Portland, Oregon native Sam Johnson, is passionate about leading people to live a sustainable, strong, healthy lifestyle. His experience competing in the CrossFit Games, USAW Weightlifting Nationals, and numerous sports give him a unique perspective to help others reach their athletic goals. His experience in the military also gives him a unique perspective to help military members train for service. When he's not coaching, he enjoys studying ways to improve his methods to ensure all people he trains with receive the best strength and conditioning program possible. No matter who you are or what you do, Sam believes Strength is for you.
Now the Q & A:
Thanks for being a part of Harlo’s Spotlight Series Sam, can you tell us a little bit about what you do and what StrengthFarm specializes in?
I am a Fitness Performance Coach driven to inspire others to take ownership of their health. At StrengthFarm, we use the definition of strength as “emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult.” To us, this definition gives Strength an all-encompassing meaning, which is why we believe Strength is for Everyone and applicable for all walks of life.
We are able to help others become more mentally tough and able to handle life’s challenges with a strong and positive outlook. We leverage yoga, mindfulness, physical therapy, sports performance, and personal training to help people of all ages and backgrounds develop their Strength through our goal-oriented routines.
What inspired you to create StrengthFarm?
My Dad and Mom will always be my inspiration. They are very big on helping other people, always doing our best in whatever we do, and never giving up - especially when things are hard. They always taught my siblings and I that life is not supposed to be easy, that in order to make a difference for others, expect hardship. That enjoying life for what it is and being grateful for each breath while thankful for each day will keep us humble and compassionate for others.
I joined the military at 18 years old and separated at 25. During my time in the military, I was deployed to Afghanistan, Japan, Europe, Korea, and numerous places in the U.S. My time in Afghanistan left a lasting mentality that life can end in a blink of the eye. Learning this through the experience of witnessing others become injured or mortally wounded gave me the inspiration to do something that will help others deal with their life struggles. Strength training was something I turned to in Afghanistan which helped me mentally, emotionally, and physically cope with the constant stresses of war.
At the end of the day, I care about people understanding they have control over their health. I'm passionate about promoting strength training for everyone because I feel like there are a lot of mental benefits to pushing our bodies through consistent training. Showing up and holding ourselves and each other accountable is a very valuable life skill.
There are many CrossFit gyms in Portland, what makes StrengthFarm different?
StrengthFarm is unique in that we take a very personalized approach. Everyone is unique and we do our best to meet people where they are currently. We also do not believe in ego, we do not do certain “popular” exercises under fatigue which have a higher technical requirement and have shown an incidence of injury, we maintain our values in technique and consistency. We do not believe in moving fast just to move fast, we want sound and efficient movement mechanics which prevent injury. When athletes show technical proficiency in movement, then we progress them to more advanced routines. No matter who you are or what limitations you may have, we have training for you.
One of the aspects that sets us apart most is our mindfulness training. We gather for meditation a few times per month. This is a great way for people to practice paying attention to themselves and their own thoughts. It's so easy to get distracted by technology, mindfulness helps us separate from technology and become more in touch with ourselves and our needs. We promote mindfulness because we believe self-compassion and self-awareness are the keys to performing well in whatever life has for each of us.
What's the most rewarding part of your profession?
By far, the most rewarding part of helping others become stronger is seeing them do things they never thought they would ever do. When Strength training helps people learn that consistency is the key to success and that nothing comes easy, I feel like my purpose in life is being fulfilled. I learned these things from my parents early on and various life experiences but still have to remind myself daily that we can only control our effort and consistency.
Crossfit can be intimidating for some people, how do you approach this mindset with a beginner?
Yes, I've tried the strategy of explaining that it shouldn't be intimidating and that it's just working out. But at the same time, life is intimidating too, so I definitely understand how anything that requires effort and consistency can be intimidating. Which is why what we do at StrengthFarm is so applicable to everyday life. It's okay to be intimidated by doing hard things, it's in the hard things we do that we grow the most. It's our job to help beginners understand that in life you crawl before you walk and run. If we were so intimidated by falling as a baby we would never try to walk, we’d never walk or run, and as a result, we would never go very far in life.
