Doug Piller is the owner of CrossFit Go Time, a coach at CrossFit San Elijo, and a Captain in the Marine Corps reserves. His inspiring transformation story is featured in “The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking”, and his YouTube video demonstrates advanced CrossFit techniques, including hand-stand push-ups and tire jumps. From dealing with the stress associated with his high-paying corporate job, to starting his own CrossFit business, Doug Piller is a man who has overcome many challenges. His story and advice may offer a new perspective on your training or renewed motivation for improving your life.
Curious about CrossFit, and currently in the middle of a 30 day Paleo commitment, my wife accompanied me to conduct the interview. When we saw a noticeably ripped guy carrying a full gallon of water, we knew it had to be Doug. Obviously highly-motivated and very easy to talk to, Doug had a lot of interesting thoughts on every subject we discussed. With questions ranging from his path to becoming a CrossFit coach, to the most important piece of workout equipment, Doug answers each, explaining how he overcame obesity and got in the best shape of his life.
Becoming a CrossFit Coach
Nick Napier: What was your first experience with CrossFit?
Doug Piller: I heard about CrossFit through friends. I had been in the military for years and my friends talked about it. I kind of swore it off as a fad and I thought I knew all of the workouts they used already like using kettlebells and pull-ups. When I got out of the Marines, I got into a job I wasn’t happy with, became depressed, and was 50 lbs. overweight. When my mom died, I knew I needed a wake-up call. After doing some research about a CrossFit gym, I decided to try it that night. When I walked in, it looked gritty, there was no air conditioning, it smelled bad, and there was about 15 people thrashing themselves.
NN: What is it about CrossFit that makes it so popular & effective?
DP: It’s unlike anything most people have seen before. You see interesting movements, a high-level of intensity, and you just get sucked in. CrossFit originally gained momentum as a workout for first responders, firefighters, police officers, and the military because it closely resembles their work in the field. It combines the most effective elements from gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, flexibility, and mobility. You do CrossFit to make yourself better at what you do in life. If you’re a skier, you ski longer and faster. If you’re a distance runner, it helps you become stronger. It makes you more comfortable at being uncomfortable.
NN: What was the journey like from CrossFit beginner to coach?
DP: It was natural for me. I’m an extravert, and with my military experience, I was used to being in a leadership role. Working out in CrossFit made me stronger in areas where I was weak. Within six months of starting CrossFit, I lost all of the weight I gained since getting out of the military, and then some. There was one trainer at my gym, so I would lead classes when he wasn’t there. After some friends recommended I get certified, I became a level one trainer.
NN: Who is your typical clientele?
DP: Everyone! Teens with their parents, kids as young as 12 years old, and middle-aged men and women with full-time jobs at all levels of conditioning; anyone can do CrossFit.
NN: What would you say to people who are intimidated by the image of CrossFit?
DP: People think that the CrossFit Games you see on TV is the standard, but we have people who are 100 lbs. overweight as well. You can scale each workout to your level of conditioning. We use group training and a clock, and you push yourself harder than you were willing to push yourself before you started. You only compare yourself to you.
NN: Can you recall your most brutal workout?
DP: I’ve done a lot of brutal workouts, but I actually have two that really stick out. The first is “Fran.” It’s 21 pull-ups, 21 barbell thrusters with 95 lbs., 15 reps of each, then 9 reps of each. Some of the best can do it in under two minutes. The first time I did it, it took close to ten minutes. If I don’t vomit after this workout, I’m pretty close. The second is “Fight Gone Bad.” It’s designed to be three, five minute rounds, and got its name from BJ Penn. When he was asked if the workout felt like a fight, he said “It felt like a fight gone bad.”
Motivation and Diet
NN: What would you say to motivate someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle?
DP: I would say to just pick something and do it. Whether it’s Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, CrossFit, or whatever, just pick something and stick with it for 30 days. Then you will have a result and experience to build off of. I think sedentary people come in two categories. The first are the ones who know that they need to change, but are too analytical. They’ll research classes for weeks instead of just going. The second category is the people who are uncomfortable with themselves, but make all the excuses under the sun to avoid training. The most common excuse is “I don’t have time to workout”, but in CrossFit, it takes less than an hour to warm up, get an intense workout, and cool down.
NN: You were featured in the book “The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking.” Is Paleo the optimal diet?
DP: The Paleo diet combined with the high-intensity workouts I was doing led to a transformation. I was losing weight so fast that I had three suits I couldn’t even get tailored anymore. Most sickness in the body is caused by inflammation, so clean eating with Paleo decreases that inflammation. On Paleo, you’re not consuming things your body isn’t meant to digest.
NN: There are many variations of Paleo; how strict are you with the diet?
DP: Paleo uses clean ingredients, but one thing missing from Paleo is portion guidelines. Combining The Zone with Paleo is an effective way to eat clean and control portions. It’s important to learn your body.
NN: What’s your opinion on supplements? Do you use any?
DP: I don’t endorse any supplements. I treat food as my supplement. After a workout, during that time when your muscles have been torn down, I’ll have a low-sugar, liquid protein. Also fish oil has Omega-3, and is good for reducing inflammation, decreasing cholesterol, and improving brain function.
NN: Who were your biggest athletic or general inspirations?
DP: Videos of Chris Spealler were motivating to me, mostly because he’s humble about his attention, a little older than most competitive athletes, and we both have a wrestling background. As far as mentors, the owner of CrossFit San Elijo, Erik Preston has always been very supportive and generous. I’ve had a lot of experience as a leader, but he taught me how to be a good coach. We connected professionally and personally.
NN: If you could only use one piece of workout gear for the rest of your life, what would it be?
DP: 53 pound kettlebell. A pull-up bar would be a close second.
NN: Last question: What would you say are the three most effective exercises?
DP: Pull-ups, because of how versatile they are. Squats, with weight or not. And hill sprints.
NN: Any closing thoughts?
DP: I’m a small business owner, and I’m excited to let everyone know what CrossFit is all about. I want to share this gift with other people.
Doug Piller on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04gKBjwTtfI
CrossFit Go Time: http://www.crossfitgotime.com