebody at the top of their game. Sadly, athletes who are close-minded and refuse to listen to other people, can actually end up stifling their athletic potential. Think about your athletic goals, who could you contact to learn the nuances of your sport?

6/7 Prioritize
Last month, I journeyed to Kansas City, Missouri to train with high-level CrossFit athletes including Jacob Heppner, tenth fittest man on Earth. During my trip, I learned many valuable lessons. One of those lessons was how Jacob prioritized his day. Jacob was a master at scheduling his workouts first, and then he would insert other activities around those sessions. By doing this, he insures that the workouts will always happen rather than have them be a “if I have time” activity. Think about how you divide up your time? Reflect on any given day in your life and how you prioritize your events. If exercise is not a priority in your life and always gets shoved aside, you need to etch out a block of time for not only your health right now, but your health in the future. I once heard a quote that emphasizes this concept, “If it’s important, you will find time. If it isn’t, you will make an excuse.”

Jacob Hepner

7/7 Find Joy In The Journey
For most people working out is drudgery and something they feel they HAVE to do. What I would implore you to do is to shift your attitude about exercise from HAVE to to GET to. Working out should be fun and if you find that you are bored or not motivated then its time to switch up your routine. Switching it up could consistent of working out with somebody new, trying a different class, or working out a different time of the day. Rich Froning is notorious for high volume training. It isn’t uncommon for Rich to go a few weeks without taking a day off and his daily training sessions can be hours in length. He has worked out in this fashion for many years and has proven the longevity of this approach. When I worked out with Rich, there were times of intense focus, but also several times of laughter, jokes, stories that made the workouts enjoyable. Working out with Rich Froning reminded to always find joy in the journey. When it all is said and done, if you’re not finding joy in the journey, results will be slow.

When you look at the lifestyle of highly fit people, there are many pieces to the puzzle. I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to work with such dedicated individuals that have shown me the way to ideal fitness. I encourage and challenge you to apply these strategies into your exercise regime. When these 7 common denominators have been consistently implemented into your life, you will experience success, and a healthy well-being.



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