We offer a plan to beginners that lay out our process of movement mechanics and technique first and foremost. Having people move slowly and in a relaxed environment shows them what we do is actually very beneficial to their health. From feeling more energetic, being able to play with their kids, having better health markers when the doctor checks our blood, being able to move well into our old age, these are all benefits of strength training. We want every person we work with to be safe in their movement and will always promote healthy strength training for everyone.
What are a few simple tips you would recommend to someone who works stationery?
Move! Get up every hour and move, do some squats, go for a walk, stretch, jump, just move. Being stationary will catch up with us through degeneration of our joints and live tissues, while we are alive, we need to Move!
What do you advise people that want to live a healthy lifestyle but claim they “don’t have the time”?
None of us have time to do things we don't prioritize. Prioritizing our own health should be the top priority if we care about living to our full potential professionally, socially, and emotionally. One way I love to help is showing that by waking up 1 hour earlier per day will give you 7 extra hours per week and 28 hours per month (more than a full day!). Wake up, stop sleeping in, prioritize your own health, because no one else will do these things for us.
What would be one good exercise someone can do 10 minutes?
If someone has 10 minutes to spare then they should squat and Plank. A really simple routine is 3 sets - 10 Bodyweight squats + 30-90” Plank hold.
How important is diet? What are some helpful tips to ensure what you’re eating is good for you?
Nutrition is very important. I personally do not like the word “diet” as it makes people think there is a timeline for it, meaning an end date. Nutrition is for life and having good nutrition is an ongoing mission for us all. If we take nutrition seriously, we extend our happiness and possibly stay disease-free through our lifespan.
Some great tips I've learned to give people are keeping portions relative to their hand each meal: 1 fist of lean protein, 2 fists of mostly green veggies, 1 fist of complex carbohydrates (Rice, potato, pasta), and 1-3 servings of fruit pre-workout. In general, do not add sugar to foods and avoid foods with added sugar. Another tip is to keep eating within an 8-hour window through the day leaving 16 hours of not eating. This will help keep the metabolism fast while ensuring the body is not over consuming.
What advice do you give to people that lack motivation?
Motivation is a byproduct of inspiration. I try my best to figure out what each person cares about and leverage that with them. If they care about anything we must start with caring for ourselves. If we take care of ourselves then whatever else we care about will be positively impacted by us leading a healthy lifestyle. Inspiring people to care about themselves will motivate them to take care of themselves and others, which in-turn will make us all more successful together.
What is something that always gets you pumped and ready to workout?
I love training but if I ever feel down or not into it I think about my Dad during the last few months of his life. He couldn't walk, hardly was able to see, had slurs in his words, yet was smiling and laughing with me telling me to never give up and always work hard. He was the real deal and forever what I turn to when I need strength.
What are some of the best stretches to help flexibility that one can do at their desk?
Standing desks are highly recommended by doctors and shown to help slow down degenerative hip syndrome (which is currently one of the leading causes of death in elderly). When in need of stretches during the day I usually do a few (sit in the bottom of a squat for 30-60”, get into a Lunge and reach toward the wall behind me, or slowly bend over and reach for my toes for 30-60”. All while breathing slowly and deeply in through my nose and out through my mouth.
What is something you never complete a workout without?
I never complete a workout with negativity. No matter what, I am grateful for the ability to move, breath, and keep doing what I love.
What’s your opinion on supplements?
My opinion on supplements is that real, organically grown food wins every time. If someone asks me to recommend supplements I recommend they eat with balanced nutrition and speak with a naturopathic doctor about supplements.
Do you think CrossFit is for everyone?
I believe Strength is for everyone, which is why I believe StrengthFarm is for everyone.
How do you win the hearts of your clients?
Being myself will always keep me authentic and true to what I believe. I love learning from others’ experiences and having real conversations together about how we can make the community a better place.
Check out more about StrenghFarm here
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